The Mets infield faced many questions coming into the 2012 season. Will David Wright re-gain superstar status? Can Daniel Murphy survive as an everyday second baseman? How much will the Mets miss Jose Reyes?
Let’s see how these questions were answered this season….
Josh Thole: D-
Josh Thole has not become the player we thought he could be. After hitting over .300 in his last two minor league seasons, and showing glimpses of a future .300 hitter over his first two years in the big leagues, his production has declined. This year, he hit rock bottom.
Thole got off to a great start in April, hitting .317 over his first 21 games. He was getting on base at a .403 clip. Then, disaster struck. On May 7, Thole collided with Ty Wigginton at home plate. The play left him with a concussion, one that sidelined him for almost three weeks. After the concussion, he was a whole new player.
After returning to the lineup on June 1, Thole struggled. He hit just .217 over his final 78 games to go along with his dreadful .536 OPS. I wonder what effect the concussion had on Thole the rest of the season. He told the Star-Ledger a week after he suffered the concussion that it was his fourth. That many concussions takes a toll on a person, and they have been known to cut careers short. Hopefully this doesn’t change Thole for good but I’m very afraid it might.
Ike Davis: B-
We saw two completely different versions of Ike Davis this season. The first two months, Ike weas one of the worst hitters in the league, batting just .170 with a .524 OPS. He was striking out so much and was so ineffective against left-handed pitching that many Mets fans were calling for Ike to be demoted to Triple-A. The Mets decided to stick with him, however, and it paid off.
Davis started to show signs of life towards the end of May, and really picked up his production in June. He hit .264 in June, raising his average more than 30 points and getting his season back on track.
After June 1, Davis’ power numbers shot up as well. He started to drive the ball again, hitting 27 home runs over the final four months compared to five in the first two. He also hit 21 of his 26 doubles from June on. Here’s a look at the rise in Davis’ slugging percentage:
One area that Davis has to improve on next season is his approach again left-handers. In 2010, Davis’ rookie year, he hit .295 against lefties, 41 points higher than his average against righties. The last two seasons, however, his production against lefties has dropped off a cliff. This year, he hit just .174 against left-handed pitching. His strikeout rate rose dramatically and his walk rate was cut in half compared to when he faced righties. Something has to change here if Ike is to be the everyday first baseman.
Daniel Murphy: C
This season was a bit of a disappointment for Daniel Murphy. In 2011, he hit .320 in 109 games before having his season abruptly cut short after suffering a torn MCL. This year was going to be his big chance at second base and to prove that his bat can make up for any defensive woes.
Coming into this year, I really thought the Mets had a future .300 hitter in Murphy. He had shown flashes of being a gap-to-gap doubles hitter with 10-15 home run power and an batting average that would sit above, if not well above, .300. This year, he had a solid .291 batting average, but his walk and power numbers decreased. His power numbers were especially disappointing.
With the glove, Murphy started off horribly but improved slightly as the season went along. One thing that I’ve noticed from Murphy this season is his ability to make big plays. However, he also has a tendency to botch the routine ones and because of that, he is still a below-average second baseman.
Murphy certainly didn’t do enough to lock up the second base job, but will likely be the starter next season because the front office has bigger issues to address.
Ruben Tejada: C+
This season was a small step backward for Ruben Tejada. In his first seaon as an everyday player, Tejada didn’t improve his offensive numbers. After hitting .284 in 96 games last season, he hit in that same range again (.289) in 114 games played.
One glaring negative with Tejada this year was his drop in on-base percentage. Last year, it was .360 and this year it dropped 27 points to .333. He wasn’t walking nearly as much this season, which caused the drop. In 2011, he had a walk rate of about 9.3%, about one and a half percent above league average. This season, however, it dropped to 5.4%, well below the MLB average.Fans were marveling at his patience and ability to extend an at-bat, but this season, those drawn-out at-bats weren’t leading to as many walks.
A positive sign from Tejada, however, is his uptick in extra base-hits. Last year, he went 23.5 plate appearances between extra base-hits. That number this season dropped to 18.5. He was definitely driving the ball a little bit more than last season.
One thing that we have to remember when looking at Tejada’s season is his age. He turned 23 just last week and definitely performed better than most players his age would. I don’t want to rush to judgement on Tejada because he’s just so young.
David Wright: B
David had a first half for the record books. Coming off a few sub-par seasons, Wright had to prove that he is still one of the best third basemen in the game.
Wright had an excellent first half of the season, hitting a mind-boggling .351 with a .441 on-base percentage. In the first half, he had a walk rate of 14.0%, six points higher than league average and three points higher than his career average. He also saw his strikeout rate plummet to 13.2% in the first half. Take a look at how that compares to the rest of his career:
In the second half, however, we saw the David Wright of old. His strikeout rate went back up (20.7%) and his batting average went down. Wright hit just .258 over the second half, bringing his overall average down to .306.
The second half has me a little concerned about which Wright we will see going forward. It would be a big risk giving David $130 to $140 million going off his first half alone.He showed glimpses of the 2006-2008 David Wright in April, May, and June but which David Wright we will see in 2013 and beyond is still not clear.
Obviously the starting pitching is the Mets’ biggest strength, but the infield is definitely their second-best unit. The infield already has a proven star in David Wright, and a developing star in Ike Davis. Davis has so much raw power and could eventually hit 40 home runs. The middle infield has potential as well with Tejada and Murphy, both of whom could hit .300 someday. The only troubling area in the infield is the catching position. Josh Thole proved this year that he is not an everyday catcher. The front office really needs to address that area of the team this winter.