I’ve said some unsavory things about pitcher Brad Hand in the past, but now that he’s on my side, I think I like this guy.
The Mets recently claimed the three-time All-Star off waivers from the Blue Jays, with whom he struggled to the tune of a 7.27 ERA in 11 games.
But that hardly tells the tale of his whole season; beginning the year with the Nationals, he started off with a 3.59 mark and 21 saves in 41 games before being traded to Toronto for catcher Riley Adams on July 29.
Granted, 2021 has not been his year. His walk rate is double what it was last season and the highest it’s been since 2012 … when he played just a single game. After averaging 12.2 K/9 IP from 2016 t0 2020, he’s K-ing 8.2 per 9 frames in 2021.
Do recall, however, that this is a man who had a 2.70 ERA and 157 ERA+ over the preceding five seasons. And from 2017 to 2019, he was All-Star each year.
While the Mets have a habit of picking up once-excellent relief pitchers—and players in general—who are years removed from their peak, Hand, just last year, had a 2.05 ERA and averaged nearly 12 Ks per nine frames in that stunted 2020 campaign.
Even his 2021 started off rockin’. Carrying an ERA under 3 through his first 13 appearances, he then hammered out a run from May 22 to July 5 in which his mark was 1.25. Hand’s dive might be an aberration more than a sign of permanent decline.
Or, perhaps, I’m being optimistic, because I’m a Mets fan and I want to see them pull off a miracle and reach the postseason.
With Hand on board, a bundle of injured players due off the injured list and the rest of the bullpen firing on all cylinders right now* the situation is looking up for New York.
*Recent ERAs from the bullpen: Edwin Diaz: 1.13 (since July 23), Miguel Castro: 2.45 (since July 11), Trevor May: 1.29 (since August 18), Jeurys Familia: 1.74 (since August 8), Seth Lugo: 1.04 (since July 19) and Aaron Loup: 0.42 (since July 5).
They’re just one game under .500 and still within striking distance of the second Wild Card with a month left to play.
The team tanked when the pitching did in July, with the club’s ERA rising to 4.43 for the month. It fell to 4.20 in August and is just 3.00 so far in September.
And with Hand around, hopefully, it will begin to drop even lower.