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May 14

Mets Offense Still in O’Hare

There was a moment last night, early in the second inning, when I thought that Matt Harvey had no-hit stuff. His curveball was sharp as Starlin Castro flailed helplessly at it while Harvey’s fastball did Harvey fastball things. Miguel Montero promptly singled, and “folks, there goes the no-hitter” as F.P. Santangelo almost always says, but there was that moment that I believed. Ah, the glory of belief.

Who knew that the only way the Mets could win a game is that Harvey would need to do that very thing. In the end, he allowed just two hits over seven innings while striking out nine. On Wednesday night, he was roughly half the man Corey Kluber was against the Cardinals (one hit allowed and 18 strikeouts in eight innings), but that seems sort of fitting. The Mets are roughly half of a team: there’s the pitching, which has been even better than anyone could have reasonably hoped, and there’s the hitting (I won’t even discuss fielding since that’s an entirely different subject all together), which since the beginning of May has been shut out twice, scored one run three times, and scored more than three runs in a game three times. The Mets have scored 27 runs in May, tied with the Rockies for the fewest in the Majors, and that’s an average of 2.45 runs per game. If there’s good news, it’s that the team’s wRC+ of 71 in May is tied with the Rockies for second worst.

So, there’s that.

In 11 May games, the team has hit seven homeruns. If you think about that, the team has hit as many homeruns in 348 team at-bats as Bryce Harper has in his last 23 at-bats dating back to May 6. Harper’s RBI total (16) in his last six games would place him two shy of Daniel Murphy’s team leading 18 and that’s in 110 fewer at-bats.

It’s a little depressing to think about.

Watching the game last night I kept thinking that opposing pitchers immediately become better against the Mets. Jason Hammel went from a solid third starter to a #2 immediately by facing a lineup where Curtis Granderson’s batting line of .234/.358/.360 looks too damn similar to the .241/.307/.371 Michael Cuddyer brings with him nightly. Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ line of .088/.139/.147 might make that the least imposing trio of outfield “sluggers” in baseball at the moment. Fangraphs currently lists the Mets outfield as ranked 28th in the Majors in wRC+, but that’s with Juan Lagares included. At least Granderson and his 22 walks is 9% better than league average in creating runs. Lucas Duda and his wRC+ of 146 is the only other healthy Mets regular that can make a claim to be above average in creating runs, and he’s hit .220/.256/.366 in May with one homerun and a single RBI.

If the measure of player’s power can be summarized with ISO, and an average score of ISO is roughly .140, then the Mets have two players flirting with average (Wilmer Flores and Duda) with Dilson Herrera hovering close.

Remember how early in the season, notably during that 11-game winning streak, it seemed as though the team recorded big hits almost at will?  Runners on second and third with two outs?  Hey, no problem.  Well, whatever Merlin type magic the team had working for it in April has settled into an Ergo The Magnificent like bumbling ever since. As per Baseball-Reference, the team is tied for 25th in the Majors with a .188 batting average with RISP and two outs and their .027 ISO in similar situations means that if they do get a hit, it’s likely a single and likely scoring one.

Just for goofs I checked the teams’ splits for the first two months, and the Mets team .226 batting average is third worst in May and five spots ahead of Houston for worst this season.  Their .281 OBP is 53rd (out of 60 of course), slugging of .333 is 58th, and ISO of .107 is 56th. I don’t mean to pile on here. The team was without three regulars last night, and you have to believe that David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud would provide some improvement to those numbers.

It’s just a bad situation that even when they return won’t fix the offense entirely.

I haven’t done the math yet, but I’m curious to know how much better an average starter becomes when facing this team. It’s not a project I’m eager to start.

Anyway, the Mets stood in a Soviet bread line for hours last night to scrape together a run, and Carlos Torres gave it back in the eighth. The good news is that Kris Bryant didn’t hit another homerun. That was nice. Also, Murphy’s play to almost nab Bryant on a slow grounder in the fourth was pretty. At least Murphy actually tried last night, so that was an improvement over Tuesday night’s obligatory Bryant infield single.

Let’s just hope on Thursday Travis Wood doesn’t immediately turn into the second coming of Dallas Keuchel.

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