The Mets with the Most Plate Appearances

>This is going to be slightly rambling and it has no real point . . . but bear with me, if you will. It’s just a post of Mets lists and some other stuff, based on the ten players who have come to the plate most as a Met. You’ve been warned.

Here are the top ten Mets, all time, by total plate appearances:

1. Ed Kranepool – 5997
2. Bud Harrelson – 5083
3. Cleon Jones – 4683
4. Howard Johnson – 4591
5. Darryl Strawberry – 4549
6. Edgardo Alfonzo – 4449
7. Jerry Grote – 4335
8. Mookie Wilson – 4307
9. Mike Piazza – 3941
10. Keith Hernandez – 3684

Wright has moved up to #11 in this list, Reyes to #12.

The first thing that jumps out at me – you could field a full team with the top eight on the list, and no one would have to play out of their position, outfielders included. None of that “three left fielders count as three outfielders.” Everyone plays the position they spent most of their time with the Mets at:

C – Jerry Grote
1B – Ed Kranepool
2B – Edgardo Alfonzo
3B – Howard Johnson
SS – Bud Harrelson
LF – Cleon Jones
CF – Mookie Wilson
RF – Darryl Strawberry

Of course, if you substituted Hernandez at first and Piazza at catcher, you would have a much better team – but the top eight could function on their own. Grote and Harrelson would be out-making black holes at the bottom of the lineup, but the rest of the group is average-y or better hitters, relative to their era, and there are no defensive pariahs.

If you rearrange the group by most hits as a Met, only Hernandez drops out, down to 12th place, with Wright making a jump onto the leaderboard:

1. Ed Kranepool – 1418
2. Cleon Jones – 1188
3. Edgardo Alfonzo – 1136
4. Mookie Wilson – 1112
5. Bud Harrelson – 1029
6. Mike Piazza – 1028
7. Darryl Strawberry – 1025
8. Howard Johnson – 997
9. Jerry Grote – 994
10. David Wright – 983

11. Jose Reyes – 960
12. Keith Hernandez – 939

Kranepool is way, way out in front, with 230 hits separating him and Cleon Jones. I never would have guessed that Fonzi is third on the hits list, or that Mookie was fourth, for that matter.You can see there is a large clumping from Harrelson down through to Grote, with just 35 hits separating five players – Wright and Reyes should pass all of them this season, and either one of them has a chance to jump to third place. If Wright can somehow manage 206 hits, he’ll shoot all the way past Jones to second place. So if or when this season goes to hell – you know, if it hasn’t already – that’s something to watch. I guess.

If you rearrange the top ten plate appearance group again, this time by Wins Above Replacement, you get this list:

1. Darryl Strawberry – 37.7 WAR
2. Edgardo Alfonzo – 29.1 WAR
3. Keith Hernandez – 26.5 WAR
4. Howard Johnson – 24.7 WAR
5. Mike Piazza – 24.6 WAR
6. Mookie Wilson – 19.4 WAR
7. Cleon Jones – 17.6 WAR
8. Bud Harrelson – 17.1 WAR
9. Jerry Grote – 13.1 WAR
10. Ed Kranepool – 4.4 WAR

Ed Kranepool spent most of the 1960’s below replacement level, which is why his WAR is so low – and he has more plate appearance than any other player in Met history. Think about that for a moment. The Met who has come to the plate more than any other man in history is just 4 wins over replacement level for his 18 season career. The Met who has thrown the most innings for the team is arguably the greatest pitcher of all time, or at least among the top five greatest pitchers of all time, depending on how much you believe the quality of competition has improved with time. But, yes, this is a franchise based on pitching.

If you’re curious, David Wright would be third, at 27.1 WAR. Jose Reyes is sitting at 21.1 WAR, and Carlos Beltran at 26.6 Met WAR.

Interestingly, Darryl Strawberry is miles ahead of anyone else – he has an excellent claim to best position player the Mets have ever had, Piazza included, barring whatever Wright does. Comparing those two, Piazza and Strawberry’s, Met careers in other ways:

Top 3 Piazza: 14.8 WAR
Top 3 Strawberry: 19.1 WAR

Top 5 Piazza: 22.2 WAR
Top 5 Strawberry: 28.4 WAR

Piazza average WAR per season: 3.1 WAR
Strawberry average WAR per season: 4.7 WAR

Darryl has Piazza beat everywhere. This may seem odd, because A.) Mike Piazza’s Mets OPS is .915, and Strawberry’s is .878 and B.) Strawberry played right field, and Piazza caught – catchers who can hit are generally harder to find, and thus are more valuable than right fielders who can hit. So one would guess that the better hitting catcher, playing the same number of seasons, would beat the lesser hitting right fielder. Only that doesn’t happen, and it’s not really that close. /Puts on Adrian Monk brown suit, accompanied by a cut to black and white flashbacks: “Here’s what happened.”

There are two reasons Darryl Strawberry was more valuable, by WAR, over his seven Mets seasons. The first is that Strawberry’s OPS of .878 was put up during a period that favored pitchers over hitters, including the wacky 1988, when MLB must have temporarily changed something with the baseballs, because the National League’s OPS suddenly dropped 60 points in just one season. It was far more difficult to be a hitter in the late 80’s than it was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, when steroids, expansion, steroids, and smaller ballparks – also steroids – led to the offensive explosion that has only finally started to move the other direction over the past four years – mostly because everyone stopped taking steroids. It was much easier to put up ridiculous offensive numbers when Piazza played – not to detract from his hitting ability, which was tremendous. Anyway, the point being, even though Strawberry put up worse numbers, he was probably a better hitter than Piazza – Met careers only – due to the era each played in. That’s reason number one.

The second, and larger, reason for Strawberry accumulating more WAR than Piazza is defense. Darryl Strawberry was a +7 outfielder over his Met career, which slightly offset the penalty given for playing right field, a position that tends to harbor hitters. Piazza, on the other hand, was a miserable defensive catcher (and sometimes first baseman), being -42 runs over his Mets career. Piazza gets some of those runs back for being a catcher, compensating for the defensive orientation of the position, but not that many. The -42 defensive runs, combined with the fact that he was on a slight offensive decline as a Met in a hitting era, contributed to Piazza’s lackluster showing in the WAR department. (department of WAR?)

Of course, there are human elements to take into account as well, and I believe Piazza sweeps that category soundly. I’m just not sure that alone makes up for the 13.1 WAR gap between the two. If I had to choose – well, I don’t have to, but I’m going to anyway – the best position player for the Mets all time, I’d have to go with Strawberry. Piazza had a better career, but not with the Mets. Besides, in two years the best Met position player of all time will be Wright anyway – as long as he doesn’t repeat 2009 twice.

One last note – the best single season by any player in the top ten PA belongs to none other than Cleon Jones, who in 1969 massively cut down on his strikeouts, put up a .904 OPS when the league OPS was .720, played the best defensive left field of his career, and posted a WAR of 7.6. That’s better than any Met season put up by Piazza, Strawberry, Reyes, or Alfonzo.

***
One more note: I’ll be heading down to Florida tomorrow for a long weekend, and I think I’ll be attending a few Mets spring training games. Or, like, two. So you can expect some sort of spring training related blogging, but I’m not sure what, because I’ve never been to PSL before. It’s also not like I have access or anything – unless
the Mets start giving out credentials to random bloggers – so it’s not going to be much different. I’ll probably just put a date line on the posts, just for fun. If, for whatever reason, you need more baseball-related microblogging from FLA this weekend, you can follow me on twitter here.

Also, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day:

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