As you probably already know, the Mets affiliation with the AAA International League franchise in Buffalo came to a screeching halt at the conclusion of the 2012 season, and the Mets will be forced to play their AAA games in the Pacific Coast League for the Las Vegas 51′s beginning in 2013. The Mets were only in Buffalo for four years this time from 2009 – 2012, and during that time they never finished any higher in the standings than 3rd, which they accomplished in 2010 under Ken Oberkfell. The other three years they finished fifth once, and sixth (last) twice.
The constant stripping of the Buffalo ball club of it’s best performers by the woefully undermanned parent club, is the reason for the four seasons of futility while the Mets were in Buffalo. And that is the reason why the city of Buffalo couldn’t wait for the agreement with the Mets to expire so they could kick them out in favor of a more stable, better run, and more successful major league franchise.
This past season the Herd finished sixth with a record of 67-76 for a .469 winning %. They were managed by Wally Backman, with George Greer the hitting coach, and Mark Brewer the pitching coach. Brewer was let go at the end of the season.
The hitting attack was led by major league veteran, left-fielder Fred Lewis, who was named the team MVP for the season. Lewis signed as a free agent at the end of April to fill a hole created by Captain Kirk’s promotion, and an injury to outfielder Corey Wimberly. Lewis stepped in at the top of the batting order and picked up some of the offensive slack when second-baseman Bobby Scales bolted to Japan. For the season, in 419 at-bats, Lewis scored 80 runs, hit 13 homers and knocked in 45, while swiping 25 bases. He posted a slash-line of .294/.379/.482.
First-baseman Josh Satin was another top hitter for the Herd, batting .286 in 441 at-bats, with 14 home runs and 60 RBI’s. Despite a solid month of May, third-baseman/outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo struggled at the plate and was slumping badly heading into August. But a very good final month of the season helped him salvage some fairly respectable final numbers. It still was an off year for the veteran righty hitter who went .242/.329/.361 at the plate with 12 home runs and 57 RBI’s.
It was an all-or-nothing season for fan favorite and minor league legend, slugger Valentino Pascucci. Scooch hit 17 bombs, and drove in 62 in 383 at-bats, but he struck out a ton and batted just .217. His K/BB ratio was a mind-boggling 148/87. Utility man Vinny Rottino did a spectacular job for the Herd for the first half of the season.
Rottino was lost by the organization after being called up to the Mets for a quick cup of coffee, and when they tried to slip him through waivers and outright him back to the minors, he was scooped up by the Cleveland Indians on June 27th. While with Buffalo he hit .297 with nine homers and 66 RBI’s, in 374 at-bats, while playing all over the field, C, LF, and RF. Believe it or not, Rottino’s 66 ribbie’s in half-a-season led the team in that category for the entire year.
Center-fielder Matt den Dekker was called up from Binghamton at mid-season and struggled his first time around in AAA hitting only .220 with nine home runs, 47 RBI’s and 11 stolen-bases in 295 at-bats. He also struck out 90 times, and walked just 14 times. After the Mets lost shortstop Omar Quintanilla on waivers to Baltimore, they promoted infielder Josh Rodriguez from Binghamton to play short for the Herd and he did a marvelous job filling in for them the rest of the way.
In 257 at-bats at AAA, Josh-Rod hit a solid .265 with eight home runs, and 32 RBI’s. Third-baseman Zach Lutz had a typical year for himself. He missed nearly half the season with injuries, this time it was a broken hamate bone in his wrist. Therefore he managed only 244 at-bats this past year, but hit at his usual dominant pace when he was in there.
The powerful righty slugger launched ten homers and drove in 35, while posting a slash of .299/.410/.496. The catching duties were shared primarily by Rob Johnson, and Lucas May with a little Mike Nickeas sprinkled in. And of course the Mets drew from the pool of talent at AAA again this year by recalling Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jordany Valdespin, in addition to Johnson, Rottino, and Quintanilla.
The pitching staff was fronted by Buffalo Most Valuable Pitcher this year, right-hander Matt Harvey. Harvey went 7-5, 3.68, in 20 game starts covering 110 innings. He struck out 112 while walking 48 and had a WHIP of 1.32. The number two starter behind Harvey was righty Jeurys Familia, who was a little bit hot-and-cold this season in his first exposure to AAA.
Family pitched 137 innings over 28 game starts, and compiled a record of 9-9 with a 4.73 ERA. He struck out 128 and walked 73. The other primary starters for the 2012 Bisons were: RHP Chris Schwinden (9-9, 3.21), LHP Garrett Olson (4-7, 4.63), RHP Collin McHugh (2-4, 3.42), RHP Jenrry Mejia (3-4, 3.54), RHP Dylan Owen (4-9, 6.28), and RHP Jeremy Hefner (5-2, 2.77).
The Bison bullpen was headed by former major league veteran Fernando Cabrera who served as the team’s closer. The tall right-hander started the season en fuego, but started a decline at mid-season and by year’s end, his numbers had become fairly pedestrian. He pitched in 57 games, going 4-5 with 22 saves, and a 4.10 ERA.
The primary right-handed set-up men in the Herd bullpen this year were Elvin Ramirez (3-1, 2.36), Jeff Stevens (1-1, 3.32), Pedro Beato (4-4, 3.64), and Jack Egbert (3-4, 5.40). The main lefties in the pen this year were Justin Hampson (4-3, 2.33), and Josh Edgin (3-2, 3.89).
All in all, the big league team’s season of frustration was mirrored by it’s highest minor league affiliate in 2012. The Bisons started the year with a talented ball club, and a great deal of optimism, but the season was to be undermined by an unstable parent club and the Herd would wind up stampeding to nowhere. What can we expect in 2013 when the AAA team will be forced to move to the Pacific Coast League and play at one of the worst places in the world to play outdoor baseball, Las Vegas?
Between the big league club’s mess, and financial woes, and the difficulty it will have in acquiring players willing to play their home games at Las Vegas next year, it will more than likely be another horrible season for the Mets at the AAA level in 2013.
If you are looking for a real fun way to spend a half-hour a week listening to some hot-stove talk about everything Mets baseball, tune into Metsmerized Radio, where your hosts Satish Ram, and myself will talk about all the hot topics as they come up over the off-season and beyond. The show airs live every Thursday night at 7 pm, but you can listen to any of the shows at anytime by going to the top of the MMO page and clicking the Metsmerized Radio tab. Here’s the link if you want to save it in your browser: