Last season the Mets hitting philosophy was terrible. Whether it was the personnel that Sandy Alderson put together, the hitting philosophy of hitting coach Kevin Long, or a combination of the two, the Mets either hit a home run or didn’t score. Last season the Mets were 5th in home runs with 218, yet were 25th in runs scored with 671. No team other than the Orioles scored a higher percentage of their runs via the home run.
The hope was different for this season. While the players are all the same, the team’s offense last year started clicking in late August and September with Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera hitting at the top of the order. The hope was with the two of them hitting 1-2 we would see a more balanced offense, one that didn’t rely overwhelmingly on the home run to score. A team that could work the count, build an inning, and generate runs. So far in 2017, the results have not been pretty.
“We’re just collectively not swinging the bats probably as well as we know we can,” Neil Walker said after striking out four times in a game for the first time in his career.
“These last two days obviously haven’t been great days for a lot of us. But you just keep pushing forward. And once we get the ball rolling, we know we’ll start clicking on all cylinders.”
Five games into the season the Mets are hitting .189 as a team. The one run they scored last night off Marlins starting pitcher Adam Conley and his career 3.82 ERA, was of course a solo home run by Lucas Duda.
The Mets had too many bad at-bats against Conley and that trend continued even when the Marlins’ bullpen took over. There was too much chasing balls out of the strike zone, and too much swinging for the fences on almost every pitch. Six of the team’s eight starting position players now have an average of .200 or below.
Terry Collins decided to give his slumping third baseman Jose Reyes the night off, but he entered the game late as a pinch hitter and proceeded to strike out – one of 13 Mets who struck out in the game. .Reyes is mired in 1-for-19 (.059) slump at the top of the order.
“We’re a better offensive team than this,” Collins said. “You’re not going to ride one guy. We’re built to do a lot of things. We’re not swinging the bats like we can.”
One thing that should be pointed out is that the Mets are only five games into the season. One 4-for-4 game can turn a .187 average into a .275 average. One good hot streak can flip some awful numbers into great numbers. In other words, it’s still very early and things can change very quickly for the better.
But it is the philosophy that must be changed. The Earl Weaver “play for a three run home run” philosophy has been proven futile with the current roster. Even when the home runs come—and with Duda, Cespedes, Bruce, and Granderson in the line up they will come—when you can’t get on base they are rarely of the three run variety.
Not surprisingly the one big inning the Mets have had this season—a six run outbreak in the opening season win against the Braves—the Mets exhibited patience and drew four walks in that inning plus some timely hitting, rather than a home run.
The Mets need to stop swinging for the fences during every at-bat. They must accept that working the count, situational hitting, and knowing how to run the bases are offensive necessities which can contribute to more runs and wins. Because when the home runs aren’t coming—as they aren’t right now—we need to figure out other ways to score.