The other day I was perusing around some projections for Mets players and was surprised to see that one had Amed Rosario stealing 30 bags. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, he swiped 24 last year, but it still struck me as odd. No doubt the past few years of Mets baseball have desensitized me away from the idea of stolen bases. After all, there was one summer when David Wright still led the team in steals despite being injured for months. But building off this projection, let’s take a look at the Mets’ speed in 2019.
Projections for Rosario’s steal total actually vary between 20 and 30, which is perhaps more a testament to an uncertainty that he can reach base at a decent clip. The Mets’ second speedster will most likely be Keon Broxton, although his steal total seems even more ambiguous since he is not locked down in an every day role. Regardless, his abilities will be an asset for this team if they need a pinch runner late in games. No one else seems to stand out in the stolen base department, but perhaps a player like Brandon Nimmo or Jeff McNeil could surprise us and crack double-digit steals.
As an organization the Mets do not value steals. Well at least they did not under Sandy Alderson, which makes sense given his heavy emphasis on getting people on base and not needlessly getting them thrown out. The numbers support this, with the Mets 25th in baseball from 2011-2018 in steals. It will be interesting to see how the new management treats stealing and whether they will unleash the talented Rosario and Broxton.
Now to look at some speed measurements in the most literal sense, the following chart from Statcast shows the baserunning sprint speeds for qualifying Mets position players in 2018, and compares their speeds to the rest of the league.
Of the nine Mets players to exhibit above average sprinting speed, only five will be on this year’s opening day roster, and yes that is Rosario at the far right. A quick side note, Rosario was tied for 6th in the majors for sprint speed in 2017, and still top 30 in 2018. While the new addition of Broxton (15th last year in league-wide speed) should help the Mets, the more elderly newcomers will most likely not fare as well. Robinson Cano was last among second basemen and Wilson Ramos was second to last among catchers. Jed Lowrie fell below average, and all three posted similar rankings in the few seasons prior.
While raw speed does not seem to be the Mets’ strength, there is more to baserunning than speed. Daniel Murphy has consistently been one of the slowest-sprinting second basemen, but do the Mets win Game 5 of the 2015 NLCS if he didn’t go first to third on that one-out walk?
That leads us to more advanced baserunning metrics, like FanGraphs’ BsR sabermetric. It combines stolen bases with other base advancements and outs made. Perhaps this will be more favorable to the Mets’ cast of wily veterans.
In 2019 they are projected to finish with a total BsR of -0.8, below average. This is a bit surprising since under those Alderson years the Mets were 8th in BsR despite the low steals totals. This supports a different kind of “Murphy’s Law” that decrees speed and steals are not only what causes good baserunning, but unfortunately the Mets still don’t seem to have this quality as well. No matter which way you look at it, it doesn’t seem the Mets will be winning many games in 2019 from their baserunning.