A quarter of the way through the 2019 season and the Mets as a team are not very good in any one particular area. Coming into the season the thought was that their starting pitching was going to carry the team, the back of their bullpen was to be a formidable force, and that added veterans would contribute to the batting lineup. However, as we look at the Mets and where they rank in various categories among their National League foes, we’re left to wonder how they have managed to win 20 games and only lose 20 in the process. Below are the Mets’ National League rankings in offensive, pitching and defensive categories, as compiled by Tim Britton of The Athletic.
A quick scan through these rankings reveal that:
- The club is just about below average on offense (remember that their pitchers are hitting at an above average clip which makes this even worse)
- Their pitching has room to improve as their ERA catches up to their FIP
- They are striking out opponents at a very good rate
- The eye test has not failed us, as the Mets rank very poorly in defensive metrics
So how are they winning baseball games? Based on Pythagorean Expectation, a measure of expected wins based on runs scored and against, the Mets should have a .471 winning percentage. However, it’s halfway through May and the team sits an even .500 at 20-20. This suggests that the Mets have swung into some good luck and that they are being propped up by some hot individual performances on a day by day basis. To better understand their success, I’ve taken a look through each of their 20 wins on the season and performed a simple test. Did their bats, starting pitching or relief pitching have a strong outing? The average runs scored per game in the National League is 4.6, which is used as a benchmark for this experiment. For the sake of simplicity, the scoring is as follows:
- One point if the club scored more than 4.6 runs in the game
- One point if the starting pitcher had less than a 4.60 ERA in the game
- One point if the relief pitchers had less than 4.60 ERA in the game
Each area of the Mets ranked as follows by this at home experiment:
- Batters: 16 points
- Starting Pitchers: 14 points
- Relief Pitchers: 12 points
Of course, this is a simple way of saying that the club’s offense has been carrying them to wins, while the relief pitching has left much to be desired. This is also evident in the below graphic, which charts runs scored and against per winning game.
Only four of the Mets’ twenty wins failed to reach average offensive production, while six games were over the average mark in terms of runs against.
It’s not entirely fair to reward the merits of a player’s performance only in games that are won; it’s not their fault that the rest of the team couldn’t pull it together for the win. However there’s something to be said about who is consistently behind the wheel of a winning performance. I’ve taken a completely subjective view of this season’s box scores to determine a ‘game MVP’ of each win. Not surprisingly, Pete Alonso was the main contributor to four games, receiving this distinction for his late inning and clutch performances. Jacob deGrom was awarded with three such distinctions, followed by two each for Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Amed Rosario. Pitchers were actually heavily favored in this analysis, as well as late inning or clutch moments (Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo received some love in this regard).
The numbers don’t lie either, as Pete Alonso has very good stats in Mets wins, particularly in ‘late and close’ games as defined by MLB stats. On the entire season, Alonso owns a .936 OPS. However, in 17 ‘late/close’ plate appearances he has a 1.208 OPS along with three home runs; in games won he owns a 1.099 OPS which is first on the team among hitters (among the regulars, JD Davis is second with .987 OPS). Alonso is the type of feared hitter that opposing teams will pitch around throughout the season, setting up good opportunities for the players hitting around him. It’s my opinion that the Mets should move Michael Conforto to the third spot of the lineup as his bat has been better than Cano and he puts the club in a better position to succeed. Alas, as we’ve seen, the Mets bats are not completely at fault as they have carried the club to some timely wins so far this season. It will be interesting to see if the pitching staff can step up and handle their share of the success moving forward.