Hello again fellow Metropolitan fans. Happy New year to you and yours. Because its a slow time of the year for baseball, and particularly the Mets, I’ve decided to do an optimistic look back. I’m going to countdown 5 things that made us happy last year.
Lets get at it. I’ll start with number 5 and work down. Enjoy!
5. Jeff McNeil’s surprising summer
After an amazing start to the season, the Mets found themselves almost out of it on July 24th. That is the day Jeff McNeil got called up to The Show. It didn’t take long for him to make an impact, getting a base hit in his first at bat. McNeil would go on to do that many more times, putting up a slash line of .329/.381/.471 in 225 at bats. He added 11 doubles and 6 triples, which isn’t bad at all. Over 600 at bats, that’s almost 30 doubles and over 15 triples.
It isn’t all sunshine and roses for McNeil. Advanced stats tell us it might not be sustainable at that level next year. His BABIP was .359 (batting average on balls in play), which tells us how many of his balls in play turned into hits, or how lucky a batter was. The league average is closer to .330 so that .329 batting average will most definitely go down. Even if he hits .290, with the type of K/BB ratio and his above average defense, Jeff has the potential to help our team for years to come.
4. Amed Rosario’s August & September strides
Talking about someone’s second half will be a recurring theme in this article. Beside the first few weeks of the season, the Mets had a dreadful first half, both as a team and almost to a man. Then came July and August; many players that struggled started to come through in a big way. What better player to focus on then our top prospect coming into the season and a top 3 guy in most major ranking systems; Amed Rosario?
Rosario, like the Mets, had a terrible early summer, hitting .277, .216 and .210 in the first 3 months of the season with an on-base percentage under .300. Frankly put, if that continued, it wouldn’t be good enough for him to be our starting SS in 2019, especially with the team’s new win-now focus. Even with all of the talent and potential, those numbers are not good enough. The advanced stats were no better, posting a 40% swing and miss rate accompanied by poor hard hit and contact percentages.
In August, though, something seemed to flip. He went on the have batting averages of .286 and .283 in August and September with an OPS over .300 in both months. Not world beating by any measure, but certainly respectable. More importantly, it was good enough to keep him at short while he continues to work on his craft. If Amed never lives up to his hype, we can still be a good team, but no other player in my view can help put us over the top like an elite version of Amed Rosario. Those two months at least give us some hope that that can happen.
3. The Emergence of Brandon Nimmo
Nimmo is one of those guys that comes along and everybody instantly roots for him. He is a nice, soft spoken guy. Very humble and hard working; everything sports franchises want in a player. The problem is that those players need to produce on the field or it doesn’t matter. Well, Brandon produced for us in 2018. Let’s talk about it.
In a little less then 300 plate appearances in 2017, Nimmo showed us his hustle, defense, and that he had good plate discipline. In 2018 he proved to us that none of those were flukes. In the production department, the Mets crave guys with high OPS. We all have seen Moneyball, when Billy Beane tells his scouts that’s the most important stat. Well, Brandon finished 2018 with the second best on-base percentage in the NL. At .404 he came in second only to Joey Votto. He also produced runs for the Mets. In the sabermetric department he had a 149 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus), second only to eventual MVP Chrstian Yelich. Now Brodie can plug Nimmo into our 2019 lineup and look to improve elsewhere. Brandon’s got this.
2. Zach Wheeler’s dominant second half
Number 1 on this list will come as no surprise, but number 2 just may. Wheeler has been a part of our young starting pitching that was suppose to carry us for a few years now. Unfortunately for Zach, he has had a problem staying on the mound due to injuries, and when he was he was healthy it wasn’t very awe inspiring.
Zach has shown signs of being a top end pitcher since his debut in 2014, though, starting in 2017, the Mets young pitching curse hit him hard. He missed a huge chunk of the season, pitching only 86 innings, and when he was on the mound, he had a 5.21 ERA. Although healthy, Alderson and Mickey sent Wheeler to start the season in the minors. There were questions about his stamina, potential recurring health problems, and there was the thought that he may be better as a reliever.
Fast foward to the All-Star break (mostly because my superiors tell me the shorter the better) and there were some positive signs. He wasn’t hurt and had started 18 games with 107 innings under his belt. He did have a 4.44 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP but his velocity and command all seemed pretty good.
After the break though, no one was looking for moral victories. Zach Wheeler had a post-break pitching run only bested by his teammate Jake Degrom. The numbers speak for themselves, so I will let them do the work.
|Last 7 Games||5||1||1.88||7||7||0||48.0||30||10||11||46||0.85|
|Last 15 Games||10||1||2.06||15||15||0||100.2||69||23||24||100||0.92|
|Last 30 Games||12||7||3.31||29||29||0||182.1||150||67||55||179||1.12|
1. Cy Young Award winning season of Jacob Degrom
No Mets fan was surprised that Degrom had a great season; but how dominant it actually was on such a bad team with no run support surprised almost everybody.
With a 10-9 win loss record that is the definition of average, Jake’s other numbers would have to have been other worldy to win a CY award. Well they were. We’ve all seen them a million times by now, so I wont rehash; I will just say that it was the best season from a Mets pitcher that I have ever seen (I’m 37). I didn’t live through Tom Seaver or other Met greats, but I can’t imagine a much better year then Jacob’s.
With Degrom anchoring our staff next year, plus Wheeler and Syndergaard backing him up, not to mention Matz, I feel really good about our team. Now it is up to Brodie to make sure we can score more runs. Then who knows, maybe this time next year, I’ll be typing up Jake’s second straight Cy Young award as 2019’s 2nd best moment. What’s first? I’m glad you asked; our first World Series victory since ’86.
Nimmo Photo courtesy of MLB.com; McNeil Photo courtesy of SNY.com; Degrom Photo courtesy Amazin' Avenue