The Mets have managed to sink to the bottom of the National League East. There are still positive aspects to the season and certainly skills to build on for 2024. While the hitting is always under the microscope, having a defender give away runs in the field definitely has to be prevented.  It is a routinely overlooked aspect of a player’s quality, mostly due to a mistrust of defensive stats.  Even with Statcast providing tight measurements, some fans still struggle to budge from cliched commentary.

As a team, the Mets have summed up to be notably below average. Not as bad as the worst teams in the league, like Oakland or the Cardinals, but nothing to write home about, and poor defense coupled with poor hitting means a losing season.

The Mets opened the season with corner outfielders that were average or slightly above in Mark Canha and Starling Marte. Both were also decent hitters in recent years. What was overlooked was both were 34 years old. Additionally, Marte was coming off an injury. What happened next couldn’t have been more predictable.  Both struggled at the plate. Marte struggled to stay on the field, and both saw their defense drop considerably. Canha still managed to be average as a fielder, but Marte, who when healthy was a plus defender, lots range dramatically, and was a bad fielder, posting one of the Mets lower runs saved (-5) in two thirds of the season so far.  Defense in the right field corner can result in extra bases in a hurry.

Right field backups were not stellar.  Jeff McNeil has shown he’s perfectly workable in the outfield, and at the same time DJ Stewart has demonstrated he is not. In one tenth of the innings, Stewart is on pace to do significantly more damage in the field than Marte, and when most fans assess playing Stewart, they will say “142 OPS+!”, ignoring he gives all those runs – every one – back in the field.

Canha was fine in left field, as were his replacements. Tommy Pham was the only left fielder with any struggles, and his were building when he left the team.

This is going to be a major couple of holes in the offense and the defense next season, and if the Mets overlook just how poorly Stewart played defense, they will wonder why they are treading water again.

The Mets have decided, appropriately, Brandon Nimmo is their center fielder. Nimmo was slightly above average in 2022, and has been almost exactly average through 900 innings in 2023. It is normal for defensive players to drop a run or three per season after the age of 24, because they get older, and defense still requires quickness. Nimmo won’t win the Gold Glove, but he isn’t doing any damage to the team.

On the infield, the biggest surprise has been Francisco Alvarez. In watching games, he does an excellent job managing pitchers and the pitch clock, and really being a field leader behind the plate. Much of that seems intangible, so in terms of preventing runs through controlling the running game and pitch framing, Alvarez has been average, which at 21 years old is tremendous.  The Mets can expect him to continue to improve, and be an asset behind the plate, and as a hitter.

Pete Alonso is seemingly entrenched at first base, and has first free agency eligibility after 2025. He will be 30, and whether the Mets sign him longer term is a mystery. Many fans think of him as the face of the franchise, and a leader, and his kind of power does not grow on trees. But home runs are not in and of themselves sufficient. He has shown himself to be vulnerable to sliders. So despite lots of home runs, his bWAR is lower than one would hope. One of the best signs regarding Alonso is his dedication. Alonso has been somewhat below average, and as players age, they typically decline defensively, but Alonso stated he was working on his footwork and scoops and thus far in 2023 it shows up. Alonso is currently second in the SDI rankings, and these rankings have a significant influence on Gold Glove voting. It is not out of the question Alonso will win the award, highlighting his efforts.

The Mets have a second baseman they choose to play elsewhere about a third of the time. McNeil could be the everyday second baseman, and perform at an average rate, and likely hit significantly better than most second baseman, enhancing his value to the team. Unfortunately, the combination of bad to no corner outfielders, and a General Manager who cannot recognize that, has meant assorted other players fill in at second. McNeil doesn’t hit enough to be a high value player as a corner outfielder, so this is just another failing of the Mets front office.

Many Met fans were excited at the prospect of Brett Baty as the everyday third baseman. He hit a ton in the minors, and so if he manages to develop, the Mets could have an everyday third baseman for 5-6 years to come. Baty didn’t hit, and worse, he didn’t field. Aside from an embarrassing missed popup, Baty has been the worst everyday Met fielder, nearly -10 runs on defense in half of a season. Glancing at his minor league career, Baty has 42 errors in a little over a full season of innings (~1450). Baty will have to get better fast, or he’ll need to be a corner outfielder or first baseman. It is hard to see where he fits on the team if he cannot field at third or cannot hit enough to play left field.

Lastly, and gloriously, we reached shortstop and Francisco Lindor. Lindor has hit well (121 OPS+) and produced well – 6th in the NL in bWAR. Lindor has been excellent with the glove. He won a couple of Gold Gloves with Cleveland and has really been impressive in 2023. He’s preventing runs as well as he did at age 25, and will likely be a finalist for the NL Gold Glove at shortstop. All in all, he is delivering what he is paid to do, and this may be his second best season ever.

In summary:

C: =

1B: +

2B: =

3B: – –

SS: + +

LF: =

CF: =

RF: – –

All in, the Mets overall defense has been below average, with two gaping holes. Let’s see how they fill them.

7 comments on “Gold Gloves, perhaps?

  • Brian Joura

    I dig the last line in your first graph!

    I need to push back on your line about Stewart giving back all of his worth because of his rotten defense. His defense is rotten – not debating that. But he has both a positive bWAR and fWAR in his small sample this year. If he was able to continue this pace for a full season, he’d be close to a 2-WAR player. Now, I highly doubt he could keep this pace up and at the end of the day, if he’s a 110 OPS+ guy, he likely would give back all of the value. But not at 142.

    A while back, I asked if it was better to have a guy who was so awful on defense that you wouldn’t use him in the field, compared to a guy who was bad and you did. It seems to me that your bad-yet-considered playable guy would have to have an OPS+ somewhere around 40 points higher to consider the tradeoff worthwhile.

    As for Alonso, he’s much, much better in the field than he was a year ago. But he has a 1 OAA and a 0 RAA. There’s got to be multiple players with a better case for the Gold Glove Award.

  • Woodrow1

    Why not Stewart as the DH if he continues to hit?

    • Mike W

      Because Stewart will return to being Stewart next year and Pham will return to being Pham.

      If we need to rely on Stewart being our DH next year, we will be in trouble.

  • NYM6986

    Nice article. Clearly aside from Lindor and possibly Nimmo, there are no gold glovers on this team. Nor any silver sluggers. So when you mix poor fielding with poor hitting, you get our beloved Mets. I do like Stewart as a bench piece and a DH. At least he can play in the field unlike a Vogelbach. Alonso is a better fielder than given give credit for. He must dig out 3-4 throws a game for his infielders. Talk about runs saved. Mets need to get younger in a hurry and stop picking up 30 something players with a propensity of getting hurt. We are stuck with Marte so let’s hope he gets healthier.

  • Woodrow1

    Hey,pitching isn’t very good but it’s the lack of hitting that kills this team. Another nite of 3 or less runs.

  • Metsense

    The Mets have a good up the middle defense with Alvarez, McNeil, Lindor and Nimmo. Lindor should get a golden glove award. Alonso his is average as a first baseman.
    Apparently Baty or Vientos are not MLB caliber third basemen. The Mets should upgrade. Your suggestion to have Baty learn left field in AAA is the only way he will make it as a major leader. And of course he has to improve his hitting.
    Stewart is not a right fielder. He is more of bench piece serving as a sometimes DH or an emergency fifth outfielder . His best position defensively is left field and if he continues his hitting then he will have an opportunity there in the left field. Marte will start in right field in 2024 but I see him just as a fourth outfielder.
    Defensively I seen three holes in the field, third, LF and RF in 2024.

  • Mike W

    Off topic – I didn’t see the Wednesday catch all, so I thought I would write here.

    Editor’s Note – Not sure how you missed it but here it is —

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 100 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here