Just how unusual was the 2016 Mets performance with RISP?

There were three defining areas for the 2016 Mets, two bad and one good. The bad ones were the injuries and the hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP) while the good one was the team’s strong finishing kick. We’ve discussed the injuries and the kick in greater detail, so now it’s time to discuss the hitting with RISP issue. Some see this as a direct result of the type of hitters that the club has and/or the approach these hitters use. Others view it as nothing more than a statistical blip that should correct itself the following year.

Conventional wisdom said that hitting with ducks on the pond turned a .250 hitter into a .300 hitter. Yet we see on a league-wide basis, there’s very little difference between hitting in all situations and hitting with RISP. In the National League in 2016, the overall triple slash line was .254/.322/.412 while with RISP it was .256/.341/.415 for the season. AVG and SLG were nearly identical while there was an uptick in OBP with RISP.

Of course, what’s typical on a league-wide basis does not carry over on a team-wide basis. Here’s the OPS for each National League team last year, their OPS with RISP and the difference between the two:

Team Overall RISP Difference
Rockies .794 .870 .076
Cubs .772 .771 -.001
Cardinals .767 .825 .058
D’Backs .752 .761 .009
Nats .751 .764 .013
Pirates .734 .748 .014
Mets .733 .676 -.057
Brewers .729 .736 .007
Dodgers .728 .741 .013
Giants .728 .705 -.023
Reds .724 .813 .089
Marlins .716 .751 .035
Braves .705 .721 .016
Padres .689 .777 .088
Phillies .685 .672 -.013

We see that 11 of the 15 teams in the league had a greater OPS with RISP than they did overall, with only the Phillies, Giants, Cubs and Mets running a deficit. It’s a tiny bit unusual for only four teams to be negative. There are typically a couple more teams that are 15 points or so beneath their overall mark. Let’s run the same chart for 2015:

Team Overall RISP Difference
Rockies .748 .810 .062
Dodgers .739 .730 -.009
D’Backs .738 .726 -.012
Giants .732 .777 .045
Nats .724 .722 -.002
Cubs .719 .714 -.005
Pirates .719 .775 .056
Cardinals .716 .683 -.033
Mets .712 .736 .024
Reds .706 .655 -.051
Brewers .700 .753 .053
Marlins .694 .675 -.019
Padres .685 .726 .041
Phillies .684 .719 .035
Braves .674 .727 .053

In 2015, there were seven teams that were in negative numbers. We see good hitting teams overall run a deficit and poor hitting teams overall run a surplus. There’s no rhyme or reason or pattern. Additionally, only one of the four teams that were in negative numbers in 2016 were underwater in 2015, that being the Cubs, who were one point under last year and five points under in 2015. And this year it was the Reds’ turn to run a significant deficit. However, the Mets’ deficit of 57 points was still the largest.

If we combine the differences between the overall OPS and the RISP OPS for these two seasons, we have a sample of 30, a mean of .019 and a .038 standard deviation. We would expect about two-thirds of the teams to be within one standard deviation, or to run an OPS difference between (-0.19) and .057 and the actual number is 21 of the 30 teams, or 70%.

We find the Mets’ 2016 OPS difference being exactly two standard deviations away from the mean.

Let’s look at it from strictly a Mets’ point of view. Is there something going on with the makeup of the team or their hitting approach that lends them to underperform with RISP compared to overall? We’ll run the same chart as above, except that this time it will only be the Mets, going back to the year 2000. It’s a nice round number, it gives a decent enough sample size and it includes good teams and bad ones.

Year Overall RISP Diff
2016 .733 .676 -.057
2015 .712 .736 .024
2014 .673 .731 .058
2013 .672 .686 .014
2012 .701 .718 .017
2011 .725 .744 .019
2010 .697 .723 .026
2009 .729 .763 .034
2008 .761 .741 -.020
2007 .775 .801 .026
2006 .780 .830 .050
2005 .738 .749 .011
2004 .726 .741 .015
2003 .688 .712 .024
2002 .717 .780 .063
2001 .710 .685 -.025
2000 .776 .750 -.026

You can see that only four times in 17 years did the Mets run a deficit and this was the first time since the Sandy Alderson-Terry Collins regime took control that it occurred. The other three times that the Mets had a higher overall OPS, the difference was in the 20s. What happened last year was over twice as much as “normal” for a Mets team running a deficit this century.

Here we have a sample of 17, a mean of .015 and a standard deviation of .031, with the latter two numbers being similar to what we saw with the 2015-16 National League. One standard deviation would be (-0.16) to .046 and 10 of the 17 (59%) teams fell within this range. Two standard deviations would be from (-0.47) to .077 and 16 of the 17 (94%) teams fell with this range. We would anticipate 95% of the teams being within two standard deviations.

The 2016 Mets difference was over two standard deviations away from the mean.

Whether we look at it from a league-wide or team-wide basis, we would expect a negative difference in the OPS with RISP compared to overall OPS that the Mets posted last year to happen five percent of the time or fewer. We typically view a generation being somewhere between 20 and 25 years. The size of the 2016 Mets’ OPS deficit was a once in a generation type of thing.

Now, this does not mean that the Mets are guaranteed to run an OPS surplus next year. We saw that the 2000-01 Mets ran a deficit in back-to-back years and it’s certainly on the table to happen again. But a back-to-back deficit has happened just one time in the last 16 opportunities for the Mets and one time in 15 in the National League over the 2015-16 seasons. And even if it did happen to the Mets next year, it would be extremely unlikely to be the size of their 2016 deficit.

33 comments for “Just how unusual was the 2016 Mets performance with RISP?

  1. John Fox
    December 13, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Interesting in the first graph that of the four teams that did the worst in RISP three of them made the post season, and the two teams that did the best, the Reds and Padres, did not come close to making the post season.

    • December 13, 2016 at 11:55 am

      The Reds and Padres may have maximized their offense but their pitching was another story. The Padres were 10th in the league in runs allowed while the Reds were 13th.

  2. Metsense
    December 13, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    The poor showing of hitting with RISP in 2016 was an anomaly and of such a large difference that it impacted the season. Great work in proving the point. It would be interesting to see the 2016 Met monthly breakdown of RISP and how it correlates to their won lost record.
    BTW that 2006 team sure could hit.

  3. Frank from jersey
    December 13, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    This proves that pitching can overcome a crappy RISP ratio and we have good pitching. This team has a horrible team BA in general which means we will see more of the same this coming year since at least for now it’s all the same hitters. Sandy is failing in changing that dynamic of our team

  4. Chris F
    December 13, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    do you have these day with BA?

    We are on the same page. Was thinking about this exercise yesterday

    • December 13, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Not exactly sure what you’re asking about but I included all of the data that I compiled in the article.

  5. MattyMets
    December 13, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Amazing work Brian. If the low RISP was an anomaly and so was the rash of injuries, then why is Steamers projecting the Mets to be worse in 2017?

    • December 13, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      I don’t know if we can say that the injuries were an anomaly that won’t repeat. Especially since going into 2017 we expect Wright to miss a fair amount of time and no one will be surprised if one of the pitchers misses half the year and if TDA does, too.

      Steamer only projects two Mets hitters to reach league average and even those two are significantly less productive than they were in 2016. Also, the projections are, in my opinion, overly negative on the results (if not innings) from JDG and Harvey and have Lugo getting nearly three times as many starts as Gsellman, which I don’t think will happen, either. They also show both Familia and Reed performing worse than a year ago and they were a key to last year’s success. I think this is something to be concerned about and why I hope Sandy picks up another solid late inning reliever.

  6. Studes
    December 13, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Something else that doesn’t get enough discussion is that the Mets were also near the bottom of the league in AB with RISP. That’s a direct function of the types of hitters they have. Even if they improve their BA in those situation, his will put a cap on their likely improvement.

    • December 13, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      True but while the Mets had only two fewer PA with RISP than the Padres, they had 78 fewer runs.

      While both are problems, the production when they get into those situations is a bigger issue than the raw number of times.

  7. Eraff
    December 13, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Tell Me the Health of the Team and I’ll provide projections… Wright, Duda, and Walker—will they Give you 1500 ab’s?…I doubt it. Will d’Arnaud project as a Broken Bat/Broken Body, or will he give you 125-135 games and 70 rbi? Syndergaard was the only member of the present projected Starters to finish the season standing and starting.

    I believe they have some reason to be cautious with moves before they hit Spring Training… they have some holes to fill, even healthy—they may have more holes than they now think.

  8. TexasGusCC
    December 14, 2016 at 3:25 am

    Brian, I must commend you for a great deal of research and interesting analysis. As one of the people who have openly questioned the Mets approach, it seems logical that a prerequisite for being successful as a hitter is hitting the ball. I looked up some of the biggest sluggers of all time and noticed that the good ones didn’t strikeout more than 15% of their atbats, and mostly they were much less. At a time when sluggers are expected to strikeout a bit more, I refer to the traditional thinking that homers will come, there isn’t a need to chase them. Further, as Studes said, the Mets don’t seem to be looking to escape this approach. Also, the hitters with higher strikeout rates are streakier, hence the lulls in the offensive outputs and the huge bursts.

    I’m not too sure that this change can be made in one offseason, but surely the Mets need to make it a point to become better overall hitters and de-emphasize the long ball. More teams have maintain success with a majority of contact hitters, than a majority of homerun hitters. Exhibit A has to be the Blue Jays. They have a bomb squad but lack table setters. They make the playoffs, but don’t go too deep into them. Yet the Cardinals without really any big bats are sniffing around the playoffs every year due to their pitching, defense and executing fundamentals.

    • December 14, 2016 at 7:56 am

      Thanks for the kind words!

      You can’t look up anything – in this case historical strikeout numbers – and apply it to modern numbers without context. Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson have strikeout rates that look pedestrian compared to what we see today but they were leading their league in strikeouts.

      I don’t see how you can claim that the Mets need to overhaul an offensive approach that has them in the playoffs in back-to-back years for only the second time in franchise history and with a World Series appearance, too. Last year, three of the top five teams in the NL in homers made the playoffs, another missed by one game (the Cardinals, who you claim don’t hit homers) and the fifth plays in Coors Field. Only two of the top five teams in lowest K% made the playoffs last year and the other three finished a combined 54 games under .500 with two last place finishes in their division.

      I know it’s frustrating to watch strikeouts. Try asking Braves fans what it’s like not to hit homers. In the first half last year, they hit 55 HR in 3,043 ABs for a HR every 55.3 ABs and had a 31-58 record. In the second half they hit 67 HR in 2,471 ABs for a HR every 36.9 ABs and had a 37-35 record. Obviously, not everything in that 2nd half turnaround is tied to homers. But it would be foolish to pretend it didn’t play a major role.

  9. TexasGusCC
    December 14, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Brian, when you finish 25th in runs scored, due to a hot September and some improbable repeat performances from Cabrerra and Granderson, but were 29th or 30th all year long until then, you can’t stand on your offensive approach. Those home runs were not very clutch and is my point exactly: Having a swing for the fences mentality hurts you in the long run. The homers will come is what every player has said since I was a kid. Why compare a team that thumped its chest after going to the World Series with a team that is openly rebuilding?

    Also, since the rules of baseball haven’t changed, then comparing eras may teach us something. Today’s game is not played very intelligently and while you can strikeout some, once you give up an extra 75-100 extra atbats to the strikeout, you limit yourself more. Your point about Jackson and Mantle was my point also, in that they stuck out less, hence put the ball in play more and got better RBI numbers (productivity for the sabermetricians). Pitchers bear down with runners in scoring position, the pace slows a little, so the hitters needs more focus in those situations but instead they didn’t change the approach.

    • December 14, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Finishing 25th in runs scored was a problem, without a doubt.

      And it was a problem due to once-in-a-generation results with RISP. There’s no reason to expect that to happen in back-to-back years. This team has never had that problem before under Alderson’s swing-for-the-fences offense. It was a fluke. The year before, with an offense that personnel-wise wasn’t as good, the Mets scored over 50 more runs with RISP. Add 50 to last year’s run total and the Mets are hanging out with the Pirates and Dodgers as a top-half-of-the-league offensive club.

      Tell you what – if the Mets have league-average results with RISP – even with their fewer PA with RISP – and they’re 25th in runs scored, then I’ll consider the offense a problem. But not until then.

      I wasn’t alive in the heart of Mantle’s career. But I was for Jackson’s and I can tell you that without a doubt that people were complaining about his strikeouts. It’s all relative.

      • Chris F
        December 14, 2016 at 11:01 am

        look a the offense minus Cespedes. the 2015 offensive numbers are carried by his addition. Prior to Ces’ arrival, the Mets had the worst offense in the MLB. Last year, again, night after night we failed to anything while Ces was out. You may not think the Mets have an offense issue, but a lot of folks think their offense and offensive approach is offensive. I think a WC game loss is hardly the “post season”, but I guess thats just me.

        • December 14, 2016 at 11:10 am

          You’re contributing all of the offensive surge in 2015 to Cespedes’ arrival, which I don’t believe is accurate.

          When the Mets won 18 games in September last year, Cespedes batted .214

          I’m not saying he didn’t contribute. I’m not saying he wasn’t a factor. But Cespedes needs to get behind numerous people in the stretch drive as far as production, most specifically Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera.

          The Mets had a team OPS of .767 in September. The offense was firing on almost all cylinders. Cespedes had an OPS over 100 points lower than that.

          • Chris F
            December 14, 2016 at 2:37 pm

            They also did not play a single team with a >.500 winning record in September. Im not buying that what we saw was the baseball gods raining on the Mets RISP parade. This team has been terrible on offense for large tracts of seasons to be bailed out by a superhuman short stretch that raises the yearly totals to above abysmal. In fact this is a team with terrible BA that cannot move runners around the diamond minus a HR. Often times, HR come with no one on base (see Granderson). I dont believe for one second that RISP will “regress” (I guess “progress”?) to some average because of luck. This team has been terrible at the plate for a lot of nights, and a number of years. With essentially the same personnel, I cant envision why this year will be any different.

            • December 14, 2016 at 3:14 pm

              They played six games against the Nationals in September.

              You keep wanting to make this only September while the offense was just as good in August (and April, too.) In the last two months they played 20 games against teams that finished above .500 and four against the Marlins when they were above .500 and before Fernandez died. They averaged 4.2 runs per game in these 24 games. For the season, the Nationals averaged 4.18 runs per game against teams over .500

              There are other players on the team besides Granderson. I’ve already shown that as a team, the Mets had fewer solo HR than the average NL team.

              It was no fun to watch the team in May, June and July. It was really fun to watch in April, August and September. I think there’s more reason to believe we’ll see a team with an above-average offense in 2017 than there is to think that we’ll see a bottom of the barrel offense.

              You’re a glass-half-empty kind of guy when it comes to the Mets. You advocated selling at the trade deadline both years. I can’t change the type of person you are. All I can do is give you the facts for why I feel the opposite.

              • Chris F
                December 14, 2016 at 3:53 pm

                In 2015, the Mets had spent since mid May until past the trade deadline with almost the entire time with <50% chance at post season play. It was hardly inspiring until the moment Cespedes arrived (although Uribe and Johnson were excellent pickups). In 2016 the Mets hit their nadir on 20 August, with a 7% chance of post season play, after a decline since the second week of May.

                http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/standings/probability.jsp

                Perhaps the calling card of the Alderson era is a season book ended with extraordinary production with awful play in between.

                I vehemently dislike the HR uber alles offense. The lack of consistency makes the team very hard for me to be enthusiastic across the season. As a result, I cant stand Aldersonian "wait til August" strategy.

            • MattyMets
              December 15, 2016 at 8:27 am

              Not sure if there’s a stat for this but another anomaly is the percentage of Granderson home runs hit with the bases empty.

      • Chris F
        December 14, 2016 at 11:11 am

        How does a team that hits 218 HR, end up with tied with the Brewers at the near bottom of the NL and MLB for runs scored — and have that not be a problem with offense?

        • December 14, 2016 at 11:25 am

          It’s absolutely a problem. I’ve never said otherwise.

          Where we differ is in the cure. The biggest problem with this offense is that it didn’t hit with RISP. I don’t care what offense you design, if it posts a .605 OPS with RISP, like the Mets did thru games of August 13th, you’re going to have trouble scoring runs.

          The last two months of the year, when they didn’t have the worst RISP production in 47 years, they averaged 5 runs per game. This was over a stretch of 58 games.

          Do I think the 2017 Mets will average 5 runs per game? No, I do not. But I don’t think they’ll average 3.3 runs per game like they did in the middle of the year, either. As currently constructed, I believe this offense is much closer to the Dodgers and Pirates than the Phillies.

  10. Jimmy P
    December 14, 2016 at 9:39 am

    It’s an exceedingly slow, station-to-station offense with low OBP and BA numbers.

    To argue that it’s fine because they’ve gotten to the playoffs two years in a row is anti-intellectual, a denial of the team’s strengths.

    It’s like talking about win totals for a pitcher.

    The offense has not been league average.

    A lot depends on the health and production of d’Arnaud, because after him it’s a black hole at that position.

    • December 14, 2016 at 10:25 am

      If everything goes right, the team strength is its pitching. I don’t think anyone is claiming otherwise. We’re talking about the offense and whether it’s doomed to be 25th in the league in runs scored because of its approach. At the risk of putting words in his mouth, Gus seems to claim that it’s a major worry it will be this bad again next year. My take is that it isn’t. In no way, shape or form is this “anti-intellectual.” I’m sorry if Gus and I aren’t having the conversation you want us to have.

      In 2015, the Mets were an above-average team in runs-per-game. I don’t see any reason that the 2017 team, with normal health and normal RISP production, can’t be above average, too.

  11. John
    December 14, 2016 at 10:38 am

    One “non-random” factor omitted here is that in 2016 the Mets were pathetic at stealing bases, and baserunning in general, and were a “station-to-station” team. Thus opposing pitchers could focus on the batter, and the batter had more pressure on him to get a big hit, which contributed to a low RISP. The Mets hit a lot of home runs, but mostly with the bases empty. This was not “random.”

    • December 14, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      It’s nice to have an opinion. But what’s an opinion that has no basis in fact? The NL hit 2,657 HR last year and 1,561 of them came with the bases empty. That’s 59% that were solo shots.

      The 2016 Mets hit 218 HR and 125 of them were with the bases empty. That’s 57% – below average – that were solo shots.

      Whatever problems the Mets offense had last year, it had absolutely nothing to do with more HR than normal being hit with the bases empty.

      • Chris F
        December 14, 2016 at 11:05 am

        Granderson hit 30 HR and 59 RBIs, which was the first time in many decades (was it even as long as a century?) that happened. That seems like a note of distinction.

  12. Eraff
    December 14, 2016 at 11:31 am

    I believe that a good deal of this RISP distortion was based on Lineups that had holes in them…when you field a lineup with 3-4 reliable Outs, you give the Pitcher lots of good options to Pitch tougher to good hitters….knowing that a Pitcher or a bad hitter is on deck (much less stacked 2 deep behind a decent hitter) is a big benefit to a Pitcher. It’s simple to see that AL lineups, with a DH, score more runs because they are usually populated by more Bats…they get the same 3 outs!

    I believe the incredibly bad RISP was driven by a good deal of bad luck, with plenty of “bad lineup Factor” mixed in to help the bad luck.

    • December 14, 2016 at 11:53 am

      I think it’s more of a case that the veterans who came up in these key situations just started doing better.

      From April to July, Curtis Granderson came up 84 times with RISP and had 28 Runs and 12 RBIs.
      In August and September he came up 46 times and had 22 Runs and 11 RBIs

      From April to July, Asdrubal Cabrera came up 80 times with RISP and had 26 Runs and 15 RBIs
      In August and September he came up 35 times and had 14 Runs and 18 RBIs

  13. Eraff
    December 14, 2016 at 11:58 am

    They Hit Better because they Hit Better…Occam’s Razor

  14. Jim OMalley
    December 14, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    I hate to say this but we’ve got this crazy David Wright dead-weight anchor negatively affecting the team. We can’t add a solid contributor at 3B because, all that contract money/roster space/contingency plans are built into the team’s construction. Until the Wright situation resolves itself in some manner, we’ll continue to have odd roster management.

  15. TexasGusCC
    December 15, 2016 at 1:37 am

    Hi again folks. Sorry, but distractions aplenty today and couldn’t get back to the topic. Looks like I left Brian to do the heavy lifting. Many good points by everyone, but for a team that under Terry Collins has shown little execution/regard of fundamentals, the Mets could use a refinement of focus. The pitching will be there but health and offensive production will put this team in position to take the division.

    – Bunting practice everyday in St. Lucie.
    – Lefties need to work on hitting to left fimy K’d; this is what spring training is for!
    – Would love to hear someone of stature (Alderson? Collins? Granderson?) in March speak about the importance of cashing in base runners with less than two outs. It would be a good sign that last year’s failures won’t be repeated. Yes, the Mets should have better luck, but to quote a very successful football coach: “The harder we work, the luckier we get”. And a bonus quote from one of my favorite tv commercials of all time: “Luck is for rabbits”.

    Hit the damn ball!

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