Trevor May's Consistency is Leading Mets' Bullpen

Keeping hitters guessing has been the key to May's dominance

The New York Mets’ bullpen has arguably been its saving grace this season.

Yes, the starting rotation has led the way, entering Tuesday with a collective 2.96 ERA (second-best in the National League; San Francisco, 2.93 ERA). There’s no debating that.

But without many runs being scored (New York’s 3.48 runs per game ranks 28th in MLB), the relief corps’ standing orders of keeping a lead intact or a game within reach becomes that much more vital.

And right-hander Trevor May has possibly been the most sturdy leg of that group.

Settling into an eighth-inning role for the most part (May picked up his first save of the season on Sunday versus Arizona), the former Twins standout has taken marked strides over his first six weeks in blue and orange.

Since allowing two earned runs to Philadelphia on April 5 — delayed Opening Day for the Mets — the 31-year-old offseason addition has been flawless since, turning in 12 scoreless innings with 15 strikeouts, one walk, and 0.75 WHIP. Impeccable.

Add that to the overall effectiveness of this group (Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Miguel Castro, Jacob Barnes, Aaron Loup, and even Robert Gsellman have offered solid contributions to the cause), and the seeds have been sewn for the shoring up of a longtime weak spot for this organization.

Signing May to a two-year, $15.5 million deal early in the offseason pretty much signified that Mets pitching coach and former Twins assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner knew there was still another level of untapped potential for the 6’5” righty.

The Mets presumably saw something that piqued their interest and moved in quickly. Nothing wrong with that.

A 3.19 ERA with 12.19 strikeouts per nine innings over 113 appearances between 2018 and 2020 is premier-level production and it most certainly afforded May the opportunity to cash in on free agency.

The 1.46 ERA he’s put together over the Mets’ first 29 games may be slightly untenable, but he’s given no indication of slowing down as of yet.

A once-over of May’s Statcast page reveals pristine metrics, actual and expected. And while expected stats don’t mean much in the win-loss column, they give a very good idea of the trajectory a player is on and where that track might be heading.

May’s .203 weighted on-base average places him in the 95th percentile among qualified MLB relievers and his 1.83 expected earned run average sits among the top-two percent of the same group.

His 1.46 standard ERA is good for 31st in baseball, his 1.46 walks per nine innings rank 26th, and he’s yet to allow a home run this season. Excellent, by any measure.

It’s also safe to say that May is keeping hitters on their heels quite effectively.

Relying mainly on his four-seamer and sprinkling in his slider and changeup around 20 percent of the time each, respectively, this Washingtonian vlogging enthusiast has effectively re-invented himself.

And batters haven’t quite caught up to the adjustments. May keeps his four-seam high and tight to lefties and high and away from right-handers, ideally, and his secondary pitches work beautifully off it.

What’s been most intriguing about May’s heater over the last few years has been its steadily decreasing vertical drop (14.8 inches in 2018, 13.8” in 2019, 12.8” in 2020, 11.5” in 2021). And by keeping that pitch higher in the zone for longer, it’s allowed the slider and changeup to take on lives of their own.

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His slider darts low and away from righties and in at the shins of lefties, and the changeup virtually mirrors the slider’s behavior. With extremely consistent release points (as May has been able to achieve so far), the deception level of his arsenal is has increased exponentially.

As we’re all well aware of, the fleeting, gone with the wind nature of relief pitching is one of its hallmarks. Just like hitters, pitchers fall in and out of rhythm. Keeping things on an even-keel is paramount. From preparation to execution.

Encouragingly, May has been a model of consistency on all fronts. That trend continuing would be a boon for these Metsies.

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