It’s The Pitching, Stupid…

An article by posted on May 21, 2014 0 Comments

A lot has been made about the Mets´ offensive struggles this year and whether Citi Field has been detrimental in that regard. And indeed, the collective performance of David Wright and Curtis Granderson has been well below expectations in 2014 thus far. Both currently are sporting an OPS well over.150 points below their career norms. Granderson has shown signs of life lately but Wright´s prolonged slump – for his lofty standards – has been somewhat concerning, regardless of the still rather modest sample with less than one third of the 2014 season in the books.

The gaping hole at shortstop – both offensively and defensively – remains an undeniable structural flaw the front office has failed to address so far. Maybe Wilmer Flores can provide some help here going forward – but he actually has to play. Travis d’Arnaud has endured growing pains and is currently out with a concussion anyway. Only Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares and – if you´re setting your expectations really low – maybe Lucas Duda and Eric Young Jr. as well have performed at or slightly above expectations. In that regard, it´s quite surprising that the Mets actually rank 7th in the NL with 177 runs scored through their first 44 games – and average of 4.02 runs per game.

Yes, the underlying stats (.650 OPS for example) would suggest some regression going forward. But at the same time you´d expect better performances from Wright, Granderson and hopefully the SS and C positions to balance things out. Thus keeping up this 4-run per game ratio doesn´t seem like an outlandishly optimistic expectation. The NL average for runs scored is right at 4.00 for 2014 so far. So, just going with the most important offensive metric RS, the Mets have been average so far and should remain average going forward. But an average offense certainly won´t carry a team into playoff contention itself. Especially not an inconsistently average offense.

USATSI  jon nieseSandy Alderson – for years – has been stating that he expects to build his team around pitching and that pitching will be the main cog in the “machine” of future Mets contenders. And while we’ve witnessed generally good performances from Dillon Gee and Jon Niese, and flashes of upside from various young pitchers, the fact of the matter is that ever since Alderson has taken over, the Mets have sported a BELOW average pitching staff in the NL.

As of now, their 191 runs allowed – which really is the most important pitching stat there is – ranks 11th “best” in the NL. Only Colorado & Arizona who pitch in very difficult environments and the regressing Pirates have performed worse while the LA Dodgers have played two more games and allowed 8 more runs.

The NL average for runs allowed is 4.04 (the difference between offense & pitching is a result of interleague play). The Mets staff has allowed an average of 4.34 runs per game and thus at a well below average level. This corresponds with an NL average ERA of 3.64 vs. the Mets ERA of 3.95 after we eliminate unearned runs. The difference remains almost identical.

So average offense combined with below average pitching makes for a sub .500 record. In spite of featuring studs like RA Dickey and Matt Harvey, the Mets have posted below average ERAs during all three seasons under Sandy Alderson, 4.19 in 2011 (vs. 3.81 for the NL), 3.95 in 2012 (vs. 4.09 for the NL) and 3.77 in 2013 (vs. 3.74 for the NL) and now seem on their way to a 4th year of below average performance. The neutral to possibly pitcher friendly conditions of Citi Field are not even factored in. So in reality, in spite of slightly advantageous circumstances, the Mets pitchers have not been able to reach “average” performance levels, let alone being assets.

Finally, the wave of promising young arms is here. Other than the rehabbing Matt Harvey and young Noah Syndergaard, the fivesome of Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia has finally arrived and is looking to establish themselves as legit major league arms – in whatever roles they may ultimately end up with. Usually, development of young arms comes at the price of some initial growing pains. And they clearly show. These five arms, all ages 25 or younger have combined to post these numbers so far:

6-9, 4.36 ERA, 128.0 IP, 128 H, 62 ER, 13 HR, 65 BB, 117 K

The rest and mostly more “established” veteran group of pitchers beyond age 25 have combined for a stat line of:

14-15, 3.75 ERA, 275.2 IP, 269 H, 115 ER, 32 HR, 91 BB, 227 K

So, while the “veteran” Mets pitching has been pretty close to average, the young arms have – collectively – performed well below that level.

As the young pitching will go moving forward – and in whatever roles that may be – so will the Mets go.

These five, plus going forward Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, figure to make up the back-bone of future Mets staffs and will determine whether it’s above average, average or below average. And considering the limited financial room, it better work out.

Hopefully, these arms won´t be paying their dues for too long, but iron out the kinks sooner than later. The upside and ability is there and waiting to really take off. Even more so for 2015. And hopefully management realizes which players need to play in order to have the best shot at succeeding. Not only in 2014 but going forward. And maybe one of these years, Sandy Alderson will be able to turn one of the veteran arms or other assets into a real major league caliber shortstop to help his young arms feel comfortable to throw strikes, manage pitch counts and induce contact.

Lets Go Mets.

MMO

About the Author ()

I'm a lawyer who hails from and lives in Germany, and have been an avid Mets fan since 1984. I enjoyed rooting for Doc Gooden & David Cone back then. Spent a long time in German Baseball as a board member for the Bonn Capitals (German 1st League team) from 1994 through 2006 and can claim that I've watched Mets farm hand C Kai Gronauer and pretty much every other German born prospect (like Max Kepler or Donald Lutz) in live action far before they became prospects. I follow and watch the Mets and other MLB games via internet TV. Also a big soccer fan (like most Germans).