The common perception is that the Mets have many promising pitchers, both in the majors and in the pipeline in the minors. Let’s assume average health and average results in turning promising pitchers into major league regulars. The staff in Queens one day could be: Harvey, Niese, Wheeler, Gee and Syndergaard. It seems most people like the sound of that rotation.
Let’s also go under the assumption that with a combination of players already on hand – Parnell, Edgin, Black, Germen – along with other players in the minors – such as Mazzoni, Walters, Leathersich, Cohoon – that the Mets will be able to carve out a league-average bullpen.
Then that leaves the offense.
Perhaps surprising to some, the Mets are seventh in the National League with a 4.04 runs per game mark, which is exactly league average. However, one of the top offensive players on the 2013 team was Marlon Byrd and the Mets will have to make up his missing production just to remain in upcoming years where they are at currently.
The question becomes: How do you get a premier offense?
I like using OPS and OPS+ because they are easy to understand, explain and find. As you all know, OPS is simply adding OBP and SLG together. You can find these stats anywhere and do the math in your head, assuming there’s not already a column for OPS in the place you found the components.
OPS+ is OPS with an adjustment for both park and league, which makes it ideal to compare people from different teams and/or eras. We all know that it was easier to post a high OPS in Coors Field in 2000 than it is to post the same OPS number in 2013 in Citi Field. David Wright has a .904 OPS this year, which works out to a 154 OPS+. Meanwhile, Larry Walker had a .915 OPS for Colorado in 2000 but that worked out to a 110 OPS+. You can find OPS+ numbers at Baseball-Reference.
Is OPS+ perfect? No, it’s not. Is it the most accurate offensive number out there? Again, the answer is no. But what it loses in accuracy it more than makes up for in simplicity and general acceptance. Plus, it gets us 95% of the way there, anyway, which makes it the perfect quick and easy number to use.
So, with that out of the way, let’s use OPS and OPS+ to look at how to construct a top-flight offense. Here are the teams listed with their starters from their B-R page in descending OPS+ order:
STL – 138, 135, 131, 130, 128, 97, 95, 50
COL – 144, 140, 138, 101, 101, 87, 85, 78
ATL – 134, 124, 123, 121, 108, 86, 82, 61
NYM – 154, 136, 103, 96, 92, 88, 83, 74
So, what takeaways can we draw from this? The thing that jumps out to me is that it’s at least as important to avoid the lineup sinkholes as it is to have a lineup stacked with thumpers. The Mets are going to have Wright leading the way, which is a great head start to a productive offense. Now they need to add a couple of more above-average players, as they no longer have Byrd and his 136 mark listed above, and get rid of the anchors.
If the Mets trade out Ike Davis and his 88 OPS+ and replace it with Lucas Duda and his 130 OPS+ — that’s a huge step towards a productive offense. If they can add a similar-type player in the offseason, that gives them three, um, core offensive players. Then they just need to fill in with league average players at the other spots.
While it seems unlikely to me to happen, for the sake of illustration let’s assume that the Mets sign Shin-Soo Choo as a free agent this offseason. Choo has a 139 OPS+ this year. Adding him to a lineup with Wright and Duda and the Mets have a top three to stack up with any of the top NL teams in runs scored.
Add in Daniel Murphy and his 103 OPS+ and that’s the top half of a top-three offense. Now it’s just a matter of avoiding the potholes while filling out the rest of the lineup. Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares both have a decent shot to put up an OPS+ mark in the 90s, leaving just two spots to fill.
The bottom line is that Sandy Alderson needs to make the right decision at first base and add one impact bat to the lineup. That impact bat could come from SS or the OF and could arrive via trade or free agency. But whatever shape and size it arrives in – it’s going to cost money.
Everyone looks at the money coming off the books from the Bay and Santana contracts and assumes the Mets will have cash to spend. I have no doubts that one year the Mets will spend significant money in the offseason. However, it seems far from a slam dunk that this will be the year it happens, as they still have massive amounts of debt from loans on the stadium, SNY and the team itself.
So, it’s going to be a challenge to get the Mets to be a top-three offense. Alderson needs to make sure he doesn’t make it any harder than it has to be by keeping Davis as his first baseman while hoping to avoid the disastrous starts of the past two seasons. Even if the Mets don’t add an impact bat in the offseason, they can still help the offense by not assembling a new version of this year’s “Terrible Trio” which sunk the offense in May and June.