Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2014

We've made it through another year, Mets fans.  The 2014 campaign marked the sixth consecutive season without a winning record for the Mets, putting the team one sub-.500 season away from tying the franchise record of seven straight sucky seasons.  (They posted seven losing seasons in a row from 1962-68 and repeated the flustering feat from 1977-83.)

The 2014 season had its usual shares of ups and downs.  It was a year without a Harvey Day, but it was also a year where we were delighted with deGrom.  It was the season we impeached Ike and replaced him with a 30-homer hitter whose post-game interviews made Marshawn Lynch look like a well-versed wordsmith.

As we do every year as Mets fans, we felt both happiness and crappiness.  So why not recap those happy and crappy moments now that the year is coming to an end?  Let's start with all that was good in 2014.  Come on, get happy!

The Mets signed starting pitcher Bartolo Colon to go deep into games and be a veteran presence in the clubhouse that could help the younger pitchers as they adjusted to their increased workloads.  He did everything that was expected of him, as he led the team with 15 wins and also surpassed 200 innings.

Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom filled in for the injured Matt Harvey with aplomb.  Both Wheeler and deGrom averaged more than a strikeout per inning and combined to win 20 games.  In addition, both pitchers improved as the season progressed.  Wheeler went 8-3 with a 2.71 ERA in his final 16 starts and deGrom posted an 8-1 record in his final 12 starts with a 1.90 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.  And let's not forget the game in which deGrom tied Jim Deshaies' major league record by striking out the first eight batters he faced.  Now imagine Wheeler, deGrom and Harvey in the same rotation in 2015 and the future looks very bright for the Mets.

The threesome of Wheeler, deGrom and Harvey will need help from their bullpen, and the Mets have one of the better relief corps in baseball.  Who'da thunk it after the 2014 season began with Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth blowing more games for the Mets than umpire Angel Hernandez ever could?  The trio of Vic Black (2.60 ERA, .206 batting average against), Jeurys Familia (2.21 ERA, five saves, .209 batting average against) and Jenrry Mejia (28 saves, 98 Ks in 93.2 IP) made it a lot easier for Terry Collins to remove a tiring young starter from a game after just six innings of work, especially if that starter had an innings limit for the season.

We already knew Juan Lagares was a brilliant defensive outfielder, and he was rewarded for his fielding greatness with his first Gold Glove.  But Lagares was much more than this generation's Garry Maddox.  ("Two thirds of the Earth is covered by water.  The other third is covered by Garry Maddox.")  Lagares was a great contact hitter, striking out just 12 times in his last 119 plate appearances.  He also proved he could be a leadoff hitter, stealing nine bases in a 14-game late-season stretch and reaching base safely in all but two of those games.  Continued improvement by the 25-year-old center fielder will make it much easier for Mets starting pitchers, especially those who are susceptible to fly balls.

Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson combined to hit 50 home runs in 2014.  It was the first time since 2008 that two lefty swingers combined to hit 50 balls out of the park for the Mets.  Back then, it was Carlos Delgado (38 HR) and Ryan Church (12 HR) who turned the trick.  But even more noteworthy was that it was the first time in team history that two players who batted exclusively from the left side of the plate both reached the 20-homer mark in the same season.  The closest any lefty-swinging duo had ever come to turning this feat prior to Duda and Granderson was in 1999 when Robin Ventura smacked 32 homers and John Olerud hit 19 of his own.  And now that the right field fences at Citi Field will be closer to home plate than they've ever been, perhaps the dynamic duo will improve upon their unprecedented power numbers.

Travis d'Arnaud set a Mets rookie record for catchers by blasting 13 home runs in 2014.  But it was what he did after being called back up from the minors in late June that raised eyebrows.  In his last 68 starts, d'Arnaud batted .272 and had an .805 OPS.  The catcher clubbed 19 doubles, three triples and ten homers in those games, while driving in 32 runs.  Let's look it at this way.  It would not be a stretch to say that d'Arnaud can catch 136 games over a full season.  That's exactly double the amount of games he started after he was recalled to the big leagues.  So repeating his post-honeymoon-in-Vegas numbers over a full season would result in 38 doubles, six triples, 20 HR and 64 RBI, or as I like to call it, the closest any catcher has come to Mike Piazza since Mike Piazza.

Looks like a lot of happy recaps up there, doesn't it?  But there was also a whole lot of crap going on.  (And I'm not just talking about the Austin Mahone concert this past September at Citi Field.  My ears are still ringing from all the prepubescent shrieks.)  Let the blue and orange toilet paper lead the way.

Wilmer Flores performed well with the bat, especially over the last month of the season, when he had almost twice as many extra-base hits (12) as he had strikeouts (7).  Similarly, Ruben Tejada, who was the author of one major league home run prior to this past season, found a way to blast five long balls in 2014.  That being said, Flores makes Derek Jeter look like the best defensive shortstop in history and Tejada still has fewer home runs as a Met than Dwight Gooden.  The Mets can either hope Flores can make people forget he's a defensive liability by putting up big numbers with the bat, or they need to find a two-way shortstop - one who can hit AND field.  The team has used up all of its toilet paper trying to clean up that mess since Jose Reyes left the team.

Let's talk about the bench in 2014.  Or what passed for a bench in 2014.  When Bobby Abreu and Eric Campbell combine to play in 163 games (or one more game than a team plays in a full season), you know you need better bench players.  Eric Young, Jr. gave the team speed off the bench.  It's too bad he had a .299 OBP in 2014.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker both played good defense and had decent on-base percentages.  Unfortunately, they're pretty much the same player taking up two roster spots.  And let's not even talk about the Mets' $7 million dollar man, Chris Young, who played so badly, even Jason Bay was shaking his head.  The Mets need to improve their bench in 2015 for late-inning situations and to sub for any everyday player who needs a rest.

Speaking of needing a rest, what the fudge happened to our captain in 2014?  David Wright had the worst year of his career, posting the same slugging percentage (.374) as Anthony Recker and the same number of homers (8) as Chris Young.  At least the third baseman didn't forget how to hit singles, as laced 105 of those in 2014.  Wright is earning $20 million a year, or more than 20% of the team's payroll.  He'll need to go back to his 20-25 homer, 90-100 RBI ways if he wants to be worth his salary and keep batting third in an improving Mets lineup.

Finally, is this the last hurrah for Terry Collins?  It's true that the team improved by five wins in 2014, giving Collins the most wins he's had in any of his four seasons as the Mets' skipper.  But some of his in-game decisions didn't exactly help the team reach that "lofty" 79-win total.  And none of those decisions angered fans more than his infatuation with the bunt.  Let me break it down for you.  A bunt with a man on first pushes the runner to second.  The Mets batted .235 in 2014 with a runner on second base.  Similarly, a successful sacrifice with runners on first and second moves the runners to second and third.  How did the Mets fare when they batted with two runners in scoring position?  Badly, to the tune of a .202 average.  So bunting runners over usually meant those runners stayed where they were.  You're not going to win many games when you give up too many outs.  And Terry Collins gave up way too many outs, and perhaps his first chance at a non-losing season with the Mets, by relying too much on the bunt.

And that'll do it for the non-Festivus related airing of grievances.  We hope you enjoyed all the statistical silliness Studious Metsimus has provided for you in the year 2014.  And as always, we can't let the year come to its conclusion without mentioning those sites that inspire us and give us something fresh to read when we need a Bartolo Colon-sized serving of Mets news and information.

Our fav'rit reads come from A Gal For All Seasons, Faith and Fear in Flushing, Mets Merized Online, Metstradamus, Remembering Shea, The Daily Stache, Mets360, MetsBlog, Rising Apple, Kranepool Society, Mets Police and MetSilverman.  You will not be wasting your time with those sites.

So from the staff of Studious Metsimus, which includes Ed Leyro (hey, that's me!), culinary expert/roving reporter Joey Beartran, Cole Hamels informant Iggy Beartran, and hot chick with a sailor's tongue Taryn Cooper, we'd like to wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.  May all your wishes come true in 2015.

And remember, Mets fans, if you're ever in line at Dunkin Donuts and the guy in front of you asks for a double shot of Espresso with a double-dipped chocolate doughnut, you may just be standing behind Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine.  And there's certainly nothing crappy about that.  See you next year!

Why wasn't I invited to this party?  So jealous...


Anonymous said...

As always, Ed, thanks for your insight. I am certainly looking forward to seeing deGromm and Harvey pitch next year. I still think that Collins is a good manager, though. Have a Happy New Year abd here's to the 2015 Mets!
Phil Groh

Ed Leyro (and Joey Beartran) said...

Thanks, Phil! I wish you and your family the best in 2015 as well. And may our Mets family of players give us plenty to cheer in the new year!