It’s time for the first annual Rising Apple Awards! Now that the season is over and there has been some time to reflect, Rising Apple has doled out several awards for players and performances by the Mets in 2011. While there is no physical hardware given out, award recipients should feel free to go to their local produce stand and purchase an apple in lieu of a trophy or a plaque. And now, without further ado, the 2011 Rising Apple Awards!
Most Valuable Player: Jose Reyes
As if the answer could be anybody else, Reyes posted a .337/.384/.493 line in 2011 with seven homers, 16 triples and 39 stolen bases. He led the National League in batting, struck out just 41 times and ignited the offense. As the team’s leader in fWAR (6.2, the next closest was Carlos Beltran with 3.4), Reyes ignited the offense and was the most exciting player to watch on the field. Hopefully he will sign a long term contract with the team and be around for years to come.
Least Valuable Player: Jason Bay
On the other side of the spectrum, Bay takes home the LVP Award (although I guess acknowledgement of failure isn’t really a good thing deserving of an award). After a rough 2010 in which he missed a large chunk of time due to a concussion, there were some hopes that Bay would rebound in 2011 and play an important role in the offense. Sadly, this was not the case. Bay hit just .245/.329/.374 (all of which were worse than in 2010) with 12 dingers while hitting grounders at an alarmingly high 42.8% rate. If the fences move in next year, maybe Bay will finally hit for more power. Still, there’s no doubt he’s been a huge disappointment during the first two years of his contract.
Cy Young: R.A. Dickey
The knuckleballer set out to prove that 2010 wasn’t a fluke, and Dickey achieved that goal. In 208.2 innings, Dickey went just 8-13, but pitched to a 3.28 ERA (3.95 xFIP, 3.87 SIERA), 1.227 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 5.8 K/9 and 2.48 K/BB with a 50.8% ground ball rate. After a rough start and partially tearing his plantar fascia, Dickey was spectacular, owning a 2.78 ERA, 1.097 WHIP and K/BB of 3.00 over his final 22 starts. The Mets have him locked up at an affordable rate for the next two seasons, and he should continue to be a bargain in the middle of the Mets rotation.
Rookie Of The Year: Lucas Duda
The Mets were forced to bring up several rookies this season, due to injury, but none performed better than Duda. Despite getting off to a slow start at the beginning of the season, Duda finished the season hitting .292/.370/.482 with ten homers in 347 plate appearances. Of note, all of Duda’s long balls came in his last 215 plate appearances. If he can play at least OK defense in right field, his power bat will be a major asset to the lineup in 2012.
Reliever Of the Year: Francisco Rodriguez
The fact that K-Rod takes home this award and was only with the team for half a season speaks volumes about the bullpen’s struggles in 2011. In 42.2 innings with New York, Frankie saved 23 games in 26 chances, pitching to a 3.16 ERA, 1.406 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 and 2.88 K/BB. While he often pitched in and out of jams, Rodriguez was still the best and most consistent reliever in the pen this year.
Best Game Of The Season: June 2, 2011, Mets Defeat Pittsburgh 9-8 After Trailing 7-0
Set the scene: the day prior to this game, the Amazins had lost their second consecutive game to Pittsburgh, blowing a late 2-0 lead. Terry Collins blew up in his postgame press conference, expressing his frustration at the inability to hold a late lead and executing. Initially, it seemed like the Mets were going to disappoint again, falling behind 7-0 heading into the bottom of the third. However, the offense kicked it into gear and began chipping away. Beltran blasted a three run homer in the bottom of the third, and the Mets tied the game in the sixth thanks to a two-run single by Ruben Tejada, an RBI single by Daniel Murphy and a passed ball. Finally, the Mets took the lead in the eighth on a Tejada sacrifice fly and added another run on a bases loaded walk to Beltran. Meanwhile, Pelfrey settled down after a disastrous first two innings to complete five, and the bullpen held the Pirates scoreless until the ninth, when Francisco Rodriguez allowed a run before nailing down the save. At a point where the Amazins. were struggling to reach the .500 mark, this victory provided some hope and some optimism, and is one of the more impressive comebacks by a Mets team in recent memory.
Best Offensive Performance: May 12 @ Colorado, Beltran Hits Three Homers
In the rubber game of the road series with the Rockies, Beltran put on an offensive spectacle. Not only did he hit two, three-run homers, but he did so from both sides of the plate (two from the left, one from the right) and hit one to each part of the park. Carlos, you will be missed.
Best Pitching Performance: August 26 vs. Atlanta, Chris Capuano Pitches A Shutout
Not only was this the best pitched game by a Met in 2011, it was one of the best games thrown by any pitcher in all of baseball. Capuano allowed just two hits and no walks while fanning thirteen batters, a new career high. The game also received a Bill James Game Score of 96 (100 is the best). Sheer dominance.
Met-Killer: Troy Tulowitzki
Usually this spot is reserved for Chipper Jones or Pat Burrell, but Troy Tulowitzki went to town on the Mets pitching staff this season. In the four game series at Citi Field in April, the shortstop went 10-16, homering in each game and knocking in eight runs while playing great defense. He didn’t do as much damage when the teams met in Colorado (2-11 with a homer), but Tulo left an impression on the Mets in 2011.
Best Offseason Acquisition: Chris Capuano
Sandy Alderson had a bargain basement strategy this past offseason, and for the most part it worked out. Capuano signed an incentive-laden contract with a base of $1.5 million but cashed in on several incentives and wound up earning just under $4 million. In his first full season since 2007, the southpaw turned in 186 innings, earning a 4.55 ERA (3.67 xFIP, 3.45 SIERA), 1.349 WHIP, 8.1 K/9 and 3.17 K/BB. He allowed 27 home runs which helped inflate his ERA, and he was much more hittable after the fifth inning, but his value according to FanGraphs was $7 million, meaning the Mets got a deal. Whether he’ll be back in 2012 is yet to be determined.
Worst Offseason Acquisition: D.J. Carrasco
The recipient of a two year, $2.4 million deal, Carrasco had a rough go of it in 2011. In 49.1 innings, Carrasco had a 6.02 ERA (4.77 x FIP, 4.21 SIERA), 1.682 WHIP, 4.9 K/9 and 1.69 K/BB, accumulating an fWAR of -0.5. He only allowed six of twenty-three inherited runners to score, and three of them came in his second to last appearance of the season, but there is no doubt Carrasco was a disappointment this year. Fortunately, he has another year left on his contract to right the ship.
Met On The Rise: Matt Harvey
For the first time in recent memory, there are several Mets quality Mets pitching prospects on the horizon. Out of all of them, however, Harvey may be the closest to making an impact in the Majors. In 135.2 innings split between St. Lucie and Binghamton, Harvey had a 3.22 ERA, 1.268 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 3.32 K/BB. He struggled a little when making the transition to Binghamton, but quickly adjusted and looks poised to start there next season. If he performs well, Harvey could get promoted to Buffalo by mid-season and potentially make his Major League debut in September.
Best Non-Brandon Nimmo Draft Pick: Danny Muno and Jack Leathersich
Brandon Nimmo was the Mets top draft pick this year and there are high hopes for him, but they drafted other guys too. While it is nearly impossible to predict success based on one stint with a short-season affiliate, the Mets got some impressive showings from shortstop Danny Muno and lefty pitcher Jack Leathersich, both of whom played for the Brooklyn Cyclones. In 267 plate appearance, Muno hit .355/.466/.514 with two homers. Most impressive was the fact that he walked more times (43) than he struck out (39). Fresh out of Fresno State, Muno should start next year at Savannah or possibly St. Lucie if he has a very good spring. Leathersich, meanwhile, was absolutely dominant on the mount. In 12.2 innings, he allowed just one run on six hits and three walks while striking out 26. Put another way, out of the 38 outs he recorded, 26 were via punch-out. The sample size is small, but the 21-year old southpaw will have a promising future if he can put up numbers similar to those in the New York-Penn League.