It's easy to scapegoat Edwin Diaz for the Mets missing the postseason by just four games in 2019.
However, high-leverage relievers not named Mariano Rivera have a long history of up-and-down seasons, which is exactly why Diaz should be on next year's roster.
Things change and so can Diaz -- and he doesn't have to go far to get there...
The first step in reviving Diaz will be letting his new manager and pitching coaches decide how often and in what spots he should pitch.
Diaz is 24 years old and has already thrown 249 innings in 254 career games. Interestingly, while he's been terrible during his career when throwing on no rest or two days of rest, he's been sensational (including this past season) when pitching with one day of rest. I'm not saying he should only ever pitch on two days rest, but this does underscore the importance of basing his usage on evidence and not personal opinion.
Second, he either needs to get better movement on his slider (which might have been negatively impacted in 2019 by the grip on the new baseball) and/or improve and incorporate another pitch that can offset what clearly has become a predictable repertoire.
For instance, his the Mets should be concerned with him giving up a career-worst 15 home runs, which was as many as he had let up the previous two seasons combined. However, the reason for those long balls this season was likely the 10.4 percent barrel rate against him, which was roughly double the league average.
The opposition clearly knew what was coming and where it would be, meaning he was essentially relying on luck and bad guesswork by the hitter. Batters were swinging and often missed. However, eventually, they connected against a mistake slider or inevitable fastball and -- when they did connect -- they really connected. It didn't help that Diaz was also unlucky, as he had the highest batting average on balls put in play (.387) than any other reliever in the league.
As a result, he appeared timid and to be aiming the ball, which made all of the above worse...
Pitching coach Phil Regan first tried to tinker with Diaz's motion. It helped the pitcher to stop over-striding, but it didn't stop opposing hitters from crushing his slider.
Regan then got Diaz to grip his slider the same way as Jacob deGrom. It helped to get more swings and misses and when put in play the ball was not hit nearly as hard. And this is what I'm talking about -- these are the little things Diaz must and can do to give himself a slightly different look in 2020. He is talented and young enough to do it, especially with the right coaching.
It's difficult to know the magic sauce that will make Diaz more effective in late-game, high-leverage situations. Is it the number of days rest between appearances? Is it how he's being prepared in the bullpen? Is it simply getting strike one? Is it simply something between his ears?
To be frank, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that he gets fixed.
The fact is, there are not many 25-year old-relievers that throw 98 mph who have 135 saves in four years. Diaz is one of them, which is why Brodie Van Wagenen should not give him away just to distance himself from a bad season.
Diaz will rise again. And when he does, it should be on the Mets.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!