The common perception is that the Mets have many promising pitchers, both in the majors and in the pipeline in the minors. Let’s assume average health and average results in turning promising pitchers into major league regulars. The staff in Queens one day could be: Harvey, Niese, Wheeler, Gee and Syndergaard. It seems most people like the sound of that rotation.

Let’s also go under the assumption that with a combination of players already on hand – Parnell, Edgin, Black, Germen – along with other players in the minors – such as Mazzoni, Walters, Leathersich, Cohoon – that the Mets will be able to carve out a league-average bullpen.

Then that leaves the offense.

Duda WrightPerhaps surprising to some, the Mets are seventh in the National League with a 4.04 runs per game mark, which is exactly league average. However, one of the top offensive players on the 2013 team was Marlon Byrd and the Mets will have to make up his missing production just to remain in upcoming years where they are at currently.

The question becomes: How do you get a premier offense?

I like using OPS and OPS+ because they are easy to understand, explain and find. As you all know, OPS is simply adding OBP and SLG together. You can find these stats anywhere and do the math in your head, assuming there’s not already a column for OPS in the place you found the components.

OPS+ is OPS with an adjustment for both park and league, which makes it ideal to compare people from different teams and/or eras. We all know that it was easier to post a high OPS in Coors Field in 2000 than it is to post the same OPS number in 2013 in Citi Field. David Wright has a .904 OPS this year, which works out to a 154 OPS+. Meanwhile, Larry Walker had a .915 OPS for Colorado in 2000 but that worked out to a 110 OPS+. You can find OPS+ numbers at Baseball-Reference.

Is OPS+ perfect? No, it’s not. Is it the most accurate offensive number out there? Again, the answer is no. But what it loses in accuracy it more than makes up for in simplicity and general acceptance. Plus, it gets us 95% of the way there, anyway, which makes it the perfect quick and easy number to use.

So, with that out of the way, let’s use OPS and OPS+ to look at how to construct a top-flight offense. Here are the teams listed with their starters from their B-R page in descending OPS+ order:

STL – 138, 135, 131, 130, 128, 97, 95, 50
COL – 144, 140, 138, 101, 101, 87, 85, 78
ATL – 134, 124, 123, 121, 108, 86, 82, 61

NYM – 154, 136, 103, 96, 92, 88, 83, 74

So, what takeaways can we draw from this? The thing that jumps out to me is that it’s at least as important to avoid the lineup sinkholes as it is to have a lineup stacked with thumpers. The Mets are going to have Wright leading the way, which is a great head start to a productive offense. Now they need to add a couple of more above-average players, as they no longer have Byrd and his 136 mark listed above, and get rid of the anchors.

If the Mets trade out Ike Davis and his 88 OPS+ and replace it with Lucas Duda and his 130 OPS+ — that’s a huge step towards a productive offense. If they can add a similar-type player in the offseason, that gives them three, um, core offensive players. Then they just need to fill in with league average players at the other spots.

While it seems unlikely to me to happen, for the sake of illustration let’s assume that the Mets sign Shin-Soo Choo as a free agent this offseason. Choo has a 139 OPS+ this year. Adding him to a lineup with Wright and Duda and the Mets have a top three to stack up with any of the top NL teams in runs scored.

Add in Daniel Murphy and his 103 OPS+ and that’s the top half of a top-three offense. Now it’s just a matter of avoiding the potholes while filling out the rest of the lineup. Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares both have a decent shot to put up an OPS+ mark in the 90s, leaving just two spots to fill.

Perhaps a Matt den Dekker/Andrew Brown platoon fills the other outfield spot. Then the Mets are left hoping only for a rebound from Ruben Tejada to complete the job.

The bottom line is that Sandy Alderson needs to make the right decision at first base and add one impact bat to the lineup. That impact bat could come from SS or the OF and could arrive via trade or free agency. But whatever shape and size it arrives in – it’s going to cost money.

Everyone looks at the money coming off the books from the Bay and Santana contracts and assumes the Mets will have cash to spend. I have no doubts that one year the Mets will spend significant money in the offseason. However, it seems far from a slam dunk that this will be the year it happens, as they still have massive amounts of debt from loans on the stadium, SNY and the team itself.

So, it’s going to be a challenge to get the Mets to be a top-three offense. Alderson needs to make sure he doesn’t make it any harder than it has to be by keeping Davis as his first baseman while hoping to avoid the disastrous starts of the past two seasons. Even if the Mets don’t add an impact bat in the offseason, they can still help the offense by not assembling a new version of this year’s “Terrible Trio” which sunk the offense in May and June.

12 comments on “How far are the Mets from a top-three offense?

  • pal88

    alot of mabeys there..but nice to dream

  • Chris F

    As always, this article is highly thought provoking Brian. Your articles challenge me to understand more and almost always lead me to the various data sets for baseball to develop my thinking. Thanks.

    I looked at a lot of the offensive team level metrics for the Mets as opposed to looking at the individuals. I wonder what exactly we need, and what, in my mind, represents the thing about our offense that is lacking…that is keeping us from the big boys. Over the last painful few years, Im more and more of the mindset that of all team numbers we need to improve and that which is like the “canary in the coal mine” for offensive state of being is RISP. We are predictably about where you might imagine, 25/30 in the bigs. That got me thinking about OPS and everything…

    Are we just in need of a few more timely singles? Can we become a much better offense without a lot of power. We have all seen the guys left stranded game after game. A lead-off double still sitting on 2B with the side out. Our group of bad RISP includes Boston and Detroit which surprised me. That made me think about something as simple as BA. So the Mets have a terrible team BA (26/30) at .241, with the worst team in baseball (not that we get to see this…) is Miami at .231. By contrast, Detroit and Boston have the leagues best BA, so even though they leave guys on, they still are driving a lot in. Both also have a high OBP, whereas our team OBP is again near the bottom. We get guys to second or third then leave them. Given that we are mid pack right now in runs scored (at about 4 runs/game), maybe we just need a few more base hits to elevate our offense? The ducks are on the pond…we just cant bring them home. This would seem to fly in the face of the Alderson preference for power. In the game chatters, we often are rooting for a hit not a HR (unless Ike was up!!!). Citi is still a small ball park. I believe we need to be better at moving the guys around through more hits. We would look exactly the opposite of the Braves.

  • Chris

    Good article. I vote for acquiring Hunter Pence to play right field. A 128 OPS+ this year and 118 + for his career. 31 years old and Kendrys Morales to play 1b. His career OPS+ is 120. Both guys have some pop .

    • za

      I wouldn’t mind seeing Hunter Pence out there for the right contract. I disagree on Kendrys Morales since he doesn’t offer an upgrade at all over what we have. Duda and Morales have the same career wRC+ and Duda’s actually been better than Morales this year. Obviously, Morales has better cumulative stats because he has played more but he’s more expensive, older, and not actually better than a guy we already have. Brian’s spot on with that assessment.

  • Metsense

    Replacing Byrd’s production is going to be a real problem. Choo, Ellsbury, Pence, and Granderson will cost a draft pick and a multiyear committment. To be competitive, a combination of two would would be necessary. Duda/Satin at first to replace the inconsistant Davis would have to occur also. That would leave the Mets a weak link of Quintanilla or Tejada at short. Are the Mets even willing to spend, or able to spend the money? There are no major league ready outfield prospects of that caliber in the system. The temporary thinning of the pitching staff due to injury makes trading pitching very risky. Free agency seems to be the route to a top three offense.

  • TRS86

    Nice article. I featured a link to the story on TRDM!

  • steevy

    You know another addition by subtraction that would help?Fire Terry Collins!

    • za

      Depends on who you replace him with, doesn’t it?

      • steevy

        I suppose it’s possible Sandy would pick someone worse.

  • Stephen

    As I always do (not with but with sabremetrics) I have to take issue with the very premise of your article. OPS and OPS+ are nice ADDITIONAL stats.

    But there is ONLY one stat in baseball that matters. Every other stat is there to try and GET you to the one that matters. RUNS, RUNS, RUNS, RUNS.

    Find the team that combines scoring runs, with allowing the fewest runs, and you get winning teams.

    It is why Choo is VASTLY overrated, and say, Beltran is vastly UNDERRATED.

    Choo may get on base, but half the time he gets thrown out trying to steal.

    Murphy may not get on base, but an extraordinary % of the time, he SCORES. And THAT is what matters.

    Those are the things that have still never been quantified. How well does someone judge a batted ball to go first to third, or score from second on a single? Etc.

    • za

      Stephen, those things *have* been quantified and can be found under the “BsR” column on FanGraphs. Incidentally, guess which team ranks at the very top of those rankings?,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=19,d

      In that stat, Beltrán has been ever so slightly better than Choo. Of course, at the same time, I don’t understand your hatred for Choo since by the stat you value the most, “RUNS, RUNS, RUNS, RUNS”, Choo is tied for 2nd in baseball with Cabrera, Trout, and Chris Davis, with 95 “RUNS, RUNS, RUNS, RUNS”.

      • Brian Joura

        Thank you za – I was just ready to make almost the exact same post!

        The one thing I would add is that Murphy has been about a half a win better than Choo running the bases. And Murphy also has a defensive edge over Choo. Yet, Choo is still the more valuable player because his hitting is so vastly superior.

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