2012 Mets Postmortem: Left Field

Alex Trautwig

A look back at the 2012 performances of Jason Bay, Mike Baxter, and Fred Lewis.

2012 Postmortem: A position-by-position look back at the season with some preliminary thoughts on 2013. Plate appearances, OPS, and fWAR for each player represent statistics posted at all positions, not just the position in review. OPS is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage. fWAR is FanGraphs wins above replacement -- read more about it here.

Links to positions previously covered:

Catcher
First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Shortstop

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2012 marked another disastrous season for Jason Bay and, if this report by Mike Puma of the New York Post is accurate, it looks like there's "zero chance" Bay will be released this offseason:

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So Sandy Alderson will keep Bay instead of giving him the Oliver Perez/Luis Castillo treatment -- oh what's that? The Mets dropped Bay and he has since signed with the Mariners?

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Looks like Mike Puma of the New York Post needs some new sources. Don't count on it though, which means we can look forward to more Woodward and Bernstein-esque reporting such as "Luis Hernandez to be named Mets starting second baseman."

Anyway, Bay endured another rough season, which borrowed from the scripts of each of his first two seasons in Flushing. He started off slow, then went on a hot streak at the end of April. This prompted the customary optimistic "has Bay finally figured it out?" discussions among Mets fans. Was the monster out of the cage?

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The answer was no. Soon after he started his brief streak, he hit the disabled list with a fractured rib after crashing into the ground on a diving attempt to catch a fly ball. When he returned, his hitting once again went into the gutter. His slump was then interrupted by a concussion sustained when he smashed his head against the Citi Field wall while attempting to make a catch against the Reds in June. It was his second concussion in three years; recall a similar occurrence in the summer of 2010 at Dodger Stadium.

Bay came back in mid-July and managed to avoid further injury through the end of the season. He also avoided regular playing time; he started just 33 games over the final 2.5 months. During that stretch, he accrued 132 plate appearances while posting a Nickeas-esque slash line of .151/.221/.252. It was another struggle of a season for a guy you wanted to root for but whom you just couldn't stand to watch flail away at air any longer. Good luck to Bay in Seattle; maybe he'll be rejuvenated by the closer proximity to his native Canada.

That treasured volume the 2010 Amazin' Avenue Annual featured the following words about Bay:

Recent Mets teams have generally lacked a durable and elite power-hitting corner outfielder, and Bay fits that profile.

It’s safe to say he is below average defensively; to what extent is up for debate. Bay’s lack of range probably won’t be noticeable, and if he continues to minimize errors he should be warmly embraced by the fan base.

Bay is a very good player who should nicely complement superstar-caliber players like David Wright and Jose Reyes, even if his contract is almost certainly an overpay and Omar Minaya’s penchant for silly vesting options is irritating. Regardless, he is a major upgrade over other in-house corner outfield options, and it will be nice to have another slugger in the lineup.

I wrote those words. Oops.

If nothing else, Whitestone's own Mike Baxter should have a place next to Endy Chavez in the Mets Hall of Cult Heroes. He preserved Johan Santana's no-hitter with a terrific catch in left field to rob the hated Yadier Molina of a history-crushing extra-base hit. Baxter was playing great until the catch -- his OPS sat at .915 -- so it was unfortunate that he injured his collarbone and rib cage on the play and had to go on the disabled list. Eternally grateful for Baxter's effort on 6/1/2012, Mets fans are.

Baxter missed two months and returned on July 30th. He didn't mash down the stretch quite like he did pre-injury, but he continued to show off his ability to draw a walk. In fact, he drew five of them in an August game against the Padres. His final slash line of .263/.365/.413 was plenty useful for a part-time player, as was his plus-glove in the corner outfield spots. He would likely get exposed as a full-timer but might fit in nicely as part of a platoon. For now, I'll project him as the Mets' Opening Day left fielder, for lack of superior options on the 40-man roster. Don't take this projection too seriously.

Fred Lewis had some decent seasons with the Giants a few years back; I advocated signing him before the 2010 season when he became available. That didn't happen but the Mets did pick him up on a minor-league deal before 2012. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Buffalo and earned team MVP honors after hitting .294/.379/.482 with 13 home runs. Lewis did right by the city of Buffalo but it wasn't enough to prevent the Mets' top minor league squad from being excommunicated to Las Vegas. He was rewarded with a call-up to the big club in September and didn't do much in 25 plate appearances. He became a free agent shortly after the season ended. If he never plays in MLB again, he will finish with a wRC+ of 100; that's exactly league average.

The Mets need help in the outfield. I hoped the Mets would pursue former free agent Melky Cabrera but he signed with the Blue Jays for two years, $16 million. My contract offer would have been two years, $12 million; it wasn't far off. I came up with this idea before formerly fat Melky signed with the Jays so I'm sticking with it.

Desired 2013 starting left fielder: Melky Cabrera

Projected 2013 starting left fielder: Mike Baxter

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