Can the 2013 infield be one of the Top 10 in Mets history?

The Mets’ outfield is a mess and barring an unforeseen change in plans by the front office, it does not appear to be getting better any time sooner. But today let’s not scheme about ways to fix the outfield. Instead, let’s celebrate a stable infield and speculate on what could be if everyone stays healthy and produces.

The 2013 Mets have a chance to put an above-average player at all four infield positions. That’s a pretty rare thing in franchise history. In fact, it’s only happened twice in the previous 51 years the team has been in existence. Take a minute to think about which two infields hold that distinction.

Meanwhile, let’s look at the 2013 edition.

Ike Davis hopes for his first healthy year since 2010. He was extremely productive over his final 394 PA last year.
Daniel Murphy hopes a full season under his belt at second base can make him more relaxed both in the field and at the plate.
David Wright has the security of a new long-term deal. Hopefully he can get back to the player he was in April and May.
Ruben Tejada just needs to do what he does over a full season without wearing down.

Here are the Top 10 infields in Mets history, as ranked by bWAR. Only the primary player at each position is used, which hurts teams that platooned. The 1987 Mets would have made the list if we would include the output from Tim Teufel and Dave Magadan, who both saw significant time in the infield.

10. 2000 Mets 9.9 WAR
Todd Zeile (2.1), Edgardo Alfonzo (6.1), Robin Ventura (1.6) and Mike Bordick (0.1)
It’s easy to forget what a great player Alfonzo was for a few years.

T 8. 2012 Mets 10.5 WAR
Davis (0.7), Murphy (1.2), Wright (6.7) and Tejada (1.9)
Hopefully Wright will have more help in 2013.

T 8. 1973 Mets 10.5 WAR
John Milner (1.0), Felix Millan (3.1), Wayne Garrett (4.1) and Bud Harrelson (2.3)
If only the Mets could have been satisfied playing Garrett at third base…

7. 1986 Mets 10.7 WAR
Keith Hernandez (5.2), Wally Backman (3.0), Ray Knight (2.1) and Rafael Santana (0.4)
It’s a little surprising that Santana was so close to being a replacement-level player.

6. 1997 Mets 10.9 WAR
John Olerud (3.8), Carlos Baerga (0.9), Alfonzo (6.0) and Rey Ordonez (0.2)
Jeff Kent had a 3.9 bWAR this season.

T 4. 1989 Mets 12.0 WAR
Magadan (2.5), Gregg Jefferies (0.5), Howard Johnson (6.8) and Kevin Elster (2.2)
Jefferies finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in ’89.

T 4. 2008 Mets 12.0 WAR
Carlos Delgado (1.1), Luis Castillo (-0.5), Wright (6.7) and Jose Reyes (4.7)
Delgado had a .952 OPS over his final 110 games in ’08.

3. 2007 Mets 14.7 WAR
Delgado (0), Castillo (1.6), Wright (8.1) and Reyes (5.0)
How long do you think it will be before the Mets have a 5-WAR shortstop again?

2. 2006 Mets 15.3 WAR
Delgado (2.5), Jose Valentin (3.4), Wright (3.8) and Reyes (5.6)
Oh, Valentin – why did you have to get hurt?

1. 1999 Mets 20.2 WAR
Olerud (5.4), Alfonzo (6.1), Ventura (6.4) and Ordonez (2.5)
What a fun team this was to watch!

The 1999 and 2006 teams were the only two squads to have an average or better player (2.0 WAR) at each of the infield spots. Hopefully the 2013 Mets get added to that list at the end of the year. Good health and defensive improvements from Davis and Murphy will go a long way towards making it happen for this year’s infield.

Of course we cannot look at the best infields without spend a moment on the worst. Do you have any guesses as to which infield would hold that distinction for the Mets? Before you say the 1962 Mets, you might be interested to know that they did not have one player in negative numbers and the quartet of Marv Throneberry, Charlie Neal, Elio Chacon and Felix Mantilla finished with a combined 1.9 WAR.

While that sounds lousy, it’s not particularly close to the worst infield in Mets history. The one from 1965 was worse, despite receiving 1.8 WAR from Charlie Smith. The 1972 one was worse, thanks to a -0.6 from Ken Boswell. The 1978 edition was worse, as Lenny Randle could not duplicate his 4.0 WAR from the previous year.

But the worst infield in Mets history was the 1979 edition. You know things are bad when the shining light of the infield belonged to Mr. Personality. Anyway, here was that tragic foursome:

1B – Willie Montanez (-2.2)
2B – Doug Flynn (-1.8)
3B – Richie Hebner 1.9
SS – Frank Taveras 0.8

They combined for a -1.3 bWAR that season. There’s no telling if that’s the worst infield in MLB history but I shudder to think that there could be ones even more revolting.

4 comments for “Can the 2013 infield be one of the Top 10 in Mets history?

  1. steevy
    February 1, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Wayne Garret’s skill was getting on base and that apparently wasn’t appreciated at the time.

  2. Name
    February 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Can’t see how they won’t crack the top 10 unless one of them misses times due to a significant injury considering they checked it at 8th in 2012.
    Wright will probably regress, but it will be made up by Davis. Murphy also won’t go down as last year was the lowest WAR he has ever put up in his career and he will probably be getting a tiny bit better at defense(which will probably help his offense).
    And so if Murphy/Tejada both go 2, while Wright goes 5, Davis will only need to go 3 in order for them to make top5.

  3. Metsense
    February 1, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    A very enjoyable read. 1999 was great just to watch that group field, especially Ordonez. Alfonzo and Olerud were the two most overlooked stars in Met history. I never realized “Hot Dog” Montanez was that bad. Thanks Brian for the fun research.

    • February 1, 2013 at 11:08 pm

      Thanks Metsense!

      I wasn’t sure how bad those early 60s guys were, but I would have bet money that one of the Flynn-Taveras years would have been the worst since at least ’69

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