Saturday, April 19, 2014

Home Field Disadvantage

You don't have to be a numbers-obsessed Mets fan like me to realize that the team has been playing pretty badly at Citi Field over the past few years.  But sometimes the numbers help to advance and enhance the narrative.

For example, since the beginning of the 2011 campaign, the Mets have gone 105-145 in games played at Citi Field.  Meanwhile, over the same time period, the team has posted a winning mark (128-124) on the road.  Should the Mets finish the 2014 season with a losing record at home, it would be the team's fourth consecutive sub-.500 record in their home ballpark.  Not since the Mets posted six straight losing seasons at home from 1977 to 1982 has the team been so futile before its fans.

But as bad as it's been at Citi Field for the Mets over the past three seasons, it looks like it's getting worse before it's getting better.  Please allow me to explain.

Through their first seven home games in 2014, the Mets have been outhit, 70-34.  They have failed to collect more than seven hits in any game at Citi Field, but their opponents haven't had that problem, as they have mustered seven or more hits in EVERY GAME played at Citi Field this season.

The Mets have batted .160 at home this year, while reaching base at a .246 clip.  Never has any team in Mets history posted a lower batting average through its first seven home games.  To put those numbers into perspective, the league batting average is .248.  That's two points higher than the Mets' on-base percentage at home this year.  (And for the record, the average National League team is posting a .313 on-base percentage.)

But there is one thing the Mets do well at home.  They strike out.  A lot.

In seven games at home, the Mets have fanned 69 times in 212 at-bats.  That's practically one strikeout every three at-bats.  And before you say, "Well, their pitchers have a lot to do with that, smarty pants, because they're forced to bat in the National League", allow me to retort.  Mets hurlers have struck out just six times at Citi Field this season.  (First-place Atlanta has played one fewer home game than the Mets, but their pitchers have struck out eight times.)  So it's mainly the everyday players who have been heading back to the dugout soon after taking or swinging through strike three.

Shake Shack might have a tasty burger, but what Mets fans really want to taste at Citi Field are Big Kahuna victories.

Just four short years ago, the Mets believed in home field advantage so much, they used their Citi Field success as part of a marketing campaign.  But that was then and this is now.  For as bad as the Mets have been at home since 2011, they've become even more lethargic in 2014.

The trade of Ike Davis actually removed one of the few players who was hitting well at Citi Field and wasn't striking out.  Davis was 4-for-8 with just one strikeout at home.  The rest of the team has gone 30-for-204 (for a .147 batting average) with 68 strikeouts.  If those numbers look familiar to you (which they shouldn't), that's because they're almost identical to the ones put up by Oliver Perez at the plate in his five seasons with the Mets.  Perez hit .147 with 53 strikeouts in 156 at-bats as a Met.

So tell me, my astute Mets fans.  If it's considered an insult for a Mets pitcher to be compared in any way to Oliver Perez, then what is it considered when a Mets hitter is compared to him?

The Mets used to believe in home field advantage.  But Citi Field has become a home field disadvantage for the team since 2011.  The Mets simply don't hit at home.  And that translates into not winning at home.  Clearly, the only teams that are taking advantage of Citi Field are the ones who call the third base dugout home.

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