Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Stunning Look Into The Mets' Offensive Woes

There are many question marks surrounding the Mets' offense this season. Why isn't Jose Reyes hitting? Why is David Wright striking out so much? Why can't Jason Bay get a clutch hit? Where did Jeff Francoeur's bat disappear to? Why isn't Luis Castillo on crutches yet?

It's enough to make a Mets fan go crazy when the team puts men on base only to strand them by striking out, popping up or grounding into a double play. Many fine pitching performances have been wasted because the offense decided to hit the snooze button on those days.

Sure, it's easy to point the finger at certain players. For example, David K. Wright has struck out 42 times in 32 games, putting him on a pace to strike out over 200 times. He recently struck out in nine consecutive at-bats, which is a mark usually held by graduates of the Al Leiter Hitting Academy, not a former Silver Slugger.

Jason Bay has not shown the 36-homer power he exhibited in Boston last year, although he is a notoriously streaky hitter. Jeff Francoeur lost his hitting shoes around the second week of the baseball season and Jose Reyes has been underwhelming in the #3 hole.

If you were to tell me that Rod Barajas and Ike Davis would be the hitting "stars" on the Mets after 32 games, I'd ask you to share your Kool-Aid with me. But that's exactly what they've been this year, as Barajas is already only three homers short of the 12 HR hit by team leader Daniel Murphy in 2009 and Ike Davis has been an OBP-machine, reaching base almost 43% of the time since being called up to the major leagues.

Unfortunately, Barajas and Davis are only two of eight regular hitters in the lineup. A team that is only getting production from 25% of the order surely cannot expect to win more often than it loses, so the Mets must consider themselves fortunate to be above .500 and only three games behind the division-leading Phillies.

What must the Mets improve upon at the plate to strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers? For one thing, they must make better contact, especially when they have a runner standing 90 feet away from the promised land.

With runners on second and third this year, the Mets are hitting an anemic .167 (3-for-18). In these situations, the batter is not apt to hit into a double play and is a single away from adding two RBI to his totals. However, the Mets have been more likely to strike out in these situations than get the timely hit (five strikeouts and three hits with runners on second and third).

What about when the Mets bat with the bases loaded? This is even more jaw-dropping than the second and third scenario. The Mets are hitting .185 in these situations (5-for-27) with six strikeouts. You may have heard of the old baseball adage, "a walk is as good as a hit". Well, with the bases loaded, that is most definitely the case, as a walk would drive in a run. However, the Mets on-base percentage with the bases loaded is only .250, as they have only drawn three bases-loaded walks this year. Even more stunning is their slugging percentage with the bases loaded (.259), as the Mets have picked up only one extra-base hit with the sacks full all season.

Here's one final stunning note on the Mets' offensive woes. It doesn't take a quantum physicist to know that once a batter has three balls on him, it becomes easier to hit. A pitcher doesn't want to walk the batter, so the pitches after ball three are usually more predictable. Translation: There's a better chance you see a fastball after ball three than on any other count. So how do the Mets fare after the opposing pitcher has thrown three balls? How about a .211 batting average?

That's right, Mets fans. In 152 at-bats this year where the opposing pitcher has thrown three balls to the batter, the Mets have only picked up 32 hits. Even knowing that the odds of seeing a fastball have greatly increased after taking ball three, they still have trouble hitting it where they ain't. And yes, in case you were wondering, the Mets are more likely to strike out after taking ball three than they are to pick up a hit (38 strikeouts, 32 hits).

The Mets have struck out 237 times in 2010, which puts them in the middle of the pack among National League teams (8th out of 16 teams). However, it's not the number of strikeouts that's most alarming; it's when they're striking out. In addition to the untimely whiffs, the Mets are not producing in situations where most batters salivate, namely situations with multiple runners in scoring position. Until they turn things around in those departments, can we really expect the Mets to be more than a .500 team?

Don't blame the inconsistent play on one player. It's been a team effort. And it's going to take the entire team to turn this ship around if they're going to remain in the hunt.

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