For the decade of the 2000’s, the Mets were 815-803, good for a .504 winning percentage. That’s strange, because for much of the decade the team was either really good (2000, 2006-2008) or really bad (2002-2004, 2009). But even when they were good, the teams left Mets fans wanting more, they still felt like they were underachieving, thanks to some sort of fatal flaw that showed itself at the wrong time, thanks to faulty roster construction.
This isn’t really any groundbreaking stuff, I know. If you’re a Mets fan, you lived through the underachieving and the poor roster construction. One area where the Mets continuously gave away the chance to field good players in the last decade was ironically one of the easiest; first base, left field, and right field. The three lowest points on the defensive spectrum were areas that the Mets continuously fielded bad or worse players. Will went into Omar’s failures at the corner outfield spots a few weeks ago, but it’s been an area of weakness dating back to his predecessors, Jim Duquette and Steve Phillips.
Just look at the chart below. This is a list of all Mets players to receive at least 400 plate appearances at first base, left field, and right field in the 2000’s, sorted by decade and then by wOBA. wOBA is a nice way to sort these players, as it’s a quick and simple way to summarize a player’s offensive season. If you want more information about wOBA, go here. For simplicity purposes, just note that as per Tom Tango, the creator of wOBA, an average offensive season is ~.340, a great season is ~.400, and a bad season is ~.300.
By my calculations, that’s zero great seasons (at the three positions most likely to field great hitters), 11 good-to-above average seasons, 9 average seasons, 6 below average-to-bad seasons, and two truly awful seasons (both in 2002, in case you were wondering why the 2002 Mets sucked so bad, and you probably weren’t).
Now, normally you might think, “hey, eleven good seasons in ten seasons isn’t anything to sneeze at,” but these are the three major offensive positions. Averaging slightly more than one good season over a ten year period between three positions is not good. That means the Mets are content to employ average or worse hitters at big-time hitting positions, which is a sign of poor planning on the part of the front office.
Now, hitting isn’t the only important thing a player can add to a team. Particularly in the corner outfield spots, a player can make up for offensive deficiencies by playing excellent defense (it’s a lot harder for a great defensive first baseman to make that sort of impact, unless he’s Keith Hernandez-great at 1B, and Mex was also a great hitter, too). So let’s take a look to see if the Mets have been getting any sort of great defensive contributions over the same time period. Unfortunately, the defensive metrics only go back to 2002 for UZR and 2004 for +/-, but that’s still a good portion of the decade.
* – Includes half-season data from Houston Astros
** – Includes half-season data from Atlanta Braves
First, it has to be said: Roger Cedeno’s 2002 season has to be one of the worst seasons had by a major league regular in the last decade. He provided nothing but negative value to a so-called contending team. At least Jeromy Burnitz had a flukey weird good year defensively that season.
But looking at the data, I’m seeing many more negatives than positives. This data doesn’t include Endy Chavez’s excellent defensive contributions from 2006-2008, so it’s somewhat unfair, but still, most of these players have been, if anything, worse defensively than they were offensively. Most of these players have brought nothing to the table. Some of the players who brought something to the table offensively (Cliff Floyd, Moises Alou, Carlos Delgado) gave a lot of their value back with the glove. The players who played strong defense (Dough Mientkiewicz, Ryan Church, Richard Hidalgo) were average or worse hitters.
What does this have to do with 2010? By the looks of things, it looks like we’re in for another long season. Jason Bay has the potential to be the best Mets regular in a corner outfield spot since Bernard Gilkey’s crazy fluke 1996 season (.404 wOBA), but he will give a lot of that value back with his glove. Daniel Murphy will likely put up a Mientkiewicz-esque season, providing excellent glovework with poor hitting. Jeff Francoeur will need to hit like the 2009 Mets version of Jeff Francoeur, and not the 2008-2009 Braves version of Jeff Francoeur just to be an average player, with his defense having trended downward the past two seasons. He has potential for a Cedeno-esque season for the Mets if he doesn’t hit. I don’t care how nice of a guy he is, he has more downside potential than upside potential.
That gives the Mets an all-bat, no-glove left fielder, a no-bat, all-glove first baseman (at the least important defensive position, manned by a player who does not belong in the majors), and a potential biohazard manning right fielder. Bay represents at least some legitimate offensive potential unseen by a Mets 1B/LF/RF for much of the last decade, but Murphy and Francoeur represent way too much “more of the same,” which should lead to more of the same result for the 2010 Mets; an ultimately flawed team that fails to reach its prodigious potential represented from their stars. And that’s before we mention the starting rotation.
On a personal note, I have started a companion blog devoted to my barbecuing exploits. No Mets talk, only happy talk related to me smoking delicious meats in my smoker. If you have any interest, please feel free to check it out at the BBQ Blog. Thanks!