Have A Need For Speed? Don’t Look Towards The Mets

By Unknown author

Do you have a need for speed? Then the 2012 Mets probably won’t be your team.  With the departures of Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan, the Amazins have become decidedly slower on the base paths, but will it actually matter?

For the past several seasons, the Mets could seemingly count on one thing: the stolen base.  From 2004-11, the Amazins were always among the top four teams in the National League in number of stolen bases, leading the league from ’05-’07 and ’09-’10.  In large part, these high totals were due to Jose Reyes, but there were other contributors.  For example, in 2007, when Mets base runners swiped 200 bags, Reyes led the way with 78, but David Wright also stole 34 and Carlos Beltran added 23.  In 2011, Reyes again led the team with 39 steals while Angel Pagan stole 32; so out of the 130 steals by the Mets last season, Reyes and Pagan accounted for 54.6% of them.  Wright stole 13 last year while Jason Bay added 11, and the remainder was spread among the team.

The Mets probably won’t do much to make up for the number of steals usually provided by Reyes and Pagan.  In 505 minor league games, Ruben Tejada stole just 54 bases in 71 attempts (a 72% clip), and has attempted just ten stolen bases in 174 Major League appearances (he was successful in seven of those attempts).  Newly acquired Andres Torres might be the team’s only base running threat.  He stole 26 bases in 33 attempts (78.8%) in 2010 and 19 bases in 25 attempts (76%) in an injury-plagued 2011.  However, at the age of 34, it’d be surprising if he cracked the 25 stolen base mark in 2012.

As for the other Mets, Wright stole 27 bags as recently as 2009, but had a rough 2010 (he stole 19 bases but was thrown out 11 times, a 63.3 %) and missed a chunk of time last season (although he swiped 13 bags in 15 tries).  Jason Bay is usually good for ten or so a year, but beyond that, don’t look for too many steals.  Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole won’t factor into the running game and as of now, there isn’t a lot of speed coming off the bench (Justin Turner, Scott Hairston, Mike Nickeas and Mike Baxter don’t conjure images of Ricky Henderson).

So the Mets probably won’t be running a lot, but maybe that won’t have that large of an impact.  It is difficult to measure the impact of the stolen base due to the number of factors involved in a given stolen base attempt (inning, the opposing pitcher and catcher, the pitch thrown, etc), but the general consensus is that a base runner must be successful about 75% of the time in order to have a positive impact on the game’s outcome.  Torres (74%), Wright (77%) and Bay (85%) have all been around or above that mark for their careers, so their continued base stealing should have a positive impact on the team.

Of course, Reyes has an 80% stolen base success rate over his career while Pagan’s is 79%, so not having them in the lineup hurts a little.  There are also intangibles that are nearly impossible to measure, such as what impact does having a guy like Reyes have on the opposing pitcher (is he a distraction)?  But there is more to to base running than just speed and stolen bases.  One of the reasons Pagan was sometimes lamented was due to some poor base running.  If the guys in the lineup can demonstrate intelligence on the base paths (taking the extra base, not getting thrown out, etc), it could make up for the lack of speed.

The 2000 New York Mets stole just 66 bases, second to last in the National League, yet advanced to the World Series.  Speed doesn’t automatically lead to more wins, but the Mets are going to have to do other things, such as hit for more power and be smarter base runners, in order to compensate for their slow-footed lineup.  While the exciting element of the stolen base my temporarily disappear from Queens, the offense shouldn’t be tremendously impacted.