After a weekend sweep of the Brewers and a series win against the rival Nationals, it looks safe to say that things are getting back to normal in Metsville. However, last week’s losing skid brings the elephant in the room front and center. The Mets cannot continue to rely on the home run to win ballgames.
As it stands today, the Mets have hit 66 home runs to date, good enough to lead the majors. When the team hits a longball in a game, their record is a scorching 22-8, when they don’t, they are 6-11. This dependancy on the home run is not indicative of a team that can be successful over the long term.
Even to the casual fan, the Mets offense has looked one dimensional this entire season. While the team’s overall winning ways have masked the team’s offensive deficiencies for the most part, stretches such as May 12 through 19 reveal a troublesome underlying layer. The Mets cannot win without hitting home runs. Over that dreadful week, the Mets dropped six of seven games, hitting three home runs during that span. Making matters worse, only one of those dingers was hit by somebody not named Cespedes. As proven during the 2015 World Series, the Mets cannot rely on just one player’s prodigious home run power in a short series or for long stretches.
History also confirms that one dimensional, power heavy teams have had very limited success. Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1997 Mariners hit a major league record 264 longballs during the season en route to winning the AL West, but flopped in the playoff division series, losing in four quick games to the Orioles.
There are even cases of legendary power teams failing to make the postseason entirely. The 2005 Texas Rangers lineup, led by Mark Texeira and Alfonso Soriano boasted all but two starters who hit fewer than 20 home runs. Still, the team’s 260 dingers only led to a 79-83 record. And just five years prior, the 2000 Astros set a National League record for home runs with 249, but finished with a record of 72-90, good for fourth place in the division.
Of course, these teams had pitching struggles as well, posting ERA’s of 4.78, 4.96, and 5.42 respectively. While pitching is not a weakness for the 2016 Mets, it certainly does not warrant an excuse to have a one dimensional offense. Especially if they want to improve on last year’s NL Championship.
To establish a model for a longterm winning strategy, the Mets need to get back to basics on offense, they need to be capable of manufacturing runs. This entails stealing bases and taking the extra base on balls in play, fundamental principles that have helped teams like the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants experience perpetual success.
Whether that means harnessing the natural speed of Juan Lagares and Yoenis Cespedes or acquiring a speedster like Jarrod Dyson from outside the organization, something has to give. The team runs station to station on the basepaths, purely due to a lack of speed (not Tim Teufel‘s lack of aggressiveness). But perhaps the most alarming stat proving the Met’s slow nature is that David Wright and his bad back lead the team in steals… with three. That’s unacceptable for a team branded as a legitimate contender.
The Mets are currently on pace to hit 234 home runs this season, a lofty but feasible number. Yet more likely than not, the team will come down from its power tear. We’ve already seen it happen on an individual level with Neil Walker, who after launching nine long balls in April only has two in May. Yoenis Cespedes is homering at a Ruthian rate of about one dinger per 10 at bats, but I would have to imagine that even his performance is unsustainable – although I hope I’m wrong.
It’s fine to have a team built on power, but at the end of the day, the Mets will need to find alternative ways to score during those inevitable cold powerless streaks.
Clearly something has to be done; but I’m confident that the Mets’ decision makers will figure something out, whether through acquiring new talent or by encouraging guys with natural speed to run more. But as of now, when the home runs are not coming, it makes it difficult to widen the gap between us and the Nationals. And that could mean we’re in in for a long summer.