Mets Final Season Grades – Middle Infielders
Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive. For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month. Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment. There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection. It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets. Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad). For the third set of grades, here are the Mets middle infielders:
If the month began with an “A,” you knew Walker was going to be great. In April, he hit .307/.337/.625 with nine homers and 19 RBI. In August, he hit .389/.450/.667 with six homers and 10 RBI. In the months that did not begin with an “A,” Walker wasn’t as good. From May 1st – July 31st, Walker hit .242/.322/.369 with eight homers and 26 RBI. Basically, Walker was feast or famine at the plate.
On the positive side, Walker became a dangerous hitter from the right-hand side of the plate for the first time in his career. That played a large role in him tying his career high with 23 homers despite him only playing in 113 games. The other positive note was that Walker played some of the best second base of his career. Basically, when Walker was on, he was one of the best second baseman in the game.
Unfortunately, when he wasn’t on top of his game, he wasn’t a very good player. We could chalk it up to him being a streaky player, but with this being his first season with the Mets, we really don’t know that to be true. More likely, Walker’s struggles were related to his back. He stated there were periods of time over the summer his feet were numb. That would more than explain his issues. It also explained why he opted for season ending surgery despite him being hot at the plate and the Mets trying to get into the Wild Card picture.
Overall, Walker hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 homers and 55 RBI in 113 games. These were good numbers from a player that at times was a very pleasant surprise during the season. It is unknown if he will re-sign with the Mets. No matter what his future plans are, Walker left an overall positive impression during his time in Flushing.
Lost in Cabrera’s hot streak to end the season was the fact he was not great for most of the season. Up until August 1st, when the Mets finally put him on the disabled list, Cabrera was only hitting .255/.308/.410 with 13 homers and 33 RBI. Those 33 RBI are astounding when you consider he seemingly went the entire summer without getting a hit with a runner in scoring position. To make matters worse, his defense just was not good. He had a -4.2 DRS and a -7 DRS at the position. To put those numbers in perspective, people were frustrated with Wilmer Flores at the position in 2015, and he had a -2.5 UZR and a -10 DRS.
Essentially, for most of the season, the Mets got an older version of Flores. However, there were two things missing: (1) the 30 Cabrera did not have Flores’ upside; and (2) the tears. The best you can say about Cabrera was he made all of the routine plays, which made everyone feel as if he was the better option. It did not matter he couldn’t get to as many balls – he just looked better at the position. In reality, he wasn’t any better than Flores was. That was at least true until Cabrera came off the disabled list.
From August 19th until the end of the season, Cabrera was the best hitter in baseball. During that stretch, Cabrera hit .345/.406/.635 with 10 homers and 29 RBI. If not for Cabrera’s hot hitting, the Mets probably don’t claim one of the Wild Card spots. This month and a half long stretch was so good, it made you forget about the middling to poor play the preceded it. Keep in mind that even with this insane stretch, Cabrera still hit .280/.336/.474 with 23 homers and 62 RBI.
With Cabrera signed for one more year (with an option after that), the hope is that Cabrera’s knee is completely healed (it did not require offseason surgery), and that he can be more like the guy he was to finish the year than the player who was not very good to start the year.
With the Mets poorly crafting a bench to start the season, they were unable to withstand the long DL stints of Lucas Duda and David Wright. Accordingly, the Mets traded for Johnson in what is looking like it will become an annual tradition.
Johnson’s second stint with the Mets was better than his first. In 82 games, Johnson hit .268/.328/.459 with nine homers and 24 RBI. He did most of his damage as a part time player over the summer. At that time, he was a key contributor off the bench who could be relied upon in a spot start or a pinch hitting appearance. Unfortunately, with the Walker and Flores season ending injuries, Johnson was asked to do more, and he showed why he was better as a bench player.
In the final month of the season, Johnson played in 22 games hitting .208/.255/.313 with one homer and four RBI. Heading into the Wild Card Game, he informed the Mets he didn’t feel comfortable playing first base thereby leaving the team with James Loney at first base. It was a huge decision in a game the Mets were shut out by Madison Bumgarner.
Once again, Johnson did enough to show the Mets he should return in the 2017 season. However, given how the Mets do business, it appears as if they are more comfortably trading away another Akeel Morris type of prospect over giving him a market deal and strengthening their bench.
Rivera went from being constantly passed over for a chance to play in the majors to being the Mets starting second baseman in the Wild Card Game. Overall, Rivera would get to play in 33 games hitting .333/.345/.476 with three homers and 16 RBI. In the Wild Card Game, he was one of the few Mets batters that could hit Bumgarner with him going 1-4 with a leadoff double in the fifth that probably should have set up the Mets to take the lead.
Overall, Rivera showed himself that he is good enough to be a major league player. Given the low walk rates (in the minors and the majors) and his not having a true position, he is most likely no more than a utility player. Considering he was undrafted and the Mets continuously passed him over, that is a remarkable achievement.
Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links. If you want to see the prior entries, here is the link for catchers, and here is the link for middle infielders.