At the All-Star break, I gave out mid-season grades for the Mets. I think enough time has passed that the disappointment of missing out on the playoffs should not affect full-season grades here in early December.

Catching
Brian Schneider – Grade C+ – It’s easy to forget now, but Schneider had a .462 SLG mark after the All-Star break. He lost a few points of OBP, but it was a worthwhile trade to add 155 points of slugging. Schneider did better than we had any right to expect but he’s nothing more than a place holder right now.

Ramon Castro – Grade C- – It was not so rosy with the other half of the catching tandem. Castro posted a .197/.254/.409 mark after the break. That’s when he was healthy enough to play. Perhaps he should have spent even more time on the DL than he actually did. Regardless, Castro was a major disappointment.

First Base
Carlos Delgado – Grade B+ – Now that was a nice comeback. Delgado’s final numbers were better than even the most optimistic people out there would have predicted. The raw numbers scream out for an “A” type grade but the first couple of months of the season count, too.

Second Base
Luis Castillo – Grade D- – His second half numbers make Castro’s look good. He posted a .170/.313/.189 line, which most major leaguers couldn’t do if they tried. It was a brutal year for Castillo, who made the decision to hand him a four-year contract look even worse than it did at the time. Oh well, one year down and three more to go. Castillo has asked ownership for a second chance. He gets points for humility but they should still put Daniel Murphy at second next season on Opening Day.

Damion Easley – Grade D+ – Circumstances forced Damion Easley to get too many at-bats in 2008. This grade is as much of a reflection on Omar Minaya, Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel for creating a situation where 38-year old Easley needed to have 316 at-bats as it is on the player himself

Third Base
David Wright – Grade A – Too much has been made over a few at-bats in the final week of the season where Wright tried to win games by himself. Can you blame him after he watched his team self-destruct for the second straight year despite his own fantastic hitting?

Shortstop
Jose Reyes – Grade B+ – If Reyes had played as well in April and September as he did the other four months of the season, the Mets would have been in business. But it’s hard to overlook that he put up a 118 OPS+ from a shortstop. He deserved an “A” type grade for his hitting but a poor defensive season drops this into the “B” range..

Outfield
Carlos Beltran – Grade A- – Played great baseball in August and September and showed a lot of guts playing hurt down the stretch. His lack of power in the first half of the season is the only thing that kept this from being a full “A”.

Ryan Church – Grade C- – Another player who hit like Castro in the second half. Church showed a lot of promise when healthy but I can’t shake the feeling that injuries may have robbed him from his career year.

Endy Chavez – Grade D+ – Clearly, Endy is a player who is best known for his glove. Still it seems insane that he had just two RBIs in 74 plate appearances after the All-Star break last year. I think he’s a good guy to have on a team but it just wasn’t a super year for Chavez.

Fernando Tatis – Grade B- – Did Tatis resurrect his career in 2008 or is he just the latest veteran to parlay a hot streak into too many at-bats the following year? While that is a relevant question going forward, this is supposed to reflect what the player has already done. And Tatis was extremely effective last year.

Daniel Murphy – Grade B – It’s fantastic for a rookie to post a 129 OPS+ in his first exposure to major league pitching. The fact that Murphy did it while playing a brand new position makes it even that much more special. I’m a big fan of Murphy – the only way I could like him more is if he walked into Manuel’s office and told him to make him the starting second baseman in 2009. But having said that, I just can’t give him a grade equal to that of Delgado’s, who simply had a better year.

Nick Evans – Grade C+ – Did great versus LHP but unfortunately got 40 plate appearances against righties where he posted a .135/.150/.189 line. The progress that Evans made this year was commendable. I still think he needs the better part of a year at Triple-A to become more than a platoon player.

Starting Pitching
Johan Santana – Grade A+ – Could not possibly have pitched any better in the second half than he did when everything was on the line. Santana went 8-0 with a 2.17 ERA after the All-Star break, including a complete-game shutout in Game 161 with the season on the line and pitching on three days rest. The bullpen blew seven leads for Santana, which cost him a shot at the Cy Young Award. I’ll try to make it up to him with this grade.

Mike Pelfrey – Grade B+ – September was not kind to Pelfrey after he pitched lights out the previous three months. But in his three losses the final month, Pelfrey pitched 20 innings and allowed six runs. It took awhile for Pelfrey to arrive in the majors but the future looks extremely bright, especially if he can rediscover the strikeout rates from his minor league days.

John Maine – Grade C – Things might have been different with a healthy Maine down the stretch but the fact is that he had a 4.83 ERA after the All-Star break. Undoubtedly, his performance suffered due to the bone spur but results are results. Here’s hoping Maine is full recovered from surgery and ready to being Spring Training on time this season.

Oliver Perez – Grade C – One of many games I’d like to have back from 2008 is Perez’ outing against the Cubs on September 24th. He had great stuff, although he was a little wild (what a surprise) and Manuel gave him an early hook. I’d like to see Ollie back with the Mets if the two sides can work it out. Then we just have to hope Manuel shows a little more patience with him.

Pedro Martinez – Grade D – It is very sad to think that Pedro’s career with the Mets is going to end with such a whimper. After he pitched so well in limited duty in 2007, Martinez was just terrible in 2008. The first inning did him in. He allowed 23 runs in 20 games in the opening frame, thanks in part to a .382 BABIP. The fanboy in me says it’s just bad luck and that whoever ends up signing Martinez on an incentive-laden deal will get a quality pitcher.

Relief Pitchers
Billy Wagner – Grade B – The raw numbers are great. The only two problems with Wagner were the number of blown saves (7) and his season-ending injury. The temptation is to inflate Wagner’s grade based on what happened after he left. But how can you go overboard on a guy who pitched 47 innings?

Aaron Heilman – Grade D- – It’s bad enough to overuse a pitcher, like both Randolph and Manuel did with Heilman. But then we find out that he pitched a good part of the year with an injured left knee. His down season starts making more sense. But just because I understand it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Heilman could not handle being the closer and his raw numbers were just plain bad.

Duaner Sanchez – Grade D+ – Manuel had absolutely no confidence in Sanchez and it’s hard to argue with that as he posted a 6.00 ERA after the All-Star break. If only we could go back in time and have Sanchez stay in his hotel room and not ride in that taxicab things would have been a lot different the past few seasons.

Joe Smith – Grade B- – Careful use of Smith made him one of the club’s most effective relievers. Unfortunately, Smith can’t face a lefty batter in a key situation. Lefthanders batted .320/.443/.460 versus Smith in 61 plate appearances. There’s value in being tough on righty batters but it’s limited.

Scott Schoeneweis – Grade C – And on the other side of things we have Scott Schoeneweis (SS). It’s not his fault that his managers consistently use him versus righties in key situations. His line without the platoon advantage is even worse than Smith’s. Righties batted .333/.423/.532 in 130 plate appearances. He could easily move up a grade or more if his managers would take him out of the game once anyone, even the batboy, stepped in on the right side of the batter’s box.

Pedro Feliciano – Grade D – He picked a bad time to stop sniffing glue. Or, in this case, getting righy batters out like he had done previously in his career. Feliciano’s numbers against righties were even worse than SS so in case any children are reading I won’t post them. He was still better than Heilman.

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What Went Right – Manuel was an improvement over Randolph… Young players Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy got playing time they would not have received with the previous manager and proved they could be valuable pieces of a playoff team… The offense with Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado was better than expected

What Went Wrong – Another collapse by the bullpen… Manuel’s quick hooks at the end of the year with Oliver Perez… Manuel letting Schoeneweis pitch to a righty batter with the season on the line… The team’s overall failure with the bases loaded… Injuries in the second half to Tatis, Maine and Wagner.

What’s to Come – The Mets have to replace free agents Perez and Martinez in the starting rotation and make at least one major bullpen move… A power hitting corner outfielder would be nice, too… Can the club carry both Castillo and Schneider in the every day lineup?

Prediction – They trade for JJ Putz, re-sign Perez and add free agent pitcher Jon Garland.

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