Throughout their history, the Mets have been a franchise known for pitching. The annals of Mets pitching are sprinkled with ERA crowns, strikeout crowns, Cy Young winners, and excellent individual performances. After 8,019 games, they even have a no hitter. But for all of the Mets historical pitching success, there is a noted lack of offensive dominance. Specifically, and although there have been impressive individual seasons, the Mets have lacked many truly elite home run hitters that have had the majority of their success while in a Mets uniform.
So who were the Mets best home run hitters? There are multiple ways to examine that question. One metric to use is total home runs. The table below lists the top 10 Mets career home run leaders:
It comes as no surprise that Strawberry and Piazza hold the top spots for total home runs. After that there is a pretty steep drop-off. The only other Met to crack the 200 home run plateau is Wright, and he required many more plate appearances to achieve it. But does counting which Met player had the most total home runs truly indicate the team’s most prolific home run hitters? The fact that Kranepool and Alfonzo made the top ten should indicate the answer to that question.
A better way to identify the Mets best home run hitters is to rank them according to AB/HR, or at-bats per home run. Using AB/HR, the outcome of the top ten is drastically different, as illustrated in the table below:
|Rank||Player||AB per HR||PA|
This top ten more accurately portrays what most would consider the team’s most prolific home run hitters. Kingman takes the number one spot, with Strawberry and Piazza right behind him. Those three put up truly elite home run numbers while with the Mets and, except for maybe Delgado, the rest of the pack really isn’t close.
A close examination of that list reveals two very telling facts: 1) Strawberry and Johnson were the only players to accumulate over 4,000 at-bats while with the team, and 2) Strawberry and Hundley are the only two players to come through the Mets farm system.
This means that not only have the Mets not been able to develop elite home run hitters, they have been unable (or unwilling) to keep them as well. As such, they have had to bring in players at high prices and/or already in the declining phase of their career. This strategy has had a habit of backfiring on them. For every Piazza there was a Foster and a Bay.
Is there a reason for this Mets home run hitter phenomena? Probably no more than there was for the no no-no streak, though bad luck and equally bad decisions have certainly contributed. The fact that no Met has hit more than Strawberry’s 252 is incredible when compared to the home run history of other major league teams.
Most would argue that home runs are not the be-all and end-all of an MLB offense, and that is absolutely true. It’s an important piece, though, and it’s not a surprise that the years in which the Mets had elite home run performances generally coincided with Mets teams that were competitive. Consider the top single-season home run totals in Mets history below:
Will the Mets ever develop a truly elite home run hitter? Ike Davis certainly appears to be on that track. He currently has an AB/HR ratio of 20.2 and was at 16.2 in 2012. He will have to hit lefties better, though. The only prospect within the system that has flashed plus power is Aderlin Rodriguez, but he is too far away to project anything. The current Mets team needs more home run power if they are going to compete, but that power will most likely come from the outside via free agent signing or trade. Why buck the trend, right?