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An OPSetting Trend For The Mets

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The Mets offensive struggles are a team-wide issue that’s really becoming a problem.

After 41 games, the Mets season is now slightly more than a quarter of the way through, and the inconsistency of the offense remains a concern. A couple of weeks ago, the team’s struggles could be chalked up to the combination of an early season slump and a small sample size. Now that we’re reached mid-May, it’s not that early in the season, and the sample size isn’t so small.

If you were just following the games casually, maybe doing little more than checking out the final scores of every game, you would see that the offense has not been especially reliable. If you’ve been watching the games themselves, then you’ve probably seen your fair share of 1-2-3 innings, or strikeout with runners in scoring position, or other repeated shortcomings.

Go on an even deeper dive, and the stats will back up what the eyes have been observing. After Tuesday’s games, the Mets have the 9th-ranked OPS in the National League, at .672. This may not sound especially dramatic, until the realization that they are surrounded by teams below .500. In other words, the teams in the NL in the bottom half of the OPS rankings are also in the bottom of the standings.

And if you go one level deeper on this trip, you’ll see how widespread this OPS issue is for the Mets. Eight of the nine current lineup regulars are significantly underperforming when it comes to this stat category. And remember, based on the standings vs. OPS rankings, this stat is currently indicating team success. While the OPS drop for outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Tyrone Taylor this season versus their career numbers is frustrating (about .050 each), it’s bupkis compared to most of the rest of the lineup. Starling Marte’s OPS is about .100 points off his career mark, as is Pete Alonso’s. Francisco Lindor – 150 points, JD Martinez – 130 points, are significant enough to wonder what the team’s records would be if they were hitting even just a little better. The biggest culprits, Jeff McNeil (almost 170 points) and Omar Narvaez (about 300 points!) might be the toughest ones to stomach, for different reasons.

Omar Narvaez was never expected to be a great hitter for the Mets. He came to the Mets as a potentially good left-handed hitting catcher option to partner with the Mets’ righty catchers. The last time Narvaez had an above-average OPS was when he was playing for the Seattle Mariners in 2019. That was 5 years and 2 teams ago. Since then, he’s only been above .700 once (.743 with the Brewers in 2021). This year, his OPS stands at .417. His .170 batting average means he’s not getting many hits, his .204 on-base perf=centage means he’s barely reaching base, and his .213 slugging percentage means he’s not hitting with extra-base power. All this essentially adds up to a black hole in a lineup that needs all the help it can get.

Jeff McNeil, on the other hand, was certainly expected to hit well for the Mets. Drafted by the Mets in the 12th round of the 2013 draft, there wasn’t much hype around him. Still, from 2013-2018, McNeil was one of the best hitters in the Mets farm system. When he joined the major league squad during the 2018 season, McNeil lived up to his crafty hitter reputation. McNeil batter over .300 in his first 3 seasons, and while he struggled in 2021, he bounced back remarkably in 2022 by leading the NL in batting average (at .326) and being named a Silver Slugger. Last year was something of a step back, as his batting average dropped by 56 points. The Mets knew that some of their lineups success would depend on McNeil’s abilities to get on base and even drive in some runs. So far, he’s done too little of each. McNeil is currently batting .236, with a .307 slugging percentage (1 home run and 7 doubles), and his OPS is .621, instead of the near-.800 he had over the course of the first 6 years of his career.

Narvaez and McNeil are the two easiest players to symbolize the Mets offensive struggles so far. And, again, there are 6 other regulars who are also falling short of their career numbers. If they’re going to make a push to get to the postseason, the Mets are going to have figure this out soon; the season has moved from “small sample size” to “it’s getting late early” for this team. Something’s going to have to change before it’s actually gotten late.

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