With hopes of contending and a franchise-best 11-1 start to the 2018 season, this past year ultimately fell flat for the New York Mets. And while there were a number of positives to come out of the last 162 games, it’s the negative stuff that usually gets most of the air time.
After all, the organization has to find a new general manager that will hopefully make enough moves — and keep Jeff Wilpon away long enough — to fix a flawed roster, along with giving this team a shot at contention once March rolls around.
As a generally positive person, I like to think there’s almost always something good that can be taken from statistics for players with a large enough sample size. It may be harder for some than others, but it’s still possible. We try to figure that out for most of the Mets’ 2018 roster, based on a few qualifications.
In order to be included below, players had to finish the year on New York’s roster (whether they were active or on the disabled list). Hitters needed to accumulate 100-plus plate appearances, starting pitchers needed 90-plus innings, and relief pitchers needed at least 30 frames under their respective belts.
Despite collecting 31 fewer plate appearances in the second half, Michael Conforto outproduced both his homer (11 in the first half, 17 in the second half) and RBI production (30 in the first half, 52 in the second half). He set new single-season career highs in both of those categories for the second straight year.
Amed Rosario still has plenty of work to do on his plate discipline, but his numbers finished much better than his abbreviated MLB debut in 2017. He managed to improve each of his walk rate (1.8% to 4.9%), strikeout rate (28.8% to 20.1%), and swinging-strike rate (18.1% to 12.8%) by a significant margin.
There are lots of positive stats to choose from for Brandon Nimmo, but his power surge is definitely one of the most striking. He entered 2018 with six homers and a .128 ISO in 295 career plate appearances. He finished 2018 with 17 homers and a .219 ISO through 535 plate appearances.
It’s not as easy to find positive stats for Todd Frazier, who had a rough first year in Queens. However, his 40.8% hard-hit rate ended up as a career-high mark, while his 17.6% soft-hit rate is the lowest it’s been since 2014 with the Cincinnati Reds (16.9%).
Wilmer Flores has never exactly been prone to striking out a ton, but he limited them at a new level this past year. His 87.9% contact rate tied a career high, and it was also the third consecutive year in which that number has improved. He paired that with a 5.7% swinging-strike rate and a 9.8% strikeout rate, both of which are new personal bests.
Jay Bruce had a season he’d like to forget as quickly as possible, but the obvious positive is that his second-half performance (123 wRC+ in 125 plate appearances) was light-years better than what he did in the first half (71 wRC+ in 236 plate appearances).
Kevin Plawecki‘s 37.9% fly-ball rate was more than 10 percentage points higher than what it was in 2017. While it didn’t lead to a huge spike in power, his wRC+ on that batted-ball event rose from 95 in ’17 to 130 in ’18. (OK, that one was kind of hard.)
After a horrific first half, Jose Reyes improved his OPS (.503 to .699) and ISO (.065 to .233) by nearly 200 points each. (OK, that one was really hard.)
Only eight players put together a higher second-half fWAR than Jeff McNeil‘s 2.7. He also gave them all a head start since his MLB debut didn’t happen until July 24th.
Devin Mesoraco‘s 11 homers, 33 RBI, 24 runs scored, 0.7 fWAR, and 274 plate appearances outpaced his production from the last three seasons combined, which have been riddled with injuries.
Despite a 30.7% hard-hit rate that finished below the league average, Austin Jackson‘s .387 BABIP was the highest it’s been since he was a rookie with the Detroit Tigers in 2010 (.396). That was another stretch, but in my defense, there wasn’t a whole lot to work with here.
Yoenis Cespedes suffered through a rough March and April (96 wRC+, .729 OPS, 38.1% strikeout rate), but he looked much more like himself in May (163 wRC+, .973 OPS, 17.9% strikeout rate). Now, if only he could stay on the field, then the Mets would be in business.
Dominic Smith looked like a much different hitter in the second half than he did in the first half, but the one constant was an improvement in his ground-ball rate. It settled in at 50.4% last year before dropping down to 34.4% in 2018. Most of that difference went to his line-drive rate, which rose from 16.0% to 26.0%.
We could close our eyes and pick just about anything for Jacob deGrom here. I’ll go with this: he only finished two months with an ERA higher than 2.00 (2.06 in April, 2.36 in June).
Zack Wheeler‘s 4.1 fWAR in 182.1 innings is better than his performance from the last three seasons combined (3.8 fWAR in 371 innings).
Steven Matz started 30 games for the first time in his career and also tossed a career-high 154.2 frames. For a guy that seems to be injured constantly, that’s huge.
Although there’s a big discrepancy in his ERA from 2017 (4.16) and 2018 (5.77), Jason Vargas‘ SIERA actually decreased (4.86 to 4.32). Plus, it’s impressive that his season-long ERA even ended up being that low since it was 8.53 through his first 25.1 innings with the Mets.
Robert Gsellman‘s slider was filthy this year. After watching hitters post a 96 wRC+ and just a 16.0% strikeout rate against it in 2017, those numbers improved to 1 and 39.1%, respectively.
Seth Lugo‘s strikeout rate (17.3% to 19.5% to 25.1%) and hard-hit rate allowed (38.4% to 34.6% to 31.0%) have both progressively gotten better in each of his first three big-league seasons.
Paul Sewald threw his changeup nearly the exact number of times over each of the past two seasons. After allowing a 187 wRC+ and .300 ISO against it as a rookie, those numbers dropped to 43 and .083, respectively, during his sophomore campaign. It was the rest of his pitchers that were a problem.
Jerry Blevins posted a 9.00 ERA or above in both April and September, but the months in between were much better. In those 30 innings, he produced a 3.00 ERA with a 24.8% strikeout rate and 8.8% walk rate.
Jacob Rhame continued to struggle in 2018, but at least his numbers normalized a bit with a larger sample size. After posting a 15.6% strikeout and walk rate to go along with a 12.9% soft-hit rate and 38.7% hard-hit rate in nine innings, he ended up producing a 20.0% strikeout rate, 5.7% walk rate, 12.9% soft-hit rate, and 30.1% hard-hit rate in 32.1 innings this year.
While Tyler Bashlor‘s first three months in the majors were a little difficult, his 7.1 frames in September were encouraging. He posted a 2.45 ERA to go along with a .262 wOBA against, 33.3% strikeout rate, and 6.7% walk rate.