The Mets and home run hitters

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:

Rank Player Home Runs PA
1 Darryl Strawberry 252 4549
2 Mike Piazza 220 3941
3 David Wright 204 5453
4 Howard Johnson 192 4591
5 Dave Kingman 154 2573
6 Carlos Beltran 149 3640
7 Todd Hundley 124 2904
8 Kevin McReynolds 122 3218
9 Edgardo Alfonzo 120 4449
10 Ed Kranepool 118 5997

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
1 Dave Kingman 15.1 2573
2 Darryl Strawberry 15.5 4549
3 Mike Piazza 15.8 3941
4 Carlos Delgado 16.9 2023
5 Bobby Bonilla 18.7 2040
6 Robin Ventura 19.6 1771
7 Cliff Floyd 20.3 1884
8 Todd Hundley 20.6 2904
9 Howard Johnson 20.7 4591
10 Carlos Beltran 21.0 3640

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:

Rank Player HR Year
1 Carlos Beltran 41 2006
  Todd Hundley 41 1996
3 Mike Piazza 40 1999
4 Darryl Strawberry 39 1987
  Darryl Strawberry 39 1988
6 Carlos Delgado 38 2006
  Carlos Delgado 38 2008
  Howard Johnson 38 1991
  Mike Piazza 38 2000
10 Dave Kingman 37 1976
  Dave Kingman 37 1982
  Darryl Strawberry 37 1990

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?

5 comments for “The Mets and home run hitters

  1. January 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    The AB/HR chart was really interesting. I would not have guessed that Ventura and Bonilla would have rated as highly as they do.

    Also, another thing to keep in mind for reasons why that don’t have more great HR hitters in their history is that Shea was not a very good HR park and neither is Citi Field. I’m not saying that’s the primary factor but I think it has to be considered.

    • Rob Rogan
      January 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      Brian,

      I was surprised to see some of those names ranked that highly as well.

      Very good point about Shea and Citi. It’d be interesting to see how the HR history of other teams with parks that are considered pitchers’/neutral parks compare against the Mets.

  2. steevy
    January 13, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Straw was an awesome power bat.Had he not self destructed he would have it 500+ and he hit many in an era when offense was not as prolific.

  3. Doug Parker
    January 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    The most-recent numbers I could find indicate that there are only six teams with lower HR totals from their career leaders, and not a single one of those teams has been in existence for as long as the Mets: Brewers, Expos/Nats, Dbacks, Padres, Marlins, Rays.

    The power’s out in the heart of Queens…

  4. steevy
    January 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Shea was a notorious pitchers park(we know what happened with the first iteration of Citi Field too).Apparently the visibilty was the big problem in Shea,the dimensions weren’t huge.The Mets have been a pitchers franchise.

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