Friday, October 5, 2012

2012 Mets: The Same Old Story (Part I)

As I mentioned yesterday, I had figured this wasn't going to be an especially good season for the Mets. I'd pegged them for 75 wins. Ultimately, I was a bit optimistic with that number, however slightly, but for a while, it appeared I was selling them short. Over the first half of the season, the Mets mostly played over their heads, winning games in every way possible and turning the pessimists into believers. And then, in the second half, it fell apart. There was no one single culprit, the Mets just turned back into what we thought they were, a young, leaky team with no particular star power and no consistency. Hit and don't pitch, pitch and don't hit. Optimism gave way to frustration as the season dissolved into mediocrity and turned out to be no different than any of the three seasons prior.

We can expect a good deal of turnover by time next season rolls around. Certainly, with the needs of the team so clear, there will have to be. And it may come at the cost of some of the solid pieces the Mets have (because who wants to trade for someone else's crap?). We may see some trades that on the surface we don't like. But now all we can do is speculate while Sandy Alderson and his battalion do their jobs. In the meantime, I offer up my report card for the 2012 Mets.

The Mets used 49 players over the 2012 season, 22 position players and 27 pitchers. Some were good. Some were outstanding. Many were unremarkable. Today, we'll grade the position players and Monday, Part II will cover the pitching staff.

Josh Thole - C-
I was tempted to give Thole a D, but the pitching staff seems to really like having him behind the plate. Camaraderie does count for something. Unfortunately, Thole, who was lauded for his defense the last couple of seasons, provided only middling glovework. His 18 passed balls may have been a result of having to catch R.A. Dickey every so often, but nonetheless, I expected more. His offense was disastrous. He hit over .300 in April, but after that, he basically stopped completely, and every at bat was basically just passing time until he rolled a weak grounder to Second. He also has no power and doesn't drive in any runs. To give you an idea of just how bad he was, just consider how bad he was to finish with a .234 batting average after hitting .317 in April. 1 Home Run, which came in Colorado, 21 RBI. At best a part-time platoon catcher, but he can't be the starter outright again.

Mike Nickeas - D
Thole was bad, but Nickeas was no better, and when the two of them were the platoon, the Catching position was a black hole for the Mets. Also a glove guy whose glove wasn't anything special, and his offense made Thole look like Paul LoDuca. Sent down to the minors in favor of Rob Johnson and then made superfluous by the Kelly Shoppach acquisition. Didn't crack .200 this season, finishing at .174. Made his 1 HR count, since it was a grand slam, accounting for nearly a quarter of his 13 RBI. 

Kelly Shoppach - C-
Add a little power and subtract some defense and that's Kelly Shoppach. 4 passed balls in just 27 games is frightening even if R.A. Dickey is involved. Hit 3 Home Runs, though, which was more than Thole and Nickeas combined, but only 10 RBI and hit .203 after being acquired from Boston for Pedro Beato. I guess he's being pimped out as the future solution at Catcher, but I can't say this really excites me.

Rob Johnson - C
Hey! A Mets Catcher who hit .250! Of course, this was only in 52 At Bats, and it produced no Home Runs and 4 RBI . But he sucked the least and as such gets the highest grade.

Ike Davis - B
After being relegated to 36 games last season following a bad ankle injury and then being diagnosed with Valley Fever in Spring Training, I think I was one of the few people who might have felt Ike's slow start was somewhat justified. Mired under .200 well into June, Ike more than likely was someone who needed to get himself healthy and back into the speed of the game rather than someone who just lost it completely. Given that Ike managed 20 of his 32 Home Runs after the All Star Break, this may be true. I believe Ike's .227 batting average is probably the anomaly. He finished with 32 Home Runs and 90 RBI (and also chipped in 61 walks and 66 Runs) after that miserable first half, just imagine what he could have done if he'd been right all season. Ike is also an interesting case. I believe that Ike is a cornerstone, and probably the kind of player that the Mets need to build around going forward. He hits with power and can hit the ball out of Citi Field and just about anyplace else. But, I wonder if the organization feels that way. Between the smear campaign and the front office's infatuation with Lucas Duda as a First Baseman, Ike may find himself expendable. If nothing else, he's one of the few Mets with legitimate trade value, but that doesn't mean he should be traded. I'm of the belief that he has to stay. We like Ike.

Daniel Murphy - B-
Annoyingly inconsistent all year long, Murphy does deserve some kudos for playing out the entire season without managing to get a season-ending injury playing Second Base. In fact, Murphy actually improved by leaps and bounds as a Second Baseman. That wasn't enough to put him in any sort of an upper echelon, but considering that prior to this season, his defense was notable for being a major liability, any kind of improvement was worthy of notice. At the plate, Murphy was mostly unexciting. He ran hot and cold like a power hitter, except he hit for no power, and most of his game offensively is predicated on his ability to hit over .300. At least he didn't spend 3 months hitting .248 like he did in 2009, but he also didn't hit .320 like he did last season. Ended up at .291 but with an OBA of .332, so he didn't walk a ton, and also only hit 6 Home Runs to go with his 65 RBI. I doubt he's going to be much better than he already is, so whether he's here or a trade chip isn't going to swing anyone's fortunes.

Ruben Tejada - B+
Last season, I started telling people about how I thought Ruben Tejada reminded me of a young Edgardo Alfonzo. One year later, I'm fully convinced of this. He still has a ways to go to reach that level, and I doubt he'll ever have Fonzie's power, but he plays the game with excellent intangible qualities. Rarely does he make a mental mistake. He hangs in and battles every at bat. His fielding is routinely solid. He's already making people forget about Jose Reyes. In his first full season in the Majors, he hit .289, with an OBA of .333, 1 Home Run and 25 RBI, hitting mostly out of the leadoff spot. At age 23 on Opening Day 2013, Tejada appears primed to improve on these numbers steadily as he gains more experience. I don't know that he will walk enough (and he certainly doesn't have the speed) to be a leadoff hitter, but he has the skills to be a solid #2 hitter should that role fall to him at some point.

David Wright - A-
After a few seasons where Wright was injured and inconsistent, and put up mostly middling performances, one wondered whether Wright was past his peak. But Wright started off this season looking, and playing, like he just wanted everyone to shut the fuck up and get off his back. It was like watching the clutch David Wright of 2006 and 2007. He was playing every bit like he was the franchise guy we want him to be. But, once the second half started and the team started to slump, Wright fell back into his old habits of pressing too much, trying too hard and ultimately, the numbers fell off. Still, ending up with a .306 average, 21 Home Runs and 93 RBI to go along with 41 Doubles and a .391 OBA is a pretty good season all things considered. Yes, Wright's had better years, but considering that his best years all came when he had Carlos Beltran in front of him and Carlos Delgado behind him, what do you expect him to do? Wright can't do it all by himself, but going forward, he's the face of the franchise, the drawing card, whatever you want to call him. Clearly, Alderson is going to go all out to sign him to a contract extension, but does he want to stay? This remains to be seen. But if there's no new contract by time the 2013 season starts, it's almost a sure thing that he'll be gone before the 2013 season ends. Mets All Time leader in Hits, RBI, Doubles and Runs scored be damned.

Ronny Cedeno - C-
At some point, one of the Mets announcers was gushing about what a great season Ronny Cedeno was having. I looked at his numbers. He just finished up at .259 with 4 Home Runs and 22 RBI, and I'm pretty sure all 4 of those Home Runs came in the late innings of garbage time losses. Defensively, I don't recall him doing anything special. At best a bench player, but the Ronny Cedenos of the Baseball world are a dime a dozen.

Justin Turner - C
I know that the Justin Turner fans of the world would say that he didn't get enough playing time this season, but then again, he didn't really merit any more playing time than he got. Yes, he missed a chunk of time with injury, and he only ended up with 171 At Bats in 2012 as opposed to the 475 he had in 2011, but his performance this year over 171 At Bats didn't posit to anything better than his 475 At Bats of 2011. The one thing he has going for him over players like Cedeno, however, is that he's very versatile, and can play any infield position, including Catcher, I believe. But, just another player I can take or leave. .269, 2 HR, 19 RBI., .319 OBA.

Omar Quintanilla - C+
Only because he got recalled after 3 other Shortstops got hurt, came up for 29 games and 70 At Bats, and performed reasonably well, including 3 hits in his first game, and chipped in with a Home Run and 4 RBIs. Which, when you consider he was the 4th string Shortstop, is actually OK. Then, of course, he got cut and ended up with the Orioles.

Zach Lutz
1 hit in 8 ABs in an early season cup of coffee. Came up in September and managed another 3 hitless ABs. Buried on the bench thereafter.

Josh Satin
1 AB for the season. Boring player with no place on a Major League roster. BUT, he's Jewish. That should count for something.

Jason Bay - F
What, you're surprised? I understand that Jason Bay broke his ass whenever he was able to play and I know he's giving everything he's got. But that contract and the performance he's put out over the past three seasons now speaks for itself. That he alone is eating up such a huge chunk of the team's payroll is unconscionable. Unfortunately, we're stuck with him for one more season. 194 At Bats, .165 BA, 8 HR, 20 RBI, most of it accomplished off of Mark Buehrle. It's so depressing that I can't even make a snide comment about him.

Andres Torres - F
Torres, on the other hand, I can make fun of plenty. Acquired from the Giants for Angel Pagan, Torres performance made it feel like Pagan hadn't actually left, just mysteriously aged 7 years in 6 months. Torres' presence on the team was a mystery to me from the start, a 34 year old Outfielder who peaked 2 seasons ago on a team that should have been running out younger players is just baffling.  Started off the season by doing the Mets one of the few favors he did them this season by getting hurt and missing a month, allowing Kirk Nieuwenhuis to ascend. Came back and sucked the energy out of the team as a whole, putting up offensive numbers that rivaled Josh Thole in abject suckitude. 374 ABs, hit .230, .327 OBA (somehow, he managed 52 walks), 3 Home Runs, 35 RBI, 47 Runs scored. When you hear a Mets fan talk about a need to improve up the middle, dumping Torres is the first thing you should think of.

Lucas Duda - C-
Mets Management is supposedly really enamored with Duda, and thinks that Ike Davis is expendable, freeing up Duda to move to his natural position of 1st Base. The problem is, after playing out the larger part of 2 seasons, I don't think Duda is as good as Davis either in the field or at the plate. True, in the Outfield he's an adventure, but it's not as though he's been Daniel Murphy-level bad in the Outfield. Regardless, at 1st Base, he's not Ike. Offensively, the thought in the organization is that he's a better average hitter than Ike. Ike hit .227 this season, but Duda only hit .239. Granted, Duda spent 6 weeks in the Minors, and that .239 was generated in only 401 ABs, but the fact is that for someone the Mets are so high on, they had to send him down to AAA for 6 weeks because he was underperforming. They didn't send Ike down even when Ike was hitting .158. For all the hype, Duda hit 15 Home Runs, drove in 57 runs, scored 43 runs and walked 51 times. I just don't think he's going to develop into the kind of player Ike is right now, and I would be very leery about handing the 1B job over to him without him really having proven anything.

Scott Hairston - A
Scott Hairston's 2012 is one of those years like Brian McRae had in 1998. In 1998, Brian McRae hit .264 with 21 Home Runs and 79 RBI, with 20 Steals and 79 Runs for the Mets. Looking back on it, one would think "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa?!" I feel like several years down the line, you'll look at Scott Hairston's 2012 season and have a very similar reaction. At the outset, Scott Hairston was another one of those players who I just didn't like and didn't see why he needed to be around. But he shoved it in my face by putting forth a career year. A known Lefty Masher, Scott actually was forced into playing full time for a while. Though his overall numbers suffered a bit because he's not really an everyday player, Scott performed admirably well. He hit for the Cycle in April, and just kept coming up with big hits all season long. In his 377 ABs, Scott hit .269 with 20 Home Runs and 57 RBI, figures all well above his career norms. This vastly exceeded any kind of expectations I had for him, and probably anyone else's expectations either. That said, I'd be wary of falling into the trap of thinking he could duplicate this season, because I'm pretty sure this would be a case of Moises Alou in 2008 or Jose Valentin in 2007.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis - B-
When Kirk Nieuwenhuis was called up right after Torres got injured on Opening Day, and got off to a flying start, I was almost convinced that the Mets might have their first Rookie of the Year since Dwight Gooden. But, as can happen with the newbies, Nieuwenhuis regressed to the norm, and eventually found himself back in the Minors by the end of  July, and then found himself out for the season with a foot injury, and by the end of the season was a bit of a forgotten man. I still think, however, that Nieuwenhuis has the head to make some adjustments and come back a better player going forward. Though he's 24, he seems to have a reasonable amount of skill and discipline, enough to be better than just another bench player, but I'm not sure if he can be an everyday starter. 282 ABs generated a .252 BA, .315 OBA, 7 HRs and 28 RBI, with 40 Runs scored.

Mike Baxter - B
Fearless, reckless 4th Outfielder type from Whitestone so he's always got the "Hometown Boy Comes Home" angle to fall back on. Made an incredible Endy-like catch to save Santana's No Hitter and injured himself in the process, leading to a 6 week stay on the DL. Won't ever be worthy of an everyday role, as evidenced by his .263 BA, 3 HRs, 17 RBI and 26 Runs in 179 ABs, but he did walk 25 times for an OBA of .365, so there is some plate discipline there, and he can go get it in the Outfield, which is more than can be said for several of the other players on this roster. 

Jordany Valdespin - C-
Jordany Valdespin is all the Jose Reyes flair without the Jose Reyes talent. I'm fully convinced of that. Made his mark by coming up in pinch situations, running into a few fastballs and cranking a few key Home Runs. Then, once everyone figured out how to pitch to him, he just started corkscrewing himself into the ground. Also one of those players who can play a whole bunch of positions, and none of them very well. Wasn't great as a Second Baseman. Even worse as a Shortstop. Middling at best in the Outfield. Plays with the swagger and attitude befitting someone of much greater accomplishment, which rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. He has energy and skill, but no discipline whatsoever, and at 24, I'm not sure if he's capable of developing any kind of discipline. 191 ABs, hit .241 with 8 HRs and 26 RBI, 28 runs scored and an OBA of .286. One of two things will happen: 1) Hopefully the Mets can sucker someone into thinking he's better than he displayed and he can be a trade chip. 2) The Mets end up stuck with him and he becomes Lastings Milledge of lesser acclaim.

Vinny Rottino
Not worth grading. 18 games, 33 ABs, managed to hit 2 Home Runs, made like the good 32-year old journeyman he was and wound up in Cleveland by season's end.

Fred Lewis - ?
Journeyman who found himself in the Mets system this year, arrived in September after a fine season in AAA. Started a few games, did nothing of note.

Tune in Monday for grades on the Pitchers.

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