In an article for MLB.com, Anthony DiComo detailed the Metric the New York Mets are using to evaluate and develop their offense: Bases Per Out (BPO) – as explained by our own Danny Abriano. This, of course, has led to ridicule (seriously, read the comments section on the MLB.com article, it’s depressing) about how Sandy Alderson and company don’t understand the game.
Usually such accusations are accompanied by examples of players like Ted Williams who “just knew pitchers” and were naturally successful hitters. This is, of course, true – Williams famously hit .406 in 1941, and hit below .316 only once – at age 40. Of course, players like Ted Williams are exactly what the offense is hoping for. He hit for average, for power, and had prodigious control of the strike zone – walking nearly three times for every strikeout.
In that light, we could boil down the Mets “philosophy” to a simple four-word mantra: Hit like Ted Williams.
Of course, that’s a bit unrealistic. Williams may have been the best to ever step to the plate. So, let’s simplify it a bit for everyone:
“Don’t get out.”
That’s all it boils down to. I’ve written about this in the past, and it bears repeating: this isn’t about walks, or running up pitch counts. It’s about the one thing you’re to supposed to do as a hitter:
“Don’t get out.”
The system places offensive outcomes in approximately the following order (from worst to best):
Strikeout > Out in play > Hit by Pitch > Walk > Single > Double > Triple > Home Run
This order, incidentally, coincides with weighted On Base Average (wOBA). In approximate order, these events rank from least to most likely to create a run.
The minor league plus/minus system described in DiComo’s article isn’t a perfect system of course – Danny explained that in his article (linked above). Of course, in the minor leagues, things don’t need to be. We hear how pitchers emphasize the development of offspeed pitches, often sacrificing their comfort and efficiency in hopes of improving their future performance when they make the show. Why not the same for hitters?
There seems to be an objection of sorts to the willingness to embrace advanced metrics by some, especially when the discussion doesn’t follow along immediate success. Of course, it’s just another name for the same system employed by just about every team in the league. Emphasize solid contact, don’t give away strikes. It’s not the fault of the system, but a lack of offensive talent (which, of course, is another argument for another day). But think of it this way: just because the Mets have struggled at “not getting out” in the past doesn’t mean they shouldn’t continue to try not getting out. The alternative is much less likely to lead to success.