Jose Reyes – A: The only debate really would be whether it should be an A+. Jose has hit, hit in the clutch, hit for extra bases, has avoided the trap of swinging for the fences and popping up a lot as in previous years, he has fielded well, retains his great arm, has stolen plenty of bases, and simply has played like an MVP for the first time in his career. A cliché maybe, but Jose Reyes truly raised his game to a new level in the first half of 2011.
Carlos Beltran – A-: Has been alternately very good and fantastic. His offense has been what it has been his entire career when healthy-all star level. Hitting HRs and loads of doubles, has been the team’s big RBI man, has played an admirable RF after a career in center, and even his speed and basepath aggressiveness have been returning. Has played nearly every day, and he remains a quiet leader who is utterly respected by his teammates; especially the younger ones who he has a huge influence on.
Francisco Rodriguez – B+: 23 of 26 saves is hard to argue with. KRod does not have the velocity he used to, and is not as dominant, but he remains one of the game’s better and more reliable closers. Clearly among the team’s first half MVPs. When one considers the rest of the pen’s potential for replacing him, his value becomes even clearer. Should he be traded at some time before the beginning of 2012, the team might find out his value the hard way.
Daniel Murphy – B: What can one really say about Murph? OK, he’s not a star. What’s the other criticism? He plays wherever asked, while streaky he clearly can hit, he has driven in some key runs, and he hustles. His baserunning errors are errors of aggression and effort, and while it would be better not to see them, a player like Murph-who never stops hustling and who wants to succeed and win as much or more than anyone-is an asset to this team.
Justin Turner – B: Much like Murph, a guy who has done whatever has been asked of him, has produced clutch RBIs in times when the team was desperate for them, and simply quietly comes to play, apparently even when hurt. He’d be a magnificent spot starter/bench strength kind of guy, and let’s hope we see him here in that role in 2012.
Ronny Paulino – B: Exactly what was advertised: a fine backup who when used correctly can be a serious offensive threat. Has stabilized the recently frightful catcher position and as an added bonus has helped elicit better results from the King of the Enigmas, Mike Pelfrey.
Jonathon Niese – B: Really coming on, the slow start is what keeps this grade from being higher. Niese has increased poise and maturity, and seems to have everything needed to be a very successful starter for a long time in the bigs. Last year he faded down the stretch; should we not see this again, we may see a 15-17 win season and expectations for a serious breakout in 2012.
R.A. Dickey – B: Grade inflation? No. Dickey also started poorly, but as time goes on, it become more likely that the issue with the fingernail could have been a large part of the cause. He keeps going out and eating innings with increasing efficiency, and is another guy whose wonderful attitude has contributed to making this year’s team so very different from last year’s. Like Pelfrey but to a lesser degree, R.A. should not be blamed for the fact that this team has nothing close to a Halladay leading the staff.
Jason Isringhausen – B: Joins Capuano as veteran injury reclamation projects of the best kind. A former star, now a guy who shows his love of the game by accepting a lesser role for less money and working so very hard to excel at it. The successful innings Izzy has given have been key to this team’s resurgence and success the last 2+ months.
Dillon Gee – B: The magic pixie dust may have worn off, but Gee still does seem to have what it takes to be a valuable, innings-eating back of the rotation starter at least. Never a star in the minors, he did have some good results, and the feeling here is that while he may not be the next Greg Maddux, he could be more than the next Mike Maddux.
Taylor Buchholz – B: Has missed a lot of time, but was very good when healthy. Seems to have much of his ability back, and might be asked to return in 2012.
Angel Pagan – B-: Pagan has been slowly improving his offense, and is certainly a valuable, hustling player but the feeling here remains that this is a decent starter but not much more.
Ruben Tejada – B-: All things considered, this might be low for him. Young and rushed to the majors again, Tejada has shown improvement in all facets of his offense. Much improvement in BA and OBP and even more in overall plate discipline. May never be a .320 hitter, but should eventually be, at the very least, a fine fielding, decent hitting middle infielder with instincts and intangibles which increase his overall value.
Pedro Beato – B-: A great start, and not quite the same since his injury. Really too early to judge him, and the rest of the season should be a good place to assess his future worth. Maybe not as good as he looked pre-injury, but maybe better than some of his bad moments more recently.
Chris Capuano – C+: Yes, but a good, “gentleman’s” C+. Has been better than hoped for, and continues to impress. A man who was obviously serious about working hard to resurrect his career, he has done just that. Remains to be seen how his surgically repaired arm will survive as the innings pile up, but another of the folks whose performance has been key to the surprisingly good season thus far.
Jason Bay – C: A C with a bullet. Has had a very good few weeks offensively, and to his credit, his comically unfairly maligned defense has remained very good during his entire Met era. If he continues his offensive renaissance and this coincides with the return of some or all of Johan/Wright/Ike, it could make the team that much stronger later this year and/or in 2012. A pro to be sure.
Bobby Parnell – C: Average. When researching, this writer was somewhat surprised to find that Parnell has never really been consistently very successful above A ball. Sure this could change, as undisciplined hard throwers often take a bit longer to harness their talents at the highest level, having easily succeeded as amateurs and in the low minors. Surely the Mets do not want to let him get away to succeed elsewhere a la Kazmir, Bell, Lindstrom, and now even Humber and Vargas, so it appears that Parnell will have another year to finally establish himself as anything other than an average pitcher who throws really hard.
Willie Harris and Scott Hairston – C: Two versatile, and just average bench players. Both have had their moments to be sure, but both are also certainly not going to be around next year. Have filled needed voids, and perhaps some of their success has been partly due to Collins’ generally putting them in the best spots to succeed, but really neither is anything to get excited about in any way.
Josh Thole – C-: Seems to be pretty average at best all around. Walks and BA have improved much lately, but has very little power, and defense is far from ideal. Not very young, so next year will probably be the key for Thole as to whether he will remain a viable starting catcher in the bigs.
Tim Byrdak – C-: Well, he’s OK as a lefty specialist, and has had a few very good outings, but remains a mediocre, aging pitcher with severely limited effectiveness.
Jason Pridie – C-: Hustles, cares, and seems like a fine person, but like Chris Carter, just not in possession of serious major league skills.
Mike Pelfrey – C-: What is there to say? What’s wrong with this guy? Big, strong, and healthy. Throws well into the 90s. Why can’t he at least do every year what he did in 2008 and 2010? Mystifying. The plus is that he is just 27, and the team must not let him get away. He remains an especially annoying enigma whose biggest deficiency may indeed lie between his ears.
Lucas Duda – C-: Supposed to be a power hitter; has no HR in 100+ PA. Slow, a mediocre fielder, doesn’t draw walks, and is 25. We all love the homegrown, but Duda won’t have much more time to show that he is a major league player.
D.J. Carrasco – D+: The plus is for versatility, the D is for talent and results.
David Wright – Inc.: Wright was playing every day and hustling, but his offensive game was seriously off once again. One can only hope that perhaps this time off will return a healthy and rested Wright and it will allow him to once again be the player he was for most of his career. Way too early to give up on him. He remains a serious cornerstone for the future.
Ike Davis – Inc.: Ike was off to a fabulous start before the freak injury. We really just do not know how soon he will return, or how much the injury will affect him, but considering Ike’s age, his being rushed to the bigs, and the huge improvement he showed this year, there’s no reason to think we won’t again see a fine-fielding young power hitter continuing to work towards all-star level in 2012 if not before.
Chris Young – Inc.: Looked great in his short Met stint. Who knows if he’ll be back next year, but he sure is good when he actually makes it onto the field.
Terry Collins – A: You were expecting otherwise? Not a chance! As of now, must be considered a serious manager of the year candidate. Many denied the obvious in 2010, but this was a team adrift, which Pagan’s comments joined Wright’s in verifying. Sloppiness and laziness can be contagious, and so can hard-nosed effort, as the last two years show. Collins was an inspired choice for this group: he knew the players, had learned from past experience, and was ready for another chance. He has made the most of it thus far. Collins seems to use his players in a way that maximizes their confidence and gives them the best chance to succeed, he does not let guys rot in his doghouse, he openly criticizes as well as openly praises guys, and he has a team which is largely a patchwork assembly playing excellent baseball. Since the 5-13 start, the team is 41-32, with no Johan, no Wright, no Ike, and very little from Bay and Pelfrey. It’s hard to reasonably say that this team has not exceeded all expectations, and when considering the 5-13 start and the injuries, exceeded them rather admirably.
Sandy Alderson – A-: It’s not easy to find fault with what Alderson has done, all things considered. Clearly the team’s off-field/financial issues are a factor in his freedom of action, but Alderson has shown himself to be flexible and willing to make changes. Perhaps equally important, considering the regime he replaced, he has been open, congenial, and erudite with the media; betraying no frustration or anger, and giving the fans the sense that a serious, intelligent, patient group is now in charge. One cannot envy him the decisions he has approaching with Reyes, Beltran, KRod, and others.
Overall Team – B+: This was a hard grade to award. The team after 18 games was 5-13 and playing D- ball. And WITH Wright, Ike, and Young. Since then? It’s been a pleasure to watch them. Let the clichés flow, but they come to play, they play hard, they play to the last out, they get their uniforms dirty, etc. They want to play for Collins; he has their respect. The season has many chapters yet to go, but if one looks at the results in recent weeks-the wins against the Braves, the series win in Milwaukee, the amazing offensive performance to win 4 of 6 in Texas and Detroit, and coming back to avoid getting swept by the Yanks and then going to LA and SF and winning 4 of 7, losing to three very good pitchers-they’ve done fine with a seriously hard stretch of schedule.
These are not your Minaya/Manuel Mets, ready to give up at a moment’s notice, ready to give an extra year to the next 32-year-old free agent on the market, ready to stage a pinochle marathon during batting practice, ready to fold up their tents and make 14 straight outs facing the league’s worst bullpen, and ready to race each other to the clubhouse when not in the starting lineup.
No, there is a new sheriff in town, one who already has changed the culture, as the saying goes. It is the attitudes of the players like Wright, Murphy, Turner, Dickey, and Pagan which now form the mindset of this team.
There’s a lot of season left, but any sane and reasonable fan has to love what this team has done since starting 5-13, and has to be even more enamored of what they have done in recent weeks with a horrifyingly brutal schedule. If they can make it to early August above .500—when the schedule eases and Wright and Johan might return—it could be a meaningful and fun stretch run, which at the very least could lay the groundwork for seriously raised expectations and enthusiasm for 2012