Mets fans seem to be on a bit of a roller coaster with GM Billy Eppler. No one really jumped for joy when the team hired him. Then he immediately went out and signed free agents to good deals. Next, he hired Buck Showalter. Then he had a pretty strong MLB Draft. Things were looking pretty rosy for him. Then came the trade deadline and while other teams acquired big-name stars, the Mets only added on the margins. This made a vocal sub-section of the fanbase fairly unhappy with the club’s GM.

Even here at Mets360, there were commenters who offered their opinions on what the club needed to do and what they should have done. Which is great. What got mentioned a lot both before and after the trade deadline was the type of players the Mets should be targeting. The consensus was that the Mets should have gotten guys like Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, two guys they picked up during the pennant-winning season of 2015.

Here are some quotes from the comments section:

9/24/22 – Ruff, Naquin and a Vogelbach continue not to do their imitation of Johnson and Uribe from the 2015 pickups.
8/3/22 – Who knows, maybe we get this years version of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe and its enough to stave off the wolves.
7/26/22 – Think of Vogelbach as this Kelly Johnson or Juan Uribe and not as the only piece we will get.
7/22/22 – The model I’d pursue is Kelly Johnson/Juan Uribe type pieces, supplemented by an Addison Reed type addition at the top.
I don’t think this team needs, along these lines, the next Cespedes.

For the record, Johnson and Uribe were terrific pickups and they gave the Mets exactly what they needed, which were platoon/bench bats with a bit of defensive versatility. Both Johnson and Uribe were veterans having solid year at the point the Mets got them, not someone who was last good three years ago.

So, now that we’ve established that these were good moves, it seems like it’s time to place their actual production in the proper context. Here’s what those two guys gave the team in 2015:

KJ – 49 G, 29 GS, 138 PA, .250/.304/.414, 97 OPS+
JU – 44 G, 29 GS, 143 PA, .219/.301/.430, 100 OPS+

We all remember Johnson and Uribe fondly. But, essentially, they were league-average, part-time players. When your bench was floundering, getting league-average players was a nice upgrade. Before Johnson and Uribe, the Mets were trotting out the likes of John Mayberry Jr. (50 OPS+) and Daniel Muno (26 OPS+) off their bench. Those guys weren’t getting the job done, while Johnson and Uribe did. Kudos to the front office for picking them up, the manager for playing them and the players themselves for their performance.

Now let’s look at the 2022 additions of Tyler Naquin, Darin Ruf and Daniel Vogelbach.

TN – 42 G, 25 GS, 112 PA, .238/.286/.457, 109 OPS+
DR – 28 G, 15 GS, 74 PA, .152/.216/.197, 20 OPS+
DV – 49 G, 40 GS, 163 PA, .252/.399/.435, 140 OPS+

That sure looks like two wins and a loss for Eppler. And the loss has the least amount of playing time, so that certainly works out for the Mets. Now, Buck Showalter needs to determine if it’s time to cut bait with Ruf. My opinion is that yes, it’s time. Maybe Ruf goes on a hot streak starting with his next PA. It’s not impossible. My preference would be for Mark Vientos to get first shot at every available PA for a righty batter the rest of the season.

Leaving aside the matter of what to do with Ruf – how does Eppler’s “wins” near the trade deadline compare to the wins of 2015? Here are the same numbers but this time all together for easier viewing.

KJ – 49 G, 29 GS, 138 PA, .250/.304/.414, 97 OPS+
JU – 44 G, 29 GS, 143 PA, .219/.301/.430, 100 OPS+
TN – 42 G, 25 GS, 112 PA, .238/.286/.457, 109 OPS+
DV – 49 G, 40 GS, 163 PA, .252/.399/.435, 140 OPS+

So, what do we have? In a handful fewer PA, Naquin has been a hair better than the 2015 additions. And with the most PA of the bunch, Vogelbach has been easily the best of our quartet. Now, the DH was mostly unavailable to Johnson and Uribe in 2015. If it was, they surely would have gotten more playing time. But Johnson’s highest OPS+ at any stop of his career was the 127 he put up in 2010 and for Uribe, it was the 125 he put up for the Braves in 62 games before the trade.

Maybe you can neutralize Vogelbach’s PA edge given the option for him to get ABs as a DH. But it’s a whole lot more difficult to wave away the OPS+ advantage he has over the Mets’ 2015 additions.

As stated earlier, Johnson and Uribe were good additions for the Mets. The idea of this piece is not to belittle them in any way, shape or form. It’s just that two of the three acquisitions here in 2022 have been as good or better. Yes, we saw the awful strikeout stretch for Naquin and we saw a span where Vogelbach seemingly couldn’t buy a hit. Those things happened. But really good things happened, too. And the sum total of their contributions has been something that Mets fans should appreciate at least as much as the ones of the 2015 duo.

Finally, Johnson went 1-9 with a single and a HBP in the playoffs, while Uribe had a hit in his only PA in the postseason in 2015. Hopefully Naquin and Vogelbach continue to add to their fine play once the playoffs begin.

12 comments on “Comparing this year’s deadline additions to Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe

  • ChrisF

    Its taken me a long time to try to rationalize these types of comps, and truthfully, Im not sure there ever will be a way that satisfies reality. Your work is to be commended in diggin this stuff up. Very much an eye opener to me.

    I guess the DH thing jades me quite significantly. Uribe was solid at 3B when we needed it, and so was Johnson as a key utility player. I can separate the total contribution from a hitting stats line as if thats the only value a player has.

    The other thing I struggle to resonate with with the eye test (having not done any research), is the general lack of clutch in Naquin/Ruf/Vog. I may be way off base, but I recall Uribe and Johnson making key plays and getting clutch hits on a pretty regular basis. Those kinds of things are not really happening with the present trio, except perhaps for Vog, who was the best pick up in the lot. My numbers based thinking would be to give them negative value ratings for being off the field (through no fault of their own and not meant to be disparaging). Johnson and Uribe were complete players for the most part, not “half” players, and correspondingly had more body attrition. I expect pure DH players to excel at the only thing they are expected to do. Im not sure thats where the 2022 cohort comes in.

    As you said, this isnt about the people – all of whom seem like upstanding citizens in the clubhouse, esp Vogey.

    • Brian Joura

      This year, the MLB average for DH is .236/.314/398 – meaning that Vogelbach has given the Mets 122 points above average for the position. Looking at what teams get from the DH, if Vogelbach was a “team,” he’s be third in the majors, behind only the Angels and the Phillies. And the Angels’ DH production has been driven by Shohei Ohtani and the Phillies’ DH production has been driven by Bryce Harper.

      Yordan Alvarez and Albert Pujols need to be in the DH discussion, too. But since joining the Mets, Vogelbach has given the Mets top-five production as a DH. Considering what they got from the spot before he arrived – that’s a fantastic upgrade.

    • BobP

      It’s certainly not the only factor, but I took a quick look at the WPA for each of the 5 players in their time with the Mets in 2015/2022 and here’s what Baseball Reference has:

      Uribe (.2)
      Johnson .4
      Vogelbach (.3)
      Naquin (.6)
      Ruf (.4)

      Johnson had a positive WPA and Uribe a small negative, and the 3 acquisitions from this year are all negative, which seems to validate Chris’s eye test impression. Ruf is particularly bad, since his number was accumulated in about half the plate appearances of the others.

      • ChrisF

        Thanks for digging out the WPA data Bob. I think that does show how I feel. Getting back to just the batting data a couple related things come to mind. Using season averages does not get at the true value when it comes to winning games. I gave lucas Duda a lot of grief for this: sure he hit 30 HR, 25 of which came when the team was 10 runs ahead or 10 runs behind. All the homer count in the batting stats, yet they had minimal impact on any game outcome. I feel that way about this cohort. Where are the critical hits? I see them coming from Lindor, Alonso, Escobar, Nimmo, Marte, mcNeil, and hell even Nido.

        I also dislike boiling down a player to just batting numbers, unless those numbers are just so wildly out of bounds that other things dont matter. I dont see that in any of the trade deadline pick ups. If youve been hired as a DH then I want to see game winning hits, rally forming HR or whatever on a regular basis.

        Anyway, regardless of the numbers, Im not excited when any of them come up in a critical spot when we need a key hit.

        • Brian Joura

          Lucas Duda had the third-highest WPA on the 2015 Mets, so I’m not sure how you can watch the games and credit Johnson and Uribe for the impact they had based on WPA but not give that same credit to Duda.

  • Steve_S.

    I was going to post this tomorrow, but today seems OK too.

    Apparently, Eppler did the best he could (with the help of the stats people) at the trade deadline, in my opinion. To get better rental bats and arms, he probably would have had to give up Vientos, Mauricio, or even better. Yes, Ruf has been a zero, but Vogelbach and Naquin have been better with NY than their overall stats.

    I get that Ruf has the “track record” against LHP, but it’s time to move on (as most of us have said). And the “he’ll come around” approach has worked with Escobar, who now has an OPS+ (103) better than his total OPS+ of 99 (which includes this year).

    And the other early acquisitions have all done better in NY than their OPS+ for their careers: Canha (124/116) and Marte (131/118), as well as Scherzer (182/135) and Ottavino for ERA+ (179/131).

    The jury is out for me on Givens, who has only pitched 18 innings and has looked better lately.

    Eppler did need to sign Chafin before the season at least. Eppler did seem to overestimate Joely Rodriguez’s abilities. Still, the lefty also has done better lately: After a horrible July, he did better in August, and much better this month.

  • NYM6986

    Thanks Brian for another thought-provoking and well researched post. Without the data I would’ve opined that the 2015 additions did better than the current crop. I would’ve been wrong. Much like I have been wrong thinking that the Marlins continue to have the Mets number while in fact in recent years that has not been true. The frustrating part has been Ruf who has looked awful and I too would give Vientos the chance to start in those situations. The difference now is that these players are being counted on in the DH position while before they were basically bench players who filled in, but also helped out in the field. The game has certainly changed for nationally clubs with the addition of the DH. That’s another area that I have been very much against as a pure national league rooter but last season and this season I see the value for the Mets. It is unfortunate that they could not come up with an Edgar Martinez or Rusty Staub type to be their DH and make an incredible difference. Your stats about DH averages this year is also very interesting. LGM

  • Jimmy P

    For me, personally, I’ve wrestled a lot with the idea of the DH in general.

    Let’s remember that as Mets fans, this is our first year with the DH. That is, our first time really seeing it on a daily basis.

    I’m not a fan of the DH-only role. For one, it severely limits the flexibility of the roster, and limits a manager’s ability to rest regulars by slotting them into the DH. Moreover, it’s an extremely difficult “position” for a ballplayer to play. All you do is hit. And when you don’t succeed, there’s no other way to be involved with the team on the field. This becomes compounded when the DH role is split between two players, as the Mets have done all season.

    We started the year with Smith and Davis in strictly-defined (limited) roles. That might be a problem with Buck, his tendency to put players in boxes, a lack of flexibility there. Neither Dom nor JD thrived. Ultimately, their fault, but the role is brutally tough. Now we see Ruf who can’t get untracked. He sits, he sits, he plays, he sits. And so on. The DH against RHP is considerably easier, the ABs come more consistently.

    In an ideal world, my roster has guys who can take the field at least adequately. And my roster does not have a full-time DH.

    Next year — assuming he’s here — I see Alvarez DH’ing frequently throughout the season. But he’ll still catch, still work his way on defense.

    Maybe a team can carry *one* DH-only guy. But two feels like too many, handicaps the team in too many ways.

    Vogelbach has done a solid job and been a monumental upgrade over what we were getting. Naquin has helped. And poor Ruf. Oh well! I don’t believe he’s as bad as he’s played, but time is running out. There may be a lesson there, as well, when we look at a batter’s splits. Those poor results from one side may, in fact, contribute to the hitter’s success on the other side. He’s not all rusty, not pressing in quite the same way. I don’t know that we can pick and choose the stats we want when we look at the whole player. At least, that *might* be a little bit what we’re seeing with Ruf. Just too much time on the pine.

    Makes me wonder if we should have brought up Alvarez. The ankle injury came at the absolute worst time.

    I dream about Ohtani. He’s target #1 for me. But he’s a DH on so many days. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s a slight negative in my book.

    • Brian Joura

      I disagree with your premise that you’re best served having the DH be an open spot, used as much to give guys “days off their feet” as it is to get a bat in the lineup. To me, that’s the fall-back option, what you do if you’re unable to get a guy (or two for a platoon) who can really mash. They’re giving you a spot to carry someone penalty-free who can only hit – take advantage of it!

      I think it’s an interesting idea that the role of righty platoon DH is a tough one to fill. I plan to do an offseason article to check for all 30 teams over multiple years, rather than two guys on the 2022 Mets, especially with one of those being a baseball senior citizen who’s quite possibly done.

      One thing that seems likely to be at play is that the righty platoon bat is a victim of the increased bullpen size, right up there with the third catcher. Teams would like to have a third catcher and a righty bench bat but they think an eighth reliever is more valuable. I dunno – maybe it is. But it seems like groupthink to me and the team that decides 8 relievers is too many will have an advantage when they carry the extra position player, instead.

  • BoomBoom

    I was a fan of the Eppler hiring from the beginning. Experienced GM, success with high profile signings and trades (even if the players themselves underperformed – I mean what the heck Anthony Rendon?), and worked in major markets on both coasts. Then he made nearly all the right moves. I mean how often have nearly every single major offseason signing worked out? It has this year.

    As for the comps between the deadline pickups this season and 2015 – the stats certainly make it seem like this year’s pickups have succeeded, but it’s really more about fit. the 2015 team needed those specific role players and they needed Cespedes. The 2022 team needed to upgrade their outfield depth, their DH, and probably the bullpen. We succeeded in 2 out of 3. Ruf for Davis+ may go down as an all time blunder, but JD is getting regular playing time in San Fran at 3b and 1b as well as DHing which was not going to happen here. I was a big proponent of going after JD Martinez to be a RH bat and thank god that didn’t happen either.

    Editor’s Note – please don’t capitalize words

    • Brian Joura

      Here’s the post essentially announcing Eppler as the pick to be GM. Always interesting to see what was thought of at the time. I like my concluding line: “My opinion is that Eppler can handle things not being perfect, which might make him the perfect candidate.”

      Mets zero in on Billy Eppler to be the club’s new GM

      The Mets upgraded all three spots at the deadline this year. Givens gives them an upgrade at reliever, even if it wasn’t the “name” upgrade for which a lot of people were advocating.

  • Metsense

    Comparing this years deadline additions to 2015 additions: Vogelbach > Uribe , Naquin > Johnson but Reed > Givens and Cespedes >>> Ruf.
    Cespedes and Addison ( I know your aim is true) Reed were impact players in the pennant season. The Reed trade was astute as well as the Johnson/Uribe combination trade. Cespedes was luck. That year Gomez had a 85 OPS+ with Houston and the Astros traded Josh Hadar in the deal.
    That said, Eppler did OK. It was a thoughtful deadline with solid decisions but Lucky Sandy won the deadline and 2015.

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