Edwin Diaz’s career has been a roller-coaster.
A 1.96 ERA in 2018 led Edwin Diaz to be traded to the Mets in a blockbuster move that sent top prospect Jarred Kelenic to Seattle. But after three inconsistent years that saw the right-hander blow 16 total saves with a career-worst 5.59 ERA in 2019, fans in New York had vilified the flamethrower.
Mets fans have been singing a different tune in 2022 though. With a career-best 1.55 ERA, 22 saves, and the third-best save percentage in baseball, Diaz has become the best closer in baseball. As Diaz continues to dominate, his season is drawing comparisons to some of the top reliever years in baseball history.
It’s even having some question Diaz’s possible candidacy for Cy Young recognition.
It’s easy to laugh at the notion of Diaz being a Cy Young contender: a reliever hasn’t won the award since Eric Gagne in 2003. With Sandy Alcantara and Corbin Burnes listed as two favorites for the award, it’s hard to envision the Mets closer getting any type of hardware like that.
But after Tuesday night’s performance against the powerful New York Yankees, the calls for Diaz’s Cy Young candidacy have only grown.
The fireball right-hander has a strikeout rate of over 50%. He has recorded 27 of his last 36 outs via the strikeout. Diaz’s slider has mixed well with his fastball and has made him almost unhittable this season. His strikeout rate is already the best in MLB history through 41 games: surpassing Aroldis Chapman in 2014.
Compared to other top closers, the former Mariner is closing in on Eric Gagne’s ERA during his Cy Young winning season (1.20) as well as Brad Lidge’s 157 strikeouts by a reliever in 2004. If Diaz were to beat both numbers this year, he would be on the fast track to competing with Alcantara and Burnes for the Cy Young trophy.
“Edwin’s been a rock for us. I don’t know if there’s been a better guy at the end of games than him… it’s been an honor watching him pitch this year.” Buck Showalter said after Tuesday’s game.
Diaz’s Impact on the 2022 Mets
When a player wins an award, the impact they have on the field should also be taken into account. While Alcantara and Burnes are excellent starting pitchers, Diaz’s impact on the Mets having the second-best record in the National League cannot be overstated. While relievers like Drew Smith and Seth Lugo have faltered at times throughout the year, Diaz has been the one consistent arm in the bullpen.
It also shows how different a pitcher he has become. The Yankees game Tuesday night was a prime example. After giving up an infield single to Jose Trivino, Diaz fumbled a routine ground ball from Aaron Judge. With two runners on, one out, and Anthony Rizzo up, there was cause for concern. In years past, Diaz’s fielding error would have been a mental roadblock he couldn’t recover from.
Not this year. Diaz fanned both Rizzo and Torres to win the game 6-3, preserve the save, and help the Mets keep pace with the Braves in the NL East race.
“I’m prepared to face anyone. I’m thinking I’m the best on the mound.” Diaz said after the game.
The 28-year-old’s performance has impressed his teammates who have seen the closer grow from unreliable to the best in baseball.
“How he’s been able to reinvent himself and maximize what he can do is really special. We know when Eddy gets the ball, he’s going to shut the door.” Pete Alonso said “What he’s been able to do and make the adjustments over time, it’s really impressive. I’m so happy how he’s been able to flourish this year. He’s been stellar for us and we wouldn’t be where we’re at if he hasn’t thrown the ball the way that he has.”
As the Mets continue to win, the mystique of Edwin Diaz will only continue to grow. The Mets are 52-0 when leading after eight innings this season and will continue to play well late in games as long as their closer is as elite as his entrance is.
The trumpets were on another level tonight 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/cVvgh1DIn1
— SNY (@SNYtv) July 27, 2022
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