What's Wrong With League Average?
As I read multiple Mets boards, and I am sure this doesn't apply just to the Mets, I often wonder why fans are so obsessed with star power. Granted having that big bopper that can change the game with one swing is a nice luxury to have but sometimes it's just that, a luxury. Now I am not saying go the A's route and forget stars, they are important. However, as Mets fans I think we get caught up with the back page idea of having a star at every position when in-fact the Mets biggest demise isn't lack of star power but the pitfalls of having players who are significantly below average. Even when the Mets had star power in Beltran, Delgado, Reyes, and Wright, what was kept them from reaching their goal in my opinion was that same pitfall of having too many players that were significantly below league average. Sometimes those players were in the OF, sometimes on the bench, sometimes in the rotation and often in the pen.
Last year's NL 1B averaged the following:
.264 BA, .427 SLG, .768 OPS, 21 HR, 85 RBI, 260 Total Bases
Last year's Mets 1B averaged the following: (rank in NL)
.234 (13), .368 SLG (14), .721 OPS (11), 15 HR (14), 59 RBI (15), 214 Total Bases (14)
How much different would the Mets offense have been with just a league average 1B?
Let's move on.
2B with Murphy as the bulk of the playing time has often been controversial to say the least but he's the poster boy for what this discussion is about. While certainly not a superstar, look at the stats for Mets 2B compared to NL Average: (NL Rank)
NL Average: .260 BA, .390 SLG, .709 OPS, 14 HR, 67 RBI, 246 Total Bases
Mets: .283 (4), .421 SLG (5), .736 OPS (5), 15 HR (8), 81 RBI (3), 290 Total Bases (2)
SS boy this should be fun.
NL Average: .253 BA, .372 SLG, .679 OPS, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 229 Total Bases
Mets: .215 (15), .276 SLG (15), .561 OPS (15), 3 HR (15), 40 RBI (15), 162 Total Bases (15)
So again we see the damage, not from the absence the star power of Jose Reyes but from the absence of even a NL average SS.
3B: Want to say David Wright isn't worth his contract and isn't a "star" by whatever that definition is? That's up to you but here's why he makes the big bucks.
NL Average: .258 BA, .404 SLG, .728 OPS, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 249 Total Bases
Mets: .290 (2), .459 SLG (1), .824 OPS (1, side note there's a 38 point difference in 1st place and 2nd), 20 HR (5), 80 RBI (7), 291 Total Bases (1)
NL Average: .263 BA, .417 SLG, .745 OPS, 19 HR, 69 RBI, 264 Total Bases
Mets: .243 (14), .374 SLG (11), .701 OPS (10), 14 HR (11), 51 RBI (13), 239 Total Bases (11)
NL Average: .259 BA, .394 SLG, .722 OPS, 14 HR, 62 RBI, 248 Total Bases
Mets: .222 (13), .348 SLG (14), .615 OPS (15), 13 HR (10), 66 RBI (5), 220 Total Bases (13)
RF: With Marlon Byrd taking most of these AB's similar to Murphy he is another classic example of what having just a league average or slightly above average player can do for your lineup. While none of the RF numbers are top 5, none are below 10.
NL Average: .269 BA, .443 SLG, .777 OPS, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 279 Total Bases
Mets: .250 (10), .428 SLG (9), .736 OPS (10), 23 HR (8), 92 RBI (5), 274 Total Bases (9)
NL Average: .245 BA, .379 SLG, .686 OPS, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 225 Total Bases
Mets: .219 (14), .366 SLG (11), .654 OPS (13), 22 HR (2), 84 RBI (5), 217 Total Bases (9)
While no the Mets will not be able to lift all those positions up to league average in one off-season, it does illustrate the insanity of trying to go out star shopping instead of trying to improve the entire roster. This team is not one player away. It is almost a roster full away from having league average players.
Let me also say that I understand completely that teams win with players who are below league average in their line-up. It is also true that a superstar can carry a couple of these lower positions. If you had a Mike Stanton in RF you could live with a terrible SS. However, considering the Mets current position in terms of talent and cash, making smaller moves to upgrade positions to league average in hopes that some of your players like Lagares and d'Arnaud take their bat up to those league average spots is the much more logical move.
The Mets were significantly below average at 1B, SS, C, LF and CF.
So what players fit? (Ducks Wanny)
I expect the Mets to go in-house for CF and C hoping that Lagares/Matt den Dekker and Travis d'Arnaud can improve on this year's stats pulling them closer to league average or above.
1B, while Abreu could be the star in the making, the Mets had too many other issues to worry with here. I find it hard to believe that a combination of Satin, Duda, Ike, Flores and Murphy if needed can't figure out a way to be better than last year but we have played that game before. Perhaps a quicker hook? They did see some increase in the position in the 2nd half. If they did want to go the FA route then a guys like Hart, Morales, and Justin Morneau are guys who while are not superstars should not break the bank and should dramatically improve the 1B line.
SS, this is one of the 2 pressing needs the Mets must address. Peralta and Drew are the names that are often thrown out and while I long for a trade or some type of acquisition of Yunel Escobar, local favorite Ramirez, or Asdrubal Cabrera (pending price), there are other names on even the FA market that pull the Mets closer to league average (right where Ruben Tejada was the year prior). In fact, just about any living breathing SS will post better numbers than the 2013 Mets SS.
Corner OF, ranking 1 or 2 on my off-season list. The Mets have to get more production from the OF but considering the Byrd supplied most of that, replacing his production and hopefully adding to is a must. We have already covered the market in a previous post but again we don't have to have Carlos Beltran, while nice, there's too many other holes to fill. Take 2 from a list of guys like Hart, Cruiz, Byrd, Granderson, or trade for a guy like Matt Joyce.
I don't want to label this the Red Sox, Giants, Tampa Bay, Oakland or anyone else's model for the Mets need to develop their team. When you are this far below league average at this many positions it has nothing to do with what model you have to follow, it's about finding incremental increases at these positions regardless of how small. Improvement is what we are all looking for in every aspect of the 2014 Mets. While the big name gives some cheap thrills and some temporary butts in the seats, only a sustained winner will bring the fans back long term. To do that, follow the path of slow and steady, improve the positions one by one, not with necessarily star players but role players who do not hurt the lineup.