The Mets signed LaTroy Hawkins to a minor league deal on January 31, 2013. The initial reaction was underwhelming, as Hawkins was coming off a poor year with the Angels. His strikeout percentage had dropped, his walk percentage increased, and he gave up home runs at a hefty rate. The 40-year-old Hawkins had little risk attached to him, however, and if he failed to impress in spring training, he could pitch for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Hawkins made the major league roster after dazzling in spring training, where he didn't allow a run, but he started the regular season slowly. When Chris McShane checked in on the bullpen on April 24, Hawkins had a 5.40 ERA and was giving up long-balls at a rate of 1.4 home runs per nine innings. All of that was in a limited sample size, however, and Hawkins steadied as the season progressed, becoming a reliable bullpen piece by early May.
Hawkins truly began to shine during the early summer months. In both June and July, Hawkins posted a 2.70 ERA. During that time, Hawkins struck out 15 batters, and walked just 5, one of which was intentional.
Hawkins started August strongly, having not allowed a run in his first six appearances that month. When Bobby Parnell went down to injury on August 6, Hawkins was not initially named closer but ended up recording six saves that month. He had his worst outing of the season on August 25, when he allowed 5 runs on 4 hits, none of which were a home run. This outing blew up his numbers for August, as he ended the month with a 5.25 ERA, but he held opponents to a paltry .243 batting average.
Hawkins capped the year very strongly with 12 appearances in September, during which he didn't allow a run, allowed only 7 hits, walked none, and struck out 7. Hawkins recorded 5 saves during that time, which brought his season total to 13, a number he hadn't matched since 2004.
Overall, Hawkins became the Mets' best relief pitcher after Parnell. His final ERA of 2.93 gave him one of the best campaigns of his career, which is especially impressive given his age and perceived decline coming into the season. His high-leverage situation numbers of a .179 batting average and .187 wOBA, combined with his .208 batting average and .262 wOBA with men in scoring position, made Hawkins all the more impressive.
The Mets reportedly looked to bring Hawkins back to the club, but instead he signed a lucrative $2.5 million deal with the Rockies, ending his short, but excellent, tenure with the club. Hawkins' steady presence and clubhouse leadership will certainly be missed, as he seemed to be widely respected by his teammates and coaches, and his story, along with Marlon Byrd, was among the best Mets stories of the year.
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