In our second edition to find the worst defenders in New York Mets history, we head into the 1970s. During our search through the 1960s, I came away with the impression that the worst defenders were Rod Kanehl, Joe Christopher, and Jim Hickman based on them having a season-worst total of errors, Rtot, or defensive WAR.
Of course, this doesn’t include guys who may have seen less action in the field.
In the 1970s, the Mets were already champions and would see action in another World Series. Defense improved but there were still plenty of mistakes.
To recap, I’m looking only for the team leaders at three statistics hoping to find a trend.
Worst defenders of the 1970 Mets
Bud Harrelson 21 errors
Ron Swoboda/Wayne Garrett -3 Rtot
Ron Swoboda -0.5 WAR
Worst defenders of the 1971 Mets
Bud Harrelson 16 errors
Bob Aspromonte - 7 Rtot
Dave Marshall -0.9 WAR
Worst defenders of the 1972 Mets
Bud Harrleson 16 errors
Rusty Staub/Jim Fregosi -10 Rtot
Rusty Staub -1.4 WAR
Worst defenders of the 1973 Mets
Wayne Garrett 26 errors
Cleon Jones -8 Rtot
John Milner -1.4 WAR
Worst defenders of the 1974 Mets
Wayne Garrett/Ted Martinez 20 errors
Rusty Staub -18 Rtot
Rusty Staub -2.6 WAR
Worst defenders of the 1975 Mets
Mike Phillips 31 errors
Rusty Staub -8 Rtot
Rusty Staub -1.6 WAR
Worst defenders of the 1976 Mets
Bud Harrelson 20 errors
Lee Mazzilli/Ed Kranepool/Bruce Boisclair/Mike Vail/Dave Kingman -3 Rtot
Ed Kranepool -1.0 WAR
Worst defenders of the 1977 Mets
John Stearns 17 errors
Bruce Boisclair -9 Rtot
Bruce Boisclair -1.4 WAR
Worst defenders of the 1978 Mets
Tim Foli 18 errors
Lee Mazzilli -9 Rtot
Willie Montanez -1.2 WAR
Worst defenders of the 1979 Mets
Frank Taveras 25 errors
Lee Mazzilli/Frank Taveras -8 Rtot
Lee Mazilli -0.9 WAR
No new franchise records were set in the errors category. Bud Harrelson made several appearances but as a shortstop who played regularly, it’s not such a horrible thing. Even with several years of leading the team, it was Mike Phillips in 1975 that had the most of anyone in a single campaign. Phillips committed 31 errors in only 115 games at shortstop. Certainly a below-average fielder that year, I’m not quite committed to saying he’s the worst of the decade.
When we look at Rtot, one season in particular stands out more than any others. Rusty Staub was a big league player because of what he could do with his bat. In 1974, he had what was probably the worst defensive season of any Mets player throughout the decade.
His -18 Rtot and -2.6 WAR on defense both led the team. A season spend exclusively in right field, Staub committed only 5 errors all year long. Compared to the 18 he made in 1971 with the Montreal Expos at the same position, it might look good.
However, these stats measure a different element of a player’s defensive abilities. There could be other factors at work here. Defensive metrics do have their flaws. Nonetheless, his -2.6 WAR is atrocious and with a few more decades to go, I’m curious if it will hold up as the worst of any Mets player.