We continue our season review series with another guest post, this one offered by the Senior Editor of Rising Apple.
Author: Matt Musico
Well, the 2012 season was interesting for David Wright and the New York Mets. There were plenty of twists and turns along the way, and a team primed to continue shocking everyone going into the All-Star break, ended up crashing back down to Earth after the mid-summer classic.
So, what kind of team was the 2012 Mets? At 74-88 and in fourth place in the NL East for the fourth straight season, they were average. To put it plainly, their offense and defense were spotty at best; the bullpen was among the worst in baseball for most of the year, with their starting pitching being the most effective piece.
Offensively, New York ranked 10th in the NL with a .249 team batting average, 12th in runs scored (650), and 11th in home runs (139). The biggest thing missing in the second half was the clutch hit; they led the league in two-out runs scored through the first half of the schedule, but their 283 runs scored in that situation dropped them to 6th in the National League by the time the final out was recorded. On the mound, the bullpen brought down the staff’s overall statistics; the 4.09 team ERA (11th) and 1.29 WHIP (10th) left them in the bottom half of the league when it came to rankings.
Despite an overall frustrating season, there were plenty of positive things that came out of it. New York surprised baseball with a 4-0 start, and continued to play solid baseball, taking a lot of pitches, getting big hits, and playing with a lot of heart. Going into the All-Star break with a 46-40 record, they were very much in the conversation when it came to the playoffs, and Sandy Alderson said they would be buyers at the trade deadline. How did they arrive at this record before the game’s best players went to Kansas City to play in the mid-summer classic? Well, there were a few standout performers along the way.
David Wright carried the second-highest batting average ever for a Met player going into the All-Star break, as he compiled an amazing .351/.441/.563 line, while becoming the franchise leader in RBI and runs scored. With Ike Davis going through one of the worst slumps anyone would ever see in the first half, Lucas Duda (12 first-half HR) and Scott Hairston (12 first-half HR) picked up the slack in the power department, as Ruben Tejada (.325/.381/.405) was making Jose Reyes a distant memory in Flushing.
New York’s favorite knuckler earned his first nod to the All-Star game with a crazy 12-1 record with a 2.40 ERA. His first half was highlighted with one of the most dominant stretches in baseball history, as he was he threw back-to-back one-hitters, the first time that happened since 1945. He also broke Jerry Koosman’s franchise record by going 44.2 innings pitched without allowing an earned run. Santana sprinted out of the gates after missing 2011 rehabbing from his shoulder capsule surgery, going 6-5 with a 3.24 ERA. His first half was highlighted with a dominant complete game shutout of the Padres, followed by the first-ever no-hitter by a Met on June 1st. So what if Carlos Beltran’s foul ball hit the chalk? He still retired the rest without allowing a hit, bringing just about every Mets fan to tears of joy.
Once they returned to the field following the mid-summer classic, all hell broke loose, as the Amazins put together an atrocious 28-48 record, going as long as a month without winning two games in a row, and going more than 15 games at home without scoring more than three runs. Outside of Wright eclipsing Ed Kranepool for the franchise hits record and Dickey becoming the team’s first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990, there weren’t many highlights to speak of.
The starting rotation was decimated, as Dillon Gee missed the entire second half after having surgery to repair a damaged artery, and Santana was never the same after his historic night and ended the season on the DL. Offensive players that had a great first half, like Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, went into deep slumps, and Jason Bay never got his season going, as he hit the DL twice and put together a pathetic .165/.237/.299 line, inevitably becoming a platoon player.
One of the few bright spots was Matt Harvey, who gave fans a glimpse into the future, as he put together a 3-5 record, 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 70 strikeouts in 59.1 innings pitched with the Mets before an innings limit ended his season. Wright struggled with the bat, finishing the season with a .306 average, which is a far cry from the .351 mark he had at the break, but Ike Davis busted out of his slump, ending the season with a .227/.308/.462 line with 32 homers and 90 RBI. After starting the year with a .185 April and .154 May, that’s very impressive.
Although the latter part of the season has left a sour taste in most fans’ mouths, a poll administered by MetsBlog recently revealed that 64% of fans felt the organization took a small step forward in 2012. Their needs for 2013 are rather obvious; the bullpen once again needs to be overhauled, as does the outfield and catcher position. Sandy Alderson has said on numerous occasions he’s not ready to blow up the roster, but there will be significant changes to the roster heading into next year. With $80 million of payroll tied up between 6 players and the expectation of the payroll being in the neighborhood of $100 million, New York won’t be filling their holes through free agency, but will instead be more aggressive in the trade market, hoping to find young MLB-ready talent under team control.
Wright and Dickey are under team control for 2013, but Alderson has labeled agreeing to extensions with them as top priorities before they enter their option year and decide to test free agency next winter, with news reports telling us these could be finished by the start of the World Series. The entire coaching staff will return for next season, but not many, if any, potential free agents will be returning. Pelfrey and Andres Torres will likely be non-tendered, and relievers Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez will not be re-signed. Tim Byrdak won’t be able to pitch until at least August due to his shoulder capsule surgery, so he will not be pursued, while Scott Hairston and Ronny Cedeno will likely be looking for more lucrative contracts and more playing time. Chris Young threw his highest number of innings since 2008, yet the rotation is already set for next season, and since he’s not a fit out of the bullpen, he’s not likely to be return either. It’s unclear as to whether New York was pleased enough with Kelly Shoppach’s showing after a waiver wire deal will merit any contract discussions with him either.
If there is any action for the Mets in the free agent market, it will be for inexpensive players not looking for multi-year deals, possibly for players like Rick Ankiel or Grady Sizemore. Alderson stands by his words that the roster will look drastically different next season due to their activity in the trade market. Players lIke Davis, Jonathon Niese, and Daniel Murphy are just a few of the names that have come up in possible trade rumors over the past month.
The front office and coaching staff feels their squad can once again surprise baseball in 2013, but they’ll need to stick to their plans through the entire season to be competitive for the duration of it. The off-season will be interesting to see how exactly the organization plans to drastically change the roster, as they continue to set themselves up to compete in 2014.
Despite the Mets falling off the face of the Earth in July and August, there are a few positives to take out of it moving forward. If all goes well, the face of the franchise (Wright) and NL Cy Young front-runner (Dickey) will remain with the team for the long-term, and there is a solid young core in Tejada, Niese, and Davis moving forward. That’s as long as none of those three gets traded…but we’ll see what happens once the World Series trophy is hoisted by one destined team.
Matt is a 25 year old college admissions counselor and has been involved in baseball his entire life. He’s had many different relationships with sports; he played through college and was invited to a professional tryout, grew up a diehard Mets fan, and has his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Sport Management. He would eventually like to be an Athletic Director at a Division I college. In addition to being the editor of Rising Apple, Matt also contributes to his personal site periodically, http://on-the-way-home.org; to keep up with all his posts, follow him on Twitter (@mmusico8).