New York Mets 2011 Season Review
Ruben Tejada (i.e., the second coming of Rey Ordonez) could be the Mets’ starting shortstop next year.
It’s been a couple of weeks since we checked in with another our MLB Team Reviews, so let’s rectify that, shall we?
Today we take a look at the season that was for the New York Mets. About a year ago at this time, the financially bleeding Mets had to get an emergency loan of $25 million from MLB just so they could make a revenue-sharing payment.
Well, to give you an idea of how things have gone, that money still hasn’t been paid back and the team is now seeking a four-month extension, leeway that Commission Bud Selig seems prepared to give them as he’s been speaking to other owners to generate support for the extension.
All we can say is it’s a good thing for Frank McCourt and the Los Angeles Dodgers or else the Mets’ financial mess would appear even worse. The Wilpons, who own the Mets, are in legal trouble and are trying to sell minority stakes of the team to ease their financial crunch. It’s a situation that needs resolution before this team can start turning things around in the standings.
On the field, things weren’t much better. The Mets actually got off to a nice start, winning three of their first four, but immediately went into a 1-10 tailspin that would knock the team off track until July.
Still, the team played over .500 ball in May, June and July, and by July 29 had improved to 55-51, giving them an impressive 51-40 record for over three months of the schedule.
Unfortunately, things went south from there and an 18-29 stretch dropped the Mets to a season-worst nine games under .500 in late-September. They recovered somewhat over the final week, but finished 77-85, two games below their pace from 2010, good for a third straight fourth-place finish in the NL East. Terry Collins first season as manager of the Mets wasn’t exactly a success.
The Mets were nearly a .500 team (44-46) outside of the division, but a 33-39 record vs. their NL East counterparts doomed them.
New York last had a winning record in 2008 and last made the playoffs in 2006. It’s now been 11 years since the Mets appeared in the World Series.
The losing is starting to manifest itself in decreased attendance. This year, the Mets drew just over 2.35 million, a drop of seven per cent from 2010 and their lowest overall attendance since 2004 when they were still at Shea Stadium. Clearly, the Citi Field honeymoon period is over and it will take a winning product to put more butts in the seats.
The offense was a mixed bag. While New York was among MLB’s leaders in batting average (only St. Louis had more hits among NL teams) and on-base percentage, a lack of power doomed to this team to an overall attack that was middling. The Mets didn’t strike out much and drew plenty of walks, so full marks there. They also did a great job on the basepaths, but the bench was weak.
The offense should get a boost from the planned changes to Citi Field’s dimensions next year, but of course that will also have a negative impact on the team’s hurlers, so it’s important to pay attention to both possibilities when drafting next spring.
Speaking of the staff, it was hurt by (a) the loss of Johan Santana for the year; and (b) a bullpen that struggled – especially after the Mets divested themselves of the fiery Francisco Rodriguez.
The pitching staff really didn’t have any numbers to be proud of but there were some ugly ones that stood out, notably the bullpen ERA (third worst) and the team’s inability to stop the running game (tied for fourth worst). Or how about giving up more hits than every NL team other than Pittsburgh?
The Mets’ fielding was even worse as they ranked near the bottom of the majors in both errors and fielding percentage.
Now the team faces the prospect of losing its most dynamic offensive star from this season – free agent shortstop Jose Reyes. Well, he’s not gone yet, but with the Marlins (surprisingly) hot and heavy after him, there’s a decent chance that Ruben Tejada will be manning short at Citi Field next year. Still, the Mets seem to believe they still have a shot to re-sign Reyes, so we’ll just have to wait and see here. They’ve apparently offered him $80 million over five years, but that may not be enough money or a long enough deal to entice him to stay.
New York is expected to make a last ditch effort to try to match any other offers, but if the bidding gets over $100 million, as expected, there’s no way Reyes will be returning. Milwaukee and San Francisco are also expected to make plays for him. Well, at least the Mets offered Reyes arbitration, meaning they’ll get draft picks if he leaves.
Despite missing 36 games thanks to a pair of DL stints, Reyes tied for the team lead with 126 games played. Just think about that for a minute. Decimated by injuries and a roster that was turned over because of ineffectiveness and trade (star Carlos Beltran was finally dealt at the deadline), the Mets never had a consistent lineup all season long. It’s a small wonder they didn’t struggle even more.
Even though he missed so much time, Reyes still put together one of his finest seasons – perfectly timed for free agency. He managed to top 100 runs, flashed his best extra-base pop since 2008 and his speed bounced back. Reyes also set a career high in BA in winning the batting title (the first Met to do so), and OBP, as his walk rate bounced back after plummeting last year.
Reyes, who has been with the Mets since they signed him out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16, led the majors with 16 triples. Still, the fact that the All-Star lifted himself after one at-bat on the final day of the season so he could win the batting title didn’t sit well with a lot of people.
The Mets could sure use an offensive upgrade at catcher. Last year, Josh Thole saw the bulk of the playing time behind the dish, but his offensive game has continued to regress since he teased us in his brief look in 2009. He was a bit more productive last year, but that’s not saying much. Ronny Paulino also regressed, and there are reports the Mets would like to ditch him. Mike Nickeas, meanwhile, can’t hit his way out of a paper bag.
Beltran was enjoying a fine comeback season before he was shipped off to San Francisco. The fact that no one on the team was able to overtake the 15 homers and 66 RBI Beltran accumulated in 98 games before he was traded speaks volumes about the Mets’ desperate need for a power bat. And no, signing Adam Loewen and his 17 homers at Triple-A this year doesn’t qualify.
How sad was the Mets’ lack of power? Well, guess who led them in slugging percentage. Give up? Try first baseman Valentino Pascucci, who didn’t even have that great a season at Triple-A, yet was rewarded with a September call-up. In his first big league action since 2004 – when he was a Montreal Expo, for fuck’s sake – Pascucci slugged .545 in 10 games and 11 at-bats, managing three hits including a homer. Of course, he turned 33 last month and has no future in the bigs despite the fact the Mets re-signed him to a minor league deal. He’s a Quad-A player at best.
Jason Bay’s tenure in New York continued to be a nightmare. In his second season with the Mets, he struggled through the worst campaign of his big league career. He’s played just 218 games so far as Met, accumulating a mere 18 homers and 104 RBI. Oh, and Bay has whiffed 200 times over that stretch. He has quickly established himself as one of the biggest busts in Met history.
Speaking of regression, Angel Pagan slipped for the second straight season. The Mets moved Beltran to right field to free up centre field for Pagan this year, but now they would like to find themselves a better centre fielder. The Mets won’t non-tender Pagan, but won’t be shy about trying to find his replacement.
As mentioned above, injuries played a huge role in limiting the Mets’ attack this year. The biggest loss was sophomore first baseman Ike Davis. He got off to an amazing start, driving in runs in nine of the first 10 games to set a team record, but he hurt his ankle in a collision with teammate David Wright on May 10 and never made it back. Getting Davis back healthy next year should provide a huge boost, especially if he can build on what was looking like a major breakout this year.
Speaking of Wright, he missed over two months with a back injury and was extremely disappointing when he was active. Obviously his counting stats were way down, but so were his power numbers and BA. A free agent after next season, don’t be shocked if Wright is dealt — if not this winter, certainly before the end of 2012.
Super sub Daniel Murphy enjoyed an excellent season before tearing his ACL in August and missing the rest of the season. He took a big step forward offensively, and should be the favourite to be the starting second baseman next year, assuming Reyes is gone. However, the Mets reportedly are willing to deal him. Murphy may not be an ideal man at the keystone corner, but New York desperately needs his stick in the lineup every day.
First baseman Nick Evans saw more action than ever, but he regressed offensively and the Mets removed him from the roster after the season. He’s since signed a minor league deal with the Pirates, so he’s gone. With Davis coming back next year, Evans was redundant.
Without Santana, the rotation mostly struggled. After making nice strides last year, Mike Pelfrey took a big step backwards as he was easier to hit despite having a similar BABIP as the season before. His walk rate rose slightly while his strikeout rate dipped a tad and he was much more susceptible to the long ball. The Mets have been listening to trade offers for Pelfrey, so he’s far from guaranteed of being a member of next year’s rotation. He’s not expected to be non-tendered, however. At this stage, it’s hard to think of Pelfrey as much more than an innings eater, especially after the progress he displayed last year dissipated.
Rookie Dillon Gee was a revelation, putting up solid hit rates and leading the team in wins. However, judging by his second half results (5.25 ERA), he can’t be counted on to again be a big winner next season. Gee is still young, so there may be upside, but he’ll need to be more consistent, something he struggled with badly down the stretch.
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey wasn’t as spectacular as he was last year, but given his ERA and the fact that two-thirds of the time he tossed quality starts, he deserved a better fate than 13 losses. A solid NL-only league asset, Dickey was a victim of poor run support. He didn’t allow more than three earned runs in a start after July 20 yet only earned three wins from that point on. Still, over the last two years he’s recorded an ERA of 3.08 over 383 innings pitched – not too shabby!
Late-season pickup Miguel Batista pitched very well in a swingman role down the stretch for the Mets. His two-hit shutout on the final day of the season – his 11th career complete game and first since July 19, 2006 – was probably the finest pitching performance for New York all season long. Still, the free agent will be 41 before next season starts so we’ve probably heard the last of him as a Fantasy asset.
Southpaw Chris Capuano was a popular sleeper choice heading into 2011, but too many baserunners and too many long balls were his undoing. The free agent is reportedly close to signing with the Cubs, but with Santana expected back next year, Capuano won’t be needed. Still, Capuano proved he’s back, putting up one of the highest strikeout rate of his career and pacing the Mets in Ks.
The Mets also took a chance on injury-prone righty Chris Young, and he looked really good in the four starts he managed to make before tearing his shoulder capsule and missing the rest of the season. He’s a free agent this winter, but I doubt the Mets will gamble on him again.
On the plus side, the rotation should soon get a boost from youngster Jeurys Familia. After making a mockery of High-A, he was moved up to Double-A after just six starts. While he was hit harder at Double-A, he managed to up his strikeout rate by one per inning — a great sign. Added to the roster last month, Familia could be ready to pitch in New York by late 2012 after making such huge strides this year.
As mentioned above, the bullpen was a mess, especially after K-Rod was traded to Milwaukee. Rodriguez wasn’t exactly lights out before he was dealt, but after his departure, no Met reliever managed more than seven saves.
That total belonged to veteran Jason Isringhausen, who spent most of the season as the top set-up man, but took over as closer after Rodriguez was moved. The Mets let him reach 300 career saves and then turned to younger options, trying Bobby Parnell and Manny Acosta. Izzy is a free agent this winter and wants to pitch next year, but he’s 39 and there’s little point in a rebuilding team like the Mets bringing him back.
Parnell is the likeliest to be given an extended look as closer next year, assuming the Mets don’t sign one of the proliferation of late-inning relievers on the market this winter. Parnell has the arm for the job, but the head? Not so much. New York will work on that with him this winter, but he’s a wild card for 2012.
Taylor Buchholz was expected to be one of the main set-up men, and while he pitched well, he was limited to just 26 innings of work thanks to shoulder tendonitis and then a bout with depression that cost him the rest of the season. Yes, being a Met is hard on your psyche. A free agent now, Buchholz may not pitch at all next season, clearly scarred by the experience.
Veteran LOOGY Tim Byrdak was one of the steadiest forces in the pen, which is just sad. The Mets rewarded him by giving him a one-year extension in September, which at $1 million, isn’t the worst allocation of funds, I suppose. He led the team in appearances and had the highest strikeout rate of his career. But in his current role, Byrdak offers no Fantasy value whatsoever.
Danny Herrera, one of the players the Mets received from Milwaukee in the Rodriguez deal, pitched very well down the stretch and will be in the mix for a late-inning role next year, but he may be best suited as a situational lefty, which means he’ll be behind Byrdak in the pecking order.
2011 Team Reviews Index