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The Mets Offense Has Been Better Than It’s Pitching in 2014

In Sports on July 16, 2014 at 11:42 am

By: Brian Mangan

I’ve alluded to this in several prior articles, and I talk about it on twitter a couple times a week.  I tell my friends in person, and I write it into comments on Metsblog, Amazin Avenue, and the like.  Yet no matter how many times I say it, the point hasn’t yet come through.  So here’s my best attempt to grab a megaphone and stand on a soap box and let everybody know once and for all:

The Mets offense has been better than the Mets pitching in 2014!!!!

How can that be, you say?  Well, it’s easy.

The very first thing that you need to know when you are looking at the statistics this year, is that we are playing a brand new type of baseball here in 2014.  Run scoring is down — way down.  Home runs are down.  Strikeouts are up.

How low is offense right now?

The major league batting average is down to .252 this year, according to STATS. It hasn’t been that low since 1972, the year before the American League adopted the designated hitter.

Teams are averaging a full one run less per game, with the 4.14 scoring average MLB’s lowest since 1992, just before the spread of better hitting through chemistry.

There’s a lot less contact, too: Teams average 7.70 strikeouts per game, on track to set a record for the eighth straight season and up more than 60 percent from 1981’s 4.75.

From the seventh inning on, baseball resembles the 1960s, the greatest era for pitchers since the lively ball days began in 1920. The .241 batting average in the late innings is the lowest since STATS’s records began in 1974, and teams are averaging just 1.30 runs – not much incentive to keep fans in stadiums or watching their televisions. (Source: Yahoo Sports)

That low.

Not only is run-scoring low, but it’s nearly historically low right now after a period of time when run-scoring was nearly at its highest ever.  The transition from the 90’s and 00’s to today’s dead-ball era has not given our minds time to adjust.  Take a look how the average starter’s statistics in the National League has improved over time:

era whip

In other words, Rick Reed’s unremarkable 1999 season, when he went 11-5 with a 4.58 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings, was almost exactly average … just like Zack Wheeler has been this season with his 3.90 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 8.7 strikeouts (I realize that Wheeler’s K/9 is better and that FIP predicts that he will do better in the future, but he hasn’t yet).  Or if you don’t want to use Wheeler, you can compare him to A.J. Burnett (3.83 ERA) or Yovani Gallardo (3.68 ERA).  Who knew Rick Reed was that good?

So what’s the moral of the story here?  That the comments from just about every single person related to the Mets — whether it be media members, bloggers, fans, or even members of the organization itself — are misleading and mistaken.

The Mets are 7th in the National League in runs scored this year, with 383.  The average team has scored only 380. On the flip side, the Mets are 8th in the league in ERA this year, with an ERA of 3.50.  The average team’s ERA is 3.69.

The good news here is that it does not have to be Mets offense versus Mets pitching, as both units are above average thus far into the season.  In fact, the Mets are closer to being third in the National League in pitching than they are to dropping to ninth, as the gap between them and Pittsburgh Pirates is a whopping 0.26 runs:

lg pitch

[FN] Fangraphs has the Mets 9th in FIP, and 9th in ERA-, which is adjusted to reflect the Mets pitching-friendly home park.  Remember, given the cavernous dimensions of Citi Field, it is even more impressive that the offense has outpaced the pitching so far this year.

As we head into the second half, we are going to hear a lot of talk about how great the pitching has been this season and how Alderson needs to pick up a big bat so that the starter’s strong efforts are not wasted.  Those people are mistaken, and you should send them this article.

Would having another big bat be great?  Absolutely.  But the Mets presently have five starters who are hitting better than league average: Lucas Duda (136 OPS+), Curtis Granderson (119 OPS+), David Wright (118  OPS+), Daniel Murphy (115  OPS+) and Juan Lagares (109  OPS+).  At the other positions, the answer is either already here (Travis D’Arnaud has been hitting very well since his recall) or on the way, while the current player has held his own (Ruben Tejada has posted an 88 OPS+, and Wilmer Flores will be back!).

It doesn’t feel like the offense has been better than the pitching, but it has been — baseball in 2014 is a low-scoring affair.

Better than getting a big bat would be for the Mets starting rotation to continue what it’s done over the last month, namely, pitch up to its potential.  Colon and Wheeler both have worse-than-league-average ERA’s for the season thanks to terrible starts, but the Mets pitching staff as a whole has rebounded nicely.

In fact, over the last 30 days, Mets starters have the 5th best FIP in the National League and the 6th best ERA, while the offense has continued to be adequate even in Citi Field, scoring the 7th most runs.  Being in the top half or top third of all of those categories makes you a very good team.  The Mets are an average team or better, and have been playing like it lately.  It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it up.

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Brian Mangan is an attorney living in New York City

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  1. You’re right, Brian, it doesn’t feel like this is true. Your numbers are convincing, but, nevertheless, those of us who want to pursue offense and not pitching are also correct. Our pitching present and future are already in the system. Just a question of experience and getting healthy. No reason to add anyone and a good case for trading Colon for a solid prospect or 2. But offensively the pieces may not be in the organization. I can see upgrading at short (not sure Flores can do it defensively despite the stats you’ve pointed to. My eyes have told me something else), first (Duda’s been solid v righties but not great), left (though I really like this current version of Neiuwinhaus, but who knows if it’ll last) and the bench (Abreu just not doing it).

  2. […] According to Mangan, the Mets offense has actually been better than their pitching in 2014 >> Read more at The Read Zone. […]

  3. […] According to Mangan, the Mets offense has actually been better than their pitching in 2014 >> Read more at The Read Zone. […]

  4. This isn’t completely wrong, but it is fairly wrong. The problem is the expected performance level vs. actual performance level. Our pitching has a lot of room for growth this second half (though we will have bumps in the road) and even more importantly for next year. We have Thor and Hefner waiting in the wings Montero can provide relief support (I refuse to say relief relief) etc. While the lineup has been getting outstanding and I would say peak production from some guys and does not have a Harvey coming back in 2015 to hang its hat on.

    I think it is important to note that this is a league average offense, and that is better than this feels like, but to say that we need pitching help more than offense help next year is silly. This trade deadline and off season should all be about acquiring that big bat for next year, standing pat will not be enough for a division that will not have the problems the Braves have had this year again, and while I love the impending additions of Harvey, Parnell and Thor to this group, we have no idea what they will be able to provide next year overall to say that that will be “all” the improvement we need.

    • Hey James. Thanks for reading and for the comment. However this article deals with only this season — we all know Harvey will be back next year, and hopefully Montero and Thor will be ready to contribute as well. But this is this year.

  5. if you take out the first two weeks of the season (basically the debacle against the Nats opening series and Colon spitting the bit in Anaheim), the Mets have averaged giving up 3.62 runs per game (not earned runs), good for 5th in the majors. They have a surplus of pitching, particularly starting pitching, and they have a hole in left field and a barely adequate SS.

    Yes, the hitting has been good, particularly with Lagares healthy and d’Arnaud back from Vegas. Doesn’t change the reality that they need to trade for a bat.

    • I noticed that split too, Dave :) But if I were to trim the stats that way, I would stand being accused of unfairly trimming the numbers.

      Yeah — since that Angels series in May, the pitching has been gangbusters. And since Duda got the 1B job, and D’Arnaud returned, the offense has been clicking on all cylinders too.

      Not sure which unit is better in terms of true talent, just hoping to show people that it’s not a one-sided affair this year.

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