It’s no secret the New York Mets aren’t hitting right now, at least not consistently. Some of that can be attributed to the absurd injury situation, but it’s not like the Mets were killing it with a fully healthy lineup in the first place.
Through the month of May, the Mets were last in the majors in runs scored, last in total bases and second-to-last in home runs. Yes, the Mets’ 46 games through the first two months of the season were the fewest of any team, but they aren’t far enough behind where those numbers aren’t concerning.
The Mets are in the bottom five in the league in a whole host of categories, including runs per game, slugging percentage, home run percentage, extra-base hit percentage and at-bats per home run. They’re also in the bottom third of the league in barrel percentage, hard-hit percentage and exit velocity.
Simply put, the Mets are not hitting the ball well. Yet, inexplicably, they are in first place in the NL East.
The question begs to be asked, can the Mets keep winning and make the playoffs with hitting that is consistently at the bottom of the league?
It’s a difficult question, especially since the Mets have been so great pitching-wise which is keeping them afloat.
Jacob deGrom is unsurprisingly pitching like the best pitcher in baseball. Marcus Stroman is pitching like an ace out of the No. 2 spot in the rotation. Taijuan Walker is blowing away any and all reasonable expectations the Mets could have had when they signed him. Even David Peterson, even though he’s had his ups and downs, has put together a handful of really good outings.
The bullpen has been equally if not more impressive. Edwin Diaz has been almost unhittable in save situations (excluding Tuesday night). Jeurys Familia is having a career resurgence. Trevor May, Miguel Castro, Aaron Loup and Robert Gsellman have been for the most part very reliable.
The thing is, you just can’t count on the pitching to stay at this level for the entire season. I’m not saying the pitching is going to implode by any means, but it has just been so good it’s unrealistic to expect this level of play over a full 162. Some natural regression is bound to happen.
So yes, while the pitching has been great, the Mets are not going to be able to keep winning if the hitting stays at this level. You don’t need to be at the top of the league in power-hitting to make the playoffs, but you can’t be bottom-five like the Mets are right now.
Let’s take two statistics to use as a case study — runs per game and extra-base hit percentage. We’ll use runs per game because the Mets aren’t scoring many right now, and we’ll use extra-base hit percentage because the Mets aren’t driving the ball with power, whether that be for a home run or a double.
From 2015-19, just four teams made the playoffs while finishing in the bottom-five in runs per game or extra-base hit percentage. Two of those teams were the 2015 Pirates and 2016 Mets, and both of them got shut out in the Wild Card game.
The other two teams are the 2017 Boston Red Sox and 2019 St. Louis Cardinals, both division winners. The Sox won 93 games but lost* to the Houston Astros in the ALDS, and the Cards won 91 games, beat the Braves in the NLDS but then got swept by the Nationals in the NLCS.
The 2017 Red Sox and 2019 Cardinals are proof that a team can make win a division without hitting a ton of extra-base hits (both teams finished bottom five in extra-base hit percentage), but it’s rare. Even then, neither of them won a game past the Divison Series.
The 2020 season is a bit different. Four teams made the playoffs despite finishing in the bottom-five in runs per game or extra-base hit percentage: Cincinnati, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Miami. They won a combined one playoff game
Not only that, but it was with the expanded 16-team playoffs. In 2021, it’s back down to 10 teams. If it was the normal playoff format, just the Marlins would have made it as the second Wild Card team.
No team from 2015-20 made the playoffs while being in the bottom-five in both runs per game and extra-base hit percentage like the Mets currently are.
Something needs to change offensively. The month of May was fun, grinding out tight wins on the backs of pitching and defense, but at some point, the hitting needs to come around. There are some signs it finally might be, and the return of Pete Alonso and Kevin Pillar certainly helps matters.
June, historically, is a tough month in Flushing. It’s not realistic to expect to keep winning games consistently scoring the minimum. The pitchers can’t be expected to be perfect every night.
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The pitching staff, both starters and relievers, have more than carried their weight. It’s time for the lineup to do the same.