The Mets’ unfortunate history at 1B, LF, and RF in the aughts

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.

Player Year G PA AB BA OBP SLG OPS wOBA
Benny Agbayani 2000 119 414 350 .289 .391 .480 .871 .377
Todd Zeile 2000 153 623 544 .268 .356 .467 .823 .355
Derek Bell 2000 144 622 546 .266 .348 .425 .773 .342
Benny Agbayani 2001 91 339 296 .277 .364 .399 .763 .334
Todd Zeile 2001 151 612 531 .266 .359 .373 .732 .327
Mo Vaughn 2002 139 558 487 .259 .349 .456 .805 .349
Roger Cedeno 2002 149 562 511 .260 .318 .346 .664 .304
Jeromy Burnitz 2002 154 550 479 .215 .311 .365 .677 .298
Cliff Floyd 2003 108 425 365 .290 .376 .518 .894 .383
Jason Phillips 2003 119 453 403 .298 .373 .442 .815 .356
Roger Cedeno 2003 148 527 484 .267 .320 .378 .698 .304
Cliff Floyd 2004 113 457 396 .260 .352 .462 .814 .351
Mike Piazza 2004 129 528 455 .266 .362 .444 .806 .343
Richard Hidalgo 2004 86 358 324 .228 .296 .463 .759 .320
Cliff Floyd 2005 150 626 550 .273 .358 .505 .863 .369
Mike Cameron 2005 76 343 308 .273 .342 .477 .819 .362
Victor Diaz 2005 89 313 280 .257 .329 .468 .797 .337
Doug Mientkiewicz 2005 87 313 275 .240 .322 .407 .729 .310
Carlos Delgado 2006 144 618 524 .265 .361 .548 .909 .376
Cliff Floyd 2006 97 376 332 .244 .324 .407 .731 .321
Moises Alou 2007 87 360 328 .341 .392 .524 .916 .393
Shawn Green 2007 130 490 446 .291 .352 .430 .782 .346
Carlos Delgado 2007 139 607 538 .258 .333 .448 .781 .336
Fernando Tatis 2008 92 306 273 .297 .369 .484 .853 .372
Carlos Delgado 2008 159 686 598 .271 .353 .518 .871 .364
Ryan Church 2008 90 359 319 .276 .346 .439 .785 .339
Jeff Francoeur 2009 75 308 289 .311 .338 .498 .836 .350
Daniel Murphy 2009 155 556 508 .266 .313 .427 .741 .318

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.

Player Year UZR/150 +/-
Mo Vaughn 2002 -9.6
Roger Cedeno 2002 -7.2
Jeromy Burnitz 2002 4.9
Cliff Floyd 2003 -10.5
Jason Phillips 2003 0.2
Roger Cedeno 2003 -8.6
Cliff Floyd 2004 -4.1 -2
Mike Piazza 2004 -7.9 -6
Richard Hidalgo* 2004 16.8 4
Cliff Floyd 2005 1.9 0
Mike Cameron 2005 1.9 1
Victor Diaz 2005 -13.1 -6
Doug Mientkiewicz 2005 14.7 7
Carlos Delgado 2006 -5.4 -3
Cliff Floyd 2006 -8.5 -3
Moises Alou 2007 -12.5 1
Shawn Green 2007 -20.6 -5
Carlos Delgado 2007 1.1 1
Carlos Delgado 2008 -3.4 -11
Ryan Church 2008 6.9 5
Jeff Francoeur** 2009 -5.9 -1
Daniel Murphy 2009 7.6 10

* – 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.

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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!

3 Responses to “The Mets’ unfortunate history at 1B, LF, and RF in the aughts”

  1. rct says:

    it’s astounding to me that you can say that daniel murphy “does not belong in the majors”. really? given the metrics you present in this article, he’s a slightly below average hitter and a slightly above average fielder. doesn’t that make him an average MLB player?

    i understand that his hitting isn’t very good and it looks worse considering his position, but to say he doesn’t even belong in the majors is hyperbole.

    besides, he’s got only 1.5 years of major league experience (at a 103 OPS and having wOBA of 118 and 98, FWIW), and hitting takes longer to develop.

    we’re stuck with him, at least early on, so give it a few months before you declare him to be unworthy of being on a major league roster.

  2. Chris Wilcox says:

    The problem is, Murphy isn’t a slightly below average hitter – he is a well-below average hitter. Throw in the fact that we simply don’t know exactly how well he will play defensively over the long-haul at first base (he will probably remain good), and I think it’s pretty safe to conclude that Daniel Murphy is not good enough to be a major league regular, particularly at first base.

    The fact is, Murphy had five plate appearances in AAA. FIVE. Judging by how poorly he played last year, he was clearly rushed to the majors. His future shouldn’t be as Doug Mientkiewicz-light; he should be learning to play the outfield, playing some second base, and his best-case future is likely as a four-corners sub who might be able to play some 2B and CF as well. His outfield defense definitely could have used some time in Buffalo, and his bat clearly did not play at a major league level last year, so what am I missing on this guy?

  3. rct says:

    how is he a “well-below average” hitter? his career wOBA is .330 (granted, that includes his crazy 49 games of .386 BABIP in ‘08) and his CHONE projection for 2010 is just that — .330. his marcel is even higher. like you said, he’s only had five plate appearances in AAA, so wouldn’t you expect him to get better with experience? he’s 24 and not even in his prime yet. why would you expect him to put up the same numbers this year, when he’ll actually have more experience, protection in the lineup, and guys on base (with reyes and bay being in the lineup)?

    and he’s just learning 1B and is already pretty competent at it, so why wouldn’t you expect that to improve, too? you’re already comparing him favorably to doug mientkiewicz, who was great with the glove, so what’s the problem?

    like i said, please reserve judgment awhile before you say he doesn’t even belong on a major league roster.

    aside from this, this is a good article, though. i don’t want to make it sound like i’m slamming your entire article, i just don’t like all the murphy hate that been circling the mets blogosphere recently.

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