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)
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:
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:
[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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