Five reasons for the Mets’ hot start

Winning cures everything and with the Mets sitting at 8-1, life looks pretty good. It’s important to remember that some people were fretting about the club’s poor record in Grapefruit League play this Spring and the feeling at the end of 2017, both the regular season and the calendar year, was one of overwhelming negativity. It’s both good and healthy to look at things with a critical eye. It doesn’t do anybody any good to bend over backwards to either find or invent things about which to worry.

So, how are the Mets 8-1? Obviously a lot of things have gone right and it would be foolish to point at just one thing. It would also be a mistake to disregard good fortune or luck. Carlos Martinez was not his usual sharp self when he faced the Mets. The club missed Max Scherzer and Daniel Murphy, who has killed the Mets the past two years, was on the DL. Also, it seems that every time the other team makes an error, the Mets pounce. There are a lot of different factors to consider in this opening stretch of good play. But here are five things that have caught my eye:

1. The bullpen has been fantastic – Yes, the relievers are carrying a bigger load than we would like to see. But in 37.1 IP they’ve allowed just 5 ER for a 1.21 ERA. There are other teams with similarly good bullpen ERAs – the Braves have a 1.33 mark while the Cubs have an incredible 0.94 ERA. But where the Mets relievers really have something jaw dropping is with their strand rate. Through nine games, the pen has a 97.8 LOB%. Sure, they’re not allowing a ton of baserunners. But they are stranding runners at a mind-boggling rate. It’s nice to see Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo pitching multiple innings at a time. Hopefully that will continue. Also it would be good to see fewer partial inning performances from Jerry Blevins and AJ Ramos.

2. Leadoff hitters doing their job – In nine games, the Mets have used four different players in the first spot in the order. That quartet has combined for a .324/.452/.529 line. After years of average or worse production from the leadoff spot, it’s refreshing to see the Mets lead the league in OBP from the very top of the order. Actually, it’s a continuation of last year’s success, especially once they moved Michael Conforto to the top of the order. After finishing 13th in OBP from the first spot in the order in 2016, the Mets placed 2nd last year. Because of that, they finished second in the league in runs scored from the first spot.

3. All pitchers keeping runners off base – While the bullpen has received the majority of the credit, the entire pitching staff has done a fine job of sending batters back to the dugout. They are second in the league with a 1.13 WHIP. While as a team they are clearly out-performing their peripherals – thanks to the previously noted LOB% – that low WHIP is an indication that it’s not all luck. While the club’s xFIP is 92 points higher than its ERA, that mark would still be the second-best in the league.

4. The hits are falling in – Currently, the Mets lead the league with a .316 BABIP. Last year they finished tied for last in the league with a .286 mark. The leader among the regulars is Amed Rosario, who holds a cartoonish .533 BABIP. Unfortunately, that also comes with a 41.4 K%. With about half the plate appearances of Rosario, Juan Lagares has a .538 mark. Five of the top 11 players in PA have a .333 or better BABIP. Last year the highest BABIP among the hitters with the top 11 PA was Conforto with a .328 mark. The hits falling in has led to a .353 OBP, the second-best mark in the league.

5. Coming through in the clutch – A couple of years ago the Mets were just dreadful with RISP. Last year they were markedly better in rate stats but suffered because they were still near the bottom of the league in opportunities. But here in early 2018, they are fourth with an .811 OPS with runners in scoring position and they are tied for fifth with 99 PA in those situations. Taken together, that’s led to the Mets being tied for fourth in runs scored with RISP.

*****

One thing I thought would be on this list would be the team’s defensive performance. Judging simply by the eye test, they look much improved from a year ago, especially in the infield. But the advanced numbers tell a different story. They are last in the league in both DRS (-11) and UZR (-2.7) while the Padres have a +13 DRS and the Marlins have a +3.0 UZR. Of course, it takes longer for defensive stats to stabilize, so this is not necessarily an indication of their true talent level. But it’s hard to list the defense as a main factor for why the Mets are currently 8-1.

16 comments for “Five reasons for the Mets’ hot start

  1. Madman
    April 10, 2018 at 10:50 am

    Everything is coming up roses….

  2. Name
    April 10, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Defensive metrics: Are they even usable anymore?

    I believe most defensive metrics are built off this premise (taken from Fielding bible)
    “The key is that if a fielder makes a play on a specific type of batted ball, hit to a specific location on the field, and hit at a specific speed, he gets credit if at least one other player in MLB that season missed that exact ball sometime during the season. A fielder who misses a play on a specific type of batted ball, hit to a specific location on the field, and hit at a specific speed, loses credit if at least one other player made the same play some other time.”

    But with shifts sometimes people are playing way out of position which kind of renders this hit location moot because the 3b could actually be playing on the right side of the infield so how would the computer calculate them letting an “easy” grounder to 3rd go unfielded (when they are not there) and then also them making a play on the RF grass…

    I dont know if defensive metrics are completely useless (for infielders, but with talks of a 4man OF maybe it will be affected soon as well), but someone needs to take a hard look at them and go back to the drawing board

  3. John Fox
    April 10, 2018 at 11:04 am

    I guess this really shows how useless it is to draw much from Grapefruit league play into the regular season, with the Mets having one of the worst ST records to the best record so far in the regular season. Also Yoenis Cespedes tore up ST, while he has had a very cold start to the regular season. In contrast Juan Lagares and Adrian Gonzalez were bad in ST at the plate, but Lagares has a torrid start and Gonzalez is doing well, better than we all expected.

  4. David Groveman
    April 10, 2018 at 11:36 am

    I have concerns about the low batting averages. The Mets are getting timely hits and it’s working but we should be concerned by the 83 Ks in 9 games.

    • April 10, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      In the NL there have been 1,309 Ks in 5,747 PA for a 22.8 K%
      The Mets have 83 Ks in 349 PA for a 23.8 K%

      That leaves them tied with 3 other teams for the 6th-highest K%

      • David Groveman
        April 10, 2018 at 12:22 pm

        I’ll try not to worry myself into an early grave

  5. TJ
    April 10, 2018 at 11:44 am

    The sample size is really too small to draw any conclusions and/or project positively or negatively. The bottom line is that an 8-1 is hard to complain about, regardless of how it came to be.

    The defense certainly hasn’t looked good to the eye, but they have made some key plays in key spots, like Gonzalez’s pick on the final out of the Sunday night game.

    For me, the pitching is always the starting and ending place, and the big take is that we have seen guys flash health and some flash success in new roles, which is a very positive sign. Given the depth on the entire squad, there is no reason to think they can’t seriously challenge for the division should their health hold up.

  6. DED
    April 10, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    The Mets team On Base Percentage in 2016 was .316, 12th in the National League. In 2017 the number was .320, 11th in the League. So far this season it’s .353, good for 2nd in the League.

    It isn’t just the leadoff batter who needs to get on base, not making outs in the process. The team doing better in this regard translates to more players hitting with men on base, more hitters getting another At Bat, the opponent’s pitching staff being forced to go deeper — all that stuff.

  7. MattyMets
    April 10, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    Gary Cohen touched on it last night, how nice it is too have a good infield again. A-Gon may not be a gold glover anymore, but he knows what he’s doing over there and has brought a level of play to first base we haven’t seen since in a long time. Same goes for Frazier and Rosario. They are playing their natural positions, they are good fielders and the seem to be gelling. Even Cabrera has looked good at second. d’Arnaud and Plawecki are like Piazza or old Gary Carter back there – they block errant pitches, chase down foul balls, frame pitches and work well with the pitchers; they just can’t throw out base runners. It’s certainly cause for concern but there’s more to being a catcher than throwing to second base.

  8. Pete In Iowa
    April 10, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    The single most impressive defensive play this season — to me admittedly, probably not anyone else here — was Cespedes running down the gapper and throwing out his man at second last night. The plain truth is most of time since he’s been here, that ball goes to the wall. It’s amazing what hustle — something that should never be overlooked, but is routinely overlooked these days — can do when infectious to the entire team. Look at all the extra bases which the club has taken so far this season and how important that has been thus far. Those plays are nothing but hustle and heady play. Not surprisingly, there is no metric for that.

    • david
      April 10, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      Agree with you 100 percent. Incredible how Cespedes, running to his left, fielded the ball, then threw ( off balance (?) ) a perfect throw to second base. Runner out. This native NY Mets believer, overseas for years and years, remembers the magic so well ( 1969, 1973, 1986 ).

      Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  9. Steevy
    April 10, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Nimmo sent down.

    • david
      April 10, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      Let us just hope Nimmo continues to shine! And hope one day, he returns.

      Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

      • TexasGusCC
        April 10, 2018 at 6:00 pm

        Seems keeping Nimmo down for two months gains a year of control. Sucks, but at this point, why not?

        Don’t understand leaving a 4 man bench, however. What exactly is Oswalt going to offer at this time, that Sewald and his week and a half rest can’t?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: