Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New York Mets First Half Recap

With the All Star Break upon us in Major League Baseball, I figured now was as good a time as any to take a look back at the excitement of the first half of the 2012 season for the New York Mets. As it sits right now the Mets are in the middle of the pack in the National League East. Currently they sit 3rd in the division with a record of 46-40 which leaves them 4.5 games out of first place. They trail only the Braves and Nationals in the East. As for their chances in the wild card, they sit in the 4th spot for the NL Wild Card, a half game out. Now with the rule change baseball made over the winter each league now gets two wild card spots. The top two wild card spots in the NL are currently being held by the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves. The Mets are tied with the San Fransisco Giants at 46-40 a half game out of the wild card spots with plenty of baseball left to be played. So things are shaping up to be very interesting in the 2nd half of the season. but we will touch on that a little later. First things first lets look at some of the high points from a very exciting 1st half so far for the Mets.

 The biggest positive highlight from the first half of the year came on June 1st when Johan Santana pitched the first ever no-hitter in the history of the franchise, in an 8-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. It marked only the eighth no-hitter in MLB history against a defending World Series champion team, the first since former Met Nolan Ryan blanked the Oakland Athletics in their 1990 pennant season. Santana walked five batters, recorded eight strikeouts, and lowered his season ERA to 2.38. He also threw a career-high 134 pitches, and earned the new nickname "No-han". Notable moments in the game included a liner in the sixth inning by former Met Carlos Beltran, which hit the foul line behind third base but was ruled foul. In the seventh inning, Mike Baxter made a difficult catch in left field, preserving the no-hitter, and then violently crashed into the wall. He left the game with a bruised left shoulder and was subsequently placed on the DL. For throwing the no-hitter, Santana was named National League Player of the Week for the week ending June 3, 2012 It was his fifth such award and followed his teammate R.A. Dickey who won it the prior week. His pitching feat earned him the Key to the City, which was bestowed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Baxter made a great catch in that ball game, but sadly when making the catch, hurt his shoulder and hasn't played since, spending time on the DL with that injury. But the catch and Beltran's foul ball in the 6th were the highlights of the game aside from the accomplishment itself. Now that Santana has thrown the no-hitter it leaves only the San Diego Padres as the only franchise in baseball to have never thrown a no-hitter.

The Mets also made noise with another interesting statistical first during the first half of the season. On June 27th, the Mets became the first team in major league baseball to hit a home run cycle, against the Chicago Cubs. Daniel Murphy began by hitting a 2-run home run to knock in himself and runner Ike Davis in the 4th inning, which was his first home run in 352 at-bats. Then in the 5th inning Ike Davis hit a 3-run home run with David Wright and Lucas Duda on base. Later in the inning, Daniel Murphy hit a solo shot in his next plate appearance off of Casey Coleman, who replace starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. The Mets led the Cubs 10-1 after the end of the 5th. During the 6th inning, Scott Hairston, who was typically a utility outfielder throughout the first half of the season, hit the cycle ending grand slam off of relief pitcher Casey Coleman, scoring himself, Ruben Tejada, David Wright, and Lucas Duda. The game ended in the Mets favor 17-1.

Not Only did the Mets hit for the Home Run Cycle against the Cubs but Scott Hairston hit for the Traditional Cycle on April 27th in Denver against the Colorado Rockies. He singled in the 2nd, homered in the 4th, hit the triple in the 5th and doubled in the 6th to complete the cycle. Sadly it wasn't enough of an offensive punch on this day as the Rockies went on to win the ball game 18-9. There have been plenty of other bright spots during this season for this Mets team, including a few heroic walk off wins. The Mets had four walk-off victories in the first half, none as exciting as their 6-5 win against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 5. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, David Wright delivered a bloop single off Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon to plate the winning run. Wright, who belted a two-run home run earlier in the game, finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs. That was actually the 2nd time this year that Papelbon has given up a huge hit to the Mets late in a ball game this season. Jordany Valdespin dialed up a pinch-hit, three-run home run off Papelbon in the top of the ninth inning, as the New York Mets stunned the Phillies, 5-2, on May 7. It was the first career hit for Valdespin, who had just been recalled from the minors to replace Ruben Tejada.

So as you can see the Mets have had some good days at the plate with late game heroics. David Wright has been leading the offensive charge this season, hitting .351. Wright also leads the team in RBI's with 59 and is second on the club in home runs with 11. There is a three way tie for the team lead in homers between Scott Hairston, Ike Davis, and Lucas Duda who all have 12. As a team, the Mets are tied for 23rd in the Majors with the mariners and Twins for total home runs hit at 73, but their 8th in the league in runs scored with 379. As a team the Mets are hitting .259 which is good for 14th in the Majors. The problem for the Mets hasn't been the offense, we all know they can score. What has been causing the Mets some trouble this year has been the spotty defense and below standard bullpen.

In the field, the Mets are ranked 26th in baseball in fielding percentage at .980. That's not bad but yet its near the bottom in baseball. The Mets have committed 63 errors which is the 6th most in baseball. So for the Mets to be able to hold onto contention in the NL East and Wild Card Race, the defense has to improve a little. So too does the bullpen. As a team, the Mets ERA is 3.96 which is good for 15th best in baseball, so right in the middle of the pack. If anybody has really paid attention in the first half, you would have realized that there a number of games the team could have won had the bullpen not been so questionable. I'm sorry but if the Mets want to have any chance at making the playoffs this season the first major thing that needs correction is the bullpen.

Starting pitching on the other hand has been one of the bright spots this season for the team, especially the pitching of RA Dickey, but we will touch on that in a moment. Mike Pelfrey had been one of the guys the Mets were relying on from the start of the season to get good starts from but he injured his pitching elbow after 3 starts and will be out the rest of the season. So the team has used a mixed bag of pitchers to fill the 5th spot in the rotation, and now it looks like that job belongs to Chris Young. Young has put up respectable numbers in his six starts this season going 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA. Dillon Gee is the only Mets starter to this point who is under 500 on the season, sitting at 6-7 with an ERA of 4.01. The other starters have winning records. Jonathan Niese is 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA, Johan Santana is 6-5 with a 3.24 ERA, and of course the stud of the staff R.A. Dickey who is 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA. Dickey has been the real surprise of the club this season, throwing together a string of back to back one hitters earlier this season. This is the most wins Dickey has had ever in the Majors. His previous best year was in 2010 with the Mets when he went 11-9. So R.A has been a very nice surprise for the ball club this season and is making a case early for possible NL Cy Young award, but that's jumping the gun just a bit.

As for what the Mets have to look forward to in the 2nd half of the season it is going to be interesting. Of all the teams in the National League the Mets have played this year they have a losing record against only 5 of them: Washington, San Fransisco, Houston, Cincinnati, and Chicago. They are 500 or better against the rest of the league. Coming out of the all star break the Mets start a six game road trip, with three in Atlanta followed by three in Washington. The first home series for the team are three games series with Los Angeles and Washington. For the team, the remainder of July after the break is going to be a real test as they only play six home games the rest of the month, against the Dodgers and Nationals. They have to travel on the road for three in Atlanta, three in Washington, four in Arizona and the start of a four game trip to San Fransisco. So we will see in the coming weeks if the Mets really are going to be playoff contenders come October!

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