Winners and Losers from First Month of Action
After nearly a month of the season, many New York Mets players are stepping up in a big way.
On the other hand, many are already having severely disappointing seasons.
In order to be considered a “winner” or “loser," the player has to be performing above or below his usual production rate.
Here are the winners and losers from the first month of action.
Stats are updated as of the morning of April 29.
Winner: John Buck
John Buck, who was quietly thrown into the trade for R.A. Dickey, has surprisingly been the most successful piece of the trade.
The other two pieces of the trade are Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud. D’Arnaud recently fractured his foot and will be out two months. Syndergaard has shown great command with 19 strikeouts in 18.0 innings in High-A. But he also has nine walks and has allowed 18 hits. One bad outing ballooned his ERA to 4.50.
On the other hand, Buck has been excellent on both offense and defense.
He has done a phenomenal job as a veteran leader handling the young pitching staff. At the plate, Buck has been a force. He is hitting a modest .263, but Buck has already mashed eight home runs and 23 RBI to go along with an unbelievable .605 slugging percentage.
Buck is also hitting .333 with runners in scoring position.
Buck has been an exemplary teammate for this young team. When d’Arnaud got injured Buck was the first to reach out to him.
The New York Daily News mentioned that even Buck knows this hot streak is bound to end, and he is simply riding the wave as long as possible.
Indeed, Buck has cooled off in the last seven days, hitting just 3-for-18 with two solo home runs.
Regardless, Buck’s first month has been incredible. He is one home run away from the Mets’ all-time record for a month set by Dave Kingman in 1976, and three RBI away from the most RBI by a Met in April, set by Jeff Kent in 1994.
Buck is one of the biggest winners for the Mets this season, and he is having a record-breaking month.
Loser: Ike Davis
After such a strong second half of 2012, Ike Davis is having a terrible start to 2013.
In the second half of 2012, Davis hit .255 with a superb 20 home runs, en route to a .542 slugging percentage. This season, though, Davis is hitting .169 with a .338 slugging percentage.
Davis has managed to hit four home runs, but he also has only eight RBI and 25 strikeouts in 22 games.
Against lefties, Davis has been utterly helpless. He is fooled on almost any breaking pitch, and he has accumulated an embarrassing three hits and eight strikeouts so far.
Davis usually struggles to begin a season, but 2013 has been an especially disappointing start, and he has already lost his job as cleanup hitter.
There is plenty more baseball left for Davis to continue hitting home runs and increase his batting average.
But Davis’ first month has been a forgettable one. He must quickly regroup and reclaim his cleanup spot full time.
Winner: Matt Harvey
No question about it.
The man who had a goal of 20 wins this season is well on his way to achieving that mark.
Matt Harvey has been unstoppable this month. He is already 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA and a major league-best 0.69 WHIP. Harvey has 39 strikeouts, 10 walks and just 14 hits allowed in 35.0 innings. Opposing batters are hitting .122 against him with an anemic .191 slugging percentage.
To put Harvey’s season into perspective, if the 24-year-old keeps this pace he will finish the season at an incredible 29-0 with 287 strikeouts and just 103 hits allowed in 257.0 innings.
While it is unrealistic to expect Harvey to keep those numbers up over a long season, there is no reason to believe that this hot start is a fluke.
In Harvey’s short career, he already boasts a 2.29 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 94.1 innings.
Moreover, Harvey has been consistently dominant this season. His worst start was still a quality outing in which he struck out seven and allowed just four hits and one walk over 6.0 innings.
Harvey has yet to allow more than four hits in a start, as well as strike out fewer than six batters in a start.
Harvey is not only the biggest winner on the Mets, but he is also arguably the biggest winner in all of baseball.
The Mets have something special in Harvey, and he is already invaluable to the team.
Loser: Dillon Gee
After putting last season’s shoulder surgery behind him, Dillon Gee had big expectations coming into the season.
Through the first month, Gee has failed to live up to them.
In five starts, Gee is 1-4 with a terrible 5.96 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. In 25.2 innings, Gee has already given up 30 hits, nine walks and five home runs. Gee also has just 18 strikeouts and nine walks.
The primary problem is that Gee cannot get out the best hitters and lets innings get far more out of hand than usual. With runners on base, opposing hitters are batting .359.
Even more, against Gee the 3-4-5 hitters are hitting .545, .333 and .333, respectively.
If Gee plans to limit the damage and last longer in starts, he must improve his command and find ways to get out the top hitters.
However, there are signs that Gee is starting to turn things around.
In his last two starts, Gee has not been awful. He has lowered his ERA from 8.36 to 5.96. Gee also earned his first win against a tough Washington Nationals lineup. He went 5.2 innings and allowed just three hits and no runs while striking out six.
Furthermore, Gee has a 2.50 ERA in three starts at pitcher-friendly Citi Field. Gee will not have the luxury of pitching there every outing. But that kind of dominance at home will help Gee’s confidence and limit cold streaks.
There are signs that Gee will not be as bad as his first-month numbers indicate. Nonetheless, Gee’s first-month numbers were not good and he needs to continue his improvement.
Winner: David Wright
After signing a nine-figure contract this offseason and being named captain, David Wright had huge expectations this season.
By all accounts, he has lived up to those expectations.
With Daniel Murphy’s recent cooldown, Wright now leads the team in batting average at .309. He also has 19 walks, second in the majors to Joey Votto, amounting to an incredible .433 on-base percentage.
In 23 games, Wright has done it all. He has four doubles, a major league-best three triples, two home runs, 19 RBI, six stolen bases and 14 runs.
Wright has stepped up and embraced his role as the face of the franchise. And considering he is hitting .458 with runners in scoring position, Wright has had no problem dealing with the in-game pressure that comes with that territory.
However, Wright is hitting an abysmal .174 in 23 at-bats against lefties. He has drawn 11 walks compared to four strikeouts, so he is still seeing the ball well. But it will be interesting to see if Wright’s excellent plate discipline against lefties can translate to offensive production.
Wright has also played his usual outstanding defense. He is already an early front-runner for a third Gold Glove, and he has yet to commit an error this season.
Wright has been phenomenal this month, and at this rate he is a shoo-in for the All-Star game at hometown Citi Field this July.
Loser: The Outfield
A position that was expected to be a huge weakness this season has lived up to that expectation in every sense of the word.
The names of players shuffled into the mix include Lucas Duda, Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Jordany Valdespin and now the underwhelming Juan Lagares.
The two players who have played anything close to moderate are Duda and Valdespin.
Duda is hitting an uninspiring .250, but he does have five home runs and a very respectable .429 on-base percentage. Valdespin is also hitting just .255, but when playing left field or center field he is hitting .342 in 35 at-bats.
Valdespin also had the incredible walk-off grand slam recently, but naturally he struck out miserably the next day in a similar situation.
But none of the players rotated in the outfield are playing well at all.
Byrd is hitting .235 with 23 strikeouts in 19 games. Nieuwenhuis, who the Mets want to become a leadoff hitter, was hitting .125 with just one walk in 13 games before his demotion. Cowgill, another leadoff candidate, is hitting .170 with one walk in 17 games.
Baxter has six walks but also just a .229 batting average in 35 at-bats. The newly promoted Lagares looks utterly lost, and he only has one hit in his first five games.
The outfield was not expected to be a strength this season, but no one expected them to be this dysfunctional.
Not a single player has stepped up thus far, and the entire outfield is a “loser” for the first month of the season.
Winner: Bobby Parnell
After being named the full-time closer, Bobby Parnell has been phenomenal.
Parnell looked timid and didn't seem confident when previously named the closer, but Parnell has matured into a dominant reliever this year.
In 10 appearances, Parnell has a magnificent 0.96 ERA and 0.54 WHIP in 9.1 innings. Parnell has put away any worry about his command and control, as he has a 10/1 K/BB ratio so far. Parnell has also given up just one hit in six appearances at home.
Moreover, Parnell has only blown one save in three chances. But in that blown save, Parnell did not allow a single earned run in 1.1 innings.
Parnell has dominated all season, and opposing batters are hitting just .129 with a .194 slugging percentage.
The Mets have struggled for years to find a consistent and reliable closer. It is very early in the season, but they may have finally found that guy in Parnell.
Loser: Jeremy Hefner
When Johan Santana’s season ended on an operating table, the man who was supposed to replace him was Jeremy Hefner.
So far, Hefner has accrued an 0-2 record and 5.14 ERA in five appearances and four starts, as well as a 1.48 WHIP and an embarrassing seven home runs allowed.
Hefner also has 20 hits allowed, 12 strikeouts and 11 walks in 21.0 innings.
Hefner is not a power pitcher, and he relies on pitch movement, command and forcing grounders. He has not been able to accomplish any of those feats on a consistent basis. As a result, opposing batters have a .957 OPS against him, and lefties are hitting .324 with an unbelievable 1.243 OPS.
Surprisingly, Hefner has also thrived in pitcher-friendly Citi Field. In three starts, he has a 2.65 ERA and just 12 hits allowed in 17.0 innings.
Of Hefner’s four starts, two of them have actually been quality outings. He recently found his groove, allowing three hits and one earned run in 7.0 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not coincidentally, Hefner also got 12 and seven groundballs, respectively, in the two quality starts.
That may seem like a positive stat, but that recent start against the Dodgers was the first outing in which Hefner did not allow a home run. That includes the two home runs he allowed in just 1.0 inning of relief.
If Hefner is going to develop consistency, he needs to limit walks and force grounders.
Hefner has shown the ability to do this. But Hefner is a “loser” for the first month of the season because of the ballooning severe lack of command and consistency.
Stats via ESPN.com, baseball-reference.com, mlb.com