The Mets brought back virtually the same team that ended 2016 for the current season. Sure, there were tweaks on the margins, as James Loney was not invited back. But anyone who was a fan in 2016 would have no problem recognizing this squad. There have been 31 different players to suit up for the Mets this year and 29 of them played for the club a year ago. Only Paul Sewald and Zack Wheeler did not play for the 2016 club. Which means that every single hitter for the 2017 Mets so far also played for the team last year.
This was a source of angst for some, who claimed that the team was not properly balanced. And complaints about the offense started as early as the second game of the year. Flash forward to today and no one is, check that – no one should be – complaining about the offense. With now three starters on the disabled list, the Mets have scored five or more runs in nine straight games.
For the season, the Mets have scored 152 runs in 29 games, an average of 5.24 runs per game. That’s the third-best total in the league. They’re hitting home runs at a good clip but what’s really driving the 2017 offense is what plagued the 2016 club for most of the season. While most of last year the team was dismal with RISP, this year’s team has been terrific.
The Mets are second in the league with a .953 OPS. Recall that most of last year the Mets were in last place in this category. How good have the Mets been? While they are last in the NL in PA with RISP, they are sixth in the league in runs in these situations.
The Mets are last in the league in PA with RISP because the team’s batting average is not good. Overall, they have a .233 AVG and a .312 OBP, compared to overall league averages of .252 and .322, respectively. But whereas last year they finished with an OPS 74 points lower with RISP than their overall mark, this year they have a mark 223 points higher.
The sequencing of hits has just been so much better here in 2017. Are they overachieving in the category after 29 games? Without a doubt. But the good fortune so far this year does not hold a candle to the bad fortune of a year ago, when for most of the year they had an OPS in these situations that was the worst since the expansion San Diego Padres in 1969.
Right now the Mets have a .329 BABIP with RISP, which is 28 points above the league average. The hits are falling in. But that mark is just the fourth-best mark in the league and pales in comparison to the .369 mark of the Diamondbacks or the .373 mark of the Nationals.
Having a team with an AVG worse than the league mark does not doom them to being below league average in runs scored. When the offense was designed, what we’re seeing now is what the team had in mind.
And it’s not just 29 games where we’ve seen this happen. In the final 59 games of 2016, the Mets scored 296 runs. In the last 88 games the club has played, they’ve scored 448 runs, an average of 5.09 runs per game. That’s over half a season, certainly a big enough sample that no one should dismiss it out of hand.
Of course, it’s too early to declare victory. One has to only go back to the middle of last year to see the Mets struggle to plate runs over a large sample. The 2016 Mets of May-June-July tallied just 268 runs over 81 games. That team struggled to adequately replace its injured players and had horrible results with RISP.
So, which one is the real Mets? The easy answer is they’re in the middle of those two 80+ samples. My view hasn’t changed. Coming into the year, my belief was that with normal luck with injuries and normal results with RISP that this would be an above-average offense. I think they’re much, much closer to the last 88 games than the previous 81.
It feels like the club has had a bit more than its share of injuries so far but that’s pure conjecture on my part. They’ve had good fortune with RISP. And the result is a top-3 offense here after five weeks of the season. Let’s see what happens the rest of the year. Perhaps the offense will crater once it moves outside of the division.
But right now the Mets have won six of their last eight games. And that’s due to the offense and the relief pitching. By far the weak point of the team, both in the recent hot streak and the whole season, has been the starting pitching. If the Mets are going to play their way back into contention, they’ll need significantly better results from their starters.