An MLB Alternate Universe

[We are starting to get within an outfield throw of Opening Day.  And once we get past the Super Bowl, it will be the only thing to keep us going (at least until March Madness tips off).  And so, it should come as no shock that Ezra and Roey are thinking baseball and fire a strike across the outside of the plate here with a fun piece on the Mets and Giants.]

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The Mets and Giants have combined to win four out of the past eight NL pennants, but last year both missed out on the playoffs with records well under .500. These two teams have been hard at work this offseason trying to get back into the playoffs, with the Giants trading for both 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and Tampa Bay Rays great Evan Longoria and the Mets signing former Padre, Red Sock and Dodger Adrian Gonzalez and Jay Bruce. These moves signal that both these teams are making a serious push in 2018. but they may have been better suited for teams going all in in 2012, when these four were all bona fide superstars.

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In addition to these four, both teams lineups are filled with players who, despite not being superstars, were still great in 2012, such as David Wright and Jose Reyes of the Mets and Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval of the Giants. These teams lineups are also filled with former top prospects and first-round draft picks who were just getting their start in 2012, like Brandon Belt of the Giants and Brandon Nimmo of the Mets. We are going to go through these teams lineups and tell you not which of these teams will have more wins in 2018, but which of these teams would have had more wins in 2012.

Let’s start by taking a look at the Mets projected lineup for 2018 and where they were in 2012:

  • CF Brandon Nimmo was the Mets first-round pick in 2011 out of Cheyenne East High School and played 10 games in the minor leagues in 2012.
  • 2B Asdrubal Cabrera was coming off of a Silver Slugger award and All-Star game appearance in 2011. Cabrera continued to succeed in 2012, when he was elected to a second consecutive All-Star appearance and hit for .270 with an OBP close to .800.
  • LF Yoenis Cespedes played eight seasons in Cuba before he defected to the US in 2011 and was one of the most highly regarded sluggers coming out of Cuba in recent memory. After signing with the Oakland Athletics, Cespedes posted a .292 batting average to go along with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs in a successful 2012 rookie campaign.
  • RF Jay Bruce was an All-Star in 2011 for the Cincinnati Reds, batting .256 while hitting 32 HRs and 97 RBIs. He followed this up with another All-Star campaign in 2012, winning the Silver Slugger and finishing tenth in the NL MVP voting while posting similar numbers of 34 HRs and 99 RBIs to go along with a .252 batting average.
  • 1B Adrian Gonzalez had a career year in 2011 in his first year as a Red Sox. Gonzalez hit for .338 average and knocked in 117 runs. Gonzalez also proved himself defensively and won a Golden Glove Award in 2011 and finished seventh in the MVP voting. In 2012, he was traded to the Dodgers midseason and finished the season with 100 RBIs and a .299 batting average.
  • 3B David Wright had a down year in 2011, but re-established himself in 2012 as a star. Wright looked liked his former self as he hit .306 and drove in 93 RBIs with an OBP of .883. Wright was selected to the All-Star game for the sixth time and finished just outside the Top-5 in MVP voting.
  • C Travis D’arnaud was drafted in the first round of the 2007 MLB draft and had established himself as an elite prospect in 2012 for the Blue Jays before being traded in the blockbuster trade that sent reigning NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto for D’arnaud and fellow top prospect Noah Syndergaard.
  • SS Jose Reyes had been known as a guy who hit for average and stole a lot of bases ever since he came up with the Mets in 2003. After making the All-Star game in 2010, Reyes followed it up with a tremendous 2011 where he won the NL batting title by batting .337. It looked like he had finally made the leap to stardom. Instead, after signing a lucrative deal with Miami that offseason, Reyes hasn’t batted over .300 in a season since and bounced around the league before returning to the Mets in 2016.

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Overall, six out of nine players currently in the Mets lineup were All-Stars in 2011 or 2012, D’arnaud and Nimmo were top prospects and Cespedes was one of the most-hyped up foreign sluggers in recent memory. Unfortunately for New York fans, it’s 2018 and none of these players were All-Stars last year. (Note: Michael Conforto was an All-Star in 2017, but is coming off a serious injury and probably won’t be ready to play opening day. Sorry Mets fans.)

Starting Rotation: Although the lineup for the 2012 Mets seemed like an All-Star team, the rotation in 2012 was full of top prospects or high school or college kids that had not yet been drafted. The only player currently in the Mets rotation with any major league experience in 2012 was Matt Harvey, who was a top prospect in 2011 and made his major league debut as a late-season call up in 2012.

San Francisco Giants 

Let’s now take a look at the Giants projected lineup for 2018 and where they were in 2012:

  • 2B Joe Panik was the Giants first round selection in 2011. Panik spent the 2011 season in single-A ball, where he hit .341 and won the league’s MVP award. He was rated as one of the top second base prospects in the MLB prior to the 2012 season.
  • CF Andrew Mccutchen had his first great season in 2011, getting selected to his first All-Star game and hitting 20 home runs. He broke out as a star in 2012, leading the league in hits while hitting for a .327 average and 31 HRs, good for a third place finish in NL MVP voting that year.
  • 3B Evan Longoria had one of his finest seasons as a pro, hitting 31 homers and slugging .495, leading the Rays to their second consecutive playoff appearance. With high expectations coming into 2012, Longoria was injured in April and didn’t come back until August, missing almost 90 games and causing the Rays to miss the playoffs. Despite this, Longoria still managed to hit 17 HRs and have an OPS of almost .900, leaving us to wonder what could have been had he been healthy the whole season.
  • C Buster Posey was one of the league’s up and coming stars coming into 2011, having won Rookie of the Year in 2010. But a collision at home plate in the beginning of the 2011 season that was so devastating it caused the MLB to change its rules about catchers protecting the plate caused Posey to miss most of his sophomore campaign. Many wondered if Posey would be able to return as the same player in 2012 and the answer was a resounding yes. Posey won the NL MVP award in 2012, leading the league in batting with a .336 mark and driving in over 100 runs while hitting in the middle of the order to lead the Giants to their second World Series win in three years.
  • SS Brandon Crawford was called up to the majors in 2011, but was sent back down to the minors after a few weeks when he was only hitting .190. He was called back up in September and was named the team’s opening day starter for 2012. Despite not having an amazing season at the plate for the World Champion Giants, he was one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, finishing third among NL shortstops with +12 defensive runs saved.
  • LF Brandon Belt was the Number 1 prospect in the Giants organization, Belt was called up in the beginning of the 2011 season and played 63 games in the majors while spending the season shuttling between triple-A and the major leagues. He played his first full major league season in 2012, posting a solid .275 batting average while starting at first base for the world champion Giants.
  • RF Hunter Pence started off 2011 as a Houston Astro and batted .321 with 59 RBIs at the All-Star break before being shipped to Philadelphia. Pence finished fourth in the league that year in batting to go along with 97 RBIs. The following year Pence was traded again, this time to the team he still plays for today, the Giants. In less than 60 games for the Giants, Pence had almost 50 RBIs and was an emotional leader during the team’s World Series run. His teammates credit him for his inspirational playoff speeches, notably one that kickstarted a comeback against the Reds with the Giants one game away from elimination.
  • 1B Pablo Sandoval is now often thought of as a below-average third baseman; in 2011 and 2012, Sandoval was one of the top third basemen in the league, batting almost .300 and hitting 35 home runs and 133 RBIs over 225 games in addition to being selected to the NL All-Star team both seasons.  Affectionately nicknamed Kung-Fu Panda, Sandoval turned in one of the greatest World Series performances in recent memory. With his Giants facing the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, Sandoval hit three home runs in the opener, including two off Tigers ace Justin Verlander, to propel the Giants to a Game One victory and an eventual sweep of the Tigers in the World Series.

The Giants lineup in 2012 would have consisted of the next two NL MVPs, two top five third basemen at the time and a plethora of top prospects. The Giants hope that these players can capture the magic from all those years ago this year and carry them to a playoff berth.

Starting Rotation

  • Madison Bumgarner was called up in July of 2010 and pitching eight shutout innings in his World Series debut against the Rangers, Bumgarner continued his success in 2011, winning 13 games with an ERA of 3.21. His solid play was enough for the Giants to grant him a six-year extension, which turned out to be worth every penny. Bumgarner finished the 2012 season with 16 wins and a 3.37 ERA and threw another seven scoreless innings in Game Two of the World Series, in which the Giants swept the Tigers.
  • Johnny Cueto broke out in the 2011 season, posting a 2.31 ERA that would have qualified for second place in the NL ERA title had he pitched another six innings. In 2012, Cueto won 19 starts with a WHIP of 1.17 and finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting.
  • Jeff Samardzija was a standout two-sport athlete at Notre Dame and decided to pursue a baseball career after college. He was a top prospect in the Cubs organization before playing his first full season as a starter in 2011, posting an 8-4 record with a .297 ERA.
  • Chris Stratton was the Giants first round pick in 2012 and was rated their third best prospect coming into 2013.
  • Tyler Beede was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft out of high school, but decided not to sign and go to college instead. After playing college ball at Vanderbilt University,  he was drafted by the Giants in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft.

The 2018 Giants rotation in 2012 consisted of a perennial Cy-Young candidate, one of the best up and coming starters in the game and two first round picks. The rotation this year could be good, but depends heavily on Stratton and Beede living up to their potential, Cueto and Smadijiza having bounce back years following lackluster 2017 campaigns and Bumgarner pitching like the ace he is.

In an alternate universe where these two teams made of the current day players were to play a seven game series in 2012, the Giants would have the upper hand. Led by 2012 NL MVP Buster Posey, the Giants lineup consisting of at least three other 30 home run  hitters would have been lethal. Even a Mets lineup anchored by Adrian Gonzalez in his prime wouldn’t be able to keep up with the amount of productive hitters on the Giants. More importantly, contrary to the Mets starting rotation, which was not yet in the majors, the Giants starting rotation already had two stars in addition to all their top prospects.

Even though the 2018 Mets would have been a very good team in 2012, the Giants would have been much better.

Roey Herzfeld and Ezra Troy

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3 comments on “An MLB Alternate Universe
  1. G-Turbo says:

    Nice piece! Go Royals! By the way,Hunter Pence is the worst.

  2. Goo says:

    This piece was a creative home run. Deep analysis. I agree with Alfred. Let’s move from 2012 to 2018 and take a look at some of the big topics that are going to be important in the MLB this year. For instance, what is driving the quiet off season for free agency? What does that mean for the season? A lot of questions heading into Spring Training (IMHO)….

  3. Alfred says:

    Man, I forgot how much you guys knew about baseball. Please keep it coming. I would love to know predictions for both the AL and NL. I also am really interested in rising stars that could make a big impact on MLB rosters this year. Great stuff! Thank you!

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