Where Omar Minaya Hides the Wins

During my bitchfest earlier in the week, I compared the corner outfielders from the best teams in the National League to the hypothetical tandem of Jose Guillen and Jeff Francoeur. While that pairing is highly unlikely, a similarly lackluster combination isn’t out of the question for the 2010 Mets. A look at the corner outfield production (Table 1) over the last five seasons highlights a key failure of Omar Minaya’s tenure.


Table 1

Year

Pos

sOPS+

UZR

2005

LF

106

-2.4

RF

108

-13.1

2006

LF

81

1.8

RF

99

-7

2007

LF

104

0.1

RF

81

-10.4

2008

LF

87

13.6

RF

94

10.6

2009

LF

99

-6.3

RF

92

-6.4

sOPS+ is the adjusted OPS of Mets players relative to left and right fielders throughout baseball (sOPS+ > 100 is above average; sOPS+ < 100 is below average).  UZR represents the cumulative Ultimate Zone Rating of all players manning each COF position.

Table 2

Year

Player

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS+

2005

Cliff Floyd

626

34

.273

.358

.505

126

2005

Mike Cameron

343

12

.273

.342

.477

114

2005

Victor Diaz

313

12

.257

.329

.468

108

2006

Cliff Floyd

376

11

.244

.324

.407

88

2006

Endy Chavez

390

4

.306

.348

.431

101

2007

Moises Alou

360

13

.341

.392

.524

137

2007

Shawn Green

490

10

.291

.352

.431

103

2008

Ryan Church

359

14

.276

.346

.439

106

2008

Fernando Tatis

306

11

.297

.369

.484

123

2009

Jeff Francoeur

308

10

.311

.338

.498

120

It’s as simple as this: most teams have corner outfielders that hit. The Mets, under Omar Minaya, haven’t had left and right fielders that could hit or field well relative to their positions. Only once — and just barely — were they able to get above average output from both production components (2007 in left field). Rarely has one quality been sufficient enough to satisfy a deficiency in the other. For example, the defense in 2008 was truly an asset, but the hitting, especially in left field, wasn’t enough to make the end product a good one.

The Mets had a number of players man left and right field on a semi-regular basis, thus Table 2 is limited to players accruing 300+ plate appearances in a season. When you consider that a 145 game starter collects approximately 600 plate appearances in a season, the lack of playing time accrued by the Mets corner outfielders is startling. Only two corner outfielders in five seasons reached the 400 plate appearance plateau.

The most obvious reason for the dearth of playing time and lack of production among regulars is injury. Mike Cameron (off-season surgery, sick collision), Cliff Floyd (achillies and various ailments), Moises Alou (age, fragility) and Ryan Church (concussions) all missed significant playing time recovering from their respective ailments.  The second and most instructive explanation for this pattern is poor planning and rationale.

2005: Omar inherited Cliff Floyd and Mike Cameron, two established outfielders with multi-year contracts. Undeterred by prior commitments, Minaya signed Carlos Beltran, forcing Cameron to RF, but yielding a good outfield in the process. Kudos to Omar, even though it didn’t work out as planned.
2006: Under budget constraints, Minaya gave Cameron away for thoroughly mediocre replacement Xavier Nady. He trusted that Floyd would return to his 2005 form, despite playing through nagging injuries throughout the previous season.
2007: He expected two players well past their prime — Moises Alou and Shawn Green — to adequately hold the fort in the outfield corners. Alou was fantastic in limited duty; Green was completely atrocious.
2008: Inexplicably, the team retained Alou for left field and by their own admission, didn’t expect him to play more than 100 games. Angel Pagan, a player at the time time without an established level of production, was counted on to fill in for Alou. Ryan Church was expected to start in right field, despite only one full season in the majors and a platoon problem with no suitable right-handed compliment on the roster. (Tatis wouldn’t come along until May.)
2009: The Mets penciled in Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church as their starting corner outfielders, a duo that combined for less than 500 PA’s in 2008.

So why is Omar Minaya’s planning so flawed?  If past interviews with Mike Francesa are any indicator, at least part of the reason is the presence of Carlos Beltran. On more than one occasion, Omar Minaya explained that the team could handle less “power production” from left and right field because Beltran was such an outstanding hitter. Such a belief is fine, so long as your corner outfielders are producing suitably in other quantifiable ways, otherwise you’re squandering the advantage of having a great hitter at a premium position.  Unfortunately, Omar’s train of thought here lends us a closer look at his myopia in action. It’s as if there are finite levels of production in his mind that are not to be exceeded: “Power at 100%, must add grission, must add veteran.”  I mean, how else can one rationalize all of those games started by Shawn Green in the 2007 season?

One Response to “Where Omar Minaya Hides the Wins”

  1. tjv101 says:

    Gosh, your right the Mets production for their corner outfielders has been awful over the last few years. Let’s hope the Mets can fix this problem this off-season. Beltran’s great (when he’s on the field) but shouldn’t be the crutch for production. You need more than that. Nearly every good playoff team has had solid outfield production from the corners. (Yanks-Swisher and Damon; Phils- Ibanez and Werth; Red Sox-Bay and Drew, etc.) The likes of Pagan and Francoeur just aren’t gonna cut it which is exactly why the Mets need to sign Matt Holliday or trade for Carl Crawford.

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