A point of frustration for many Mets fans, watching an anemic lineup night after night, is their indiscriminate approach to taking pitches at the plate. No, I don’t mean indiscriminate as in they can’t recognize a ball from a strike, although that has been an issue, too. I am talking about their inability to separate being “patient” from being appropriately aggressive. There are times to take pitches. There are times to work the count. And then there are times when it makes sense to swing at a pitch.
Mets hitters have seen the fifth most pitches per plate appearance in the National League this season. They have done so while looking at the third most strikes, or better phrased, they have swung at a strike the third least amount in the NL. Overall, the Mets have swung at a pitch, ball or strike, less than any other National League team, offering at only 44.2% of pitches (league average 46.8%). The Amazin’s are not hitting and they are striking out a lot, all while watching good pitch after good pitch go right by them.
Success by teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees have proven that a patient approach at the plate can be beneficial. Where the Mets seem to be missing the point is that there is a difference from being what I will call selective at the plate versus just taking pitches, good pitches, for the sake of taking them.
A good example of this came on Sunday when Travis d’Arnaud took a called third strike late in the game on a pitch right down the middle of the plate. After throwing my arms up in disgust, it made me wonder. How many pitches have the Mets taken for a called third strike that were right down the middle of the plate? Howie Rose brought up the same question on the radio.
To answer that question, first, think of the strike zone as a dart board. If we think about pitches right down the middle of the plate as the bullseye, any pitch right around the middle of the plate would be that next circle on the dart board. We can draw a picture of how many pitches the Mets have inexplicably taken for a called third strike by focusing on the area in the strike zone right around the middle of the plate.
We see in the chart above that our frustrations have merit. More than any team in baseball, the Mets have taken called third strikes on pitches around the middle of the plate.
The worst offenders?
The Mets desperately need to start hitting before the 2014 season is lost. Maybe they can start by doing the simple thing, and take their bats off their shoulders when the pitch is coming down the middle of the plate, especially with two strikes.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Savant and Baseball Reference.