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.