New York Mets: Ranking the 10 Biggest Surprises of the First Half
If in 2011, a Mets fan was told that the 2012 roster would lose Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez and Jason Bay (let's face it, the guy has had no factor on the team this year) and have a better record than they did the year before, they would have laughed in your face.
Tell that same fan that to make things worse, Ike Davis would be hitting .201 through 82 games and that fan probably would have found a new sport to watch.
But here they are, halfway through the season with a record of 45-38. They're 4.5 games back of first place and a miraculous 8.5 games ahead of the heavily favored Phillies. Seemingly every week, New York fans wait to be woken from this incredible dream, but the team continues to overachieve.
Obviously, that would be impossible without a few surprises, which the Mets have certainly not lacked this year. Here are your top 10 surprises of the first half.
10. Scott Hairston's Emergence as a Prominent Bat in the Lineup
He was signed to be a pinch-hitter or fourth outfielder, but Scott Hairston has been invaluable to the Mets thus far. With big bats in the lineup like Duda, Davis, Bay and Wright, no one would expect Hairston to lead the team in home runs, but his 12 long balls are tops in Queens.
On top of his home run lead, Hairston also made history by recording a cycle earlier this year against Colorado. With Jason Bay's various injuries and Ike Davis's early season struggles, Hairston was just the veteran the Mets needed to fill the role of power hitter.
9. New Bullpen, Same Struggles
After cleaning house last year and acquiring three new arms, the Mets are still somehow dead last in the MLB in bullpen ERA.
With an ERA of 5.11, the Mets have solidified their title as "most likely to blow a lead late in a game". Frank Francisco's two-year, $6 million was too steep a price for too unproven of a closer, and Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez have looked scared by the pressure of pitching in New York.
8. The Surprisingly Effective Comeback for Johan Santana
After being a question mark to even be ready for Opening Day, Johan Santana has proven all of his doubters wrong by compiling a 6-4 record with a sparkling 2.76 ERA. The left-hander has also logged 98.0 innings in the first half, putting him right on pace to finish around 200.
Johan is undoubtedly a fierce competitor, but to return from a year and a half break without missing a beat is something the Mets should be extremely grateful for.
7. The Early Struggles of Ike Davis
Although Ike Davis was expected to be a little rusty after missing a majority of the 2011 season with a leg injury, no one expected him to struggle as mightily as he did in April and May. With monthly averages of .185 and .154, many fans were calling for Ike to be sent down to the minors, but manager Terry Collins believed in Ike's ability to turn his year around.
Although his average is at a measly .201, he's certainly making strides towards becoming the player everyone expected him to be. At 11 home runs and 49 RBI through a painful first half, Ike will somehow finish this year with 20+ home runs and 100+ RBI. For a guy that probably would have struck out in batting practice in April, Mets fans should be grateful Ike got his act together.
6. The Rise of Rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis
With early injuries to Jason Bay and Andres Torres, all hope seemed lost for the New York Mets outfield. However, a rookie that no one expected to be in the show for two or three more years was thrust in the spotlight, and boy, has he thrived.
As an everyday outfielder, Kirk is hitting .270 with seven home runs and 25 RBI, but more importantly, he is playing Gold Glove caliber defense. Without him, the Mets would have a serious hole in their lineup.
5. The MVP Caliber Play of David Wright
After hitting a career low .254 last season, every New York fan knew that David Wright would bounce back for a strong 2012, but it would be far-fetched for anyone to have predicted this.
At the halfway point, David is hitting .354 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI and will represent the Mets in the All-Star game. A .100 point increase in batting average would be enough cause for celebration, but Wright's been getting the timely hits this year as well. For someone that has been accused of struggling with pressure, Wright is silencing his critics on a game-to-game basis.
4. Jason Bay Still Can't Stay on the Field
Jason Bay is blazing a trail as the worst Mets free-agency signing of all time. After hitting 18 home runs in his first two years combined, Bay has only played in 22 games in the first half of 2012, and during that time has a lowly four home runs and six RBI.
It's hard not to feel bad for the guy, though. He's a hard worker and a true hustler, he just has never come close to stringing together a series of good games for the Mets.
3. Their Place in the Standings
Going into this season, the Mets were expected to be one of the five worst teams in baseball. Though that ranking seemed a bit harsh, it's still unlikely that anyone expected them to be seven games over .500 at the All-Star break.
Despite the injuries they've dealt with and the struggles of Ike Davis, the Mets are only 4.5 games back of Washington, a young team that could collapse down the stretch due to their inexperience. If Dickey, Johan and Niese continue to dominate, the team will be in contention all the way until game 162.
2. The Unbelievable Dominance of RA Dickey
In a league with the likes of Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay, RA Dickey is standing alone as the best pitcher in the National League this season.
The 37 year-old knuckle baller is pitching in the All-Star game for the first time in his career, but more importantly,he is single-handedly responsible for keeping the Mets afloat in the division.
At the halfway point, Dickey leads the entire MLB in wins, maintains a 2.40 ERA, and will likely strike out 230 batters. The maniacal effectiveness he's had thus far seems too good to be true, but Dickey shows no signs of slowing down.
Could the Mets be getting their first Cy Young of the 2000s?
1. The First No-Hitter in Team History
lt's hard to believe there could be something more surprising than a 37-year-old knuckle baller dominating the MLB, but for the Mets, the impossible finally became reality.
After 8,019 games, Johan Santana finally tossed the first no-hitter in Mets history. Every true Mets fan would watch a game and let out a small sigh after the other team tallied their first hit of the night. It seemed like one of those things that was just never meant to happen, but on the magical June night, Johan put Mets fans on top of the world.