During yesterday’s Mets-Yankees recap, Michael Baron mentioned that it seemed like the Mets saw a lot of breaking balls against Justin Verlander and Ivan Nova, and struggled to adjust. That got me thinking, just how have the Mets stacked up against breaking pitches this year? Fortunately, FanGraphs has the answer.
Excluding yesterday’s game, Mets batters have been thrown sliders 13.2% of the time, and curveballs 8.6% of the time, ranking 23rd and 21st in the Majors, respectively. However, when the Mets have seen breaking balls, they have fared below average when compared to the rest of MLB. Per 100 pitches, the Mets hitters are worth 1.38 runs below average on sliders (25th) and 0.68 runs below average on curveballs (26th). By comparison, Mets hitters are worth 0.28 runs above average per 100 pitches when seeing fastballs (6th) and 0.32 runs below average per 100 pitches when seeing changeups (12th).
Individually, a few Mets have done OK when seeing breaking pitches. Ronny Paulino, who sees sliders 22.3% of the time, is worth 2.60 runs above average per 100 pitches when seeing the slide piece. Carlos Beltran (1.16 runs above avg/100 pitches) and Angel Pagan (0.66 runs above avg/100 pitches) have also done pretty well against the slider. Conversely, Jose Reyes, who sees sliders 8.9% of the time (maybe because he’s a switch hitter?) is worth 2.94 runs below avg/100 pitches. Not surprisingly, Jason Bay, who sees sliders 20.9% of the time, is worth 2.77 runs below avg/100 pitches against this pitch.
Against the Uncle Charlie, some hitters have really struggled while others have done surprisingly well. Josh Thole and Daniel Murphy are worth 3.27 and 2.07 runs below average per 100 pitches on curveballs, respectively. Oddly enough, Reyes (1.02 runs above avg/100 pitches) and Bay (0.24 runs above avg/100 pitches) are among the Mets better hitters against the curve.
Breaking balls, when thrown well enough, are more difficult to hit. Nobody is saying that suddenly the Mets need to become one of the best breaking ball hitting teams in the majors, but they could certainly stand to improve a little. If they are unable to make these adjustments, pitchers will eventually key in on the weakness and exploit it to their full advantage.