Edwin Diaz’s teammates have reveled in watching the All-Star closer perform his craft this season.
Among them is Mets setup man Adam Ottavino, who in his 12 major league seasons hasn’t seen a reliever more dominant than Diaz, the 2022 version. Diaz has struck out 91 batters in 45 ⅓ innings, and hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 18 appearances. It follows three seasons in which Diaz’s mettle as a closer had been questioned, due in no small part to blowing a combined 17 saves.
Ottavino, a Brooklyn native, spoke this week to Post Sports+ to share his unique vantage on Diaz, whose name could become part of the National League Cy Young and MVP conversations.
What’s it been like watching Diaz this season?
Adam Ottavino: Pitch for pitch right now, he’s the nastiest guy on the planet. I think that has been borne out. You can’t hit him, he strikes everybody out and he works fast. He goes right at everybody. He doesn’t shy away from anything. He’s everything you would want in that role.
What do you think has led to Diaz’s transformation?
AO: He’s throwing more sliders now … and he’s a little less predictable. You just can’t sit on the fastball, so you’re … kind of damned if you are in between against him, because you have got to cover 100 [mph] with a crazy action to it and then the slider looks like a fastball. That combo is just great, and obviously he has got more experience being who he is now. He’s had this type of arsenal for a few years, so maybe he’s making a little better choices and a little better execution. That just comes with time.
Is there anybody from your years in the big leagues to whom he compares?
AO: The only other people you can compare him to are the extreme strikeout pitchers: [Craig] Kimbrel, [Aroldis] Chapman, [Dellin] Betances — those types of guys that strike out batters. Brad Lidge or Carlos Marmol. Guys that strike everybody out. That’s his game: ‘I’m going to strike you out, and if you barely survive or put it in play, so be it. But my intent is to strike every guy out.’ He’s just that type of pitcher.
Diaz struggled badly in his first season in New York (2019) and has rebounded to reach this point. How impressive has his recovery been?
AO: Certainly all the great players, they struggle at times in New York, but first impressions can be a big deal. He could have folded or wanted out or looked for the exit or whatever, but that’s not really who he is. He has the mentality that, ‘If I get out there enough times, you’re going to see how good I am,’ and that’s kind of what has occurred. … I guarantee you he has evolved into a better mental place because of struggling, and now he is more bulletproof. I’ve been booed off the field in a playoff game by my hometown team’s fans [with the Yankees]. Going through it hurts, and you stunk up the joint and you’re embarrassed, but there’s an aspect of: Once you get through that, you don’t really have fears anymore because you’ve already been there and you’ve felt it and you’re fine.
Does Diaz’s name belong in the Cy Young Award conversation?
AO: It’s tough, just because [for] the Cy Young Award, I don’t necessarily think most dominant, I think best body of work for the year. He’s absolutely maximizing his opportunities, but maybe for MVP, I would give him more consideration because in terms of driving winning, he is a huge part of that for us — a great relief pitcher can do that.
But knowing what we as relievers have to do for the job and what the starters have to do, I would lean for Cy Young toward a starter who just pitches an insane amount of innings and puts the team on his shoulders throughout the whole year and makes everybody’s lives a little easier and at the same time [is] dominating.
How long until it becomes acceptable to start discussing the Mets’ postseason roster? Well, it’s a sleepy day in August and the Mets have a comfortable NL East lead, so let’s broach the subject now.
The big question: Who among Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco and Chris Bassitt gets excluded from a four-man postseason rotation? That is assuming everybody is healthy from a group that would include Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer as the Nos. 1 and 2.
Much could depend on the opponent and who is pitching well as September turns to October, but here are points to consider:
Carrasco (three starts) and Bassitt (two starts) each have playoff experience. Does that give them an edge over Walker, who hasn’t pitched in the postseason?
Whose stuff from that group would play the best from the bullpen? For example, would Carrasco or Bassitt, with higher strikeout rates than Walker, help the team more in a relief role? Or would the odd man out from the rotation be delegated to emergency long relief or excluded altogether?
With almost two months before the playoffs begin, there is a decent chance the rotation question will answer itself. But it’s an interesting topic to begin to acknowledge.
The Mets holding a better record than the Yankees is just another reminder it’s a long season. In June, it appeared the Yankees would have a shot at eclipsing the franchise record for victories (114) in a regular season, and the Mets tracking toward being a solid 90-something-win team. It still could turn out that way, but the chances are much less likely. Here’s a new one to consider: a 36-14 finish would give the Mets 109 wins, breaking the franchise record set by the 1986 team. The Mets have a weak September schedule, so it’s certainly possible.