1986 Mets vs 2016 Mets: Was Strawberry Right?

darryl strawberry

An MMO Fan Shot by Carl Aridas

In a recent interview, featured here on Metsmerized Online, Mets’ great Darryl Strawberry stated that the 2016 NY Mets couldn’t compare to the 1986 Mets team that won the World Series.  Given that the 1986 anniversary celebration just passed at Shea, errr Citi Field, I wondered whether Darryl was correct in his assertion that the current team “is not even close to what we [1986 Mets] were”.  This statistically-based analysis attempts to answer that question on a position by position basis.

Catcher:

In 1986, Gary “the Kid” Carter had a triple slash of .255/.337/.439 good for an OPS+ of 115 to go with 24 homers and 105 RBIs which was good for third in the 1986 NL MVP voting.  His total bWAR of 3.5 is certainly greater than anything d’Arnaud or Plawecki will be mustering this season.

Advantage – 1986

First Base:

1986 Gold glove award winner Keith Hernandez batted .310/.413/.446 for an OPS+ of 140.  His 13 HRs and 83 RBIs helped that team as did his 5.5 WAR.  The 2016 team, even with a healthy Lucas Duda could not match that total as Duda’s career high in WAR is 3.6 back in 2014.

Advantage – 1986

Second Base:

Surely the 1986 Mets, with Wally Backman, the greatest minor league manager in the history of Las Vegas will win this position battle against their 2016 counterparts?  In 1986 Wally Backman batted .320/.376/.385 for an OPS+ of 113 (13% better than league average) and a total WAR of 3.1. He had 1 homer and 27 RBIs in all of 1986.  However, this year’s team has Neil Walker who through June 17 had a .274/.345/.493 which is good for an OPS+ of 126.  He already has 14 homers and 28 RBIs, but his superior bat is offset by a glove already worth -.2 WAR.  Based on current statistics, Walker projects to provide a WAR of 3.1 in 2016.

Advantage – Even

Shortstop:

Asdrubal Cabrera, through June 17, has hit to the tune of 264/326/397 and an OPS+ of 97 (3% below league average).  He has a total WAR of .6 already on the season.  The 1986 team had Rafael Santana who “hit” .218/.285/.254 good for an OPS+ of 52.  He had .6 WAR the entire season of 1986.

Advantage – 2016

Third Base: 

Ray Knight manned the hot corner in 1986 and compiled a .298/.351/.424 during the season with 11 home runs and 76 RBI.  His OPS+ was 115 and he compiled a total of 2.3 WAR on the season.  Before his season-ending surgery, David Wright has an OPS of .788 good for an OPS of 114.  While David Wright’s formerly gold glove defense has deteriorated, his 953 fielding percentage is still basically the same as Knight’s 1986 fielding percentage of .948 as Knight had 16 errors that season.  Without the surgery, David Wright would have been the equal of Ray Knight.  However, the current Mets backups are not.

Advantage – 1986

Left Field:

The 1986 actually had two semi-regular left fielders as George Foster hit .227/.289/.429 through 72 games before being released by the team in August.  He was replaced by Kevin Mitchell who had 12 home runs and 43 RBIs to go with his batting line of .277/.344/.466. Through June 17, Michael Conforto had a .233/.301/.455 triple slash line good for an OPS+ of 103 and his .5 WAR to date already exceeds Foster’s 1986 total and by the end of the season should exceed the combined 1986 WAR total of Mitchell and Foster.

Advantage – 2016

Center Field:

Lenny Dykstra was the spark plug of the 1986 team and his .295/.377/.445 for an OPS+ of 129 certainly justifies that moniker.  His 31 steals led the team and his 76 runs scored were second on the team and he had 4.7 WAR.  Yoenis Cespedes is certainly a different kind of player than Lenny Dykstra, and the slugger leads the team with 16 homers and his .562 slugging percentage is among league leader.  His OPS+ so far this season is 145, and his combined OPS last season was 136.  Sorry Dykstra fans, the advantage goes to:

Advantage – 2016

Right Field:

In 1986 Darryl Strawberry led the team with 27 home runs, his 93 RBIs were second behind Gary Carter’s 105, and his batting line of 259/358/507 good for an OPS of 865 which led the team.  He also added 28 stolen bases.  With all due respect to the Mets current leadoff hitter, Curtis Granderson will likely be bested by Darryl Strawberry in batting average, on base percentage and slugging and Strawberry’s 28 steals in 1986 are more stolen bases than Granderson has ever had in a season in his career.

Advantage – 1986

The current Mets were hard pressed to match their 1986 counterparts, as the 1986 team led the National League in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, RBIs and runs scored.  The team’s OPS+ was 106, the only National League team to be above average in that statistic in 1986.

Bench:

Does the current projected production of the Mets bench of Lagares, Flores, Campbell, and De Aza match the actual output in 1986 of Mookie Wilson, Danny Heep, Howard Johnson and Tim Teufel?

In 1986, Mookie Wilson batted .289 and had 25 steals while accumulating 3.0 WAR; Danny Heep batted .282, had an OPS+ of 123 and added .7 WAR off the bench; Howard Johnson had 10 HRs and 39 RBIs for 1.4 WAR good for an OPS of 118 in 1986, the year before he led the National League in home runs with 39 in 1987; and Tim Teufel added 25 extra base hits while accumulating .5 WAR backing up second, first and third.

This year’s bench has Juan Lagares batting .289 through June 17 and .5 WAR but his OPS+ is just above league average at 106.  Meanwhile Flores is hitting .248 while Campbell and De Aza are all still below the Mendoza line, at .159 and .171 respectively.

Advantage – 1986

Starting Pitching:

The 1986 Mets led the National League in wins, gave up the fewest runs in the league (3.57 per game) allowed the fewest baserunners (walks + hits per inning pitched, “WHIP” of 1.222) and gave up the fewest home runs per game at .6.

For those who have forgotten, or are too young to remember, the 1986 starting five consisted of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda (who led the team with 18 wins) Sid Fernandez and Rick Aguilera.  Don’t overlook Aguilera who as the number five starter had the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio on the rotation.  Collectively, the starting five went 76-30 (a .717 winning percentage) with a 3.05 ERA and a WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) of 1.17.  Man those guys could pitch.

The current starting five of the Mets certainly have the potential to match their 1986 counterparts, assuming Harvey rights himself and Matz and Syndergaard continue to develop.  So far this season (stats through June 17) the Mets starting five have a 27-20 record (a very good but inferior to their 1986 counterparts winning percentage of .622). Their ERA is 3.05 and their collective WHIP is 1.17.

With the same ERA so far, and the exact same WHIP, the 2016 starting rotation has the potential to match, and perhaps even exceed the 1986 team, at this point.

Advantage – 1986

Bullpen:

The top five members of the current Mets bullpen, led by closer Jeurys Familia has a 6-6 record through June 17, with a 3.02 ERA and 23 saves and a WHIP of 1.21.  The 23 saves projects to more than 58 saves, and as noted recently, Familia now owns the club record for consecutive saves.  The 1986 team had two closers, lefty Jessie Orosco who went 8 – 6 with 21 saves and righty Roger McDowell who had 14 wins and 22 saves.  The top 5 performers in the 1986 bullpen went a combined 30 – 21 with a 2.92 ERA, 45 saves and a WHIP of 1.29.  The current bull pen projects to have more saves and a lower WHIP than their 1986 counterparts, but the 1986 bullpen had a better won-loss record.  The ERAs are virtually the same, so my vote says –

Advantage – Even

Results At A Glance:

1986 vs 2016

It’s tough to match up with a team that holds the club’s single season records for wins, and won the World Series.  This year’s team is close though, and will hopefully add a third World Series trophy to the team’s trophy cabinet.

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This MMO Fan Shot was written by MMO reader Carl Aridas. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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