Outfield usage for the Mets over the past 10 years

outfieldLast week we looked at starting pitchers for the Mets over the past 10 years. What ended up being a surprise to very few people was how the team on average used 11 different pitchers to start a game in a given season over that time frame. Now let’s turn our attention to the outfield.

Using the same 10-year time frame, the Mets used 116 players in the outfield, with 109 of those making starts. In somewhat of a surprise, they use almost as many players to start in the outfield as they do as starting pitchers. Somehow pitchers have earned a reputation of not being durable or reliable but outfielders have escaped being tarred with the same designation.

Let’s see what happens when we organize the outfielders like we did the pitchers, ranking them in order of games played. Since we have 10 years of data, we will separate in groups of 10 and then use the average for a “normal” breakdown of what to expect from the team’s top five outfielders in a given year. Here’s what we come up with:

OF#1 – 135 game
OF#2 – 98 games
OF#3 – 80 games
OF#4 – 59 games
OF#5 – 39 games

Now let’s compare these numbers to the five outfielders who had the most starts for the Mets last year:

105 – Marlon Byrd
97 – Juan Lagares
89 – Eric Young Jr.
58 – Lucas Duda
28 – Mike Baxter

There’s a big discrepancy between average and actual in the top spot but the other four slots line up very well with our 10-year averages. And Marlon Byrd was on pace to play that many games but he ended up being dealt before he could reach that number with the Mets. Counting his time with the Pirates, Byrd made 133 starts in the outfield last year.

So, let’s use our 10-year averages and attach 2014 names. Let’s pencil Curtis Granderson for 135 starts, Chris Young for 98, Lagares for 80, Young Jr. for 59 and Matt den Dekker for 39. My guess is not one of you reading this would be happy with that breakdown but using recent team history as a guide, this is what we should expect.

The best breakdown for outfield starts for the Mets happened in 2005. That year Carlos Beltran made 149 starts, Cliff Floyd 147, Victor Diaz 77, Mike Cameron 76 and Marlon Anderson had 13. But that year was the exception for the Mets over the last decade. In no other season did the club have two guys make 120 or more starts in the outfield. In fact, the team has had only 15 outfielders clear the 100-start level in the past 10 years.

Perhaps the Mets have been unlucky recently. Here’s the breakdown for outfield starts for the Braves in the past five years:

2013 – 143, 111, 96, 51, 47
2012 – 149, 148, 105, 16, 14
2011 – 106, 91, 79, 53, 47
2010 – 136, 115, 68, 53, 50
2009 – 123, 92, 82, 78, 49

And here are the same numbers for the Nationals:

2013 – 145, 126, 113, 30, 29
2012 – 133, 92, 79, 49, 37
2011 – 148, 90, 71, 71, 51
2010 – 128, 111, 105, 64, 42
2009 – 115, 94, 83, 69, 46

Those numbers are better than what the Mets had but still in half of those seasons, these teams had only one outfielder make 100 or more starts in a year. The Braves/Nationals listed above had 18 seasons where an outfielder had at least 100 starts compared to the 15 that the Mets had in the same number of years overall.

It seems most teams need four guys who you would not mind seeing starting in the outfield for 70 games or so. Using this recent history as a guide, there should be plenty of time for Terry Collins to write Young Jr. into the starting lineup. Outfielders get hurt or put up unproductive years just as often as starting pitchers.

On Opening Day 2013, the Mets had Byrd, Collin Cowgill and Duda as their starting outfielders. By the end of the year two of those guys were no longer on the club and the third was playing first base. While we long for more stability from our outfielders, and the club spent heavily to bring in two new guys to shore up the positions, we should probably adjust our expectations for games started.

9 comments for “Outfield usage for the Mets over the past 10 years

  1. February 5, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Had byrd not been traded he probably would’ve come close to 135.

  2. Patrick Albanesius
    February 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Depth at any position is nice, but as you’ve detailed it is critical for the outfield. I’m genuinely shocked to see the rarity of teams having two 100+ start outfielders, even with the sample size. With Granderson, Lagares, Young, Young Jr., and den Dekker I think the Mets have as strong an outfield as anyone in the NL.

    • NormE
      February 5, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Nationals? Dodgers with Kemp? Cards with Taveras?

  3. Name
    February 5, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    “In somewhat of a surprise, they use almost as many players to start in the outfield as they do as starting pitchers”

    Actually, there’s a reason for this and it has to do with the difference in position player usage and pitching usage. For pitchers, the majority of non-starters(relievers) exclusively pitch in relief, which is unlike position players where even the backups get the occasional start.

    I’m going to do the same anaylsis i did for the SP, using data from all the teams in 2013. I’ll look at Games started and games played in general.

    GS-143.7, std-10.4
    G-149.3, std-10.3

    GS-112.3, std-7.9
    G-131, std-25.3

    GS-79.5, std-12
    G-92.1, std-19.8

    GS-56.8, std-4.9
    G-69.7, std-12.3

    GS-39.5, std-5.1
    G-54.4, std-17.8

    GS-25.6, std-3.7
    G-36.3, std-15.4

    GS-15.9, std-2.5
    G-24.2, std-5.29

    GS-7.8, std-1.8
    G-11.8, std-3.8

    GS-3.9, std-1.1
    G-8.5, std-4.8

    GS-1.3, std-0.5
    G-4.3, std-4.7

    Mets in 2013 (with some manipulation):
    #1*: Young-89 GS (prorated to 152)
    #2*: Byrd-105 GS (prorated to 132)
    #3: Lagares-97 GS
    #4: Duda-58 GS
    #5: Baxter-28 GS
    #6: Brown-27 GS
    #7: Niewenhuis-22 GS
    #8: Ankiel-17 GS
    #9: Valdespin-17 GS
    #10: den Dekker-14 GS
    #11: Cowgill-12 GS

    *Since these 2 were trades and were basically full-time starters during their time on the Mets, i prorated their Games started to as if they were on the roster for the full season.

    Some thoughts on 2013:
    -With manipulation (a stretch I know as it probably would have a ripple effect on other people’s playing time), the Mets actually got above average time from their top 3. However, you can see the troubles they had finding those 3 guys to get playing time as #6 down is pretty constant in GS rather than a typically decline.
    -Young played too much during his time with the Mets. Way too much. He started 89 of the 95 games he was with the Mets, and his production doesn’t justify that. Let’s hope we don’t see him ranked this high at the end of next season.
    -Comparing the Mets 10 year average to my averages for 2013, it does seem like the Mets have had trouble finding consistent guys at the top. The top 2 OF should combine for around 256 GS, while the 10 year average for the Mets is around 233.

    My thoughts for 2014 are very similar to what you wrote in the article. There will be many rotations going on in the OF as the 3rd projected OF is only supposed to start half the games. Heck even the #2 guy starts less than 70% of all the games. Players get dinged up and it’s much easier to promote/demote a position player so there will be a lot of shuffling to star the season. In fact, If i think i repeated this exercise using only 2nd half data (and excluding September), we would probably see a lot of consistency.

    • February 5, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      Again, thanks for doing the additional research.

      I still find it surprising that you would round up to 11 the number of starters you use in a season for the outfield. I would have guessed 7 or 8 in a normal year. Nine wouldn’t have surprised me. But no way would I have thought it would average 11.

      FWIW – I’m okay with pro-rating the time for Byrd but I don’t see how you can do that with EY when he didn’t start the year with the club.

      • Name
        February 5, 2014 at 8:17 pm

        I agree it was a stretch with what i did with EY assuming he would of have a spot coming out of Spring Training. It’s possible he could have eeked out Cowgill for starting CF? And who knows if he would have hit well enough if that did occur. A lot of what-ifs.

        If you add what he did in Colorado, it’s a total of 120 GS in the OF. Another way of thinking is if we had EY, we probably wouldn’t have signed Ankiel, so add 17 to his 89. Probably can add a bit of Valdespin’s 17 starts too. I think it’s enough to push him past Lagares for #2, not that it matters much.

        My memory seems to be slipping but if i’m not mistaken it was EY who ended the reign of Duda in LF and the Valdespin experiment?

        • February 5, 2014 at 8:23 pm

          My recollection is that they finally sent Ike down and then wasted a week playing JV at 2B with Murphy at 1B. After that predictably flopped, they moved Murphy back to 2B and moved Duda from LF to 1B.

          Duda played 1B for about 5 games and then got hurt. He spent considerable time in the minors, came back as a bench guy and then moved back to 1B once Davis got hurt.

          • Name
            February 6, 2014 at 1:04 am

            I remember TC giving Valdespin a week to prove himself.
            Was the impetus of Duda moving back to first because of the addition of EY or just them wanting the end the Valdespin experiment? Or did both just happen to coincide at the same time?

  4. Metsense
    February 9, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Brian, both studies are excellent and Name, your follow up is the cherry on the sundae. Thanks.
    The Athletics have always looked for cost efficient methods to gain the advantage. Their most recent theory is playing platoons but your analysis indicates that it is team depth that needs to be achieved and the platoon is the byproduct of this, not necessarily the goal. Based on your analysis, the Mets need four or five major league quality outfielders on the roster. What was Sandy thinking last year when he had none? This year is different in that he has three outfielders that are capable of a plus 2 WAR and a versatile 4th outfielder in Eric Young. A trade of Davis for Joyce last November would have solidified the outfield furthur. Another option would have been signing Byrd for the two years , even after signing Chris Young ,but that probably was money the Mets didn’t have.Now we must rely on a denDecker or Puello to step up in 2014 at sometime.
    Yours and Name’s fine work should be a guideline for roster construction of every GM.

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