>Top Mets First Basemen by Decade

>Since the 00’s are coming to a rapid close, let’s take a look back at this decade – and while we’re at, it every Mets decade. Here are the top 5 Mets first basemen from this decade, as well as those from all five decades of the Mets’ existence, sorted by historical Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from baseballprojection.com. I left the WAR numbers out because I find staring at just a list of WAR boring and I don’t feel it tells the story as effectively as putting their other numbers. Instead, I listed each player’s slash line and their HR and RBI totals, even though I have a bit of distaste for batting average and RBI. Anyway, here are the top 1B from each decade, and the highest grossing film of each decade just for fun:

1. Tim Harkness (1963-64, 548 PA) – .228/.301/.356, 12 HR, 54 RBI
2. Donn Clendenon (1969, 226 PA) – .252/.321/.455, 12 HR, 37 RBI
3. Gil Hodges (1962-63, 167 PA) – .248/.329/.436, 9 HR, 20 RBI
4. Ed Kranepool (1962-69, 3165 PA) – .247/.301/.361, 62 HR, 292 RBI
5. Marv Throneberry (1962-63, 411 PA) – .240/.302/.418, 16 HR, 50 RBI

Highest Grossing Film of the 1960’s – “101 Dalmatians”

This is not a strong group of players. In fact it may be the weakest group at any position for the Mets over the course of a whole decade. Tim Harkness is the “leader” with a .7 WAR accumulated during his two seasons with the Mets, and Don Clendenon’s 226 plate appearances merits him second place. Ed Kranepool was a sub-replacement level player during the 1960’s – his .301 OBP was 17 points below league average, his .361 slugging percentage was 20 points below league average, and his defensive zone rating for the decade was -7. He didn’t hit for power, get on base, run or play defense well, yet he got more plate appearances than any other Met during the 1960’s – and I think that sums up the Mets teams of the 1960’s pretty well. In defense of the Mets all-time leader in hits and doubles, Kranepool was a much improved player during the 70’s.

1. John Milner (1971-77, 2755 PA) – .245/.339/.415, 94 HR, 338 RBI
2. Ed Kranepool (1970-79, 2832 PA) – .276/.333/.394, 56 HR, 322 RBI
3. Don Clendenon (1970-71, 731 PA) – .272/.330/.473, 33 HR, 134 RBI
4. Joe Torre (1975-77, 794 PA) – .267/.327/.374, 12 HR, 74 RBI
5. Willie Montanez (1978-79, 1121 PA) – .274/.303/.362, 22 HR, 143 RBI

Highest Grossing Movie of the 1970’s – “Star Wars”

John Milner like to swing away with the bases loaded. In 79 plate appearances with three men on, he hit a respectable .308/.342 – but he slugged .785 with 10 grand slams. He homered once every 6.5 at-bats with the bases loaded, compared to once every 26.2 at-bats for his career.

Milner was part of an eleven player, four team trade that send Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates and brought back Willie Montanez, #5 on this list, to the Mets in 1977. Here’s how the trade turned out for each team involved. I took WAR of the players received and subtracted the WAR of the players traded to get the total WAR lost or gained by the trade:

Mets got Willie Montanez, Tom Greive, Ken Henderson (who was quickly flipped for a season and a half of Dale Murray, so I used his WAR instead) for John Milner, Jon Matlack = -16.7 WAR

Pirates got John Milner, Bert Blyleven for Nelson Norman, Al Oliver = 0.1 WAR

Rangers got Nelson Norman, Al Oliver, Jon Matlack for Tommy Boggs, Adrian Devine, Eddie Miller, Tom Grieve, Ken Henderson, Bert Blyleven = 9.2 WAR

Braves got Tommy Boggs, Adrian Devine, Eddie Miller for Willie Montanez = 5.3 WAR  

The Mets, because they gave up Jon Matlack and got nothing of value in return, were the big losers in this deal. Some things never change. The Pirates broke even, the Braves made minor improvements, and despite giving up six players including Blyleven, the Rangers were the big winners of the trade.

John Milner and Willie Montanez would be traded for each other again in 1981, when the Pirates shipped Milner to the Expos in exchange for Montanez.

1. Keith Hernandez (1983-89, 3684 PA) – .297/.387/.429, 80 HR, 468 RBI
2. Dave Magadan (1986-89, 1046 PA) – .293/.384/.384, 8 HR, 103 RBI
3. Rusty Staub (1981-85, 702 PA) – .276/.350/.391, 13 HR, 102 RBI
4. Mike Jorgensen (1980-83, 670 PA) – .244/.336/.355, 13 HR, 75 RBI
5. Dave Kingman (1981-83, 1292 PA) – .208/.294/.429, 72 HR, 187 RBI

Highest Grossing Movie of the 1980’s – “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”

I don’t have much more to say about Keith Hernandez that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll just link to this amazing 20 minute movie entitled “I’m Keith Hernandez”. If you haven’t already seen it, and I hope you have, it’s a must watch for any Keith/Mets/semi-fictional-historic-film fan. NSFW-ish

I do have something to say about Dave Magadan, who is the third-best Mets’ first baseman of all-time. The top five by WAR looks like this:

1. Keith Hernandez – 26.5 WAR
2. John Olerud – 18.6 WAR
3. Dave Magadan – 15.2 WAR
4. John Milner – 10.1 WAR
5. Carlos Delgado – 6.9 WAR

Magadan never hit more than 6 home runs in a season for the Mets, never drove in more than 72 runs, never stole more than 2 bases – he didn’t do any of the flashy things. He did however, play above average defense – +17 runs for his Mets career – and more importantly, he got on base, having a .391 OBP for the Mets, 68 points above the league average for his time. Getting on base – and thus not making outs – is the most important thing a baseball player can do offensively.* Magadan retired with his slugging percentage lower than his on-base percentage, and first basemen without power unfortunately tend to get overlooked. Magadan was one of the best to ever play first base as a Met.

*I really believe that I should work that sentence into everything I write. On a similar theme, I propose that from now on, all slash lines should be written this way:


1. John Olerud (1997-99, 2018 PA) – .315/.425/.501, 63 HR, 291 RBI
2. Dave Magadan (1990-92, 1437 PA) – .292/.396/.387, 13 HR, 151 RBI
3. Rico Bronga (1994-96, 889 PA) – .291/.342/.495, 36 HR, 126 RBI
4. Eddie Murray (1992-93, 1284 PA) – .274/.330/.446, 43 HR, 193 RBI
5. David Segui (1994-95, 466 PA) – .257/.330/.403, 12 HR, 54 RBI

Top Grossing Movie of the 1990’s – “Titanic”

Olerud’s 1998 was the best season by a Mets first basemen, worth 8.1 wins above a replacement level player. He hit .354/.447/.551, with 22 HR, 36 2B, 96 walks against 73 strikeouts, and he was +14 runs defensively. John Olerud is the Mets all-time leader in OPS, OBP, and untrue Rickey Henderson vignettes.

1. Carlos Delgado (2006-09, 2023 PA) – .267/.351/.506, 104 HR, 339 RBI
2. Doug Mientkiewicz (2005, 313 PA) – .240/.322/.407, 11 HR, 29 RBI
3. Todd Zeile (2000-01, 2004, 1631 PA) – .259/.348/.405, 41 HR, 176 RBI
4. Daniel Murphy (2008-09, 707 PA) – .275/.331/.427, 14 HR, 80 RBI
5. Jason Phillips (2001-04, 894 PA) – .262/.337/.389, 19 HR, 95 RBI

Highest Grossing Film of the 2000’s – “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”

Daniel Murphy shouldn’t feel alone. The Mets have a history of first basemen lacking the power traditionally associated with the position – Keith Hernandez, Dave Magadan, John Olerud. Before Carlos Delgado hit 36 home runs in 2006 and 38 in 2008, only three Mets first basemen had ever hit 25 or more home runs in a season, and only one had ever hit 30+: Dave Kingman hit 37 in 1982, Eddie Murray hit 27 in 1993, and Mo Vaughn hit 26
in 2002. Delgado is the only one to ever hit 25 or more twice, and no Met first baseman has ever hit 25+ in consecutive seasons. The Mets have had a player hit 25+ home runs in consecutive seasons at every other position except shortstop. Mike Piazza and Todd Hundley did it at catcher, Edgardo Alfonzo at second, David Wright at third, George Foster and Kevin McReynolds in left, Carlos Beltran in center, and Darryl Strawberry in right. A lack of power at first is an oddity of the organization, a proud tradition which will be continued by Murphy in 2010.

Up nest – top second basemen by decade.

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