Jul 09

Score Four and One Home Run Ago: Mets Win!

When I was in high school, I thought my life could only be made complete with an official Dwight Gooden jersey. The jersey had to be the road grays, and of course it had to have that sweet Mets logo on the left sleeve. I won’t bore you with an ode to jerseys, so this is more about how much I love the road grays. The colors work for me. The blue lettering with the bright orange outline. The blue striping. Coupled with the blue and orange of the hats/helmets, it’s a great look that brings decades of Mets players back in flashes of memory: Howard Johnson, Edgardo Alfonzo, and Juan Lagares.

I love watching road games. Typically, especially this season, the results haven’t been the best. Entering Wednesday’s afternoon game against San Francisco, the Mets were 14-28 on the road. That’s tied with the Marlins for the second worst road record in the majors and topped only by Philadelphia’s road woes. Apparently the NL East is horrid on the road as a rule since both Atlanta and Washington are sub .500 as well. That makes the East the only division where all their teams have losing records on the road. Is that important? Maybe. Maybe come playoff time that could mean something. A .333 winning percentage like the Mets had (15-28 now!) will certainly mean something when trying to make the playoffs.

Things have been pretty bad on the road. You don’t need me to tell you that. Not really. Here I am anyway. Prior to this road trip, the Mets had won only two series on the road, neither of which was against a team with a winning record. They did take two of three against the Nationals to open the season. But the Mets won the first game, so technically the Nats were never above .500. To win two of three against both the Dodgers and the Giants and their winning ways is big. It’s not earth shattering, season altering big, but it’s nice to not have to answer stupid questions about not winning on the road.

The team didn’t really answer any questions about the offense either. In the ninth inning, Eric Campbell hit the team’s first home run in 10 games, and in the six games of this road trip the Mets have topped three runs just twice. Both times in the final game of each respective series with eight scored against the Dodgers and four yesterday. Since the beginning of June, the team has scored three or fewer runs 23 times out of 35 games with a 16-19 record to show for it. That’s pretty remarkable actually. How many teams can score so few runs but be a break or two away from .500?

Ooh, ooh! I know that answer.

The Mets are tied with the Mariners, having scored three or fewer runs 50 times. The Mets record of 13-37 in those games is typical of all teams when scoring so few runs. Collectively, entering yesterday’s games, teams had a combined record of 280-938 when they’ve scored three or fewer runs. That’s good for a winning percentage of .229. So, the Mets winning percentage of .260 is slightly better than you’d expect. That’s good for the 11th best winning percentage in the major leagues.

Only the St. Louis Cardinals and their ridiculous 19-24 record in such games are close to a .500 team. They’ve also won 55 games, so maybe that’s part of the reason. If you’re wondering (and you should be), the Nationals are 14-29 in such games with a winning percentage of .326 good for second best in the majors.

Give the Mets pitchers four or more runs, though, and look out. The team is 31-5 in those games. It’s just, you know, it happens so infrequently.

Terry Collins is trying to generate some runs. Yesterday he called for a hit-and-run with Jacob deGrom batting in the seventh. It’s at least the second time, that I can recall, where Collins called for a hit-and-run with the pitcher up. Why not? These guys can hit. While Bartolo Colon is amusing to watch and by all accounts works extremely hard on his hitting, guys like deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Jon Niese, and Steven Matz can sort of rake. According to Fangraphs, the Mets pitchers have been worth 0.5 fWAR at the plate. That number is tied with the Cardinals for third and behind only the Giants and Reds.

Remember when it was an oddity to see Collins place the pitcher in the eighth spot? Oh, that Collins. He and Sandy Alderson are so hip with these metrics. Always fiddling with tradition. Tinkering. I love Ruben Tejada and want nothing more than for him to succeed, but would it be completely crazy to see deGrom bat second in his place? Matz has eight fewer RBI than Tejada in 193 fewer at-bats.

Collins did and should try just about anything to generate runs since with the staff they’ve assembled, one more than a few typically means a win. While Lucas Duda continues his tailspin (entering yesterday, a .158/.271/.233 slash line since the end of May with one home run); Michael Cuddyer fights through a balky knee, age, and decline; Lagares regresses at the plate; and the front office plays musical chairs with random Triple-A guy to provide what value they can (hey, this works for Buck Showalter and the Orioles so I’m not knocking the strategy), the Mets work to eke out just enough runs to pass that mystical Run Scoring Maginot Line.

When you get pitching performances like deGrom gave the team yesterday, your team has a great chance to win. deGrom went eight innings, striking out 10 while allowing two hits. His fastball dominated the Giants, painting the corners with more than a few Giants watching fastballs for strike three, and the occasional curveball thrown was sharp and cruelly effective. I’ve read suggestions that the Mets should trade deGrom for hitting. No.

Slap someone who suggests that. It’s okay. No court of law could find fault.

The Mets are sixth in pitching fWAR as a team, and that’s with Syndergaard’s growing pains, Matt Harvey returning from a year and half off, the Dillon Gee trade auditions, Bartolo Colon showing every bit of 42-years old lately, and now a six-man rotation. It’s been a spaghetti on the wall sort of season.

Might as well do the same with the bats. Pitcher batting second? Sure. Hit-and-runs with Matz or deGrom? Second pitch.

Just get ‘em to four runs, guys. Let your pitchers handle the rest.

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