5/23/13

Reese's Pieces - History Repeating Itself: Bad Mets Teams From The Past

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To hear most Mets fans these days the team the Wilpons and Sandy Alderson have assembled is an all-time epic failure, yet in each decade prior to the turn of this century the Mets have actually finished in last place (often more than once).  Let’s take a look at the first bottom feeding finish from each of those decades and see how they compare to the current team that’s on pace to lose 96 games. 

1962 Mets

As legendary as they became for losing, there were some notable performances both good and bad that bear sharing.  Frank Thomas had a fine year playing left field, slugging 34 HRs, 94 RBIs and batting .266.  He’d bat cleanup on the current Mets team.  Richie Ashburn hit a rather empty .306, but drew a ton of walks and swiped 12 bases.  Jim Hickman rounded out the outfield with 13 HRs, 46 RBIs and a .245 average. 

On the infield, Marvelous Marv Throneberry, in less than a full season’s ABs hit 16 HRs and drove in 49 while hitting .244.  Charlie Neal at 2B hit 11 HRs, 58 RBIs and batted .260 while third baseman Felix Mantilla posted a nearly identical line of 11/59/.275.  Shortstop Elio Chacon and a trio of catchers didn’t contribute much. 

The four man rotation of Roger Craig, Al Jackson, Jay Hook and Bob Miller all sported losing records.  Their ERAs were respectively 4.51, 4.40, 4.84 and 4.89 – all superior to current Mets starters not named Matt Harvey.  Bullpens back then were used quite differently and often featured has-been starters banished to the pen rather than people who specialized in that role.  The Mets bullpen was younger than most but still not very effective with a cumulative total of 10 saves (including 3 by number one starter Roger Craig pressed into relief duty), and ERAs ranging from 4.53 to 6.22. 

It would appear that the 1962 Mets have an edge in offensive production, a push in starting pitching but the horror show that is the 2013 bullpen is still superior given the fine performances of Bobby Parnell and rookie Scott Rice.

1977 Mets

After winning it all in 1969 and then getting to game 7 of the World Series in 1973, the Mets fell from grace rather quickly.  Four years later they staked their 1970s claim to the cellar, finishing with a 64 Win/98 Loss record.   

This team’s offense is reminiscent of what the current group produces on a nightly basis.  The shining star was rookie Steve Henderson pressed into duty shortly after the infamous Midnight Massacre that sends The Franchise Tom Seaver and their only bonafide slugger, Dave Kingman, out of town.  Henderson’s 99 game line included 12 HRs, 65 RBIs and 6 SBs while hitting .297.  His minor league numbers suggested a modest increase in power and a major increase in stolen base totals.  It had fans optimistic that at least one part of that heart wrenching trade might have a happy ending.  History shows, however, it was mostly downhill from there.  He never exceeded 12 HRs and topped out one year with 23 SBs. 

After Henderson it was pretty bleak.  John Stearns slugged 12 HRs to go along with 55 RBIs and even stole 9 bases while hitting .251.   Erstwhile slugger John Milner was handed 1B after the departure of Dave Kingman and he responded with a nearly identical 12 HRs, 57 RBIs and .255 AVG.  Lenny Randle provided a spark, hitting .304 and swiping 33 bases.  You had two reserves with fine seasons – Ed Kranepool hitting 10 HRs and batting .281 while Bruce Boisclair hit .293.  The rest was pretty dismal.

Starting pitching was surprisingly good, but if you can’t score runs then it’s difficult to win games.  Even with Seaver’s departure to Cincinnati you still had starters like Jerry Koosman, Pat Zachry and Nino Espinosa turning in sub 4.00 ERAs.  Jon Matlack had the worst season of his career with a 4.21 ERA (which would make him the number two starter on the current Mets) and the group was rounded out with Craig Swan posting a 4.23.  The bullpen was actually pretty good with four of the five primary relievers posting sub 4.00 ERAs, including Skip Lockwood, Bob Apodaca, Bob Myrick and Paul Siebert.  Only Rick Baldwin was higher at 4.45.

In comparing that group to the current Mets, they had a huge edge in starting pitching and the relief corps.  The offense might be a push with only David Wright playing near All Star level and Daniel Murphy capable of hitting line drives in his sleep.  The remainder of the current squad may not even be able to start on another major league team (with John Buck crashing hard back to Earth). 

1982 Mets

The offense on this team may actually be worse than the 2013 squad.  They had Dave Kingman doing his Ike Davis impression – 37 HRs, 99 RBIs and a mere .204 batting average to go along with 156 Ks.  George Foster, who from 1976 through 1978 was that era’s Albert Pujols, played more like Luis Pujols for the Mets with a paltry 13 HRs, 70 RBIs and a .247 AVG.  Mookie Wilson did pilfer 58 bases and Ellis Valentine while playing between the white lines (instead of snorting them) hit .288.  John Stearns by then had emphasized speed in his game, stealing 17 bases while hitting a solid .293.  Bob Bailor as a jack of all trades stole 20 bases while batting .277.  What is seriously lacking, however, is power.  Once you got past Kingman and Foster the next nearest power threat was Valentine with a mere 8 HRs.

Starting pitching was meh.  Craig Swan and Pete Falcone managed to put in solid seasons under 4.00 but then you had Charlie Puleo and Randy Jones holding it under 5.00 while Mike Scott in his pre-scuffed pitch days struggling at 5.14.  The bullpen was led by Neil Allen who had not yet been swapped for Keith Hernandez.  He responded with 50 games, 19 Saves and a 3.06.  Rookie Jesse Orosco did even better with a 2.72 ERA which catapulted him into the closer’s role the following year.  Ed Lynch, former starter Pat Zachry and sidearmer Terry Leach rounded out a solid bullpen. 

1993 Mets

Jeff Torborg’s crew had three legitimate power threats in Bobby Bonilla (34 HRs), Eddie Murray with 27 and soon-to-be-banished Jeff Kent with 21.  Rookie Jeremy Burnitz contributed 13 HRs as a part time outfielder and the original “Super Joe” Orsulak batted a solid .284.  Vince Coleman slowed down a bit from his Cardinal days, stealing for him a mere 38 bases.  The rest of the offense was pretty non-existent.  Howard Johnson was not yet corking bats (at least according to Whitey Herzog) and Todd Hundley had not yet discovered better living through chemistry. 

In his final full season as a NY Mets, Doc Gooden’s lifestyle took its toll, but even as a shell of his former dominant self he still managed to post solid if not Goodenesque numbers.  Sid Fernandez, when he could pitch, was his usual baffling self, finishing with a 2.93 ERA.  Brett Saberhagen turned in a very solid partial season with a 3.29 ERA.  Big Eric Hillman also pitched to a sub 4.00 ERA.  The lone sour note in the rotation was an over-the-hill Frank Tanana who finished with an ERA of 4.48. 

1993’s bullpen was far worse than what we witness today.  John Franco had a very Frank Francisco year, finishing with just 10 Saves and a 5.20 ERA.  Mike Maddux was the most effective arm in the pen with a 3.60 ERA and the 1-16 Anthony Young was next with a 3.77.  Sidearmer Jeff Innis and lefty Pete Schourek turned in forgettable seasons. 

2013 Mets

When you look at the numbers posted by various other Mets last place teams there are times you would sign up for that year's offense or pitching or bullpen right now.  That reaction is indicative of how far the franchise has fallen.

This year’s Mets team has one player already in double digits in HRs in John Buck, but he’s cooled off faster than the last slice of pizza.  Projecting numbers is always risky business, but it would appear David Wright and Lucas Duda should break 20 HRs with Daniel Murphy and Marlon Byrd (if he gets the ABs) should break 10.  Projecting Ike Davis is increasingly difficult to do, but history is on his side to recover in the power department if not with a strong batting average.  Davis is on pace to strike out nearly 200 times.

Current Mets starting pitching is horrific with the second best starter, Jeremy Hefner, winless with his 5.00 ERA.  Jon Niese is at 5.40 and then you have two pitchers – Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee both sporting ERAs over 6.00.  Given the dismal state of the offense, that level of performance guarantees a high number of losses. 

The bullpen is not quite as bad as people think it is with Bobby Parnell having a breakout year, Scott Rice leading the league in appearances and the two veterans, Latroy Hawkins and Brandon Lyon, hovering around 3.20 ERAs.  It’s the fringe bullpen performers that have sunk many a game for this team.

On the whole it appears this team may rival the 1962 Mets in terms of hitting ineptitude but it could turn around if Ike Davis also does.  If not, there’s little power, no speed, bad defense and bad starting pitching.  Considering John Buck’s hot start now a thing of the distant past, it’s possible this team could lose more than the projected 96 games without Davis improving or Travis d’Arnaud doing his April Buck impression.  Right now the team is ahead of the Florida Marlins for potentially a 5th consecutive 4th out of 5 team finish, but a few bad breaks here or there could have them falling into the NL East’s basement once again.  

1 comments:

Mack Ade said...

I lived through all this.

I feel much better that all the Mets fans out there are now reminded that this sport comes and goes in an organization. Finish first, draft last I guess.

Mack's Mets © 2012