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Opponents Walk and Run All Over Mets

While the Mets pitching has been better than expected, there are problems lurking and they only seem to be getting worse.

Coming into this season, the Mets pitching was considered to be their most significant question mark. In reality, “question mark” was generally a kinder way of saying that expectations were low. So low, in fact, that the notion that they’d have the fifth-lowest ERA and second-lowest batting average against in the National League at this point in the season could be considered far-fetched. Yet, that’s exactly where they are. And for a team whose had significant troubles hitting with any consistency, it’s been the pitching that’s kept them afloat.

Still, there are two significant issues plaguing this pitching staff, and they’re starting to converge. After 36 games, Mets pitchers are on a pace to walk opposing batters at a franchise record-breaking pace. In fact, if the Mets keep this up, they will give up over 720 bases on balls. The current team record is 617 (set in 1999). More alarming than the runners they’re freely putting on first, is how easy it’s been for opponents to steal second and third. Opponents have successfully stolen 52 bases out of 55 attempts. That’s a 95% success rate! For the Mets, there’s nothing successful about it.

Last season the Mets allowed the third-most walks in the National League. They walked 595 batters, the fifth-most in franchise history.  Aside from directly contributing to their 87 losses last season, the walks had a deeper effect on the pitching staff. Starting pitchers threw more pitches in fewer innings, which not only wore them out earlier, it also led to overusing the bullpen, wearing out their arms as well. Last season’s relief corps, even without closer Edwin Diaz, was a bright spot for the team early on. By mid-season, however, they were shot, and it showed. While the Mets put focus into restocking their pitching staff during the offseason, they did it mostly with pitchers who have a history of wildness. And guess what…it’s showing. Some of this year’s biggest culprits in the walks per 9-innings category are players who are new to the team: Adrian Houser (6.28) Jake Diekman (6.17), Sean Manaea (4.84).

Additionally, the Mets approach to the bullpen this season seems to be something of a carousel, with lower-leverage situation pitchers being rotated on and off the roster, some of them leaving the franchise entirely only to return a few weeks later. Still, even in fewer innings, these pitchers manage to get their walks in. Sean Reid-Foley (8.10), Yohan Ramirez (6.75), Drew Smith (6.30), have put themselves are their fellow relievers in challenging situations by allowing batters to reach base without putting the ball in play.

It’s not just about keeping them off the bases either. Once opponents do reach base, they have been running freely. While the ridiculously high stolen base against percentage mentioned earlier was the key takeaway from that sentence, it wasn’t the only one. The Mets have given up 52 stolen bases this season. No other team has given up 40. Speak of 40, the two catchers from the Mets opening day roster this year, Francisco Alvarez and Omar Narvaez, have combined to allow all 40 attempted steals to reach their destinations safely. Only Tomas Nido, who was brought up when Alvarez injured his thumb, has thrown out any baserunners, and even then, at a 20% rate (3 out of 15), it’s not especially inspiring. The team is currently on past to allow 234 stolen bases. To put this in historical context, the 2001 Boston Red Sox allowed 223 stolen bases, which is the most in baseball in the last 70 years or so. In case you were curious, their opponents’ success rate was a Nido-like 81.3%.

Either one of these pitfalls, whether it be the walks or the stolen bases, would be a significant red flag for a team, something that would need to be worked on and remedied if they wanted to have any chance at postseason success. The fact that the Mets are experiencing both at such alarming rates is a major cause for concern. The fact that they’ve been able to stay around .500, while essentially putting opposing teams in scoring position with regularity while unable to provide dependable run-scoring offense on the other side, is both remarkable and unsustainable. Even if, somehow, the Mets are able to sneak their way into the postseason, it would be hard to imagine them surviving a series against the league’s top teams when they have such pronounced flaws.

Shai Kushner
Shai Kushnerhttps://mlbreport.com/
Shai Kushner, is a seasoned sports journalist and versatile professional deeply embedded in the world of baseball. Since 2014, Shai has been a trusted voice covering the New York Mets for BaseballDigest.com and GothamBaseball.com. Before his journalism career, he served as a video engineer for the Mets Baseball Operations department.


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