Top Ten Most Valuable Mets of 2016: Neil Walker

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets fields a ground ball against the San Francisco Giants during the third inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California. The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

The New York Mets finished 2016 with a record of 87-75 and lost in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The 2016 season saw the Mets make their ninth playoff appearance in franchise history. The team received valuable contributions from various players over the course of the season. Last Word On Baseball writer John Jackson will count down the top ten most valuable Mets on a weekly basis. He will also analyze the value they brought to the team this past season. Number 10 was Steven Matz. Number nine is Neil Walker

Top Ten Most Valuable Mets of 2016

9. Neil Walker

Season Recap

Neil Walker was traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Mets. Walker replaced Daniel Murphy, who signed with the Washington Nationals in free agency. The Mets sent Jon Niese to the Pirates in return for Walker. While both players had similar contracts, the value they brought to their teams in 2016 was drastically different. Near mid-season, Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said he regretted the trade. The comment itself gives a sense of the value that the second baseman brought in 2016.

First Half

Walker began the season as the hottest home run hitter on the Mets by far. He hit a total of nine home runs in April, which tied a Mets franchise record for most hit in that month. Walker also slashed .307/.337/.625, and added 19 RBI and 13 runs in 22 games.

He tapered off in the beginning of May, as he went through an 0-for-20 drought in the span of seven games. He finished the month on a strong note, however, as he went 13-for-35 (.371) and had three home runs and five RBI in the last 10 games of May.

Walker’s production took a dip in June. He went a quiet 18-for-84 (.214), with one home run and seven RBI in 24 games. He performed better in July as he collected 22 hits, three home runs, and 13 RBI. Both summer months were a far cry from his April, but overall he did well in the first half.

Before the All-Star break, Walker had a .254 batting average with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, and 36 runs in 82 games. For the most part, he was healthy and only missed six games.

Second Half

In the second half, Walker was not healthy. He only played in 31 games and missed 16. Walker had a herniated disk in his lower back that he tried to play through. After a while, it became too much and he chose to get season-ending microdiscectomy surgery. The last game he played was on August 27.

In his limited time, he had a good second half. As mentioned before, he did well in July. However, August stood out as his best month statistically since April. He batted .389/.450/.667, with six home runs, 10 RBI, and 16 runs in 72 at-bats.

While his second half was limited to only 31 games, he still did well. He batted .347/.406/.587, with eight home runs, 18 RBI, and 21 runs.

Analysis

Walker finished 2016 with a .282/.347/.476 triple-slash line along with 23 home runs, 55 RBI, and 57 runs in 113 games. He was able to tie his career high in home runs that he set in 2014. The difference was that he played in 24 more games during the 2014 season.

When looking back on Walker’s 2016 season, his record-tying April may be the first thing remembered. That is fair because he was perhaps the most valuable player on the Mets that month. The Mets went 15-7 in April. Five of their seven losses came when Walker didn’t record a home run or RBI. Walker carried the Mets to the third-best record in MLB and a half game out of first in the National League East in April.

However, that should not be the only thing remembered of Walker’s season. Walker never got into big droughts. He only batted under .250 during one month. Two months saw him bat over .300. While he didn’t rack up the RBI, he supplied a steady amount of power and contact along with the best second base defense the Mets have seen in years.

Why He Deserves Ninth on This List

While Walker would be number one on this list if it were made in April, he is ninth now. He would probably also be higher if not for his herniated disk. Since he only played in 113 of the 162 games, putting him any higher isn’t justifiable.

When compared to Steven Matz, who ranked tenth, his positioning was based on pure production. Both Mets played about two-thirds of a season, and missed most of their time later on in the season.

Among the starting pitchers, Matz did not thoroughly outperform anyone, aside from Matt Harvey. Matz only made the list over Gsellman and Lugo because they were limited in their playing time.

Among hitters, Walker tied Asdrubal Cabrera for the third most home runs on the team. He also finished fourth in RBI on the team. Walker was a staple in the lineup and his absence was felt moreso than Matz’s absence.

Both could have potentially been higher on the list if they were healthy. In the  end, they both brought a certain value to the Mets that helped them win enough games early on which kept them alive in the Wild Card chase.

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