Is New York Mets Outfielder Willie Harris the Next Endy Chavez?
The honeymoon has been incredible so far for new Mets outfielder Willie Harris.
For years, the Met-killer has found soul-crushing ways to defeat the Amazins, day after day, year after year.
Whether as a Brave or a National, Harris always had a knack for making a clutch play in left field at the most inconvenient time for Mets fans.
Whether it was robbing a would-be walkoff home run from Carlos Delgado in an extra-inning game, or making an absurd out-of-nowhere diving catch to end a game, Harris always knew how to turn a sure Mets victory into a loss faster than you could say "him again?!?"
That's why I was thrilled in the offseason when the Mets signed Harris to a minor-league deal after he was let go by the Nationals coming off a season in which he hit .183.
I was just happy he wasn't playing on another team anymore! If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? Or sign 'em in this case.
No more Willie Harris singlehandedly killing the Mets. That was about the height of my expectations for him this winter. I just wanted him in our dugout, not out in the outfield ready to murder another Mets rally.
Now, after his incredible first weekend in New York in which he's gotten off to a .400/.455/.900 start with huge hits in all three games vs the Marlins, I'm starting to see something else in Harris.
Is it possible that Willie Harris is the next Endy Chavez?
Chavez spent three seasons in New York from 2006 to 2008, and is forever etched in Mets history for "The Catch" in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS vs the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium, one of greatest plays in MLB postseason history and in Mets franchise history.
Chavez had that flair for the dramatic just like Harris does, and although I don't know if Harris can emulate something like THAT, the similarities between the two do not end there.
Both of them are speedy left-handed hitters born in 1978, Chavez in February, Harris in June. Both of them spent time with two NL East teams before coming to the Mets, Chavez was a former Expo/National and Phillie, and Harris was a former Brave and National.
Both Chavez and Harris were cut loose by an NL East team after awful offensive seasons. Chavez hit .216 with a wOBA of .245 in 2005, Harris hit .183 with a wOBA of .294 in 2010.
But Chavez rebounded to have a career year in 2006 with the Mets, rebounding from a -0.4 WAR in 2005 to post a 3.0 WAR in his first season in New York.
In 2008, his last year with the Mets, Chavez posted a 1.1 WAR. Every other season of his major league career, he put up a 0.9 or lower. (The 0.9 WAR was in 2007 for the record, meaning his best three years in the big leagues by far were his three years with the Mets.)
Chavez only hit .300 once in his major league career thus far, not surprisingly during that 3.0 WAR season in 2006 in which he hit .306/.348/.431 with a .339 wOBA.
But he will always be known for his stellar defense, and the numbers back that up. Looking at his UZR totals as an outfielder on Fangraphs, Chavez posted an astronomical 16.3 UZR in 2006 and a 28.4 UZR/150. In his three seasons in Queens he posted a UZR/150 over 24 all three years.
Chavez was traded to Seattle in the J.J. Putz deal and suffered a torn ACL in a collision with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in 2009. He is currently playing in the minor leagues trying to make a comeback.
Looking at Harris's numbers, they're similar but not identical. Harris has shown more pop in his career, posting a career .115 ISO compared to Chavez's .097. Harris has also reached double-digit in home runs in a season twice, something Chavez has never done.
At the same time, Chavez was a gold glove-caliber outfielder, and Harris is not as consistent, at least according to the numbers. (Mets fans will beg to differ.)
Looking down at the outfield numbers, Harris had an otherworldly year defensively in 2008 with the Nationals, posting an absurd 16.7 UZR and positively ridiculous 30.6 UZR/150 that year.
He was also very good in 2007 with Atlanta, with a 5.0 UZR and 8.9 UZR/150. Yet in the past two years, he has negative values for his UZR and UZR/150, so I'm not sure just how good he's going to be out there in 2011.
Harris had a terrible year but all accounts in 2010, which is why the Nationals let him walk and sign with an NL East rival. But going inside the numbers shows something interesting.
Harris did hit .183 in 262 plate appearances last year, but he did so on an absurdly fluky .199 BABIP, which is roughly 100 points below league average. He may have been the unluckiest hitter in the major leagues.
Well actually he was second. Among all major leaguers with at least 250 plate appearances, Harris's .199 BABIP was second-worst only to Toronto's Aaron Hill, who had a .196 BABIP. Yikes.
That tells me that Harris is due for a rebound season in a big way, just like Endy Chavez did in 2006. Chavez had a .245 BABIP in 2005 before breaking out in 2006, when his BABIP climbed nearly 100 points to .339.
I think there are a lot of similarities between Willie Harris and Endy Chavez that Mets fans are going to see this year, and they're gonna like it a lot.
Already Harris has made his presence felt, and although he won't slug .900 the rest of the season, he has certainly been worth every penny.
Follow me on Twitter @metsjetsnets88