Will The 2013 Mets Outfield Out Do Some Past Mets Outfield Clunkers ?

As we wait and see if Michael Bourn will or won’t be the 2013 and beyond Mets centerfielder, a lot of the off season chatter amongst Mets fans has been the potential for the 2013 Mets outfield to be the worst in teams history. Well, for that to happen they would have to be piss poor of epic proportion.

I went on baseball reference to look at the various Mets outfields over the years. I decide to look at the four worst run scoring teams in Mets history to see what kind of production the outfielder supplied since two of the three spot in the outfield are where teams get their power numbers and in centerfield where you hope to find your offensive catalyst. I was a bit surprised by some of my findings.

The 1968 Mets scored the least amount of runs in franchise history. The 1968 team also had the lowest team ERA in franchise history. WHAT???  The offense scored a meager 473 runs for the season which averaged out to 2.9 per game. The pitching staff pitched to a stellar 2.72 team ERA in what was known as the Year of the Pitcher. The Bob Gibson led St. Louis Cardinals lead all of MLB with an astonishing 2.49 ERA.  The Mets outfield that season consisted of three of the most important players on next seasons World Champion New York Mets.

Cleon Jones played left field and had a line of .297/.341/.452 14 HR 55 RBI. Not a bad slash line and 14 HR is okay but 55 RBI is quite low but the teams collective OBP was a lifeless.281 so as well as Jones hit, most times he came up with the bags empty. Tommy Agee was downright awful. His line was .217/.255/.307 in 368 AB. The other CF’er on that team was Don Bosch who came over from the Pirates along with Don Cardwell for Dennis Ribrant who I was a big fan of for the sole reason that I  had a tumbler from the Sunocco gas station in our neighborhood that had his likeness on it (I also had a Rob Gardner and a Ron Swoboda tumbler as well) Bosh put up a line .171/.231/.261. , which for some reason the newly formed Montreal Expos were impressed by  so they purchased Bosh’ contract at the end of the 1968 season.  Ron Swoboda put 11 baseballs over the fence and drove in 59 runs to be the team leader. Let that sink in a bit Mets fans, 59 RBI led THE TEAM FOR THE SEASON!

The Mets of 1965 scored 495 runs and had the second worst win/loss record in team history at 50-112 second only of course to the 1962 team.  The outfield that year consisted of Ron Swoboda in his rookie season in RF, Jim Hickman in CF, Johnny Lewis in RF and Joe Christopher as the very active 4th outfielder spelling Swoboda and Lewis.  Swoboda had a career best 19 HR’s but put up an ugly slash line of .228/..291/.424.  Safe to say  Swoboda was no threat to Jim Lefevre and his run to Rookie of the Year. Jim Hickman hit 15 HR and drove in a paltry 40 runs he also put up an awful slash line of .236/.291/.407 If you look at Hickman’s page on baseball-reference his 1970 season leaps off the screen. If a player had a spike like that today, what do you think the scuttlebutt would be? Johnny Lewis also hit double digits in HR’s with 15 but he also had a tough time getting a Rib Eyed Steak with 45 runs batted in. The low number of RBI is attributed to an all-time Mets team record for worst OBP of .277 WOW!

The 1967 team just missed the 500 run scored mark falling short at 498 but this team had one the best players to come out of Brooklyn in Tommy Davis playing the outfield. The Dodgers sent Davis to the Mets for Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman. Davis was a star on those great Dodgers teams on the early 60’s but a broken ankle in 1965 seemed to affect Davis’ power although the power in his bat returned when he joined the Mets as he hit 16 HR in ’67.  Davis also drove in 73 runs to go with a .302 BA . Davis lasted just one season with the Mets as he was dealt to the White Sox for future major contributors to the ’69 World Championship Tommy Agee and Al Weiss.   The shame about Davis’ career was he looked like a sure superstar headed toward a trip to Cooperstown before the ankle injury but he became the definition of a journeyman playing for ten teams in his eighteen year career.  Cleon Jones struggled that year and part of the reason Davis was obtained was to work with Jones which would pay off a couple of season later but in ’67 Cleon’s line of .246/.282/.331 wasn’t good.  Ron Swoboda, who played on the top three worst run producing offenses in Mets history, had one of best years by hitting 13 HR and driving 53 runs which kept the Mets front office hoping that Swoboda would start to blossom into an consistent offensive player.

As bad as the 1963 Mets were when it came to scoring runs, just 501 on the season, the outfield made  up of Frank Thomas, Jim Hickman and back to New York for one season, 36 year old Duke Snider was not awful. Snider at the end of career, hit 14 HR but again something of a pattern with these bad offensive Mets teams, drove in just 45 runs due to a bad team OBP of .285. Slugger Frank Thomas hit 15 homers and drove in 60 runs which when you look at this overall team dismal effort is outstanding. Jim Hickman hit with power, 17 HR and drove in 51 runs but his OBP of .291 was head shaking bad.

So how bad can the Mets 2013 outfield be? Is Lucas Duda a modern day Jim Hickman? Can the right field platoon of Mike Baxter/Andrew Brown/Collin Cowgil produce better than a Ron Swoboda or an aging Duke Snider? Can a Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Marlon Byrd be as productive as Tommy Davis?

I guess its questions like these that have Sandy Alderson weighing the pros and cons of signing Michael Bourn compared to keeping the 11th pick in the entry draft and more importantly the slot money they’d lose as well. This not exactly an inspiring bunch of fly ball catchers. Every day we get closer to full squad workouts at St. Lonesome the tougher the decision is for the Mets GM.

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  1. The outfield won’t be as bad as the ones from those ’60s teams as far as the offense goes. But their defense might require them to drive in a few extra runs to make up for the runs they’re going to allow to score.

    Regarding the 1968 team, Swoboda did indeed lead the team with 59 RBIs, but that’s nothing compared to the 1972 team. Not only did no one approach 100 RBIs, but their top two run producers couldn’t even COMBINE to collect 100 RBIs. Cleon Jones led the team with 52 RBIs and Tommie Agee was second with 47. John Milner led the team in HRs with 17, but only drove in 38 runs.

    On paper, the four main outfielders in 1972 (Milner, Agee, Jones and Staub) looked tremendous. But the results on the field left a lot to be desired. I expect Duda to suprass Milner’s team-leading HR total from 1972 and Jones’ club-leading RBI total easily. But his defense might require him to go way over Milner and Jones’ total. And although the Mets have decent starting pitching this year, there’s no Seaver, Koosman or Matlack here … yet.

  2. This is interesting, but maybe you should look at ops+ or WAR or something that compares them to the league averages. Back in the 1960’s, with the mound a few inches higher, those batting lines weren’t as bad as they would sound now. I bet this is certainly the least experienced outfield the Mets have ever had, in terms of major league games played coming into the season. But I don’t think you can say it’s not so bad by comparing to a very different era when pitchers had a higher mound.

  3. Henry Mandell says:

    Lordy, how low have we fallen that you have to go back to the “amazin” days of the 60s to find some comps? The team was downright awful in the years you mention. Back then, the Mets were lovable, with many just glad there was an NL team in NY. Becoming a Yankee fan for many was unthinkable. Those days are gone and in the era of baseball as a billion $ business, comp baseball incompetence would bot be tolerated in NY.

  4. pochemunyet says:

    “Outdo” is one word.

  5. Joe Kargol says:

    In 1965 Ron Swoboda had 14 home runs before the All Star game. That’s about the point where the league discovered he couldn’t hit a curve ball. He learned to hit one well enough to last in the majors but his power numbers never came back.

    The 1967 Mets set what was then a record for the most different pitchers used in one season. Gil Hodges ,who took over as manager for 1968 , thought that was ridiculous and stuck with an 11 man pitching staff (neglecting September call ups) for the whole season. He also had a great deal of faith in Tommie Agee which is why he stuck with him in 1968.

    It’s hard to blame the outfield for the early Mets lack of RBIs. With the exception of Ron Hunt, none of the infielders ever got on base.

  6. Interesting posts and I remember all this very well.being a fan since 1963. Unfortunately, this is no longer the ’60s. the Mets are expected to win. Where is the outrage from fans letting the Wilpons know that if they no longer can afford to put a competitive team on the field, they NEED TO SELL! The outfield Sandy is putting on the field is a joke and outrage to all Met fans. This is an incomplete team and Fred and Jeff need to know that. This is not Oakland, this is not Kansas City.Sandy have the owners give you the money to correctly run a team, or embarrass them by leaving!

    A frustrated live long Mets Fan..

  7. Patrick Deegan says:

    Two words — Grady Sizemore.

  8. Paul Festa says:

    Can’t help but to think of Jerry Morales, the man who moved Lee Mazzilli from CF to 1B in 1980.

  9. This outfield won’t anything to talk about. Duda will finish with a line of 230/14-18Hrs/60-70RBI’s,
    Kirk will finish with a line of 260/8Hrs/50RBI’s, Baxter will finish with a line of 270-280/5Hrs/40RBI’s. That will be the worst producing outfield in the majors in quite sometime. Met fans it’s time to call for the Coupons to sell this team to an owner who cares and is willing to put a good product on the field.

  10. We'll Remember Rusty says:

    You think 1972 was bad? Check out 1982! Lowest WAR for a Mets outfield, I think ever. Nobody could hit a lick, but boy could they strike out. FanGraphs has them at 0.8WAR, a .301wOBA, with -30 fielding runs tacked on.

    Mookie wasn’t atrocious in his rookie year, .683 OPS, <5% walk rate, but 5.3 baserunning runs got him up to 1.4 WAR. After that…well, the only wRC+ over 100 was Gary Rajsich (haven't seen that name in a long time), in a whopping 182 plate appearances. George Foster saw the most playing time, but managed a .367 slugging and -9 fielding runs, for -0.3 WAR (but a lot of dollars *above* replacement). Poor Rusty had a .236 BABIP, breaking even at -0.1 WAR. Ellis Valentine had an astounding 1.4% walk rate in 350 PA. Man, they were terrible.

    And 1972 would have been a great outfield, if only Rusty hadn't gotten injured so early in the season. Nice recap here:

  11. Mike Basile says:

    Gibson’s ERA in 1968 was something like 1.12, not 2.49 as stated in the article.

  12. never said Gibby had a 2.49 it says the Gibson led Cards lead MLB with 2.49 it’s called reading comprehension

  13. As a fan of this club since its begining i remember alot of clunkers we choice a catcher instead of Reggie Jackson. now if this player is keep and we do not get Bourn will we blame Sandy for keeping the first draft choice over signing more of a sure player

  14. if that draft choice because a Shawn Abner or Billy Benae or Alex Escabar


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