Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Road Warriors...Come Out To Play-ay!

The Mets have been outstanding this season at home, going 14-8 over their first 22 games at Citi Field. However, when they leave Flushing, they seem to forget to pack their bats and their ability to win ballgames.

After last night's 3-2 defeat to the Atlanta Braves, a loss that dropped the Mets back into last place in the NL East, the Mets found themselves staring at a 5-13 road record for the season. This comes hot on the heels of last year's abysmal 29-52 road record. Since moving into Citi Field, the Mets have gone 55-48 at home (41-40 last year) and 34-65 on the road. Why is there such a stark difference in home and road effectiveness?

For one thing, the team barely hits over the Mendoza line on the road. (Editor's note: The Mendoza line generally refers to a .200 batting average. However, the man for whom the unofficial stat was named after, Mario Mendoza, actually finished his career with a .215 batting average. For the purposes of this and any other Studious Metsimus blog referring to the Mendoza Line, we will use the .215 figure as the aforementioned Line.) Including last night's game, the Mets team batting average on the road is a barely-there .217. Compare this to their .267 mark at Citi Field.

They also score less, run less, walk less and strike out at a higher clip. Here are their home/road splits for your reading torture:

@ Citi Field (22 games):

Batting Average: .267
On-Base Percentage: .352
Slugging Percentage: .418
Runs Scored: 105 (4.8 runs per game)
Stolen Bases: 23 (1.0 steals per game)
Bases On Balls: 90 (4.1 walks per game)
Strikeouts: 147 (6.7 strikeouts per game)

On The Road (18 games):

Batting Average: .217
On-Base Percentage: .281
Slugging Percentage: .339
Runs Scored: 67 (3.7 runs per game)
Stolen Bases: 14 (0.8 steals per game)
Bases On Balls: 52 (2.9 walks per game)
Strikeouts: 142 (7.9 strikeouts per game)

For everyone who thought Citi Field was a pitcher's park, it certainly isn't for Mets hitters, as they score over one extra run per game there than on the road and hit for a much higher average.

The difference in strikeouts and walks per game is astounding. The Mets have been able to cut down on their strikeouts at Citi Field and have been issued almost twice as many walks. Why can't they do the same on the road? Do umpires have bigger strike zones on the road when the Mets come up to bat?

Although the Mets hit better at Citi Field than on the road in 2009, the differences were not as great as they are this year. The 2009 Mets had a slightly higher batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage at home than on the road (.274/.341/.408 at home; .266/.330/.381 on the road), while their stolen bases, walks and strikeouts were consistent whether at Citi Field or on the road (59 SB, 260 BB, 458 Ks at home; 63 SB, 266 BB, 470 Ks on the road).

Since the beginning of the 2009 season, only the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates have fewer road victories (30 apiece) than the New York Mets (34 road wins). Even the Washington Nationals, who lost a major-league high 103 games last year, have picked up more wins on the road (35) since the beginning of the '09 season.

Speaking of those pesky Nats, the Mets are opening up a series in Washington tonight. Yes, that means they'll be on the road. If the Mets don't want to be lumped into the same category as the lowly Orioles and Pirates, they must show improvement on the road.

Let's face facts. No team is going to win many ballgames when they're constantly getting four hits a night and striking out ten times. But a team with a winning attitude finds a way to score runs even when they're not hitting by making productive outs. Unfortunately, the Mets can't even do that right.

Take the ninth inning of last night's game. Luis Castillo was standing on third base with one out. At the time, Castillo represented the go-ahead run. All the Mets needed was a fly ball by David Wright to take the lead. But alas, that was easier said than done, as David fanned against Billy Wagner, who then struck out Ike Davis to end the Mets' threat and the inning.

David Wright's inability to make a productive out in the top of the ninth inning enabled the Braves to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth instead of what would have been the tying run. Of course, Wright's throwing error had something to do with that as well.

Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel recently had the audacity to suggest that the Mets were stealing signs at home because of their winning record at Citi Field. Perhaps they should consider doing that on the road. Or better yet, how about if they just stop flailing at every slider out of the strike zone? A few extra walks and a lot less strikeouts never hurt anybody. At the very least, make a productive out here and there. The last time I checked, there was no such thing as a productive strikeout.

There are still 63 games left away from Citi Field this season beginning with tonight's game in Washington. Can the Mets turn things around and become road warriors? They'd better or else the fans won't come out to watch them play-ay.

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