New York Mets: A Review of April

Joe Campione@ IIIApril 30, 2012

New York Mets: A Review of April

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    Fans of the New York Mets knew that this was going to be a very interesting year to watch.

    With the departure of Jose Reyes, the return of Johan Santana, an influx of young talent, and changes to the dimensions of Citi Field, this is going to be a season unlike any that Mets fans have seen in a long time. 

    Many fans braced for the worst. They anticipated a last place team and the multiple injuries that always seem to occur. They prepared themselves for a long and unsatisfying year.

    What Mets fans did not expect (anyone who tells you that they did is lying) was for the Mets to have performed as well as they had through the first month.

    Last year, the Mets were a lackluster 11-16 after April, putting the team behind the eight ball from the very beginning.

    This April, the Mets were a surprising 13-10 and are currently only a game and a half out of first place.

    So let's look at the month that was for the Mets, highlighting some of the best and worst moments and player performances as we move onto May.

April's Most Valuable Player: David Wright

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    In this season of uncertainty, the Mets needed David Wright more than ever. With Jose Reyes gone, Wright had to not only be the face of the franchise, but a leader on and off the field.

    After a month, Mets fans can gladly say that their man has come through for them so far.

    Wright is leading the Mets in nearly every statistical category. His .389 batting average, 14 RBIs, and .494 OBP are all tops for New York. His three home runs are second on the team only to Lucas Duda. 

    Wright is not only dominant statistically on the Mets, but in the National League as well. David has the second highest batting average in the National League (only Matt Kemp's .427 is higher) and he has the highest on base percentage in all of baseball.

    Looking beyond statistics, David has done much to not only help the team win, but instill in them character and toughness.

    On April 9th, the fourth game of the season against Washington, Wright broke his pinky while diving into first base. After days of swelling and pain, it looked like David would be headed to the disabled list. It would have been a devastating blow to a young team that was already a lackluster 1-2 in his absence.

    Instead of going on the DL however, Wright returned on April 14th, drilling the first pitch he saw over the center field wall in Philadelphia for a monstrous solo home run.

    To not only come back, but to come back without missing a beat was a great example to set for all of the young guys in the organization. It set the tone for the team in general.

    Other accolades for Wright this month include starting the season with a 10 game hitting streak and breaking the franchise record for career RBIs.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Jonathon Niese: The guy is 2-0 with a 0.97 WHIP with no bad starts yet. He is showing signs of becoming a future ace.

    Daniel Murphy: He's hitting .298 with seven RBIs. His glove is steadily improving every day at second base. Murph is becoming a valuable part of this organization.

    Jon Rauch: A slight blip on the radar in Colorado doesn't undo the fact that his first nine relief appearances were scoreless; not to mention his incredible 3-0 record.

April's Least Valuable Player: Ike Davis

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    I really hate to put him here, because I'm a big fan of Ike's, but facts are facts and April will be a month that Ike Davis will want to forget as soon as possible.

    It really was a dreadful month at the plate for the big man.

    The season started sour with Davis mired in a 1-for-19 slump. After drilling a clutch home run to beat the Atlanta Braves, Mets fans were hoping that Davis would begin to return to form, but it just was not meant to be this month.

    Davis followed his heroics in Atlanta with a rough 4-for-32 stretch that saw one of the Mets biggest power hitters reaching such lows as being batted 7th in the lineup and even being pinch hit for in a big spot against the Miami Marlins.

    Just to put how much Ike struggled in perspective, after the series in Colorado, Ike Davis had 13 hits on the season, three of which came in one game. Ruben Tejada had 10 hits in that series alone. Scary.

    Ike has shown some signs of life lately, hitting the game winning single the other day in Colorado while raising his average to .185. That doesn't look like much but it is a lot better than where he was not too long ago. Davis has also looked more natural on his swings and he is even beginning to take balls the other way as opposed to waving helplessly at them.

    Hopefully Ike is getting out of his slump and this isn't just another false start for Mets fans. The Amazin's sure could use Ike's big bat in the middle of their lineup.

    Dishonorable Mentions:

    Jason Bay: Maybe it's a cheap shot putting a guy on the DL on here, but it's just how I feel. Bay struggled to come through in big spots again for the Mets, and honestly, since he went on the DL on April 24th, have you missed him?

    Frank Francisco: Looked spectacular in is first three games, but has come back to Earth since, allowing runs in five of his last six relief appearances, including his first blown save on Sunday.

    Manny Acosta: Yeah, I haven't gotten over Friday's embarrassment yet. Coupled with his rough appearance against the Phillies and his most recent loss against the Astros, I hold my breath every time Acosta enters a close game.

April's Biggest Surprise: Kirk Nieuwenhuis

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    Unfortunately for me, picking Captain Kirk means that I'm going to have to spell his name a lot. We'll consider it a learning experience. And hey, he definitely has been the biggest surprise of the young season.

    When Andres Torres went down with an injury on Opening Day, Nieuwenhuis, who just missed out on making the team out of Spring Training, was the man who got the call to be the everyday center fielder.

    In what would be a make or break stint in the majors, Kirk shined. Now, he is likely to be a mainstay in Flushing all season.

    The guy has done it all for the Amazin's in his short time in the big leagues. He is batting .325 with two home runs and eight RBI's, and he even hit the first ever opposite field home run for a left handed hitter in Citi Field.

    Nieuwenhuis was called on to be the leadoff hitter for the Mets and he has excelled there, with 10 hits in only seven games.

    Captain Kirk even has two game winning at bats to his credit, one off of Buster Posey's throwing error and a walkoff single to sweep the Miami Marlins.

    In the field, Nieuwnhuis has been nothing short of spectacular, making highlight reel catch after highlight reel catch, with his most recent one stealing an RBI from Jonathan Herrera. With the questionable fielding skills of Lucas Duda, Scott Hairston, and Mike Baxter in the outfield, Kirk's steady hand has been much needed in center.

    What impressed me most about Nieuwenhuis was with how much poise he handles failure.

    On April 21st, Nieuwenhuis overran a simple pop up that should have ended the game and given the Mets the win. Instead, the error allowed the Giants to tie the game and send it into the bottom of the ninth.

    Not only did Nieuwenhuis have the game winning at bat in that game, he also accepted full responsibility for his mistake and moved on from it. No pointing fingers, no excuses, no moping. He went 2-for-4 with a double in his next game.

    That is the kind of personality that endears you to fans and keeps you in the majors for a long, long time.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Ruben Tejada: We all knew the glove would be there (.979 fielding percentage) but who expected the .299 batting average? Jose who?

    Johan Santana: Yes, he may be technically 0-2 and he got shelled by Atlanta, but coming off of a major injury, no one knew what to expect from Johan. He has delivered ace-like stuff so far. The wins will come.

    Josh Thole: Not only has his play behind the plate greatly improved, but he is hitting .322, featuring a ten game hitting streak. Who knew he had it in him?

Lowest Point of April: Mets Blow It Against San Francisco

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    April 20th was a tough pill to swallow for Mets fans.

    This was a game that got away from the Mets, and for a lot of fans, it seemed like it was going to be a game that sparked the other shoe falling on what had been a good start.

    It started with former Met Angel Pagan going yard to start the game. Mets fans love to see a guy who struggled with their team last year burn them right from the start.

    Despite going down 3-0 though, the Mets battled back. Aided by a Giants bullpen that was trying to find a closer after the injury to Brian Wilson, Josh Thole came through with a game tying single in the bottom of the ninth.

    The story of the game, however, would be missed opportunities for the Amazin's.

    In both the 9th and 10th innings, the Mets had a man on third base with less than two outs. Both times they failed to score the run, punctuated by Jason Bay's crucial strikeout in the 10th while down by one.

    This game also featured Frank Francisco's first loss as a Met, and planted the seeds of controversy over who would be the Mets closer going forward.

    Add in that this game came off the heels of two blowout losses to the Atlanta Braves and this was clearly the darkest time for the Mets in April.

    Dishonorable Mentions:

    April 23rd: A doubleheader with the Giants was a disaster. The Mets lost both games handily with a combined score of 13-3.

    April 24th: The Mets found out that both Jason Bay and Mike Pelfrey were headed to the DL, with Pelf likely needing Tommy John surgery. The day was salvaged with a win over the Marlins.

    April 27th: In what looked more like a Little League game, the Mets allowed 18 runs, 11 of which came in the 5th inning, while they recorded six errors.

Highest Point of April: Mets Race Out to a Fast Start

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    As I said, there was a lot of uncertainty heading into this season with the Mets. A fast start was vital if they wanted to make something of this season.

    Luckily for the Mets, a fast start is exactly what they got.

    The Amazin's started the year 4-0, featuring a sweep over their division rival Atlanta Braves. The rapid start featured incredible pitching performances, including Jonathon Niese's no hit bid up to the 7th inning, and clutch hitting, with the walk off single from Daniel Murphy to cap off the 4-0 run.

    The start gave Mets fans hope that this wouldn't be a lost season after all. It gave them hope that, while the Mets aren't likely to win the World Series, they can be competitive all season and turn a few heads.

    The start gave Mets fans a reason to be proud, particularly when the crosstown rival  Yankees started 0-3. For once, it was the Mets grabbing the headlines and their fans soaked up every second of it.

    Above all, starting 4-0 with the players who were out there showed Mets fans and the league in general that the Mets might not be as far off from fielding a contender as everyone thought. Despite having one of the youngest teams in the league, the Mets were taking it to division rivals and looked good doing it.

    Overall, April was a very good month, but personally, nothing came close to matching the Mets' undefeated start, allowing them to finally feeling good about themselves after a rough offseason.

    Honorable Mentions:

    April 24th - 26th: The return of Jose Reyes took a backseat as the Mets proved they were doing just fine without him, sweeping the Marlins in what was a feel good series for the Amazin's.

    April 14th: Beating the Phillies is always fun. Shutting them out is even more fun. Add in the return of David Wright and his home run and this was a good day to be a Mets fan.

    April 28th: The night after taking an embarrassing drubbing, it was good to see the Mets able to bounce back and beat up on the Rockies.