Comparing the offenses of the Mets, Nats & Braves

Let’s take a look at the offenses of the three teams in the NL East to finish above .500 last year. But instead of just listing the raw numbers for the team, let’s look at the guys who received the bulk of the playing time. Below is a chart that lists the top nine guys in PA for each team, along with their production.

Name PA OPS+ Name PA OPS+ Name PA OPS+
Pete Alonso 693 148 Juan Soto 659 138 Ronald Acuna Jr. 715 122
Amed Rosario 655 102 Adam Eaton 656 101 Ozzie Albies 702 114
Michael Conforto 648 128 Anthony Rendon 646 153 Freddie Freeman 692 136
Jeff McNeil 567 144 Victor Robles 617 88 Josh Donaldson 659 127
Wilson Ramos 524 107 Trea Turner 569 113 Dansby Swanson 545 89
Todd Frazier 499 106 Brian Dozier 482 95 Nick Markakis 469 98
J.D. Davis 453 138 Howie Kendrick 370 142 Brian McCann 316 86
Robinson Cano 423 96 Yan Gomes 358 78 Tyler Flowers 310 86
Juan Lagares 285 63 Matt Adams 333 83 Austin Riley 297 86

There’s a lot to digest in this basic chart. Let’s look at the things that stand out for each team.

Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is that after years of running a “health deficit,” the Mets actually lead the three teams in PA from their top nine guys. They had 4,747, the Braves had 4,705 and the Nats had 4,690. Additionally, the Mets had their most productive guy lead the team in trips to the plate. But their second-best OPS+ player in McNeil finished fourth and their third-best guy finished seventh – not exactly how you would draw it up on the board. The other thing that worked out well for them was that the two guys who finished with the worst OPS+ finished eighth and ninth in PA.

Against the Mets, Robles slashed .290/.397/.613 so it’s very strange to see him finish the year with just an 88 OPS+. But easily the most shocking thing is how big of a boost Kendrick provided the club. Yeah, he didn’t have the PA you’d want but anytime a 35 year old gets pressed into full-time duty mid-year and provides a 142 OPS+ – you know the gods have smiled upon you. Finally, Turner is another guy who saves his best for the Mets. He had a 113 OPS+ overall but a 138 mark against the Mets.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a team top-heavier than the 2019 Braves. Their top-four hitters in PA were also their top-four hitters in OPS+. And not only that but their top-four hitters also had significantly more PA than the top-four batters on either the Mets or Nats. And what you don’t see on this chart is how the injuries to guys on the lower half of this list allowed more playing time for guys who ended up being significantly more productive. Injuries to Markakis (98 OPS+) and Ender Inciarte (89 OPS+) allowed more playing time for Matthew Joyce (120 OPS+) and Adam Duvall (118 OPS+). And don’t even get me started on the outstanding performance in small samples from trash pickups Adeiny Hechavarria (159 OPS+) and Francisco Cervelli (163 OPS+). If there’s a team that deserves a slew of bad luck in 2020, it’s this one.

Of course, each of these three teams will look different offensively in 2020. Let’s talk about the changes we expect to see in this upcoming season.

Frazier and Lagares were allowed to leave in the offseason. Hopefully they’ll be replaced by Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Nimmo on this chart of the top nine guys in PA. Cespedes is certainly a wild card and he figures to eat into the playing time of Davis. But if those two can combine for somewhere around 775 PA and a 125 OPS+, you’ll hear few complaints from me. And the Mets have the potential to see a significant increase in CF production with Nimmo. There’s the possibility he gives the club Acuna-level of PA and Soto-level of production, which would be a tremendous boost to the club.

They suffer the biggest offensive loss with the departure of Rendon in free agency. It’s unclear how they’re going to work their infield in 2020. They don’t lack for options but it’s not going to be easy to replace the guy who finished third in MVP balloting. First base could be Eric Thames or Ryan Zimmerman. Second base could be Starlin Castro or Kendrick. Third base could be Asdrubal Cabrera – who also was a terrific late-season addition – or Carter Kieboom. Can Cabrera or Kendrick come close to giving the Nats what they gave them last year? Can Thames or Zimmerman turn back the clock to 2017? Is Kieboom ready for prime time? The Nats might need all three of their outfielders to improve from a year ago to match what they got offensively in 2019.

Donaldson may not be as big of a loss as Rendon but the Braves will still feel the consequences. They also lose McCann and Joyce. They hope to make up some of Donaldson’s production with the signing of Marcell Ozuna. Back in 2017, it looked like Ozuna was going to be a star, as he was a 5.0 fWAR performer that year at age 26. But the last two seasons, he’s settled in at the “good” rather than “great” level. In 2018 and 2019, Ozuna has posted OPS+ numbers of 106 and 107, following his 149 mark in 2017. If the Braves continue their tremendous great fortune, he’ll revert to that 149 level. Atlanta also added old pal Travis d’Arnaud to be their primary catcher. d’Arnaud had a nice year for the Rays last year. We’ll see which trend is greater – The Braves’ great fortune or the collapse of players who leave the Rays after a good season. John Jaso, Logan Morrison, Mallex Smith and C.J. Cron are just some of the guys recently who’ve found the sledding tougher once they left Tampa Bay.

9 comments for “Comparing the offenses of the Mets, Nats & Braves

  1. TexasGusCC
    February 18, 2020 at 10:31 am

    This list proves the Braves are top heavy in their lineup and that the Nats are going to miss Rendon. Focusing on our guys, there may be some regression from Alonso and McNeil, but I’m expecting major bumps from Conforto, Nimmo, Rosario and Cespedes. In all, the Mets offense is good and needs only the defense to step up and the pitching to be healthy.

  2. February 18, 2020 at 11:52 am

    Why didn’t you include the Phillies in this comparison?

    • Chris F
      February 18, 2020 at 12:38 pm

      The Phillies did not finish above .500, which was the cutoff at the start of the story.

    • February 18, 2020 at 1:00 pm

      Because I still hold a grudge against Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt!

      I was concerned the chart would be too unwieldy with a fourth team in there.

  3. Chris F
    February 18, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    This is incredibly fascinating Brian. Thanks for putting all the data together like this. My guess is we could chop these numbers up some different ways and get other cool things from it. Very stimulating tally.

  4. February 18, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I don’t know if it’s the positive projections or just the fact that it’s Spring Training, but I feel unreasonably optimistic about the upcoming season. The offense is there clearly, the starting pitching is there, the bullpen…might be there, depth, etc. Realistically, unless Rojas is a complete disaster or the injury bug comes back with a vengeance, things are looking really good.

    • TJ
      February 18, 2020 at 6:51 pm

      I am right there with you. I can’t put my finger on it, and the division is definitely tough, but I am bullish on 2020. At a minimum, the team should be entertaining. It may be that they now have a lot of depth, both hitting and pitching.

  5. Herb G
    February 18, 2020 at 11:09 pm

    Interesting comparison, but I think it would have been more meaningful if had included the players on the current roster, with their OPS+ from last season, regardless of where they played.

    • February 19, 2020 at 8:54 am

      Too many judgement calls to do it that way.

      For the Mets you have to assume that Davis wins LF, which wouldn’t be the end of the world. But for the Braves you have to decide if Camargo or Riley wins 3B and you also have 4 OFers for 3 spots. And there are six people vying for three spots in Washington’s infield.

      And why should Nimmo be penalized for playing half of his time last year while clearly injured?

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