As a Mets fan, I occasionally run into some cognitive dissonance watching this team. It's almost as if non-Harvey/Wheeler wins feel worse than losses. I'll provide this as an example. This past Sunday, Mets/Cubs, Kirk hits the great walk off home run. That coming after the Mets showcase some of the worst fielding I've seen all year in baseball. The naive optimist will point to Kirk's home-run as a triumph, the Mets gritting one out when they're down. But in reality, the hit was a fluke, and the stomach-turning defense, that is the norm. That is this team. That is what happens every game, whether in such a visible fashion (Wright airmailing a throw) or subtly (Lucas Duda not being able to get to a bloop/taking a bad route). The Mets are the worst fielding team in baseball. Across the diamond. It's an issue that is AS glaring as their hitting woes, if not more so. Here are your numbers:
This table is fielding metrics (via Fangraphs) from 2011-2013, since UZR is best evaluated in 3-year splits. In that time, the Mets are the Worst fielding team in baseball, without much competition, and while the optimist will immediately point the finger at defensive abominations Lucas Duda and Jason Bay for bringing the score down, the included breakdown shows that the Mets futility with the glove is contagious across the diamond.
2nd worst in terms of Outfield Arms,
5th worst in terms of Double Play defense
4th worst in terms of Range
4th worst in terms of Errors.
They are the only team in baseball to be below average in all of these categories.
Let's take a look at a breakdown:
|Collin Cowgill||- - -||LF||245.1||-1||5.2||0.4||4.6||23.4|
|Marlon Byrd||- - -||CF||1366.2||0.6||3||-0.4||3.2||3.2|
|Marlon Byrd||- - -||RF||373.1||-0.7||4.3||-0.5||3||17.2|
|Andrew Brown||- - -||RF||210.2||0.1||3.2||-0.4||2.9||14.6|
|Omar Quintanilla||- - -||SS||359.1||-0.2||-0.2||-0.3||-0.7||-2.8|
|Omar Quintanilla||- - -||2B||268.2||-1.3||1.2||-1||-1.1||-4|
|Collin Cowgill||- - -||CF||257.2||0.6||-5.5||0.3||-4.6||-25.3|
One note: I give Murph a slight pass because it's his 2nd year at the position, and he's actually the best Mets fielder so far of 2013 (for whatever that's worth).
But taking a look at the worst offenders...Duda is a league average fielding 1B, and an abomination at any other position on the field. Turner is god-awful at both 2B and 3B and thankfully the sample size is too small for SS or else you'd be scarred for life.
Kirk is about a league average Outfielder, as is Lagares and Baxter.
Ike and Tejada are both league average/slightly above average Infielders (Tejada above average at 2B but below at SS)
Marlon Byrd is a solid Outfielder
David Wright is the Captain.
Taking a look at 2014 is going to require the Mets to strongly consider fielding into their strategy. Citi Field has the lowest Park Factor in baseball in terms of Runs/Hits/2Bs meaning that it is essentially the hardest park for fielders in all of baseball, especially in the Outfield.
Focusing on some of the rumored potential Outfield targets for the Mets this offseason and the status quo:
|Shin-Soo Choo||- - -||0.359||-23.7||0.9||6.1|
|Jacoby Ellsbury||Red Sox||0.358||23||13||12.5|
|Alex Rios||White Sox||0.324||-0.3||11.5||5.2|
|David DeJesus||- - -||0.324||4||2.9||4.5|
|Marlon Byrd||- - -||0.305||6.2||-0.4||2.2|
This is data from 2011-2013. I used this range for a couple reasons: To capture accurate fielding stats, and to account for the variation in performance over the past few years. Looking at these numbers leads me to strongly discourage the Mets pursuit of Choo. His On-Base performance, though impressive, is negated completely by his surprising incompetence as an Outfielder. I'd prefer not to go for Car-Go for similar reasons. His fielding will not improve over the next few years under contract, and considering that he's already a below-average fielder, that should be a major red flag in Citi Field's spacious corners.
Looking at the rest of the bunch, Stanton, Dejesus, Ethier, Ellsbury and to a lesser degree, Rios would all be good additions to add to the Mets outfield at this point. Breaking down by inferred cost (and this is getting a little less statistical) I tried to come up with comparable players in terms of performance, age, and transaction history to these guys and this is what I found.
Giancarlo Stanton -> Justin Upton
Both above average fielding corner Outfielders who followed up a season of 5.5--6.0 WAR with a concerning performance (Upton's loss of power, Stanton's injury)
Looking at the Justin Upton trade this past offseason: Justin Upton & Chris Johnson for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury. The Mets don't have anyone on Prado's level not named David Wright. The closest we have is Daniel Murphy. Before Prado was traded, he had just put up a fluky 6 WAR season propelled by an outlier UZR, but had put up respectable 3 and 4 WAR seasons in the past. Murphy's best season comes in at about 3 WAR, while he is on pace for about 4 WAR this season (knock on wood). Taking the stretch that this will suffice for major league talent for Fish, the Mets will have to provide slightly better minor league talent than the Braves gave the DBacks to compensate.
Delgado was a B+ prospect entering 2012 according, but finished the year regressing from his previous performance, displaying a decreased K rate. His FIP had regressed from 2.9 in A+, 3.8 in AA, and had settled in the low to mid 4s by the time he was bouncing back between AAA and the Majors in 2011/2012.
The other prospects can be scouted in the great write-up by Sickels Here. But for reference, Ahmed and Spruill were both B- while Drury was a C.
Looking back at the Mets, A sensible package would have to center around Wheeler, Syndergaard or Montero. All of whom would be an upgrade over what Delgado was considered at the time. It would also have to include a couple of solid low minors arms: Rainy Lara and Domingo Tapia would fit this role nicely. Add in another bat such as Travis Taijeron and you have a deal comparable to what was offered for Upton. Laying it out on the table:
Daniel Murphy, Noah Syndergaard, Rainy Lara, Domingo Tapia, Travis Taijeron to Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton
Looking at Ethier, his contract situation is very similar to that of Vernon Wells. The Yankees dealt 2 minor leaguers to the Angels for Wells, and the Angels paid 28 of the remaining 42 million left on the salary. The 2 minor leaguers didn't make any of the organizational top-50 lists heading into 2013, and the 28/42 million comes out to 66.7%. However, Ethier's contract is guaranteed through 2017, which means that Los Angeles would probably be inclined to take on a larger portion of the remaining money than the Angels did for Wells. Something in the neighborhood of 66.7-70% for the remaining contract value would make sense.
PTBNL to Dodgers for Andre Ethier (Dodgers pay 48.5 million of remaining 71.5 million on contract)
These 2 acquisitions should effectively cover both corner OF spots. Leaving CF, which can be attacked from multiple angles: signing Ellsbury long term, trading for Dejesus, promoting Puello from within are the most sensible options.
The loss of Murphy will be filled with the rise of Flores at 2B.
In addition, until proven otherwise Ruben Tejada is not a viable long term solution for SS (see here). Considering the money we'd have leftover from only potentially requiring 1 major free agent thus far in this plan, we'd be able to go after the 1 free agent SS with a wOBA of over 270 or so, which is Jhonny Peralta, who could probably be scrapped up for about 3 years 8.5 mil AAV. He's a plus defender, with fluky hitting numbers, but even at the cost, his defense would be worth it.
The resulting lineup looks something like this for 2014:
1. Jacoby Ellbury CF 17 mil AAV
2. Jhonny Peralta SS 8.5 mil AAV
3. David Wright 3B 20 mil AAV
4. Giancarlo Stanton LF 800k AAV
5. Lucas Duda 1B 800k AAV
6. Travis D'Arnaud C 500k AAV
7. Andre Ethier RF 7mil AAV
8. Wilmer Flores 2B 500k AAV
I would assume any issue with this plan comes from a couple areas
1) You don't think the proposed haul is enough for Stanton/You don't want to trade with the Fish/You don't want to deal Murph/Syndergaard for anyone not named Mike Trout.
2) You don't like Ethier. You think he's a "bad guy", a "clubhouse cancer", he "hits like shit".
3) You have doubts about Flores' ability to play 2B
4) You don't think Ellsbury will settle for anything less than 6 years 20mil AAV on the FA market
5) You don't like nice things/winning.
The point of this post is to show that while anyone who can understand a boxscore will conclude that the Mets cannot score enough runs to be effective, an equally glaring issue is that the Mets are the worst fielding team in baseball and have not made moves that show they understand the difficulty of fielding in the spacious Citi Field. This plan provides significant upgrades to the team's defense, while supplying the roster with the amount of hitting prowess that the fans demand.