Monday, September 1, 2014

The Worst Team Money Wasn't Spent On

"What do you mean, I won't spend money?  I got you four months of Chris Young, right?"  --Papa Smirk

Going into today's matinee with the Miami Marlins, the Mets have managed to score just 520 runs in their first 137 games.  That averages to 3.8 runs per game.  At that pace, the Mets would cross the plate 615 times this season, which would be four fewer than their run total from 2013.

So how far back do we have to go to find the last time the Mets scored fewer than 615 runs over a full 162-game season?  You have to set the arrival time on the DeLorean to 1992, when New York scored 599 runs.  If you recall, that 72-90 squad was more famously referred to as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy."

That team, full of superstars and a major league high $45 million payroll, batted .235 and was the last Mets team that didn't register 600 tallies in a non-strike shortened season.  And prior to 1992, the last time the Mets scored fewer than 615 runs (the pace they're currently on for the 2014 season) was in 1983.  That year was the seventh straight season the team averaged fewer than 3.8 runs per game.  Long-time Mets fans would recognize that seven-year period from 1977 to 1983 as the Grant's Tomb era - the period in which Mets fans abandoned Shea Stadium almost as quickly as former team chairman M. Donald Grant abandoned his senses, his wallet and his ability to field a winning team.

So basically, the 2014 Mets are scoring at a pace that's been seen just twice by the franchise in nearly 40 years.  And both low-scoring periods have been associated with some of the lowest moments in the club's history.

But not all is gloom and doom.  On the flip side, this year's pitchers have allowed just 533 runs, putting them on pace to give up 630 runs in 2014.  That would be the lowest total in a non-strike shortened season since 1990, when the team allowed 613 runs en route to a 91-71 campaign.

Although pitching wins championships, a little hitting and run-scoring helps as well.  Both the 1969 and 1986 championship teams boasted pitching staffs that allowed fewer than 600 runs.  Of course, those two teams combined to outscore the opposition by 296 runs.

The 1992 squad was the last team to score as little as the 2014 club has.  That was known as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy".  This year's squad is about to become "The Worst Team Money Wasn't Spent On".  The front office has a lot of work to do during the off-season to make sure future Mets teams don't have "The Worst Team" moniker attached to them, regardless of how much money can or won't buy.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Daniel Murphy Could Win a Batting Title by Default

By not swinging his bat, Daniel Murphy could become the Mets' second batting champion in four seasons. (AP Photo)

Prior to being placed on the disabled list with a strained right calf, Daniel Murphy was having one of the best years of his career at the plate, leading the Mets in several offensive categories, including batting average, hits, runs scored and doubles.  Murphy wasn't just one of the best hitters on his own team, as he also ranked in the league's top ten in all four of those categories.

Although Murphy's .301 batting average wouldn't normally contend for a batting crown or even rank him in the league's top ten, the abundance of quality pitching in the National League has made Murphy an unlikely contender for a batting title.  And as unusual as it may seem, he's become a bigger contender since he got hurt.

Prior to his calf injury, Murphy played in 126 of the Mets' first 131 games before missing Tuesday's affair against the Atlanta Braves.  Two days later, the second baseman was placed on the 15-day disabled list.  On Tuesday, Murphy stood 16 percentage points behind National League batting leader Justin Morneau, who was hitting .317 for the Colorado Rockies.  The next seven players in the batting race were Ben Revere (.311), Andrew McCutchen (.307), Aramis Ramirez (.304), Yasiel Puig (.303), Matt Adams (.303), Jonathan Lucroy (.302) and Josh Harrison (.302).  Those players were all ahead of Daniel Murphy, who ranked ninth in the NL with his .301 batting average.

But since August 26, everyone but Josh Harrison has gone into a mini-slump.  Whereas Harrison has increased his batting average from .302 to .308, a 1-for-11 skid has dropped Morneau to .311, which still leads the very weak-hitting National League.  Similarly, Ben Revere has fallen from .311 to .307, while Andrew McCutchen has dropped two points from .307 to .305.

The other four hitters who were ahead of Daniel Murphy in the batting race have also fallen on hard times, with Ramirez (1-for-his-last-14), Puig (1-for-22), Adams (3-for-25) and Lucroy (3-for-18) all slipping under .300 since Murphy got hurt.

Without playing a game all week, Murphy has gone from ninth in the NL batting race to fifth, trailing only Morneau, Harrison, Revere and McCutchen.  He has also shaved six percentage points off Morneau's lead, as his .301 average is now only ten points behind Morneau's league-leading .311 mark.

Daniel Murphy is eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday, September 9.  But his strained right calf may not be healed by then.  Should Murphy be done for the season, perhaps his .301 average might be enough to earn him the National League's batting title.  Murphy's 568 plate appearances are already 66 more than the minimum required to qualify for the crown.  Plus, he's already passed four players who were ahead of him in the race without adding a single at-bat to his totals.  He just needs to pass four more, three of whom are dropping back in the pack.

It would be a strange way to win it, but Daniel Murphy's injury could help him attain an unexpected batting title.  In other words, Murphy's calf strain could end up being his best break.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Decline of Wright-ian Civilization

There's no arguing the facts.  David Wright is not the player he used to be.  (Photo by Nick Laham)

David Wright is in serious decline right now.  There's no other way to put it.  Since signing his eight-year, $138 million contract prior to the 2013 campaign, Wright has played in 233 games, batting .286 with 26 HR, 114 RBI, 111 runs scored and 23 stolen bases.  That's in nearly two full seasons of baseball, folks.  If you look at what Wright did in 2007 alone (.325, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 113 runs scored, 34 steals), it's quite clear that the Mets' third baseman has dropped off considerably at the plate.

In 2009, Wright's drop-off in the power department was attributed to the spaciousness of the newly-opened Citi Field.  Although Wright produced just 10 homers that season, he made up for it by batting .307.  He also smoked 39 doubles and stole 27 bags.  Five years later, Wright is having another powerless season (8 HR in 121 games through Friday), but he is not contributing in other facets of the game like he did in 2009.

Wright has just 26 doubles and no triples this year.  To put that in perspective, Wright has never completed a full season (min. 150 games played) with fewer than 36 doubles and he has yet to have a season (regardless of how many games he played) with nary a triple to his credit.  Wright's six steals in 2014 would also fall well short of his career-low over a full season.  The third sacker has never stolen fewer than 15 bases when he's played 150 or more games.  Even when he missed 60 games in 2011 with a stress fracture in his back, he still managed to swipe 13 bags.

For the year, Wright is batting .268 with 34 extra-base hits.  Only 26.4% of his 129 total hits have gone for extra bases.  Compare that to what he did in first ten seasons in the big leagues, when 38.0% of his hits were doubles, triples or homers.  In fact, in every season Wright has played at least 150 games, he's had a minimum of 64 extra-base hits.  He's barely halfway to that total now.  And he's only missed eight games this year, so barring injuries or an unexpected benching, Wright will play in at least 150 games in 2014 and come nowhere near his usual extra-base hit totals.

Now let's look at slugging percentage.  Rather, let's look at some of the slugging percentages put up by a few seemingly random big league hitters this year.  Then let's look at the guy listed at the bottom of the chart below.


Player
SLG
PA
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
SB
.448
253
223
37
71
15
1
4
29
5
.439
563
524
68
175
33
2
6
42
46
.439
533
460
77
125
18
7
15
52
19
.415
506
467
74
137
27
3
8
38
23
.405
401
341
57
88
20
3
8
42
16
.401
532
476
58
132
25
2
10
55
34
.399
539
491
76
147
34
6
1
25
27
.391
325
302
41
91
16
1
3
22
12
.388
503
469
66
126
24
7
6
44
49
.388
327
304
39
75
10
3
9
33
17
.383
530
491
70
142
18
11
2
27
57
.379
295
272
25
69
9
5
5
27
2
.374
206
187
19
52
8
2
2
16
4
.371
530
482
48
129
26
0
8
56
6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/23/2014.


After posting a .506 career slugging percentage from 2004-2013, David Wright is slugging just .371 this year.  That's lower than the slugging percentages put up by non-slugging speedsters like Jose Altuve, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Denard Span, Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon.

Even Jose Reyes - who's not having a typical Reyes season with three triples and 23 steals in over 500 plate appearances - is slugging higher than his former infield partner.  And speaking of former Mets, did you notice Justin Turner, Angel Pagan and Endy Chavez on the list as well?

Let's put it this way.  Wong is better than Wright (Kolten is better at slugging percentage, that is), and Rougned Odor is also a better "slugger" this year than the Mets third baseman.  Clearly, when Odor beats Wright, then you know Wright's season stinks.

All jokes aside, there is nothing funny about David Wright's decline in 2014.  The seeds were planted in 2009 when Wright's opposite field approach at Shea Stadium failed to translate to Citi Field's cavernous power alleys.  Then the normally injury-free Wright began to miss extended periods of time, missing a total of 110 games in 2011 and 2013.  This year, Wright has managed to stay on the field, but his batting average is suffering.  And since he's getting mostly singles when he does hit, his slugging percentage is also taking an unsightly dip.  And we haven't really gotten into the drop in stolen bases.  But when Wright's stolen base total (6) is three less than the number put up by soon-to-be-retired octogenarian Yankee captain Derek Jeter (9), then nothing else needs to be said on that topic.

David Wright still has six years and $107 million left on his contract.  By the time that contract expires, Wright's name should be at the top of just about every lifetime offensive category for the Mets.  But if Wright's 2014 offensive output becomes the norm over those six remaining seasons, did the Mets really get what they paid for?  It's a question the Mets front office is going to have to deal with quite a bit if the decline of Wright-ian civilization continues.
 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mets Make Low-Hit History ... Again!

"Hey, kid!  Can you hit?  We can use you in the lineup!"  (Photo by Anthony Causi via ABC News)

Let's face it.  The 2014 Mets would have trouble hitting water if they fell out of a sinking ship.  But as bad as they've been with their bats this season, they've become historically bad over the last five games.

Beginning with Thursday night's game against the Nationals, the Mets have collected just 19 hits in their last five games.  They've failed to amass more than four hits in any of those games, banging out three hits in the series finale versus Washington, followed by four hits in each of their four games against Chicago.

It's only the seventh time in history (since 1914) that a team has played five consecutive games in the same season without collecting more than four hits in any of them.  See the chart below and pay close attention to how many times you see "NYM" in the first column.


Team
Strk Start
End
Games
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
BA
Opp
NYM
2014-08-14
2014-08-18
5
142
13
19
3
0
2
.134
WSN,CHC
NYM
2004-09-03
2004-09-08
5
141
4
17
4
0
3
.121
PHI,FLA
DET
2003-03-31
2003-04-05
5
147
4
16
2
0
2
.109
MIN,CHW
CIN
1993-08-10
1993-08-15
5
138
3
14
2
0
2
.101
SFG,ATL
OAK
1980-06-25
1980-06-30
5
150
7
20
2
0
2
.133
MIL,CHW
NYM
1963-09-12
1963-09-15
5
150
4
17
1
0
1
.113
SFG,HOU
BOS
1946-05-11
1946-05-16
5
147
8
15
3
0
2
.102
NYY,CHW,SLB
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/18/2014.


The Mets are responsible for three of the seven times in big league history that a team has played five straight games with four or fewer hits.  The 1963 squad was the only one to accomplish the feat between 1946 and 1980, while the 2004 club was the last one to do it before this year's team joined them.

The 2003 Tigers actually carried over their low-hit frustrations from the previous year, as Detroit's 2002 club closed out the season with a two-hit game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  The 2003 squad then failed to collect more than four hits in each of their first five games of the season.  Their six-game streak has never been matched in baseball history.  However, it stretched out over two seasons.  The 2014 Mets (as well as the '63 Mets and the '04 Mets) kept it all within the confines of one campaign.

It doesn't get any better over the next three games, as the Mets face Scott Kazmir (.226 batting average against him in 2014), Jeff Samardzija (.238) and Clayton Kershaw (.198) in succession.

Will the Mets collect five or more hits against Kazmir tomorrow?  Or will they become the first team in history to be held to four or fewer hits in six straight contests in the same season?  The hitters will have plenty to say about that tomorrow.  Assuming they show up.