Could the Mets’ outfield be better in 2013?

“There’s been a lot of talk about our OF. I want fans to know I’m in serious discussions with several OF’s I met on the internet.”  -Mets GM Sandy Alderson, January 19, 2013

If there has been one pleasant surprise about Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, it has been his ability to turn a joke, whether it’s about the team’s financial situation, last year’s all-star vote, or the team’s abysmal looking outfield.

Last week Bryan Mcwilliam examined what possible outfield options the Mets still had in the free agency market, because as everybody knows, the Mets current outfield contains exactly zero major league caliber starters.

As currently constructed, the 2013 outfield looks like it will consist of Lucas Duda, Collin Cowgill, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter and, for the purposes of this exercise, Scott Hairston.[1]  If you’re thinking, “Wow!  Four of those five should never be starting at a major league level,” you’re right.  If ever there was an outfield that could make a man pine for the days of Art Howe’s Shane SpencerKarim Garcia platoon, this is it.

Everyone knows the outfield is bad, but could it be possible that it will be better than in 2012?  Let’s look at the numbers.

Last season, the median fWAR for team outfields was 8.8 Wins Above Replacement.  Values ranged from the Angels at 19.8 fWAR to the Astros at 2.3 fWAR.  The Mets finished the season 29th with 4.1 wins being contributed by the outfield.  Statistically, it was the worst season for a Mets outfield since 2003, when Roger Cedeno was still driving us crazy, Raul Gonzalez somehow played 107 games, Jeff Duncan had a robust 44 OPS+, and Cliff Floyd was the new kid on the block.

In other words, the 2012 Mets outfield was atrocious.

If there’s a silver lining, the fWAR number is dragged down by -1.1 fWAR from Duda and -0.8 fWAR from Jason Bay, so there is definite room for improvement in 2013.

Let’s take a closer look at what the Mets outfield should look like in 2013 using Bill James’ projections.

Keep in mind, a major league average starter will provide his team with about 2.0 wins above replacement.

Player Games Played Slash Line wOBA Approximate fWAR*
Lucas Duda 137 .268/.356/.454 .352 1.5
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 82 .259/.329/.414 .325 1.2
Mike Baxter 76 .276/.362/.405 .330 1.0
Collin Cowgill 52 .269/.331/.398 .321 0.7
Scott Hairston 117 .250/.307/.444 .323 1.3

*Remember defensive play factors into this as well as offensive production.  These approximations are also very unscientific.

James predicts Duda to bounce back somewhat in 2013, posting nice offensive numbers (most likely in left field), but of course his terrible defense (this is an understatement) drags down his contribution to the team.

Nieuwenhuis, Baxter, Cowgill, and Hairston all figure to form some sort of platoon at the center field and right field positions.  If they can do so as productively as James predicts, the Mets outfield is in decent shape, giving the team a solid 5.7 fWAR, a marked improvement from 2012.

If you toss in possible contributions from Jordany Valdespin, Andrew Brown, and perhaps Matt den Dekker later on in the season, the Mets outfield could be looking at a 2 win improvement over last season.

Before we get too excited over that, 6.1 fWAR would still put the Mets 23rd overall in Major League Baseball.  For comparison’s sake, Carlos Beltran had 7.6 fWAR during the 2008 season alone.

Additionally, James’ projections tend to be more optimistic than other models, like MARCEL and ZiPS, the outfield may underperform the low standards set here.

There is still a lot of work to do to get the Mets outfield back to even an above-average level (as they were from 2005-2009), but it will take some time.   If the Mets are to return to playoff contention, the outfield must significantly improve, but for now, it seems as if they are on the right track.

Follow Joe Vasile on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.

[1] Hairston has not signed yet, as of the writing of this article, but most insiders suspect he will re-sign.

19 comments for “Could the Mets’ outfield be better in 2013?

  1. Bobby the Brain
    January 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I think the Mets current OF situation being so bad is overblown. I think The Dude is going to improve both offensively and defensively in LF where he gets much better reads and jumps on balls compared to RF where he was unsure of himself. TC thinks so too. I also feel later in the year MDD just might surprise in CF along with CC. And some tandem of Andrew Brown, Spin or Mike Baxter isn’t the worst thing in the world. I agree with Bill James. If you give Andrew Brown app. 300PA in RF, he’ll give you 13HR 39RBI and a .260 BA and play decent D, fairly similar production to Hairston at a fraction of the cost and no real commitment. I also feel the Mets need for a RH power bat in RF is overblown. I see Buck, Decker and then D’Arnaud combining to give the Mets 18HR next year from C which is app. what Hairston gave them from the OF last season.

  2. Bobby the Brain
    January 22, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Furthering that thought, I would like to see Sandy and his think tank bring in another CF candidate now- a speedster that can skate out in CF that can also serve as a top of the order run manufacturer and SB threat. Not Bourn but someone on a minor league deal. I’m thinking Tony Plush- Nyjer Morgan here. TC wants that element for the offense and defense too and was pushing for Gose to be included in the Dickey trade.

  3. Jerry Grote
    January 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I remember reading this the first it was posted online … I was thinking that’s pretty amusing. For 2012, we have to include all the crap.

    But for 2013, we only ascribe ABs of players we know and can project. So none of the ABs this year will go to the likes of a Pascucci, Rottino, or (heaven forbid) Jason Bay? You mean that our anointed manager will not simply continue to play someone who’s performance is clearly spiraling out of control – that 2012 taught him a lesson?

    Clearly not. One of Duda & Co. will surely produce a negative WAR and TC will be there to continue to play him … fiddling while Rome burns.

  4. peter
    January 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Decker hits leftie

    • Joe C
      January 22, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      You’re wrong – Steve Decker was a righty. Of course what we’re doing talking about a catcher who hasn’t played in the majors since 1999 is beyond me.

      • Joe Vasile
        January 23, 2013 at 12:11 am

        I think he’s referring to Matt den Dekker, the Mets outfield prospect who hits lefty. Unfortunately he strikes out too much for my tastes, but he has a plus plus glove, which would be helpful to an outfield which Lucas Duda plays in.

  5. Timothy Gallagher
    January 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Couple of thoughts:
    One, the WAR failes to take into account how, with this horrendous outfield, Wright and Davis will never get any decent pitches to hit. Ike still chases bad balls, and Wright does too, especially when slumping. Simply put, the Mets OF is no threat to opposing pitchers and they will simply work around the couple of decent bats we have.
    Second, how could they let Delmon Young go to the Phillies for $750,000. Yes, he has some problems, but in this climate, Delmon Young would have been a low-risk steal for the Mets at that price. Not sure what Sandy is saying about that. Maybe he thought he met the fake Delmon Young on the Internet.

    • Name
      January 22, 2013 at 9:00 pm

      Have you seen Delmon Young’s OPS the past two years? To put that into perspective, hat’s just around what Justin Turner produced over the last two years.

      Delmon Young’s contract does have a low base, but he does have a lot of incentives. While we don’t know what they are yet, i’d gander that most of them are based on plate appearances and not really result based. If next year he still produced a .700 OPS and hit enough incentives to push it past 1.5 mil, it won’t seem like such a bargain anymore.

    • January 22, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      Twins fan Will Young said this about Delmon Young:

      “is a horrendously terrible player. He has two-skills: a strong, accurate arm AND the ability to hit left-handed pitchers who can’t throw faster than 86 mph. He makes Raul Ibanez look like Geraldo Parra in the corner outfield as he takes terrible routes and avoids the warning track like the plague. Perhaps the only redeeming thing about (Young) from his time in MN is that I had multiple friends whose girlfriends bumped into him at Twilight movies. As in, he saw the same Twilight movie more than once. For some reason, that completely cracks me up.”

    • Joe Vasile
      January 23, 2013 at 12:21 am

      “Wright and Davis will never get any decent pitches to hit.”
      I’d suggest giving the following articles a look:

      Lineup protection is a myth.

  6. RARDude
    January 22, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    “There is still a lot of work to do to get the Mets outfield back to even an above-average level (as they were from 2005-2009), but it will take some time. If the Mets are to return to playoff contention, the outfield must significantly improve, but for now, it seems as if they are on the right track.”

    Are you kidding? The entire premise of the post is to determine whether or not an outfield the GM has openly stated is not where it needs to be could possibly be better than it was last year. First, you assume Scott Hairston will be back. That is not at all clear at the moment. Including his numbers is inappropriate and skews any perceived improvement, insignificant as it may be. I could just as easily say the Mets will sign Michael Bourne and the outfield will be better than last year because of it. At the moment, that’s equally disingenuous.

    Next, with fewer true major league outfielders on the big league roster than last year’s team, we somehow come to the conclusion the outfield will improve from 29th to 23rd (assuming no one else’s unchanged outfield improves). Even if it happens, it’s still really bad.

    That said, I am willing to look past all of it for the sake of argument. The one thing I cannot overlook, however, is how you could possibly think the outfield is “on the right track?” Without a major move of some sort, this outfield has fallen clear off the track. There is nothing “right track” about it. Duda is not an outfielder; Kirk hasn’t proven he can hit Major League pitching (and is coming off of injury); and Baxter was sidelined for a large chunk of last season after saving Johan’s no-hitter.

    The one thing you got right is that 4 of the 5 outfielders listed absolutely should not be starting at the major league level; the other is not a member of the team, and he’s a platoon player at best.

    • Joe Vasile
      January 23, 2013 at 12:17 am

      Everything you stated here is a perfectly legitimate criticism. The speculation about Hairston is a big gamble. 23rd overall is still very bad. As far as the outfield being on the right track, I’m more referring to it trending slightly upwards (using the very, very rough system that I used in the article). Are there problems with the system that I used, sure, but I’d consider the fact that the team has held onto prospects and draft picks and not spent money on Jason Bay-type deals to be a good thing that in the long run is the right thing to do to build a winner in Flushing.

    • Metsense
      January 23, 2013 at 7:44 am

      RARdude sums up the situation quite well. The only way the Met OF will get better in 2013 is through trades. Oakland, Colorado and Arizona have surplus. The Mets could trade with any of the three but remember that you get back what you are willing to give up. There are many options amongst the 15 outfielders on those three teams and most of the 15 are better than what we currently have. If Sandy really believed the team could compete he would have made a trade. As for Bourne, Brian explained thoroughly the myth of the 11th pick of the draft. A Bourne pillow contract would be very appealing.

  7. ken meade
    January 22, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Any outfield that does not have Bay and Torres will be an improvement.

  8. Linda De Voe
    January 23, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Mejia, Valdespin, Lutz, A. Rodriguez, Gorski, Duda and Muno for Stanton? Two pitchers, one who is major league ready, a very good back-up player in Valdy who can man the outfield and 2nd base, Lutz who does have a lot of power to eventually play third for the Marlins. Muno who will be a decent utility player, Duda who can play first for the Fish, and Gorski who did well in double A as a starter and if a lefty. Arod can hit and the Marlins can use him at second. Hey, it is worth a try by Alderson. He just can’t hive up D’Arnaud, Lethersitch, Harvey, Syndergaard or Wheeler.

    • Jerry Grote
      January 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      There are realistically four players in baseball right now which will dominate the headlines for the next 10-15 years. Trout, Stanton Strasburg and Harper.

      I appreciate the idea of “nothing to lose” … except your dignity. One appears to be a fool when approaching another GM, seeking someone like Stanton with a combination like that. Especially when Texas likely would part with two top 20 prospects like Profer and Olt, plus, plus.

      Stanton wouldn’t require one of the five names. He’d require *three*.

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