Friday, December 30, 2016

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2016

We've reached that time of year, Mets fans.  No, I'm not talking about the time when teams overpay for a .230 hitter because his lifetime WAR is higher than his team owner's IQ.  It's time for this year's Happy/Crappy recap, where I share what made Mets fans incredibly happy but also save space for what was indelibly crappy.

When the 2016 season began, the Mets were the defending National League champions.  When the season ended, the team the Mets beat in 2015 to earn the title of N.L. champs became World Series champions for the first time since Scott Atchison read the story of Rip Van Winkle in study hall.

The Mets got to see the Cubs win it all from the comforts of their own homes because they couldn't knock off the Washington Nationals for the division title and had to settle for a do-or-die wild card game against postseason pitching extraordinaire Madison Bumgarner.  Or in other words, a loss.

But the Mets gave us plenty to hope for in the near future.  They got everyone hurt in 2016 so that only half of those players will be injured in 2017.  (I mean, Ray Ramirez can't kill them all again, right?)  They held Daniel Murphy to no home runs against them in six September games between the Mets and Nationals.  (Never mind that Murphy failed to go deep against everyone in September; that's not important right now!)  And most importantly, they allowed Eric Campbell to export his .173 batting average to Japan, where he will most likely become this generation's version of Tuffy Rhodes.

But in all seriousness, the Mets are built to remain contenders for longer than anyone thought they would be when Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins first came on the scene in 2011.  And after six years of 70-something wins per season, the Mets are poised to be far more happy than crappy well into the next decade.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it's time for the 2016 Happy/Crappy recap.

Just like they did in 2015, the Mets got off to a quick start in 2016.  By mid-May, New York had a 21-12 record and was in first place in the NL East.  The pitching staff was once again responsible for the team's early success, allowing three runs or fewer in 24 of the first 33 games.  But the most important pitcher in the first few months of the season wasn't a starter.  Rather, it was closer Jeurys Familia, who for most of the season was on pace to break the all-time National League single-season saves record.  He finished four saves short of the N.L. mark held by Eric Gagne and Hall of Famer John Smoltz but still set a franchise record by recording 51 saves.

The new double play combo of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera was solid in the field and absolutely spectacular at the plate.  Even Cabrera's 0-for-34 stretch with runners in scoring position couldn't take away from how valuable an acquisition he was.  The new second baseman and shortstop became the first double play duo in team history to each reach 20 homers and produce an OPS over .800.  (Walker had an .823 OPS, while Cabrera's was .810; both players smacked 23 HR.)  And that's with Walker and Cabrera each spending time on the disabled list and combining to miss 70 games.  The Mets retained the services of the two steady middle infielders to ensure more pop and circumstance in 2017.

After no one thought the Mets could do it, they signed Yoenis Céspedes not once, but twice in 2016.  The first time, they allowed him to opt out of his three-year, $75 million deal after the first season was complete, which he did.  The second time, he re-signed with the team for four years and $110 million.  And this time, he's not going anywhere after year one is done.  Céspedes led the Mets in home runs, RBI, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, parakeets, horses, spring training vehicles, Lion King tributes, ... You name it, he led in it.  And he'll be trying to do the same through the 2020 campaign.

'Member Wilmer Flores?  He didn't cry on the field this year, but he did start to hit right-handed pitching better.  And even though he had 175 fewer plate appearances this year compared to his 2015 folk hero campaign, Flores still put up 16 HR and 49 RBI.  How rare is that production for a Mets player with fewer than 350 plate appearances?  Flores became just the fifth Met in club history with that many home runs in a sub-350 PA season and the fourth with that many RBI.  And to think he just turned 25 and posted career highs with a .788 OPS and 108 OPS+.  Before too long, people might totally forget about his obsession with the show "Friends" and will only remember him for being a fine hitter who makes excellent contact (165 strikeouts in 1,220 career plate appearances).

Last, but certainly not least is the legend of Noah Syndergaard, which went off the charts in 2016.  From his bromance with Yoenis Céspedes and Bartolo Colón to his hilarious Twitter account to sticking a microphone up Steve Gelbs' nose, Thor became a fan-favorite both on and off the field.  The 14-9 record, 2.60 ERA, 218 strikeouts and three homers as a batter were pretty cool, too.  As was his memorable effort against that Bum in the wild card game.  All from a guy who hadn't been born when Nirvana was at its peak.  Mets fans hope Thor can lead the team to baseball nirvana in the near future.

Noah Syndergaard clearly wanted to hear if Steve Gelbs was breathing heavily.  (SNY screen shot)

Not all was happy in the last season for the Mets.  In fact, some of the happy is intertwined with the crappy.  Time to unroll the orange and blue toilet paper and share what was crappy with 2016.

Once again, a quick start was followed by a mid-summer dry spell, especially with a lethargic offense that counted on players like James Loney, Alejandro De Aza and others of that ilk.  From May 12 to July 30, the Mets scored two runs or fewer in 35 of 70 games.  For all you kids out there, that's half the time not scoring more than a couple of runs.  That's not going to win a lot of ballgames.  (That would also explain why, by August 19, the Mets had gone 39-50 over their last 89 games to go from nine games over .500 to two games under.)

What happened to the vaunted starting rotation?  Matt Harvey went 4-10 with an ERA approaching 5.00 and a WHIP just under 1.50.  That's almost Mike Pelfrey in 2009 territory (Big Pelf had a 5.03 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in that sad, sad season).  And Jacob deGrom never found his fastball.  He must have left it wherever he left his winning record, as he went 7-8 with a career-high ERA and WHIP.  Let's not even talk about Steven Matz, who couldn't lose early on, then couldn't even get his grandpa to jump out of his seat during an 11-start stretch in which he posted a Harvey-esque 4.81 ERA and allowed opposing hitters to slash .303/.353/.472 against him.  The most consistent starter other than Syndergaard was Bartolo Colón, and now he's an Atlanta Brave.  Let's hope Zack Wheeler's unexpected two-year vacation has him ready to replace Big Sexy on the big stage.

As of this writing, the Mets still have Jay Bruce on their payroll.  He is a lefty-swinging outfielder with power.  They also have Curtis Granderson.  He also swings from the left side and patrols the outfield.  And you may have heard of this Michael Conforto guy.  Guess which side of the plate is his favorite and where he plays on the field?  Here's another thing about those guys.  They make outs.  Lots of them.  In fact, Granderson's .237 batting average was the highest among the three, with Conforto batting .220 and a late-season hot streak propelling Bruce all the way up to .219.  But hey, at least Granderson can draw a walk, and walks put fannies in the seats, right?

Jeurys Familia did a bad thing this off-season.  Something that was even worse than allowing that home run to Conor Gillaspie in the wild card game.  And because he couldn't control his temper off the field, he'll have to stay away from the field for a significant portion of the early 2017 campaign.  So either the Mets will have to score a ton of runs in April and early May or they'll have to depend on people not named Jeurys Familia to hold a slim lead when the starters are taken out of the game.  I hope the Mets paid their phone bill, because that bullpen phone is going to get quite a workout early on in 2017.

Finally, how does Ray Ramirez still have a job?  Sometimes it seems as if he spends more time on the field than the players do.  The disabled list welcomed a ton of Mets players in 2016, which has been par for the course since Ramirez became the head trainer.  Having him as the head trainer has become a head scratcher for most Mets fans.  Just don't scratch too hard while pondering why the players never seem to come back after injuries that began as day-to-day aches and pains turn into season-long nightmares.  Your head might end up in a walking boot if Ramirez finds out.

That's all she wrote, Mets fans.  You've just read what was happy and crappy about the 2016 season just in time to start thinking about what could possibly go wrong (and right) in 2017.  Can the 2017 top the two-season run the Mets have been on?  Will the offense finally hit in June?  And how will Noah Syndergaard antagonize Steve Gelbs next?

The answers will all be here in the coming year, as brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Studious Metsimus staff.  And if for some reason, the staff is on vacation or at an all-you-can-eat buffet when breaking Mets news hits, you can be sure that other members of the blogosphere - those who don't take vacations or eat - will be there to fill you in.  Blogs such as A Gal For All Seasons, Faith and Fear in Flushing, Mets Merized Online, MetsMinors.Net, Amazin' Avenue, Metstradamus, Remembering Shea, The Daily Stache, Mets360, Rising Apple, Mets Plus, Mets Police, MetSilverman, Converted Mets Fan and Mets Daddy, just to name a few (or 15, to be exact) always have compelling stories to share, day or night.  Check them out some time.  I'd say "tell 'em Ed sent you" but I'm not sure they all know who I am.

From all of us here at Studious Metsimus headquarters (which is basically just a desk that's equidistant from the kitchen and the bathroom), we'd like to wish you and yours a happy New Year.  And by "we", that's yours truly (Ed Leyro), our roving reporter/culinary expert (Joey Beartran) and queen of all social media (Taryn "The Coop" Cooper).

And remember, Mets fans, it's not how you play the game, it's how you managed to stay on the field when your head trainer is Ray Ramirez.

Thanks so much for your support!

The Studious Metsimus staff raises a glass to our readers!  (That guy on the top right needs to shave.)

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