The Mets Just Aren’t Very Good, Okay?

WFAN’s Mike Francesa had Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez on his show on Friday to discuss the current state of the team. Like nearly everyone in or around the Mets organization, Hernandez insisted that the team isn’t playing up to its potential, particularly offensively:

“And now I think it’s snowballed and the whole team is infected. The whole offense. I’ve been on teams early in my career that struggled offensively, and boy, you start losing, and everyone’s trying to hit the three, four, eight-run home run, trying to take the extra base, and you can just see it… and it’s called ‘pressing’.”

And then later in the interview:

“I just can’t help but think that – with this lineup that the Mets have – that they’re gonna break out. You can’t tell me that Bay, or Reyes, or Wright – Wright I’m a little worried about the long swing – Francoeur has always been streaky, and he’s not gonna play ice cold like this the rest of the year. I’ve gotta believe, at some point, that this club is gonna click offensively.”

I’ve gone on the record as saying that the 2010 Mets aren’t very good in general, and specifically aren’t nearly as good offensively as many seem to think. I like to think that I’ve been fairly diplomatic about this. But as I keep hearing people say “the Mets just haven’t clicked yet” or “it’s only a matter of time,” it’s getting increasingly difficult to be measured in my disagreement.

So, consider this a deviation from my earlier methods when I say, unequivocally, that the Mets do not have a good offense. They are not “pressing” as a team (but it’s possible that, at any given moment, a particular player is doing so). They are not going to break out. The club is not going to “click offensively” with any sort of sustainability. And the reason none of this is going to happen is that the Mets have one and a half players (Jose Reyes and Jason Bay) that are underachieving, and that’s it. The Mets simply don’t have enough good hitters. Let’s take a quick look, because this really isn’t that hard to understand:

  • You’d think that David Wright is the worst player in baseball based on the criticism he’s getting here in New York, but he’s hitting .261/.371/.490, and is on pace for 30 homers and 120 RBIs. You’d also think the latter set of numbers would protect him from blame, particularly because the type of person who’s blaming him (read: idiot fans and former players) love RBIs. It’s a baffling situation, but David Wright is playing at a level that is reasonably close to his career norms.
  • Jeff Francoeur is the poster boy for the current brand of Mets-related delusion. Somehow, someway (some way?), despite persistent evidence that Francoeur is not a good baseball player, many believe that he’s a quality major leaguer and that he’ll get things turned around. In reality, Francoeur is an out machine. It’s that simple. People are talking about his current .215/.274/.369 line like it’s a total shock. His career line is .268/.309/.429, he’s seeing fewer fastballs than ever, hitting fewer line drives than ever, and swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone than ever. Doesn’t it seem possible that, after five years of treading water, Francoeur has finally been totally found out by opposing pitchers? Because that’s what the underlying evidence suggests. Francoeur isn’t a good hitter, and he’s not going to break out of it much.
  • Angel Pagan is having a nice season, hitting (.286/.354/.429) about as well as he did last year. It seems unlikely that Pagan can do much better than this (maybe a little more in the slugging category), so the Mets aren’t exactly underachieving here either.
  • Despite his flukey power numbers (.260/.290/.553), Rod Barajas is another Mets regular who can’t hit. The most he’s ever slugged is .466, and at 34 years old, he didn’t suddenly and magically become a power hitter. He also has a career .285 OBP, so he’s kind of doing exactly what you’d expect offensively. Once again, there’s no underachieving here.
  • Luis Castillo is hitting within the bounds of reasonable expectations. He hasn’t had power in years and he’s 34 years old, so the .292 SLG isn’t a huge shock. The .338 OBP is perhaps a little low, but again, he’s aging the fancy stats reveal that pitchers are throwing him fewer strikes and he’s swinging at them more than ever before. So maybe the .338 OBP isn’t all that off anyway. No underachieving here.
  • Ike Davis is hitting .282/.395/.476, which he isn’t going to do all season. I think he’ll ultimately be a nice player (not a star, as the local media would have you believe), but this level of performance is unsustainable. Here’s the lone Met who is actually overachieving.

To recap, that’s one and a half underachievers (Reyes and Bay), one overachiever (Davis), and five players that are playing right around their normal level. That doesn’t seem to indicate a whole lot of upside on offense, does it? Currently, the Mets are 18th in runs scored, 22nd in OBP, 24th in SLG, and 24th in OPS. I think any reasonable and object party can expect those rankings – give or take a spot or two – to continue throughout the season.

The Mets can’t hit because they don’t have good hitters. The only question is “when will the local media realize it?”

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