The only thing that matters is what actually happens between the white lines.

But there are things that happen because of skill and there are things that happen due to luck. At one point, fans likely believed that the overwhelming number of things that happened either in a game or over a season were due to skill. But there’s a whole lot more due to luck than anyone thought in, say, 1950.

Old baseball wisdom said that good teams knew how to win the close ones. But here in 2024, we know that a team’s record in one-run games is due much more to luck than old wisdom would have had you believe. Take the 2023 Marlins. They went 33-14 in one-run games and rode that incredible mark to 84 wins and a Wild Card spot. In games decided by more than one run, they were 51-64, a .443 winning percentage.

By contrast, the 2023 Mets won 78 games overall and in games decided by more than one run, they were 50-59, a .459 winning percentage. Flash forward to right now and the Marlins are 5-5 in one-run games and no one expects they’ll be returning to the playoffs. They weren’t a good team last year – they were a lucky one.

Of course, luck goes both ways.

One of the great things with the Statcast numbers available to us is that we can quantify things that we could not previously. Last night, Pete Alonso smoked a line drive home run, one that cut thru a strong wind. Last century, we would be limited to say that he really hit that ball hard. But now we can say that the ball had an exit velocity of 115.3 mph and a launch angle of 18 degrees. That precision helps us to appreciate fully what went into the home run. And the years of data we have now with exit velocity and launch angle allows us to compare with other balls hit like that and determine probabilities. Here’s how Statcast describes this process:

Expected Outcome stats help to remove defense and ballpark from the equation to express the skill shown at the moment of batted ball contact. By looking at the exit velocity and launch angle of each batted ball, a Hit Probability is assigned based on the outcomes of comparable historic balls in play. By accumulating the expected outcomes of each batted ball with actual strikeouts, walks and hit by pitches, Expected Batting Average (xBA), Expected Slugging (xSLG), and (most importantly) Expected Weighted On-Base Average (xwOBA) tell the story of a player’s season based on quality of and amount of contact, not outcomes.

Later in last night’s game, Alonso hit a ball with an exit velocity of 97.2 and a launch angle of 1. Historically, that results in a .410 average. But in this game, it was an out. Now, this wasn’t the worst luck of the night – J.T. Realmuto hit balls with an xBA of .660 and .750 and both were outs in the game – but it’s bad luck, nevertheless.

And the Mets have had more than their fair share of this type of bad luck so far here in 2024. Here’s a chart of what the team’s hitters have done this season:

Name AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA HardHit%
Mark Vientos .357 .344 .643 .825 .433 .488 36.4%
Brandon Nimmo .215 .296 .396 .554 .345 .422 50.4%
DJ Stewart .208 .215 .417 .397 .362 .371 47.3%
J.D. Martinez .292 .288 .446 .508 .348 .360 44.7%
Francisco Lindor .194 .273 .365 .465 .282 .349 43.0%
Pete Alonso .226 .256 .463 .464 .334 .340 36.9%
Starling Marte .259 .288 .370 .441 .300 .336 46.8%
Tyrone Taylor .256 .302 .372 .437 .285 .327 34.8%
Tomás Nido .229 .257 .313 .459 .256 .319 46.2%
Harrison Bader .277 .260 .336 .373 .295 .297 34.4%
Jeff McNeil .230 .246 .304 .322 .282 .291 26.6%
Brett Baty .234 .202 .328 .332 .282 .265 29.5%
Francisco Alvarez .236 .212 .364 .302 .290 .255 36.6%
Joey Wendle .222 .230 .250 .307 .222 .246 25.9%
Omar Narváez .157 .186 .196 .252 .176 .209 20.9%

Comparing wOBA and xwOBA, here’s how the luck has shaken out for the Mets this year:

Good – Baty (0.17) and Alvarez (.035) and
Bad – Vientos (.055), Nimmo (.077), Stewart (.009), Martinez (.012), Lindor (.067), Alonso (.006), Marte (.036), Taylor (.042), Nido (.063), Bader (.002), McNeil (.009), Wendle (.024) and Narvaez (.033)

Certainly, the hope is that the skills that Nimmo, Lindor, Nido (!!), Taylor and Marte have shown this year with their batted balls will eventually shine thru with outcomes to match. It seems too soon to put Vientos in that category but it’s very encouraging to see the type of contact he’s making on his 11 batted ball events.

4 comments on “Mets’ hitters and the quality of their contact

  • Albert

    With a little of that luck may be we catch the Nats in the standings tonight.

  • José Hunter

    It would have been helpful if, in your summary at the end of your essay, you put a negative sign on all the number values for members of one set or the other

    If I’m reading the table correctly, Narvaez belongs with “bad” and not “good”

    To be less obscure, we can call luck “good” if wOBA – xwOBA > 0 (that is, if wOBA > xwOBA)

    And “bad” if wOBA – xwOBA < 0 (that is, if wOBA < xwOBA)

    Also interesting that Nimmo and Lindor have really bad luck

    And Alonso and McNeil have barely bad luck

    • José Hunter

      In last two sentences of previous, replace “have”


      “in 2024, have had”

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks for the correction – this has been fixed.

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