One of the criticisms of the recent Mets was that they were too reliant on the HR ball for offense. Looking at Spring Training numbers, we see that they are tied for 16th with 26 HR. Your first thought may be that middle of the pack is a good place to be. It means they haven’t stopped hitting homers but it’s not the only thing going on, either. But we have to take into account that there are two main areas for Spring Training – Florida and Arizona. But once we divide into teams that train in Florida, the Mets’ offense is tied for eighth in homers, in the 15-team loop. So we still have the same results.
Of course, we can’t just look at homers. We need to know how the entire offense is doing. If they’re middle of the pack in homers and near the top in offense – that’s great. But if they’re middle of the pack in homers and near the bottom in runs, well that’s another matter entirely. Turns out they are 10th among Grapefruit League squads in offense. So, on a league-wide basis, the Mets’ offense is slightly worse than they are in just home runs.
But that may only mean that the minor leaguers for the Mets have hit more homers than the minor leaguers for other teams.
So, let’s just concentrate on guys who will make the majors. We see that six of the top seven leaders on the Mets in homers this Spring are guys likely to see significant time in Queens. Pete Alonso leads the way with three homers and while he may or may not make the Opening Day roster, few would expect him to be in the minors come May 1. The only one of seven guys on the Mets with multiple homers who will spend most of the year in the minors is David Thompson.
Now let’s look at homers from the pitchers’ perspective.
Mets pitchers have allowed the third-most gopher balls of any staff, surrendering 35 HR in 201 IP. If we limit it to teams that train in Florida, only the Orioles have allowed more taters. If we just look at the guys who will fill the rotation, the Mets’ five starters have allowed 12 HR in 61.1 IP. That’s not good. Steven Matz is skewing the results, as he’s served up six gopher balls so far this Spring. But even if we subtract Matz, the remaining four starters have allowed 6 HR in 50.2 IP, which is much better but still above where you’d think mostly elite pitchers would be.
That’s a 1.07 HR/9 rate without Matz and a 1.76 HR/9 with Matz . Last year Jacob deGrom (0.41), Noah Syndergaard (0.52) and Zack Wheeler (0.69) all had HR/9 rates significantly better than that. Matz was elevated at 1.46 and Jason Vargas was the worst, with a 1.76 mark. Interestingly, Vargas has the best rate so far this Spring, as he’s allowed just 1 HR in 12.1 IP.
Our quintet has faced 261 batters this season and allowed 19 BB and 1 HBP, along with the 12 HR in their 61.1 IP. Furthermore, they have 62 Ks and 19 BB. They’ve combined for a 4.26 ERA and a 4.59 FIP. But even combining the five starters together, we don’t have a particularly large sample so Matz’ terrible results are having an outsized drag on overall performance.
Last Spring, Matz gave up just 1 HR in 20 IP in Grapefruit League play. His good results in the Spring most certainly did not carry over into the regular season. But the pitcher who allowed the most homers in the Spring in 2018 cannot say his luck changed. Hansel Robles served up 5 HR in 11.2 IP in Grapefruit League play and he turned around to allow 7 HR in 19.2 IP with the Mets before they cut ties with him. In 2017 Sean Gilmartin and Wheeler led the club with 4 HR allowed in the Spring. During the regular season, Gilmartin allowed 2 HR in 3.1 IP and Wheeler served up 15 HR in 86.1 IP.
But let’s not end this on a down note. Let’s find something positive in all five of our starters’ results this Spring:
Syndergaard – Opposing batters have just a .189 AVG against him so far, after they recorded a .258 mark last season.
Vargas – That HR rate mentioned earlier is the big thing but 12 Ks in 12.1 IP is nice, too.
deGrom – A 7.5 K/BB rate.
Wheeler – A 0.83 WHIP is noticeably better than last year’s career-best 1.12 mark.
Matz – When he keeps the ball in the park, he’s getting more ground ball outs, as he has a 15/9 GO/AO ratio, compared to a 17/18 mark in 2018 Spring Training.