In a scene that has become all too familiar, the New York Mets once again wasted another gem from Jacob deGrom. By now, everyone’s heard the horrifying stats. Since his first NL Cy Young winning season in 2018, deGrom has a 2.06 ERA, and yet the Mets are 36-42 in his starts. It’s easy to say that this issue is relegated solely to his starts, but the unfortunate truth is that the problem goes way beyond that. While deGrom certainly gets the worst of it, it’s been a widespread problem since the beginning of last season. The analytics say that at some point, the Mets offensive struggles have to give way and the team will eventually score like it’s supposed to. But for a team with World Series aspirations, that transition sure is taking a while.
A Brutal 2020
There was a lot that went wrong in the 2020 season, including an injured rotation and an ineffective bullpen. The one thing that wasn’t an issue, though, was the offense…well, at least when no one was in scoring position. On a broad level, the 2020 Mets had the highest team average in the National League at .272, were third in OPS at .807 and were in the top five in just about every other rate stat. Yet, they were only seventh in runs scored (286).
Taking a closer look at the stats with bases empty vs. men on creates a clearer picture of the situation. With no men on, the Mets slashed .284/.360/.483 with a 134 OPS+ (100 is league average). With runners in scoring position, however, they hit .245/.328/.406 (90 OPS+). More specifically, when the team had runners on just second and third, their slash line again plummeted to .111/.294/.139 with an abysmal 11 OPS+.
The situation gets even worse when looking at their numbers in clutch scenarios. With two outs and RISP, the Mets slashed .224/.310/.344 (78 OPS+). When they had runners on just second and third with two outs, they slashed .095/.208/.095 (-20 OPS+). Conversely, when there were two outs and nobody on, the Mets hit .277/.346/.485 (135 OPS+).
While all of this was going on, the one assurance people clung to was that the sample size of 60 games was just too small. That had 2020 been a normal season, this level of production wouldn’t have remained.
A Rough Start
This brings us to 2021. Though it’s only been five games, the supposedly new and improved offense has been worse than in 2020. While it’s still early, with a division as competitive as the NL East, every game counts and the Mets can’t afford to blow winnable games.
Right now, the Mets are dead last in the NL in scoring with only 16 runs. While they have played less games than every team but the Nationals, their runs per game is also third to last at 3.20. Furthermore, with at least three players capable of clearing 30 home runs (Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto), the fact that the Mets are last in home runs with just three (1st is 16) is also alarming.
Regarding the bases empty vs. men on numbers, the results are truly shocking. In 58 plate appearances, the Mets are slashing an inconceivable .146/.351/.171 (46 OPS+) with RISP. With two outs and RISP, those numbers sink to .100/.308/.150 (27 OPS+). In comparison, with bases empty they are slashing .232/298/.337 (89 OPS+).
Diving even deeper, the numbers get even more astonishing. So far, these are the situations with RISP in which the Mets have been unable to record a hit: a runner on third with one out, a runner on third with two outs, a runner on second with no outs, a runner on second with one out, runners on first and second with no outs, runners on first and third with no outs, runners on first and third with two outs, runners on second and third with one out, and bases loaded with two outs. That’s nine hitless scenarios with RISP.
Overall, the Mets are 6-for-41 with runners in scoring position this year.
Going through a slump is a natural occurrence for virtually every baseball player. Having a couple players slumping at once is also common. But having almost the entire lineup slumping at the exact same time is just absurd.
The most telling stat of all is that deGrom is currently tied for the third most hits on the team with three, despite only having five plate appearances. He also makes up 50% of the team’s run production in his starts with one RBI.
Currently, the only position player pulling their weight is Brandon Nimmo. In five games, he’s slashing .412/.565/.588 (224 OPS+). To say he’s off to a hot start would be an understatement; he’s basically the entire offense. For the rest of the regulars, four of them are hitting below .200, five have an OBP below .300, and four have a SLG below .400. None has more than three RBIs.
Most notable among the struggling players is Conforto. Batting in the three hole for all five games, he’s recorded three hits and eight strikeouts in 24 plate appearances. In Saturday’s shutout loss to the Marlins, Conforto, along with Alonso, were the main culprits as the two struck out back-to-back with one out and runners in scoring position in the first and sixth innings.
Still though, this is a team with five All-Stars in its starting lineup. While Mets fans are undoubtedly tired of hearing that slumps like these won’t last forever, it’s the truth. It may be bad now, but eventually the team will breakout, hopefully sooner rather than later.
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