Recognizing things that have gone right for the 2017 Mets

It’s one thing when you enter a season with no expectations and your team turns in a stinker of a year. But it’s another thing entirely when you have visions of a deep playoff run and instead you find yourself in mid-September 18 games under .500 and hoping for a top-five draft pick. Unfortunately, that’s our lot in life this year as Mets fans. If you’re a diehard and still watching the games – congratulations, you’re the ones this blog is written for and thanks for your support.

Anyway, it’s easy to get bogged down in everything that’s gone wrong. But if you’re breathing, you know what those are already. Instead, let’s take a look at the guys on the active roster now – ignoring those who’ve been traded or who are on the DL – and look for the things that have gone right. Let’s count them, David Letterman style.

10. Kevin Plawecki finally producing
This one would be much higher on the list if it had happened over more than the 47 PA it has so far. But he’s got an .897 OPS with a .297 BABIP and is doing everything you want to see a guy do. He’s hitting for average, taking walks, hitting for power and making contact. He’s even making good throws to second base. Sandy Alderson says he likes his catchers and if Plawecki produces like this, more of us will jump on the bandwagon.

9. Chasen Bradford throws himself into bullpen mix
The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been good and every impending free agent who was dealt this year brought back bullpen arms. There’s going to be lots of competition for the final four spots in the ’18 pen and Bradford has gone from a guy not on our radar in April to one demanding our attention now. He’s got a 128 ERA+ and a 1.125 WHIP. And perhaps most impressively, in a season where relievers are surrendering homers left and right, Bradford has given up 2 HR in 26.2 IP.

8. Jose Reyes makes case for a job next year
In his first 18 games of the season, Reyes was 6-63 and had a measly .313 OPS. Throw in sub-par defense at third base and he looked like a DFA candidate. In his next 418 PA, Reyes has a .776 OPS and one that’s over .800 since the All-Star break. He looks better at shortstop and second base than he did at the hot corner. Reyes said he wants to return next season and with this production there’s no reason he shouldn’t, provided that he’s willing to sign for a backup’s salary.

7. Asdrubal Cabrera’s redemption
Praised last year for being one of the club’s leaders, Cabrera’s reputation took a major hit when he publicly balked at moving to third base unless the Mets picked up his option. Since that outburst, he’s played both 2B and 3B without any outward complaints and done his best hitting of the year. So far, the Mets haven’t given any indication over what they plan to do with Cabrera. His option is in the hazy territory. It’s a good value for a starting player but too much for a reserve on a team with a middle-of-the-pack payroll. Reyes makes more sense as a reserve but Cabrera is the better fit as a starter at third, where his defense has been comparatively much better.

6. Brandon Nimmo’s OBP
Many fans view Nimmo as nothing more than a wasted draft pick and at times the Mets haven’t shown him any more love than that, either. But he’s never been given a consistent shot in the majors until now, when two outfielders were traded and two others went on the disabled list. Since July 30, Nimmo has a .404 OBP in 115 PA. Only 11 players who qualify for the FanGraphs leaderboards have a .400 OBP, a list filled with All-Stars and MVP candidates. The ability of Nimmo and others to get on base has helped the Mets’ offense to continue to be productive, even once they lost all of their power hitters.

5. Amed Rosario’s athleticism
For most of the year, the Mets’ infield defense was a disaster, in part due to the poor range of whoever they put out there at shortstop. When Rosario finally was promoted it was a breath of fresh air to see a guy with the ability to be an elite defender man the position. To be sure, he is far from a finished product defensively. But his issues are ones that can be ironed out and it’s easy to see him and think the position will be filled nicely for the next decade.

4. Seth Lugo’s step forward
Last year Lugo had great results but with peripherals that screamed he was pitching way over his head. Now this year, while pitching with a ligament tear in his elbow, Lugo is taking the ball and performing well, once we adjust for the new hitting environment. At this point, there’s little doubt that Lugo is on the staff next year. The only question is what his role will be. If the Mets deem his elbow sound, he may be best utilized as a reliever.

3. Juan Lagares’ defensive rebound
In his rookie season of 2013, Lagares was a terrific defensive player and in 2014, he won a Gold Glove Award. Then in 2015, playing his most innings in the majors yet, Lagares was just slightly above average in the field, with a 3.5 UZR and a +2 DRS. Compared to his first two seasons, he seemed fat and slow. Last year he played his fewest innings yet; however, his UZR/150 rebounded to good, not great, levels. But this year, his UZR/150 is better than what it was in his award-winning 2014 campaign. If Lagares is going to be a full-time starter, he needs to be an elite defender to carry the bat. Everyone kind of assumed that he was at this level but the truth is he wasn’t in either of the past two years. And defense peaks earlier than offense. It wasn’t a slam dunk that Lagares was going to return to his 2013-14 defensive level. But he has.

2. Rafael Montero finally pitching inside
The Mets have been more patient with Montero than with any other prospect in recent memory, perhaps even in all of team history. The running joke was that he had incriminating photos of someone. It was the only explanation why he kept getting chance after chance. And then a funny thing happened. Instead of setting up low and away on every pitch, the catcher set up on the inside part of the plate on a regular basis. And the results have been shocking. In his last six starts, Montero has a 2.75 ERA in 36 IP. He’s still allowing too many baserunners, most notably walks. But in this period where pitchers are getting beat up with home runs, Montero has allowed just one gopher ball in his last six starts. And he’s faced good offensive teams in the Yankees, Marlins, D’Backs and Reds (2X). Those teams have six 30-HR hitters on them already. If Montero can finish the season strong, he could end up as a leading contender for a rotation spot in 2018.

1. The return of Jacob deGrom
Last September, deGrom had surgery on the ulnar nerve in his right elbow. He was expected ready for the start of the season but anytime a pitcher has surgery on his arm, it’s a huge worry. He was ready for the start of the year and he’s been the only guy among the seven starters the Mets were counting on this season to avoid the disabled list. Not only that, but he’s returned to being an elite pitcher, too. Steven Matz had the same surgery the third week of August and we can only hope he rebounds like deGrom did.

16 comments for “Recognizing things that have gone right for the 2017 Mets

  1. Jimmy P
    September 13, 2017 at 11:44 am

    11. The Game Day Buffet!

    Whoops, sorry, that was a write-in by Dominic Smith.

    • Chris F
      September 13, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      ouch

    • Eric
      September 13, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      Whatever you say Adonis!

  2. September 13, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Good read. Too bad about Conforto, as he was easily the best story of the year until disaster struck. Imagine the gnashing of teeth if Reyes had been DFA’d after his poor start and then put those numbers up.

    • Jimmy P
      September 13, 2017 at 2:09 pm

      If Mets were unwilling to start Michael Conforto in 2017 when they had World Series aspirations . . .

      What does it tell us about their intentions if they go into 2018 with Dominic Smith at first base?

      Go ahead, I’ll wait.

      • September 13, 2017 at 4:23 pm

        Did anyone else notice the temperature go down about 10 degrees all of the sudden? Talk about your sobering thoughts.

    • September 13, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks Dan!

      I was definitely in favor of getting Reyes out of the lineup but I wasn’t among those who were clamoring for the DFA.

  3. Jimmy P
    September 13, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    And I’m sorry, Brian. It is a good piece and a good idea for a piece, both.

  4. Pete In Iowa
    September 13, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    “…The ability of Nimmo and others to get on base has helped the Mets’ offense to continue to be productive, even once they lost all of their power hitters.”
    Well, what do you know. An offense can indeed be productive without a slew of lumbering, whiffing power hitters.
    As far as Lagares is concerned, he better be an “elite” fielder. It’s his only hope at being a major leaguer. He’s been a big leaguer for five seasons now, and he still consistently flails away at sliders and curves either in the dirt or way, way outside. If he can defend like he has these past couple of months, he is a number eight hitter at best in the starting lineup.

    • September 13, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      Well, sure. When you’ve got Nimmo with an OBP over .400 and Reyes at .355 since the AS break and Cabrera with a .448 mark in his last 17 games – that’s a real nice trio. But if they had those three when Bruce, Conforto, Duda and Granderson were hitting homers – they would have been near 7 runs a game. Instead, at that point, Reyes couldn’t buy a hit, Cabrera wasn’t much better and Nimmo was struggling in the PCL.

      Since the start of Cabrera’s hot streak on 8/25, the Mets have averaged 4.7 runs per game. Meanwhile, the Mets averaged 5.7 in the month of May. You need an awful lot of guys on base to equal the type of production you can get with power.

  5. Eric
    September 13, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Not sure why you left Smith off this list but I feel he’s just not getting enough love. He does lead the team in RBIs siince he came up!

    • September 13, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      The credit for his RBIs is due to all of the guys being on base in scoring position when he bats. Nearly 1/3 of his PA come with RISP and he has a .381 BABIP in those chances. I don’t believe either of those are likely to continue in the long run.

  6. TJ
    September 13, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Brian,
    That for some optimism. These are all valid points and hopefully the small samples will be progress that can be built on.

  7. Metsense
    September 13, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    This is a nice list of players who have had a positive impact on the team and should be be on the 2018 roster. I would have taken Paul Sewald over Bradford (but I am quibbling) because he has a better FIP in twice as many innings. He also keeps the ball in the park with a 0.9 HR9.

  8. Name
    September 13, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    I don’t think the way you sliced up Reyes is indicative of what he’s done. You made it seem like he was OK after 18 games, which is far from true.

    He had a dreadful first 18 games as you noted, and he was still very bad the next 44 (.643 OPS) Then he hit 3 HRs in 4 days which boosted his overall numbers and then went into another 10 game slump. He ended June with a .615 OPS, and if memory serves, was in the bottom 5 of wRC.

    It wasn’t until July that he got things going with a .865 OPS, August he was not very good but useable .732 OPS. And september looks good so far because he’s hit 1/4th of his season HR total this month.

    Unless we get a manager who views Reyes as a bench player who starts at most once or twice a week, i want no part of him next year.

  9. MattyMets
    September 14, 2017 at 6:11 am

    Thanks, Brian. I needed that after last night’s game.

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