So here’s something.
Postseason baseball is awesome. But since our Mets have not partaken in it of late, this is the time of year for many of us to focus on rooting against the Yankees or rooting through baseball-reference.com for signs of hope. Since I’ve got no particular distaste for the Bombers beyond the boilerplate stuff, let’s engage in the latter.
Near the bottom of nearly every player’s page at baseball-reference, you’ll find his “Similarity Scores,” with lists of other players. The scores were invented by Bill James and are formulated through a process described here. Though every player is his own unique snowflake, the idea is that by comparing a current player to his nearest historical match, we can attempt to predict how he will perform moving forward. For active players, one of the lists provides the top 10 most similar players through that player’s current age. For Nick Swisher, say, the player who performed most similarly through age 31 was Jermaine Dye — though who’s to say if Dye could bro it down quite so hard?
It’s hardly a perfect way to predict how a player’s career will proceed, and it is indeed not even the best method for that. And certainly it’d be silly to expect Swisher to enjoy a career year at age 32 just because Dye did. But then there’s no perfect way to predict the future — what with, you know, the future — and looking at a player’s historical comps provides a handy, accessible guideline for guessing how guys will go forth. Players who produced like this to that age tend to produce like this afterward. That’s the idea, at least.
Anyway, with that in mind I took a look at the Mets’ position players’ age comps to try to figure which one has the best career in front of him.
Want to guess? Take a second and think about it: Which Met position player will be the best from 2013 through the end of his tenure in the big leagues?
There’s no right answer, of course. You might say it’s Justin Turner, and though I could point out that the players most like Turner through age 27 have averaged about one season’s worth of similar production afterward, I obviously can’t guarantee it will go that way for Turner. Plus the accuracy of the comparisons differs with every player, and in some cases we’re comparing contemporary players with guys who played in the 1890s when they might still get diptheria and such.
By this imperfect method, though, one Met is pretty clearly the safest bet to be the best from here on out. It’s David Wright and it’s not even close.
That might seem incredibly obvious to some of you: Wright is, after all, by far the best current Met and has established a level of production far more reliable than those of any of his teammates, so even though he’s a bit older and may have a shorter career in front of him, he comes with the least risk of collapse. But to others — especially those arguing for Wright’s departure this offseason — let it serve as a handy reminder. No player currently on the Mets is likely to be better than Wright for the rest of his career.
Hell, you could even argue that Wright might be the best of these current Mets five seasons from now, toward the end of a rumored extension, should he sign one. About half the guys on Wright’s list enjoyed healthy All-Star caliber seasons at age 35 or older — Chipper Jones, Carl Yastrzemski, George Brett and Carlos Beltran among them. Only two of them tanked. The average player on Wright’s list produced over 1,000 hits, 23.1 WAR and a .287/.376/.483 line after his age-29 season. And that average includes Beltran and Aramis Ramirez, who are both still playing and producing.
Does that mean Wright will definitely be worth whatever extension his agents are currently in the process of negotiation? Of course not. But it means it’s far from a guarantee that he won’t be worth it, since guys as good as Wright tend to stay good well into their 30s. It depends on the deal, of course.
Using the same method, the rest of the under-control Mets in descending order by projected future WAR: Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, Josh Thole, Jason Bay, Turner. That feels generally right, no?
Point is, David Wright is very, very good. Players of his caliber don’t typically fall apart at his age or immediately thereafter. Just because the Mets don’t appear primed to contend in 2013 doesn’t mean Wright won’t be an important part — if not the most important part — of their next contender.