Are the Mets being too patient at the plate?

Generic_Mets_Logo_2Old fish, skunks and wet dog. These putrid stenches somehow reek less than the 2015 Mets offense. There’s just no other way a baseball team with that type of pitching is hovering around .500.

Comparing the Mets to 29 other Major League teams, their 276 runs scored is only better than three other teams. Stellar pitching continues to outweigh suspect defense for a 24.1 dWAR, but a –39.4 oWAR – sixth worse in the league – brings their total WAR down to 7.7

Identifying and eliminating the source of the stank has been troublesome, especially lately. New York scored 22 runs in the last 10 games, including Sunday’s 7-run anomaly. They don’t hit for power, get clutch hits or put bunts down.

Some of it has to come from a lack of talent. It’s all but impossible to score runs fielding a team of Eric Campbell, Darrell Ceciliani, John Mayberry Jr. and sadly Michael Cuddyer. Poor decisions have been made in talent acquisition and minor league call-ups, and there aren’t many remedies mid-season.

Bad luck, as skipper Terry Collins and hitting coach Kevin Long claimed, is also a part of the offensive offense. There have been some well-struck balls that find the webbing of a defender’s glove or the wrong side of a foul pole. Using BABIP, the Mets are not only well under the typical .300, but at .280, they have the third weakest Batting Average on Balls In Play. Even last year’s BABIP wasn’t that bad.

“When you’re going through it, it always seems like it’s the worst ever, but we’ll come through it. We’ll be fine. We just need to stay together and keep fighting,” Long said.

But another component of their woes may actually be the hitting coach’s fault. The team mantra is to wait for their pitch and unload. What’s actually happening is the Mets are walking less than the Major League average, striking out more than the average and just all around failing compared to the average.

Part of that comes from too much patience and a lack of aggression at the dish. Sabremetrics reveal the Mets are very good at not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, not swinging through a pitch and making contact on pitches in the strike zone. They see an average amount of first pitch strikes, but more total strikes than 22 other teams. New York, however, is one of the least likely to swing at a strike and are worse at making contact with pitches out of the strike zone. The Z-Swing metric measures swings at strikes compared to all pitches within the strike zone. As of mid-day Monday, the Mets were no. 20 with a 65.9 percent in a range of 61.5-71 percent.

This passive approach may be stifling young hitters like Dilson Herrera and Wilmer Flores. Through the minors, Herrera showed promise of hitting 20+ doubles and 10+ home runs every season. A .302/.367/.464 minor league slash, along with an average of 28 walks and 63 strikeouts, suggested his bat may have that pop. Instead, the 21-year-old second baseman boasts a weak .195/.290/.390 slash with just a pair each of doubles and home runs to go along with 9 walks and 22 strikeouts in 25 games. Formerly known as the heir apparent shortstop, Flores is sporting a .238/.270/.395 slash with 10 each of doubles and home runs to go along with 9 walks and 35 strikeouts in 71 games. As a farmhand, the 23-year-old slashed .292/.334/.440 and averaged 25 walks and 59 strikeouts a season.

Both players hit for high averages, power, few walks and a reasonable amount of strikeouts before they arrived in Queens. Maybe it’s not just ironic their numbers tanked since they joined a club so focused on waiting and taking pitches.

6 comments for “Are the Mets being too patient at the plate?

  1. Aging Bull
    June 29, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    I really love the analytical bent on this site! Great stuff. Thank you Mike. I was just reading a post about how “Hard Contact %” is correlated to any number of offensive production stats

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/what-hard-hit-rate-means-for-batters/

    After reading your post (esp the poor BABIP) I took a look at how bad the Mets Hard% would be. Would you believe that they not only lead the NL but lead the majors with a 32%?!?!

    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=0&type=2&season=2015&month=0&season1=2015&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=18,d

    That the Brewers, Padres and DBacks round out the top 4 doesnt give me great confidence in this stat, but the analysis portrayed in the above article make we wonder if the Mets will experience a hot period when their BABIP will regress to the mean of .300.

    Any thoughts on this or am I out to lunch?

    I am admittedly a neophyte when it comes to these advanced stats…

  2. TexasGusCC
    June 30, 2015 at 12:03 am

    While I usually like to give the benefit of the doubt, what makes us think the Mets will be so far above average as to finish average? Too many players make weak contact consistently. Those players are Cuddyer, Flores, Lagares, and Duda at times (even Tejada likes lifting it sometimes, but one can see that he doesn’t overswing and keeps his head on the ball). These guys all have uppercut swings and so they are prone to pop ups and weak groundouts, especially to third. Players like TDA and Murphy look to hit it hard, not hit it out. The Mets need to abandon their quests for home runs and start looking to drive it hard up the middle and let their talent define the results.

  3. June 30, 2015 at 2:24 am

    So I just spent a few minutes looking for a better answer to give you guys, and I found something interesting.

    The Mets hit pretty evenly to all fields and are tied for third most likely team to hit a line drive. They are also have some of the least bunt hits. But most revealing, the Mets are one of the worst offenders of fly balls on the infield with 11.9 percent of all fly balls – third most in the majors.

  4. Larry Smith
    June 30, 2015 at 6:43 am

    We all have something (or some things) that we abhor about the Mets’ offense. For me it’s the willingness to take called third strikes. I believe it is up to the hitting coach to bang home the notion that once the count reaches two strikes it is up to the batter to swing at anything he judges might be called a strike.
    While this will lead to weak contact on marginal pitches it should also add the occasional swinging bunt hit or bloop over the infielders. Give the opposition a chance to make an error on something rather than dragging your bat back to the dugout. Add one or two hits per game and the offense will perk up a bit.

    • Terrence Sadowski
      June 30, 2015 at 11:36 am

      Good call. That would explain their surprising stat on hard contact. There should be a variant on this stat that takes into account strikeouts.

  5. TexasGusCC
    June 30, 2015 at 10:07 am

    I find amusing at what Collins finds important in Granderson being leadoff: his OBP. While we all chant high OBP in the leadoff, the difference between a .350 OBP of Granderson and a .300 OBP of Lagares is less than one time on base per week. Hence, rather than expecting one high OBP to make a difference, it is the cumulative effect of the lineup that will make a difference. Another reason why this offense is floundering points to leadership decisions. Having Granderson behind Duda helps Duda and the lineup, plus Lagares can run. But, Collins says they won’t get on base anyway, so screw it.

    Apologies Mike as this may not be a perfect fit for this article, but the offense is struggling due to a combination of faulty scheme and faulty “logic”.

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