Thursday, October 3, 2013

2013 Mets: Maybe Someday (Part 1)

We knew that 2013 wasn't going to be a pretty season for the Mets to begin with. This year wasn't about this year, it was about the players that were going to be a part of the team's future to establish themselves and move forward. Some did. Some exceeded expectations and produced results beyond their years. Some didn't. Some underwhelmed so badly that by season's end, they were nowhere to be found, or generally reviled. In between, the Mets were possibly worse than expected for a significant amount of time, but then righted themselves in the middle of the season. Contention was the furthest thought from anyone's mind, as well it should have been (or was it?), but maybe a .500 record could have been had. Then, the Mets got hit with repeated injuries, some key pieces were dealt to contenders and September was spent in virtual darkness, playing out the string and trying to just keep things respectable. It's debatable as to whether or not they did, but if nothing else, their 74-88 record, which was identical to their 2012 finish, was enough to leapfrog the Phillies and finish in 3rd place, as opposed to their 5th consecutive 4th place finish.

There's still a large number of questions going forward for the Mets, and how they'll be answered is anyone's guess. We know one thing: This is now the time that the Alderson/Collins regime needs to step up. For 2 years now, we've been hearing about the Winter of 2014, when all the bad contracts are finally off the books and there was finally money available to spend. But the Mets fan base has become so jaded after this 5 year Hell Ride that I don't think many people are buying it. My approach has always been "I'll believe it when I see it," but that's been the way I've viewed the Mets whether they were successful or not. Attendance has fallen off 5 years in a row, getting worse every year the Mets have been in Citi Field. It's time to change the culture, but it remains to be seen just who, among the 53 players that played for the Mets this season, will be there to be a part of it.

This report card will, then, attempt to answer some of that question: Who here deserves to still be here? Obviously this has zero bearing whatsoever on whatever Sandy Alderson plans to do, but, hey, it should be a scathing read if nothing else.

John Buck - B+
Buck was essentially a throw-in in the deal that brought in Travis d'Arnaud, but for the first 4 months of the season, he was a Godsend. Yes, he overperformed in April, hitting 11 of his 15 Home Runs, and everyone knew he wasn't going to keep that pace up. But production like that from the Catcher position was awesome after multiple seasons of the Josh Thole/Mike Nickeas Pu Pu Platter. He also developed a great rapport with the pitchers, particularly Matt Harvey. Hit a paltry .215, but 15 Home Runs and 60 RBI were more than welcome. His trade to Pittsburgh was sort of controversial, but Buck had a decent enough year to pick up somewhere as a starter and it probably wasn't going to be with the Mets, especially after d'Arnaud ascended. Also, this.

Anthony Recker - B
Recker wasn't great in general, but, again, after what the Mets were coming from, I can't complain too much. Kind of got buried on the bench when Buck got off to a hot start but once Buck cooled off, he got some playing time. Defense was adequate enough for a backup catcher. Hit .215, which was an accomplishment since he spent most of the season hitting well under .200. 6 Home Runs and 15 RBI included a key 13th inning HR in a game against Arizona and a HR to break a scoreless tie in Wheeler's first start.

Travis d'Arnaud - C
I debated giving him a grade at all, because it's really too early to tell. He didn't show much offensively in a 112 AB sample, hitting only .202 in a stretch that included going 0 for his first 10 and 21 strikeouts. 1 Home Run and 5 RBI. But he also showed a decent approach at the plate, knowing when to be patient and when to be aggressive. Still posits as a slashing, line drive type hitter, but I don't know if I see him as more than a 15 Home Run a year guy. Problem was, he arrived with enough hype that people expected more. The Mets may yet pursue another veteran Catcher to back him up next season, which I suppose is OK. Defensively, drew rave reviews from every pitcher except for Matsuzaka, for whatever reason. But what impresses me about d'Arnaud is the way he carries himself. He strikes me as pretty unflappable, just the right kind of personality you need in a Catcher and a guy who will eventually grow into a real leader on the team. The results might not be as immediate as people like, but they'll happen.

Juan Centeno
Can't give him a grade based on 4 games and 10 ABs, but he did manage 3 hits, one of which was an Infield Hit that drove in a key run in the September 18th comeback against San Francisco.

Ike Davis - D
You know, I think we were all a little fooled. Ike Davis got off to the slow start last year, slowly but surely pulled himself out of it and ended up hitting 32 Home Runs and having a decent season. So, when he started slow again this season, we all figured that he'd pull it together. Except that he didn't. He got worse and worse and eventually the Mets had no choice but to send him down to the Minors to get his act together. He came back in early July and at first showed no improvement whatsoever. Eventually, he got himself into a halfway decent groove of walking a lot and getting on base, but he hit with no power at all and then picked up a nice oblique injury at the end of August which cut his season short. His miserable .205 Average was supplemented by 57 walks (to go with 65 hits) and an OBA of .326, but only hit 9 Home Runs with 33 RBI. A season like this officially puts him on thin ice. It could conceivably earn him a trip out of town altogether except that the Mets have no better option, no matter how much they try to spoonfeed that other guy who played 1st Base a lot down the stretch (I'll get to him later). If he's back next year, it's his last shot to put up or shut up, which is a shame, because he's one of the few players on this team that I really like having around.

Daniel Murphy - B-
During every season, in addition to the number of flogs I develop, there are also some players that I just get tired of having around year after year with no particular improvement. This year, it's Daniel Murphy. Fans of The Big Bang Theory might get a chuckle when I say that Daniel Murphy is basically the Leonard Hofstadter of the Mets, but it's true. He's like a spastic kid who sort of flits around and sometimes has these little energetic spasms and messes things up. That's Murphy to a tee. Daniel Murphy had another one of those seasons where he was really hot at the beginning of the season and at the end of the season, and ended up 2nd in the NL with 188 hits and also hit 38 Doubles to go with a career high 13 Home Runs and 78 RBI, but lost in that is the middle of the season where he spent 3 months batting .268 with no power and no particular direction, which was of no help whatsoever (he did finish at .286, but his .319 OBA says a lot). Defensively, he's still frightening, even if his play at 2nd base has gone from "embarrassing" to "passable." Since the fan base is so used to mediocrity after so many years, all of a sudden Daniel Murphy has become this beloved figure and I really can't quite figure out why that's the case. So, yeah. I've kind of had enough of Murphy and if he were traded, and he may well be traded because his numbers as a 2nd Baseman might make him of value to somebody, I wouldn't be heartbroken. On the other hand, if he's gone, who plays 2nd?

David Wright - A-
An Island unto himself in the Mets lineup, David Wright still went out and had a typical David Wright season that would have been better had he not missed 6 weeks with a hamstring injury that sort of spelled the beginning of the end for the Mets. Hit .307, 18 Home Runs, 58 RBI, .390 OBA. Wright isn't going anywhere for a good long while, but it would be in the Mets best interest to go get some bats to surround him with in the lineup, because when Wright was at his best, that was the team's situation. It's a lot better for Wright's production when he's batting between Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado as opposed to hitting between Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.

Lucas Duda - F
Sigh. Where do I begin? I really want to be able to start off with something positive to say about Lucas Duda's season but I can't draw anything decent out of the numbers. Yet, as I've mentioned before, since Met Management is so anti-Ike Davis and so enamored with him, he's been pushed at us so much that I really don't think anybody realizes just how much of a disaster Lucas Duda is. He drew a bunch of walks during the first couple of weeks and all of a sudden he was this "OBA Machine." Then, he stopped walking and the air predictably came out of his numbers. He spent the better part of 3 months moving around the Outfield with the grace of a Land Rover, eventually going down with the fabled oblique injury. Not surprisingly, the Mets played their best baseball when he was hurt. He came back and would have spent the remainder of the season buried on the bench had Davis not gotten hurt. Played 1st Base for the remainder of the year and looked horrible doing so. The real kicker out of all this is that his numbers, .223 BA, .352 OBA, 15 HR, 33 RBI (including 55 BB and 102 K) are actually pretty comparable with Davis' but you have to look deeper. Don't be fooled. 14 of Duda's 15 Home Runs came with nobody on base, and when he did bat with runners on base, it was a mortal lock that nothing good would happen. Hit .178 with Men on base. With men in scoring position, that figure dropped to .145. So, sure. Keep talking about how wonderful he is. I'm not buying it. Neither should any of you. Duda needs to go be a DH somewhere, where he can hit the 25 Home Runs everyone thinks he's capable of and nobody cares that he hits .220.

Ruben Tejada - F
Tejada's poor season was almost as galling to me as Duda's, except that the Mets didn't continually shovel Tejada in our faces while he stunk. But I have to apologize, I did Edgardo Alfonzo a tremendous disservice by thinking Tejada could be anywhere close to the ballplayer he was. He's got a lot of maturing to do if he wants to reach that lofty perch. After a season where he didn't hit, played terrible in the field and eventually got hurt and demoted once he got healthy, he's no sure thing. Tejada, who I thought could hit .300, ended up at a paltry .202, no Home Runs, 10 RBI and an OBA of .259. Yes, this only encompasses .208 ABs. But he showed no signs of pulling out of his funk and while he may be back next season, he's now got to be viewed as a reclamation project and if he does it again, he's gone.

Omar Quintanilla - F
And part of the reason Tejada's injury and ineffectiveness was so horrible was that it resulted in us being subjected to 3 months of Omar Quintanilla at Shortstop, where he spent most of his season either hitting a weak roller to 2nd base or practicing hitting weak rollers to 2nd base. Quintanilla is great if you need a 4-A Backup Shortstop to come up for a couple of weeks when someone is on the DL. Leave him in for as long as the Mets did and it spells instant disaster. The 359 At Bats he had this season were probably about 250 too many, except that the Mets were so ill-prepared to fill this particular hole that there was no other option. .222 BA, 2 HR, 21 RBI, .302 OBA if you really care to know his numbers, and looking at it, that .222 seems high to me, since I was pretty certain he was hitting .160.

Josh Satin - B
I realize that it may be somewhat odd for me to grade Satin so high when other players with similar numbers were graded lower, but I have to give Satin some credit for simply being useful for the Mets at a point in time when very few players were. After a couple of cups of coffee where he didn't distinguish himself, Satin got one last opportunity when Davis got sent down and ran with it. He reached base in something like his first 29 starts, actually got some key hits and was hitting over .300 for a while until Davis came back and he was dropped into a platoon system and eventually saw his playing time dwindle. I'm not going to go anywhere near suggesting that Satin is a long term solution, but what he can be is a decent right handed bat off the bench and a spot starter at 1st Base or 3rd Base. His 190 ABs produced a .279 BA, .376 OBA, 3 HRs and 17 RBI which doesn't seem like much, but with men in scoring position, he hit .292 and drove in 14 of his 17 runs so take that for what you will.

Justin Turner - C+
More pies in the face than key hits, but every team needs a class clown and he's it on the Mets. Plays many positions which will earn him his keep in the Majors, and also hit decent enough off the bench. 200 ABs resulted in .280 BA, .319 OBA, 2 HR (both in Cleveland, oddly), 16 RBI. Also a favorite of my other half, although I've never quite been able to figure out why.

Wilmer Flores -Inc.
Like d'Arnaud, it's really too soon to give him a real grade, and since Flores' time was kind of undercut by an ankle injury I really can't give him one at all. My sense is that Flores is probably a little more like the guy who drove in 11 runs in his 1st 10 games than the guy who lost his rhythm in September. At 22, he appears like a good upside guy, and it may well be he, and not Tejada, who could become the next Edgardo Alfonzo (particularly since Flores idolizes the guy), although he has the Daniel Murphy Suspect Defense problem which might become more of a problem than anyone wants to admit if he doesn't improve. But, again, only 22, and could make an incumbent expendable at 2B or SS if he learns the position well enough. 95 ABs produced 1 HR, 13 RBI, .211 BA.

Zach Lutz
You know, although Lutz is kind of Duda-like and at 27 has probably topped out as one of those guys who's only getting to the Majors if someone gets hurt, he did play decently well in his time in the Majors, particularly when he played sparsely in September. 6 hits in 20 ABs produced 2 RBI and 2 Runs, and he also walked 6 times (and struck out 6 times). .300 BA, .462 OBA. But, you know, don't get carried away here. He's still Zach Lutz.

Wilfredo Tovar
Wilfredo Tovar was the 53rd of 53 Mets to play in the Majors, getting called up only due to Tejada's late-September injury combined with Omar Quintanilla. And let's face it, by that point I think we would have taken Rey Ordonez for 2 weeks as opposed to more Quintanilla. But since Ordonez mercifully wasn't available, we got Tovar instead. Another 21 year old who's probably still a year or two away from making any kind of meaningful contribution. Still enjoyed watching him go 3/15 with 2 RBI much more than seeing Quintanilla.

Eric Young, Jr - B
I have to give Eric Young, Jr., credit for a few things. 1) For falling out of enough favor that the Colorados thought nothing of handing him to the Mets for the utterly useless Collin McHugh. 2) For coming over to the Mets and immediately injecting some life and excitement to the top of a floundering batting order. 3) For the several outstanding defensive plays he made. That being said, Eric Young, Jr., probably isn't going to be the long term answer on a winning team. For a team that's just trying to get through the season respectably, he's great, and his 46 steals led the league (and so I guess the Mets get 3/5ths of a SB crown). But for the life he did bring, ultimately, he only hit .251 with a .318 OBA with the Mets, with 1 HR, 26 RBI, 48 Runs and 38 steals. This is more a testament to how useless the Mets top of the order hitters were before Young arrived than to how good he was here. Ultimately, Eric Young, Jr. can be a part of the Mets going forward, I'm all in favor of that. But if he's going to be here, he's going to be a 4th Outfielder, because the two things he does best—Run the bases and play Defense—do not a starting corner OF make. I've made the Endy Chavez comparison many times and that's the role he's best suited for.

Juan Lagares - B-
Lagares, on the other hand, might be good enough to start, but I'm not sure. Lagares actually spent a large majority of the season in the Majors, except that for whatever reason, he was completely buried on the bench for about 6-8 weeks right after he got called up. Lagares, like Young, is a wizard defensively, but his output offensively remains somewhat suspect. 392 ABs produced only a .242 BA and a .281 OBA with 4 HR and 34 RBI. 115 games in the Outfield resulted in an eye-popping 15 assists and multiple fly balls run down in gaps. What Lagares has on Young is that he's only 24 as opposed to Young's 28, so there's at least some room to see if Lagares has any upside. What concerns me is that Lagares was one of those guys that nobody had ever heard much of at all until he got called up in April and sometimes there's a reason for that. I would, with trepidation, give him the CF job next season, but then hope like hell that he can hang on to it.

Marlon Byrd - A
The ultimate reclamation project, for sure. Byrd was given a shot after a PED suspension last year and ended up completely reviving his career. Hit with surprising pop and got several clutch hits in the process. Started slow but by time he was dealt to Pittsburgh at the end of August (his circumstance similar to Buck, plus as an impending 36-year old Free Agent, the Mets weren't likely to retain him), he'd hit .285 with an OBA of .330, with 71 RBI and the 21 Home Runs he hit ultimately led the team. He paid immediate dividends with the Pirates as well, Homering in his 1st game there and also hitting a HR in the NL Wildcard Game on Tuesday to aid the Pirates to victory.

Andrew Brown - B
Andrew Brown is kind of like Satin and Turner in that he was given very limited opportunities with the Mets, but if nothing else, he made them count. Brown is not and will never be good enough to play every day, but what he can do is kill Lefthanded pitching, particularly off the bench. Only hit .227 with a .288 OBA in 150 ABs, but his 7 HRs and 24 RBI were often achieved in helpful situations. That being said, the majority of useful bench players the Mets had were Right handed hitters, and given that the Mets seem to have a glut of 4th Outfielder types, Brown is more than likely expendable.

Mike Baxter - D
Had two walk-off hits in 3 days in May and basically did nothing the rest of the season. Hit .189 in 132 ABs, but 17 BB fattened up his OBA to .303. 0 HRs and 4 RBIs. For a guy who supposedly was our key pinch hitter, this output is akin to falling off the cliff. But, of course, since he's Mr. Whitestone Wonder and he continues to trade high off his great catch in Santana's No Hitter. Basically, Baxter is the kind of player that would only have a Major League job with the Mets. Nobody else would pay any kind of attention to him. And I don't know who that's a worse indictment of.

Jordany Valdespin - F
I remember back in 2001 that Timo Perez liked to walk around the clubhouse in his underwear which pissed off a lot of the veterans, and something tells me that Jordany Valdespin probably exhibited the same kind of behavior. Universally reviled by pretty much everyone on the team, and also angered several other teams with his antics. Sent to the minors after hitting .188 in 133 ABs with 4 HR and 16 RBI and then proceeded to curse out his manager and then get suspended for PEDs. So, don't be surprised to see him on the Opening Day roster next season.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis - F
Caused the downfall of Western Civilization. Did nothing else noteworthy. 95AB, .189 BA.

Rick Ankiel - F
Not even an awesome selection of At Bat music could save this mess. 66AB, .182 BA.

Collin Cowgill - F
Hit an Opening Day Grand Slam and everyone was screaming "MORE COWGILL!" Unfortunately, that got annoying about as quickly as the eponymous sketch and Cowgill was gone before too long. 61AB, .180BA.

Matt den Dekker - Inc.
For some reason, Mike Baxter, who did nothing all season, was allowed to start and bat 5th over the season's final weekend, while Matt den Dekker, who the Mets were clearly trying to find something out about, wasted away, being used only as a Pinch Runner. I realize that den Dekker's numbers, .207 BA, .270 OBA, 1 HR, 6 RBI in 58AB weren't off the charts, but surely he had to have been a better option than Mike Baxter. Surely. Don't know what he posits going forward but, hey, the Mets do need a left handed bat off the bench.

Part 2, the Pitchers, forthcoming shortly.

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