Way back in February of 2014, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson gave a talk at the Wharton School, University of Penn. Among other topics, he spoke about the baseball philosophy behind the Mets run scoring strategy.
Home Runs vs Small Ball
Anderson recalled back to when he first started with the Oakland A’s. Earl Weaver and Gene Mauch, two respected managers, had very different ideas about what made a winning offense. Weaver believed in getting a couple of players on base and hoping for a home run. Mauch believed in “small ball”. Where a good inning would include a base hit followed by a sacrifice bunt, a stolen base and a sacrifice fly. Before analytics, people argued about it to no end.
But after listening to a stats guy named Eric Walker speaking on NPR one day, Alderson realized that in the “small ball” scenario, four positive things had to happen to produce just one run. Whereas in Weaver’s way, only three positive things would produce three runs.
Alderson noted :
As a fan, I was always a fan of the home run, the long pass, the three-point shot. It is the anticipation of something really good.
He hired Walker and it turned out that the home run was really the way to go. Walker proved that every time a team had one more home run than its opponent, it won 75% of the time. He also showed that in the “small ball” scenario, more runs were scored not from having a man on second base and one out, but from having one on first base with no outs. So a sacrifice bunt actually decreased the chances of scoring.
With this mindset, the Mets home run production has dramatically increased under GM Sandy Alderson. Here is the team’s NL home run rankings for the last five years:
|Year||Home Runs||NL Rank|
Mets Run Scoring – Missing Factors
Through Eric Walker’s work, Sandy Alderson also learned that on-base percentage was a much greater predictor of scoring runs than just batting average. Walks were just as vital as hits. This is one area where the Mets run scoring strategy has failed. Here is the team’s NL rankings for on base percentage and run scoring for the last five years:
|Year||OBP (NL Rank)||Runs (NL Rank)|
|2013||.306 (13)||619 (11)|
|2014||.308 (9)||629 (8)|
|2015||.312 (11)||683 (7)|
|2016||.316 (12)||671 (12)|
|2017||.320 (11)||698 (9)|
As far back as June of 2016, Alderson realized there was a problem. As he then told the NY Times:
We’ve proven you can’t just rely on home runs to get offense over the course of a season. I don’t think we want them to get away from their strength all the time, but under the right circumstances, being able to make adjustments is important.
Before the start of the 2017 season, Sandy Alderson was concerned that there was still a problem when he spoke to the NY Post:
I think the key thing for us is offensively scoring more runs, which really means getting on base more frequently, and with having more traffic on the bases. We hit a lot of home runs last year, but we need to do all the other things that contribute to run production, and I do think we have the potential to do that.
The Mets didn’t do all those other things in 2017, as they are either last or next to last in the NL in bunts, infield hits, stolen bases and going 1st to 3rd on a single. Readers of this blog knew back in February that the Mets Need to Improve Runs Scored in 2017.
Mets Off Season Strategy
In addition to the three run homer, Earl Weaver was also a proponent of pitching and defense. Alderson’s team construction emphasizes pitching but not so much defense. He believes that strikeouts can minimize the need for defense. Rookies Amed Rosario and Dom Smith should help somewhat in that area next season.
As to offense, the Mets traded away many of their soon-to-be free agents this August. Those players also represented the bulk of the team’s power. This winter the Mets will not only need to replenish some of that power. But also try to finally find a way to increase their overall run scoring ability.
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Photo by islespunkfan