2011 Season in Review: Willie Harris

The New York Mets as a whole went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an on-going series, will analysis every single Mets player that picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at utility man Willie Harris.

When you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em–or in the case of Willie Harris, when he beats you with numerous big hits, sign him to a $800,000 one-year deal. And the Mets did just that. After a 2010 season filled with horrendous bench options like Alex Cora, Chris Carter, Henry Blanco, Jesus Feliciano, and Fernando Tatis, new GM Sandy Alderson made it his duty to add some quality depth. Harris, who owned a respectable .240/.341/.394 line with an average of 8 homeruns, 34 RBI, 46 runs,12 stolen bases, and solid overall UZR/150 numbers from 2007 to 2010, was an obvious candidate to add.

For the first half of April, Harris looked in fine form. Due to the various Mets injuries, Harris happily stepped in, collecting 43 plate appearances, while posting an energetic .270/.372/.459 line with 1 homerun, 7 RBI, 6 runs, 6 walks, and a stolen base. However, from April 17 to May 21, the utility man’s production plummeted, hitting an ugly .128/.244/.154 line in 45 plate appearances (including a 3:1 K/BB). His cumulative .203/.308/.304 to-date prompted chatter of release–especially with Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda and Nick Evans hungry for at-bats.

But to Harris’ credit, the 33 year-old veteran pulled himself up by his stirrups, and owned a .267/.372/.323 line the rest of the way–improving his clutch-hitting (16 RBI) and eye (35:25 K/BB). Harris’ best months during 2011 were in June (.333/.438/.333), July (.241/.389/.379), and September (.245/.394/.340). With an overall .246/.351/.317 line in 283 plate appearances, Harris had a pretty solid season off the bench for the Mets. However, compared to the Willis Harris of the past four seasons, the infielder/outfielder failed to impress in a few key categories.

While Harris was never a real source for power, the utility man did smack 10 homeruns in 2010 and 13 homeruns in 2008. More importantly than homeruns, the left-handed hitter seemed to have more of a knack for extra-base hits in general–yet in 2011, Harris only posted 13 total extra-base hits (11 doubles and 2 homeruns), compared to the 18 he smacked in 2010 (6 doubles, 2 triples, 10 homeruns) in less plate appearances. Harris’ .071 ISO was his lowest since 2005 (.058), and .038 below his .109 career mark.

In addition to his sudden loss of pop, Harris performed pretty terribly in just about every defensive position he was used. Aside from second base (6.3 UZR/150 in 66.3 innings), the usually solid defender posted a negative UZR/150 at third base (-53.0 UZR/150 in 48 innings), left field (-13.1 UZR/150 in 241.3 innings), center field (-10.4 UZR/150 in 31 innings), and right field ( -86.2 UZR/150 in 22.3 innings). His cumulative -22.5 UZR/150 in 294.6 total outfield innings was the second worsst showing in his career (-26.8 UZR/150 in 2006).

There is no doubt that Willis’ already minimal power was diminished by Citi Field’s great walls (0.0% HR/FB at home versus 7.7 HR/FB away), but his universally poor defense remains more of a mystery. With the emergence of Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda, Nick Evans, and Justin Turner, Harris’ future as a Met appears rather dreary. Fans should be content with the utility man’s good on-base abilities, but it probably won’t save Wille Harris from the better and cheaper internal competition in 2012.

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