How do you ultimately judge a season where not much was expected only to have the team play inspired ball for three-plus months of the year? Especially when that strong play was followed up by inertia from the front office and then dreadful play over the final three months? I don’t know. So, instead of trying to put some type of grade on the year, here are the top 10 positive things I’ll remember about the 2012 Mets.
10. The maturation of RA Parnell – I’ve been told a few times that Bobby Parnell really does not like the name “Bobby” so after the season he’s turned in, I’m willing to accommodate him today. Did you know he’s got the same first and middle name as Mr. Dickey? Yes, they are both Robert Allen. The nickname RA has served Dickey so well that I’ll use it here for Parnell, too.
The Grapefruit League stories were that Parnell was going to sacrifice velocity for movement and location and that he was adding a new breaking ball. Both of them turned out to be true and Parnell had the best season of his career. A 2.60 ERA and a 1.279 WHIP are both career-bests. And while rumors continue to swirl that he can’t be trusted to pitch in the 9th inning, Parnell had a .197/.256/.289 slash line with a 2.08 ERA in 21.2 IP in the ninth.
9. JV Magic – I was not high on Jordany Valdespin coming into the season but his pinch-hitting heroics – 5 HR, 10 RBIs in 45 PA as a pinch-hitter – were something to behold. These weren’t just any homers, they were dramatic blasts off some top closers, including Jonathan Papelbon and Tyler Clippard. Valdespin was exposed with additional playing time but that can’t take away from the excitement he delivered in these key pinch-hitting appearances.
8. Strong starts versus Braves and Phillies – As alluded to earlier, not much was expected this year from the Mets and it figured to be an ugly start to the year, as the team played the Braves and Phillies nine times in the first 12 games. But New York opened with a three-game sweep of Atlanta and then took two of three from Philadelphia. Things soon reverted to normal versus the Braves, as the Mets finished the year with a 6-12 mark against them. But they finished the year with a 10-8 mark against the Phillies, something no one saw happening before the year started.
7. The rebirth of a reliever – The Mets’ bullpen has been a problem throughout most of the year and one of the biggest offenders early on was Manny Acosta. My position on Acosta throughout his Mets tenure is that he’s a good guy to have in the pen. Unfortunately that makes me a minority and I’ve defended him more times than I’d really prefer, seemingly making me his main cheerleader. So his brutal start was doubly painful. But since his recall in late July, Acosta has a 1.57 ERA over 23 IP, a stretch no one would have predicted from any Mets reliever, much less Acosta.
6. The development of a 2B – The fan base was nearly split in two over the decision to play Daniel Murphy at second base. The opponents pointed out the likelihood of injury, as Murphy had twice suffered season-ending injuries playing second and that even if he stayed healthy he would likely be the worst defender in baseball at the position. Neither of these came to pass. The overall defensive numbers are not pretty but Murphy has gotten the job done and he seems like he’s getting more and more comfortable at the position. His ability to play 2B an entire season ups both his trade value and his worth to the Mets going forward.
5. A 30-HR season from an unexpected source – If at the beginning of the year I told you that Ike Davis would clear 30 homers, you probably would not be surprised. But the journey he took to get there made the ultimate destination memorable. Davis was in the running for worst player in the majors early in the year. Through June 5th he had a dismal .501 OPS. But since then Davis has an .896 OPS with 26 HR in 332 AB. If only he was a righty-hitting OF…
4. The emergence of a top draft pick – The final first-round pick of the Omar Minaya era – Matt Harvey – made his major league debut two seasons after he was drafted. Harvey had a good but not great showing in Triple-A and was called up at least as much out of desperation as anything else. But once he got to the majors, Harvey was outstanding. Featuring a fastball that consistently registered in the mid-to-high 90s, Harvey posted a 2.73 ERA with a 10.6 K/9 rate in his 10 starts with the Mets. Harvey gives the Mets a dimension they simply have not had – a SP who can overpower hitters on a regular basis.
3. A great start from a great player – After a very disappointing year in 2011, no one really knew what to expect from David Wright. But the fan favorite busted out of the gates as if he was back to his pre-2009 prime. At the end of June, Wright had a 1.013 OPS and was playing Gold Glove defense at third base. The Mets were in the race and Wright looked like a serious MVP candidate. Unfortunately, the second half of the season closely resembles 2011. But his overall numbers still look very nice and his first half play reminded us of what we had been missing the past three years.
2. The first no-hitter in franchise history – It was almost a running joke. A team known for pitching had not produced a no-hitter in 50 years of existence. Finally, Johan Santana delivered the team’s first-ever no-no, with big help from a bad call by the umpire and a terrific catch by Mike Baxter which landed him on the DL after he crashed into a wall at full speed. It was a great night, one that Mets fans will always remember where they were when it finally happened. It makes it even more special that it was accomplished by a big-name pitcher like Santana. Everything seemed possible for the franchise this year after this curse was finally lifted.
1. The knuckleballer – R.A. Dickey had been a very good pitcher his first two seasons with the Mets. But he took it to an entirely different level in 2012. Everything about this year has been magical for Dickey. He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, authored a best-selling autobiography, appeared on David Letterman and put up a campaign that puts him in the thick of the Cy Young race. The Mets’ record when Dickey starts is 22-11. The Mets are 51-75 when anyone else takes the mound. Santana’s no-hitter was a magical night. Dickey has put up a magical season and given fans a reason to stay plugged in during the second-half slide.
Check back tomorrow for the top 10 disappointments