How challenged is the New York Mets offense? We promise to count the ways. The New York media may focus on the club missing David Wright for June and July, but the problems are deeper than the captain’s presence on the diamond. In fact, Wright might be the least of the Mets’ issues as the team tries to put runs on the board and take pressure off the Amazin’ pitching staff.
Instead of comparing this offense unfavorably to about every other MLB club — we’ll do that later, promise — let’s just zero in on Neil Walker, the second baseman new to Flushing this season. Walker’s got the numbers every team wants: .283, BA, .522 SLG, 13 HR, and a sparkling .324 (11-34) with men in scoring position. Somehow, contrary to all laws of baseball, he also has 25 RBI.
Welcome to the 2016 Mets, where runs evaporate into thin air and numbers fail to tell the story in the usual terms. In Walker’s case, nine HR of the 14 have come with the bases empty. Of those 11 hits with runners on second and/or third, eight were singles, and he only collected 10 RBI (fewer than one per hit) for his efforts. That seems either incredibly unlikely or incredibly soft hitting for such a solid bat in 2016.
Walker is far from alone in this regard. Wright has nine H with men on base, seven of them singles; seven of Kevin Plawecki’s eight H in these situations were singles; and 19 of Asdrubal Cabrera’s 23 hits were single-baggers. This Mets team has found a way to defy the universal laws of hitting with men on base. The averages are high and the production is minimal.
As a result, New York goes on extended scoring droughts like the one that swallowed the club in the last week of May. In a five-game stretch versus the Dodgers and White Sox, the Mets scored a total of nine runs, losing four of the contests. (The one loss was a 1-0 win that featured the return of Matt Harvey to the win column.)
Perhaps the most frustrating loss of the bunch was a 2-1 loss to Chicago in 13 innings. Mets hitters drew 13 walks yet had just seven hits on the night, grounding into five double plays along the way. Just glance at the box score to see how hitters with good lines were followed by “oh-fors,” with Michael Conforto’s 0-6 with 4 SO the sorest thumb in the stat line.
The Mets hitter who has defied this trend in 2016 has been Yoenis Cespedes, the club’s big free agent acquisition from the offseason. Cespedes is doing everything the Mets could have hoped for, and he’s making his hits count; his 37 RBI lead the team by a mile or two, as do his 15 HR and .593 slugging. On most clubs, this power boost from La Potencia would help the team dominate at the plate, but not this Mets offense.
This Mets team defies advanced stats like WAR, which places the club 13th in the game. Look at runs — you know, the actual points on the board — and the Mets rank 28th with 195, which is fewer than their anemic crosstown rivals have managed (198).
The Amazin’s .230 average is a few ticks from worst in the game as well. So dock WAR a few points for its interpretation here. Good thing the Mets have the best pitching staff in baseball, even with the club’s nominal ace falling from his perch in 2016.
Noah Syndergaard (5-2, 1.87 ERA) and Steven Matz (7-1, 2.60 ERA) are a two-man wrecking crew, and Jacob deGrom is finding his form again, too. New York is also sporting a top-10 bullpen with a 3.10 ERA, so the team can’t ask for more on this front. It can ask for more runs, though.
With Wright out until possibly August, Lucas Duda sidelined until July, and Travis d’Arnaud with no timetable for return, we’re not sure where this thump will come from, and the front office must be scrambling to answer the question. Who knows, maybe some of those extra-base hits will coincide with runners being on base? Stranger things have happened in baseball.
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