Longtime readers may recall that prior to the 2014 season, there were a series of articles posted here about durability and health. One of these suggested that one of the keys to a good season was to have four pitchers with 175 or more innings and/or five hitters with at least 575 PA. In 2013, there were two teams that had four pitchers reach that benchmark and they won 90 and 93 games. There were five teams to reach the hitter threshold and they all won at least 85 games, with four of them in the 90s.
Recently we’ve had some discussion on the site about returning essentially the same offensive team as a year ago. A lot of people are disgusted by that idea, pointing out how the team struggled to score runs for long stretches of the year. My opinion is that in August and September, when the team was reasonably healthy and the RISP numbers weren’t revolting, that the offense was very good. In fact, the team averaged exactly five runs per game over the final 58 games of the season. And that was without Neil Walker for the final 33 games of the year and without Lucas Duda for nearly the entire two-month period.
The schedule did end on a favorable note but the Mets played 20 games against teams that finished over .500 and also had four games against the Marlins while they were still relevant and before the untimely passing of Jose Fernandez. In these 24 games, the Mets scored 101 runs, an average of 4.20 runs per game. For a point of reference, the Nationals played 60 games against teams over .500 last year and scored 251 runs, an average of 4.18 runs per game.
Speaking of the Nationals, we should note that they were fourth in the NL with a 4.71 runs per game average. You probably recall that they finished the year with 95 wins. What you may not know is that they had five players total 575 or more PA last year. In other words, they were pretty healthy. For comparison, the Mets had only one player reach this threshold. Here are the top eight PA totals for both teams:
The Nationals got 898 extra plate appearances from their top guys. And if we made the comparison about the eight guys in the Opening Day lineup, the difference would have been even more extreme, as Travis d’Arnaud, Duda and David Wright all failed to make the top eight in PA for the Mets.
Let’s continue to focus on the Nationals for a second and compare their hitter health and record. In 2013, they had four hitters top 575 PA and they won 86 games. In 2014, they had five hitters reach that mark and won 96 games. In 2015 they had three hitters reach this mark and won 83 games. And last year they had five guys achieve 575 or more PA and won 95 games.
The two years when their hitters were healthiest, they won 96 and 95 games.
It doesn’t stack up so neatly for the Mets. Curtis Granderson is the only hitter to surpass 575 PA in either 2015 or 2016. It sure would be nice if he was joined by four of his mates in 2017 and we can see how the other half lives. Of course, hitting is only one part of the equation from what we looked at first back before 2014. The pitching equivalent was 175 IP. Here’s how the Mets did in that department the past four years:
2013 – 2 pitchers, 74 Wins
2014 – 3 pitchers, 79 Wins
2015 – 4 pitchers, 90 Wins
2016 – 2 pitchers, 87 Wins
Let’s look at both hitting and pitching for all 30 teams in 2016, and see which teams had five hitters with 575 PA and/or four pitchers with 175 IP and their respective records:
Baltimore – 5/89, Boston – 6/93, Chicago (NL) – 5/103, Cleveland – 5/94, Washington – 5/95
Chicago (NL) – 4/103, Kansas City – 4/81, Toronto – 4/89
No wonder the Cubs did so well last year, as they met both the hitting and pitching threshold. Six of the eight top teams in total wins last year are represented on one of the two lists. The weakest team captured by this very simplistic model was the Royals, who were six games over .500 on September 6 before going in a season-ending funk where they went 9-15 to leave them at .500 overall.
So, what are the chances that the Mets can stay at the level of health that we’re asking here? Let’s look at them individually to see how often they’ve reached either the 575 PA or 175 IP levels:
d’Arnaud – Has never done it
Duda – Once in six years since his debut season
Walker – Once in seven years since becoming a regular
Jose Reyes – Eight times in 12 years since becoming a regular
Asdrubal Cabrera – Four times in 10 years since becoming a regular
Granderson – Nine times in 11 years since becoming a regular
That’s not overly encouraging. If the Mets re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, he’s done it two times in five years. However, he’s never had fewer than 540 PA and one year missed our cutoff by one PA. If they keep Jay Bruce, he’s done it five times in seven years since becoming a regular.
Now let’s examine the pitchers. We won’t count partial years when they came up for the first time or an entire missed year.
Of course, Harvey missed one full year while Wheeler has missed two. If you were a betting man, you’d have to take the under on the Mets getting either five hitters or four pitchers to reach our threshold here. Still, they won 87 games last year with just one hitter and two pitchers reaching our target. What if they had three hitters and three pitchers make the cut?
For the Mets to win 90+ games, they don’t need to be one of the top teams in the league in health. Just reasonable health, that’s all we ask. Not super health like the Cubs. There were six teams in the National League to win at least 85 games last year. Here’s what their top eight hitters amassed in PA and their top five pitchers in innings:
|Team||Top 8 PA||Top 5 IP|
If you eliminate the Mets, the remaining five teams had an average of 4,330 PA and 838.1 IP, meaning the Mets ran a health deficit of 800 PA and 90 IP compared to the average of the top winning teams in the league. They had by far the fewest PA among their top eight batters and they had the second-fewest IP from their top five pitchers. It’s kind of remarkable that they managed to win 87 games.
And then on top of that they had four-plus months where they were historically awful with RISP.
So, bring back the offense from 2016? Yes, that would be fine. They’re likely to be healthier than they were a year ago and odds are overwhelmingly in their favor that they will hit better with RISP. The Mets needed a giant surge the last six weeks of the season to get their team OPS with RISP up to .676 for the year. In 2015, they had a .736 OPS in those situations and it was .731 in 2014 when Kirk Nieuwenhuis had the second-highest OPS overall on the team.