New York Mets: 10 Players Most Responsible for Fast Start
At this point in the young Major League Baseball season, the New York Mets are in second place in the National League East, first in the wild card standings and have one of the better winning percentages in all of baseball. I know what you're all thinking, so let me answer your first question. Yes, I did say New York Mets.
The Mets have been able to have success despite low rankings in important statistical categories such as home runs and team ERA. The still-surging Mets winning ways extends beyond the stat sheet. Unlike many of the clubs teams in recent history, that used to come up with the best possible ways to lose games, this team is finding ways to win.
Not every member of the team has contributed to the success of the team. Although he is responsible for a large chunk of the club's power numbers (which isn't really saying much), first baseman Ike Davis is sporting a dismal .170 batting average and is having people question whether or not he should spend some time with the Mets Triple-A squad.
The "come-from-nowhere" success of the Mets can be credited to the big contract All-Stars and veterans playing very well with these "come-from-nowhere" players. Here is a list of players who have been the biggest contributors to the team's success.
For the past few seasons, the Mets organization and every fan that watched the fireballer from North Carolina pitch, prayed that Bobby Parnell could find his place with the team.
This season Parnell has become the club's best right-handed option in the bullpen, over John Rauch and closer Frank Francisco. He ranks second on the team in ERA and holds. Parnell is starting to show people that he has what it takes to be the Mets' closer of the future.
Why the future? Why not now? Well, despite some set backs and struggles at the end of April, Francisco has been solid, converting five of his last six save opportunities.
No better example of a "come-from-nowhere" star on the Mets, than Mike Baxter. The local boy from Whitestone, N.Y., Baxter did a great job as a pinch-hitter throughout April and early May, staying over .400 in his few at-bats, and eventually broke his way into a starting role.
Now 58 at-bats into the season, Baxter is still hitting .345 and a lot can be said about some of his dazzling grabs in the outfield. Baxter's playing time has not been for very good reasons. Jason Bay went down with a rib injury at the end of April and newly acquired center fielder Andres Torres has been having his struggles at the plate all season.
Baxter's gaudy batting average and hometown heroics will have manager Terry Collins questioning the right thing to do in left field once Jason Bay returns from his injury.
Dillon Gee/ Jonathan Niese
This right here is great news for Met fans. Perhaps the only two members of the current rotation that the club plans on having a long-term future with the team.
The left-handed Jonathan Niese and the right-handed Dillon Gee have been a great 3-4 punch for the Mets this season. With nine starts each, the two pitchers are sporting a similar stat line. The two rank second and third on the team in wins, third and fourth in strikeouts and 10th and 11th in ERA.
Niese has been an innings-eater this year for the Mets, which is something that has actually plagued Dillon Gee all season.
The two fit in to the Mets fantasy rotation of the future with prospects Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia.
The Mets' only left-handed option out of the bullpen but he like any good specialist, is the only one they've needed.
Tim Byrdak is the club's leader in ERA and holds and is often used in clutch situations for just a batter or two, maybe a full inning. He has also appeared in more games than anybody on the team.
Byrdak has been solid as a rock for a pitching staff that does not like to make things easy on themselves. There are many starters who do not go deep into games and most of the other members of the bullpen have struggled with control and opponents batting average.
The Mets are second to last in the major leagues in home runs. Which is why this first point may not shock you. Lucas Duda is in a three-way tie for most home runs on the team with five.
The young right fielder has been dependable all season for the Mets. Considering his respectable average, RBI total and ability to stay healthy, Duda has become the most solidified outfield the Mets have in their lineup. His play defensively has gotten better, but has not yet impressed manager Terry Collins, who often uses a defensive replacement for Duda late in games
There has always been some concern about Duda's ability to hit left-handed pitching but lately he seems to be seeing the ball a lot better when there is a lefty on the hill.
Remember those, "come-from-nowhere," guys that I said have been instrumental to the success of the Mets this season? Allow me to introduce, Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
The center fielder didn't start the year on the major league roster and was called up for game two after Andres Torres was injured on Opening Day. Nieuwenhuis has played his way into the top of the lineup and (with the struggles of Torres since he came back to the team), has made himself the Mets regular center fielder with his excellent work in the field.
Nieuwenhuis ranks in the top five on the club for every major hitting category but his biggest struggle is his high strikeout total.
In many situations the stat sheet does not lie. For Johan Santana, the stat sheet does not begin to show the great amount of success he has had this year.
2-2 record with a .275 ERA and 60 strikeouts seems like a great year but Santana's win total has been hindered by his bullpen's ability to save its worst performances for games Santana starts. After missing all of last season the Mets were very cautious not to overuse the lefty in his first few starts, relying too much on a shaky bullpen.
Santana learned that doing things right meant doing them himself on Sunday, when he threw a complete game shutout of the San Diego Padres. That was the first complete game performance for the Mets this year.
When Daniel Murphy made his debut with the Mets it was obvious that his ability at the plate was something special.
Hitting has never been Murphy's problem: he's currently hitting .298 (actually a low number for Dan) and was one of the top hitters in all of baseball last year before a season ending injury. It was always defense that haunted Murphy.
He's played the outfield, he's played third and he's even played first. But, in winter ball before the 2010 season the club decided Daniel Murphy is the second baseman of the future. Now, we must be living in the future because Murphy has eased into the position and become the Mets everyday second baseman.
Getting back to Murphy's offense, he has yet to homer this season. Again, power is not quite a key to this team's success.
The only knuckleballer left in the game today is confusing major league hitters all the way to a 7-1 record, a 3.06 ERA and the highest strikeout total on the team.
R.A. Dickey's success has always been attributed to his ability to change speeds on the knuckleball. He has become the ace of the Mets staff this season and may make his first All-Star appearance in June. Dickey also leads the club in innings pitched. In his last two starts, R.A. reached double-digits in strikeouts, something Tim Wakefield never did in an entire 19-year career.
This season is becoming Dickey's breakout year as a baseball player, as well as, a celebrity. Dickey's autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, hit shelves last month and he was one of the featured players in the Tribeca Film Festival hit, Knuckleball!
David Wright leads the Mets in every statistical category. Enough said.
The leader of the squad is having an MVP caliber year, on the strength of a .382 batting average. He may lead the Mets in home runs and RBI (five and 28) but those totals are not quite impressing the rest of the league.
Defensively, Wright seems to have fixed the throwing problems he had last season and has played a beautiful third base for the Mets.
If the Mets were only allowed one member of the team at the All-Star game in Kansas City, it would without a doubt be David Wright.