Diagnosing the sudden increase in shutouts against the Mets this season

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets
Atlanta Braves v New York Mets / Elsa/GettyImages

The New York Mets were held scoreless again on Friday night in their shortened game against the Atlanta Braves. It gets logged in as a shutout even if they played just over half of the game. However you want to label it in your personal scorebook, they didn’t score. It’s the fifth time this year it has happened and we’re not through April.

Mets beat writer Anthony DiComo, after an early night off, went back and counted one by one in a very Mike Francesca way (at least, this is how I imagine) how many times this happened last year. The answer is eight.

What’s with all of the shutouts in 2023? It can’t be this simple.

Diagnosing why the NY Mets are getting shutout so much this year

MLB rule changes were supposed to increase offense. The Mets got the memo. They just leave it with their wallet at home like it’s a first day they’re kind of iffy about.

The 2022 Mets definitely spoiled us with their ability to score a ton of runs even without all that much power beyond Pete Alonso. Their 772 on the year was tied for fifth with the St. Louis Cardinals. This season, through 27 games, they’ve scored 122 times. It ranks 14th. The difference is pretty big. They’re a much more average offense than last year.

The team goes into Saturday slashing .240/.332/.384 compared to last year’s season-ending total of .259/.332/.412. They’re getting on base at exactly the same pace. It would appear they’re settling for far more singles and fewer of them, too. The 19 point in batting average yet maintenance of the OBP means they’re walking more often per plate appearance and not doing much else. This is a good explanation as to why they’ve already been shutout more than half as many times as they did all of last season.

Curious to see how they’ve performed compared to other teams with runners in scoring position, I find them batting .243/.347/.358 after their first 27 games. It’s nearly identical to the .243/.347/.396 the Braves have hit with runners in scoring position. The only real difference is the Mets have hit 3 home runs and the Braves have 7 in this situation. The two rivals are tied for 22nd in batting average with runners in scoring position.

Shutouts can be fluky at times. A team like the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies could hammer pitchers one day and fall completely flat the next. The Mets are built much differently. They aren’t swinging for the fences. They’re working counts. They’re looking for whatever the pitchers will give them.

The problem comes into play when the pitchers don’t give them much. When you go against Clayton Kershaw, Max Fried, and other pitchers who have started shutouts against the Mets this year, they aren’t giving you anything for free. The team will need to adjust and swing a little more freely at times.