Mets: Rekindling a relationship with stolen bases in 2020
Like most teams, the New York Mets passed on stealing bases often in 2019. Where can they find a few more in 2020?
The 2019 New York Mets had many strengths, including hitting home runs at a record pace and re-affirming Jacob deGrom‘s GOAT status. Unfortunately, base stealing was not one of those strengths. This year, the Mets as a team stole just 56 bases all year, landing them at 23rd in the MLB in that regard. By comparison, Jose Reyes by himself stole 56 or more bases during four of his 12 seasons with the Mets.
The Mets’ 56 team stolen bases this year was one of their more futile efforts on the basepaths in recent years. It marks their twelfth-fewest stolen bases in franchise history, though this figure doesn’t look so bad when compared with their playoff years of 2015 (51 stolen bases) and 2016 (42 stolen bases). Clearly, stolen bases alone do not make a championship team.
This year though, only one player finished with double-digit stolen bases, which was Amed Rosario with 19. He was also caught 10 times, leaving him with a relatively pedestrian 65.5% success rate. No other Met had more than seven stolen bases in 2019.
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So, what options do the Mets have for swiping more bags next year? Obviously, these efforts start with Rosario, by far their fastest everyday player. For a player that led the NL in singles this year with 125, he never seemed to get much traction once on first base. Perhaps this is a simple coaching adjustment, but if Rosario continues his upward trajectory and continues to consistently get on base, he could be a more potent threat on the basepaths next year.
The Mets do have some speed present elsewhere in the lineup. Brandon Nimmo is an interesting case because, while relatively fast, he only has a handful of stolen bases in his career.
However, he has developed a reputation for getting on base better than anyone else on the team. Nimmo tends to sprint to first base more than he steals second base, but he could be a candidate to improve the Mets’ stolen base game next year.
Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto also stole a handful of bases each this year, but neither one has shown that he is the answer to the Mets’ stolen base woes. McNeil, while a prolific hitter, ran himself into several outs on the basepaths this year and needs to improve his baserunning before he can be considered a real stolen base threat.
And Conforto is fresh off of his most productive offensive season in a Mets uniform. With 33 home runs, 92 RBI, and 90 runs scored, he may be better off focusing on situational hitting and driving in even more runs instead of transforming into 2007 Jose Reyes.
Regarding the team’s overall speed, an interesting late-season development was the major league debut of Sam Haggerty. He was brought up from Syracuse on September 4, seemingly with the sole job of being a pinch-runner. Haggerty did just that, appearing in 11 games and scoring two runs. However, in the (admittedly sparse) sample size of four at-bats, he failed to record a hit. With these numbers, it is hard to say that Haggerty can be counted on to significantly improve the base-stealing situation in 2020.
If the Mets really intend to steal more bases next year, they may have to look outside of the organization and get creative to do so. Unfortunately, this year’s free agent market has very few known base stealers. The only potential target for the Mets in this area could be outfielder Marcell Ozuna, coming off of a solid offensive year and 12 stolen bases with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019.
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Considering all of these options, it doesn’t seem likely that the current regime will focus on improving the team’s speed in the offseason. There are much more pressing matters for the front office to address, such as the bullpen. With that said, the Mets should look to their pesky division rivals, the Washington Nationals and their 116 stolen bases in 2019, and realize that building from within and stealing more bases could significantly lengthen their 2020 lineup.