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:
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:
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.
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.