Analyzing Mets closer Edwin Diaz's struggles: Bad mechanics, sticky substance crackdown, or something else?

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Edwin Diaz 3b view home whites
Edwin Diaz 3b view home whites

Mets closer Edwin Diaz, who was dominant and reliable in 2020 and was terrific for the first three months of the 2021 season, has blown three saves in a row.

Two of those blown saves come with a bit of an asterisk, since the first (against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field during the last game before the All-Star break) came after he secured four outs of a five out save.

The second one was worse than the first, with Diaz blowing a 7-5 lead against the Pirates in Pittsburgh in the second game after the break, though the game-ending grand slam he allowed with two outs had an expected batting average of .030. It was also a good pitch.

The third blown save, which came on Monday night against the Reds in Cincinnati, was the most alarming, with Diaz's command all over the place. The tying run scored on a two-out single after a leadoff walk.

Amid the wreckage of the last three weeks or so for Diaz has been one dominant performance -- striking out the side in a perfect frame against the Pirates on July 10. After that outing, his ERA was 2.86.

Since then, he has allowed seven runs in three innings over three appearances while being touched up for seven hits, walking three, and striking out six.

Speaking on SNY after Monday's wild win, Todd Zeile discussed Diaz's recent struggles.

"The thing that has been a little bit alarming to me is the way he's losing balls, especially on his arm side," Zeile said. "Since the 20th of June, since the middle of June -- before that he was a 3.00 ERA and since then it's almost 7.50. So obviously he's having some trouble since that part.

"That happens to be coincidentally when the crackdown started to come on sticky substances. He's a guy that I think has a tendency when he's really good, he gets that good bite on his slider. He's been losing some of that bite on his slider. It's been spinning, staying in the middle of the zone. Maybe that's been an issue. Maybe that's been a little bit of an issue to his confidence.

"But whatever it is, he's not been the same consistent guy. He's averaging over six walks a game now since the middle of June, too. He's not got the command."

Whether the issue with Diaz has to do with the crackdown on sticky substances, his mechanics, a bit of both, or something else, it needs to be fixed quickly.

If not, other options to close for the time being include Trevor May and Seth Lugo, though Lugo's inability to pitch regularly on back-to-back days -- and his value as a multi-inning option -- could make May the more logical choice.