Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top 10 Surprises of the 2013 NY Mets

by John Vittas

1. Matt Harvey’s Rise to Stardom
As promising of a glimpse as Matt Harvey was in 2012, no one could have expected what he did in 2013. He allowed just three runs in his first four starts, striking out 32 along the way. As he sustained his dominance through the summer, Harvey became a New York heartthrob, rock star and symbol hope for Mets fans everywhere, garnering comparisons to less contemporary New York icons Tom Seaver and Joe Namath. It all culminated in Harvey earning the All Star game start, just two days after this Jimmy Kimmel video got people talking about the suave Connecticut flamethrower.

If you want any more proof that he's the man, read this Men's Journal article on Harvey

2. Marlon Byrd

Shy of R.A. Dickey, Marlon Byrd might be the best Minor League signing the Mets have ever made. He pinned down the right field job from day one and was alongside David Wright in the Mets order until his departure in late August. He finished top-10 in the league in total bases and top-5 in slugging.

Call it the steroids, but Byrd had the best season of his career at 35 years old. I’m not sure if Sandy Alderson deserves credit for this or not. But either way, think of what the Mets have gotten from the two minimum-wage signings of R.A. Dickey and Marlon Byrd: Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Vic Black and Dilson Herrera. Four legitimate prospects. Now that’s making something out of nothing.

Some of the big moments Byrd provided this season

3. Juan Lagares

For a guy who was an afterthought in the realm of Mets’ prospects, Lagares was the most impressive call-up in 2013. A former infielder, Lagares looked as natural and graceful in center field as anyone since Carlos Beltran patrolled Shea Stadium.

Despite some September regression, Lagares finished with respectable numbers for a rookie. But more importantly, he proved his ability to play a grueling position each and every day, doing it with ease. Lagares led the league in centerfield assists, showing all the tools necessary to be an elite defender.  

If you're a believer in sabermetrics, Lagares ranked sixth in the Major Leagues in defensive WAR (3.5), and third among all Big League outfielders, behind only Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra. His 3.5 score would have led MLB in 2011.

How many times did we see this in 2013?

4. Dillon Gee’s Second Half

Talk about contrast, Dillon Gee had one of the starkest mid-season turnarounds in recent memory. After carrying an ERA above six through his first ten starts, Gee became a new man. Yankee stadium is rarely an exilir for pitchers, but Gee K’d 12 and allowed just four hits on May 30 in the Bronx and never looked back.

From that day until September 10, Gee was a top-10 pitcher in the Major Leagues, posting a 2.40 ERA over that 3-month span. Not only did he finish strong, he earned his spot in a very competitive rotation and established himself as one of the best finesse pitchers in the game.

5. Eric Young

In what turned out to be a nice little move by Sandy Alderson, the Mets traded for Young midseason and finally got legitimate speed into their lineup. Despite his mediocre OPS (.658), Young provided some spectacular catches, 34 stolen bases and became the first actual leadoff hitter the Mets have had since Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan left New York.

Catches like this became routine for Young

6. Jenrry Mejia

Mejia’s Big League future was in jeopardy following Tommy John surgery in 2011 and a less-than-impressive 2012. But after some extra rehab in Florida and a couple tune-up starts in the Minor Leagues this year, Mejia hit the ground running as a Big League starter. Even though his season was cut short with yet another injury, Mejia looked like a guy finally ready to make an impact. For the first time, he had a breaking ball that had significant downward drop and a fastball that he could locate. Hence the 2.30 ERA. If he can stay healthy, it looks like Mejia finally has the command to get it done in the long run.

7. Josh Satin

After five straight minor league seasons of .815 OPS and above, Josh Satin finally got his chance in 2013, and he did not disappoint. In a season defined by a revolving door of 4-A players, Satin was able to shed that label and prove he could handle Big League pitching. A .281 average in his first real MLB season should earn him a spot somewhere.

Josh Satin finally got his chance in 2013
Photo: centerfieldmaz.com

8. LaTroy Hawkins

The guy is 40 years old and hit 96 miles per hour in his 70th outing of the season. That basically sums it up. He’s a freak and is still an above average late-inning reliever in a role that sees more turnover than any. Of all the low-risk, high-reward bullpen signings the Mets made, none proved more valuable than Hawkins.

9. All Star Weekend

The All Star festivities at Citi Field will undoubtedly be the highlight of the 2013 season, we expected that. But I don’t think baseball fans expected the Mets to put on the star-studded show they pulled off. From performances by Pitbull and Neil Diamond, to a laser show from Yoenis Cespedes, to Mike Piazza hitting one last home run in a Mets’ uniform, to one heart-wrenching farewell to the best closer in baseball history, the three days at Citi Field provided great moment after great moment. To be honest, witnessing a sold out Citi Field was good enough for me.

Notably Absent: Robinson Cano getting drilled in the knee by Harvey

The Cespedes Show

10. Journeymen Relievers Scott Rice and Carlos Torres

When Spring Training began, Scott Rice and Carlos Torres were (if you even knew they existed), at best, afterthoughts. Torres had a Major League ERA above five and Rice had only dreamed of it. Well, to the surprise of many, Rice not only made the team but carried an ERA of 3.08 into June as the team’s featured left hander. Torres earned a mid-season call-up and gave up just one earned run over his first 17 and two-thirds innings. To boot, neither one saw their success fade, both finishing with respectable season-long marks in extended innings (Rice at 3.71 and Torres at 3.44).

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