There have been plenty of great switch hitters in the history of the New York Mets. These five stand above them all as the greatest.
Anyone whoever struggled as a hitter has to be envious while watching a major leaguer proficiently slide from one side of the plate to the other depending on who is pitching. Opposing managers bring in a new pitcher in a big spot to make the switch-hitter bat from his weaker side. Yet this is fool’s gold. The best switch-hitters bring something to the plate no matter which side of the plate they are occupying. If they hit for average from one side, they might have more power from the other side. New York Mets fans have been lucky enough to see plenty of men succeed from each side.
In looking at the best Mets to bat from both sides of the plate, I started with the top 50 Mets in terms of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to baseball-reference.com. WAR is a catch-all number that measures every part of a player’s game. Though not a perfect stat, it’s a good place to go when dealing with players across historic eras.
There are a dozen switch-hitters among the top 50 Mets in WAR, which means they played for the Mets for a while and had varying levels of success. This list features the team’s top five switch-hitters, but there’s something on other Mets who are still worth being part of the switch-hitter conversation. And to keep the suspense brewing—like the late innings of a tight game—we’ll count down from number five.
5. Bud Harrelson, 1965-77, 18.7 WAR, #11 All-Time in Mets History
Bud Harrelson was the kind of light-hitting, good-fielding shortstop who might never get a chance to play regularly in today’s game. Nowadays, Mets fan may think of the California-bred Harrelson for being in uniform for both the 1969 and 1986 world champions (as third-base coach for the latter), his brief and unspectacular Mets managing career (1990-91), as co-owner of the independent minor league Long Island Ducks, as Tom Seaver’s roommate back in the day, and especially for his fight at Shea Stadium during the 1973 playoffs against another switch-hitter: Pete Rose.
Harrelson was a .234 hitter as a Met with a .324 on-base percentage and no power: .287 slugging and just six homers. Though all those homers came from the right side, he hit about 20 points better from the left side. He was sometimes shifted to the top of the batting order—especially against right-handed pitchers—but the best fit was the eighth spot.
Still, the vast majority of his steals (and caught stealings) occurred from the first and second spots in the order. He made up for some of his batting deficiencies with a keen eye, owning the club record for walks (573) until Darryl Strawberry topped it in 1990 (Bud is third now, with David Wright holding the team mark).
An excellent fielder with good speed, Harrelson still has the highest career Defensive WAR of any Met at 13.7, with Jerry Grote, Juan Lagares, and Rey Ordonez the only other Mets to record above 10.0. Buddy was the first Mets infielder to win a Gold Glove (1971) and held the Mets marks for triples (45) and steals (115) until Mookie Wilson came along.