Last 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:
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.