As a baseball fan, it’s often tempting to make too much of the “team” aspect of a largely individual game. We toss around terms like “team chemistry,” and “clubhouse atmosphere,” even though the reality is that good results typically produce good chemistry, not the other way around. Nonetheless, during the Mets’ recent hot streak — they’ve scored a mind-boggling 52 runs in their last four games to improve to 41-39 — their team approach to hitting has made all the difference.
Plenty of crazy stats will be thrown around regarding this offensive explosion (69 hits in four games), and it will be impressive and entertaining. However, to me, what the Mets have done is best explained without numbers.
The explanation? From one-through-nine in the lineup and all the way down the bench, the Mets have committed to being patient at the plate, to working the count, and to hitting line drives. Everyone — even the guys who have pop — has accepted that home-run swings aren’t what this team needs to win games. For whatever reason, a lightbulb has gone off, and suddenly the Mets have realized they need to lay off bad pitches and hit good pitches hard. It sounds obvious, but it’s easier said than done. The Mets have focused on it and then executed it. The right mental approach has paid off in a huge way.
Jose Reyes (who may or may not be Superman) has set the perfect example. In the past, we’ve seen Jose become home run-happy, whether it’s for a month or for a single at-bat. This year, though, on every pitch he’s stayed true to what suits him best: line drives, grounders, and gappers.
Of course, when Jose goes, the Mets follow. Scott Hairston, who was swinging out of his shoes in April and early May, has looked much more relaxed at the plate and has hit .310 since May 8. Yesterday, he hit a bases-clearing rip over the center fielder’s head. Jason Bay is now taking the pitches he can’t reach, and he drew four walks last night and is propelling himself toward mediocrity. Josh Thole entered the season swinging big, but he’s raised his average 30 points in June by returning to the level swing that got him to the majors. Ronny Paulino, who clearly has the ability to go yard, has just one homer but is hitting .346 and is devouring lefties. Angel Pagan is rediscovering his right-handed stroke.
What the Mets have done in recent days is stunning. But it is not a fluke. Rather, we are witnessing a bunch of individual hitters functioning as a team. Two outs and nobody on? No problem — take a good approach, get on base, and expect the next guy to do the same. It’s been quite a thing to watch.
Naturally, the offense can only cool off from here. Still, if the Mets keep their current mindset for the rest of the season, they will continue to impress us.