By Michael Mandelkern
There is only one household name in the New York Mets lineup, and he is on the disabled list. The Mets offense was a far cry from potent even with David Wright hitting in the three spot, but now it is anemic. As of August 8 the Mets have a collective .237 batting average, .307 on-base percentage and .374 slugging percentage, 28th and 24th and 28th, respectively, in the major leagues.
David Wright carries the bulk of the Mets offense with the highest batting average, most extra-base hits and greatest slugging and on-base plus slugging percentages on the team. The Mets have only scored more than three runs once since Wright was injured on August 2. They particularly need to improve at Citi Field (25-32) where they have a meager .227 collective batting average. Daniel Murphy only hits .254 at home, a significant drop from him season batting average of .278.
One of their crucial shortcomings is an inability to drive in runners in scoring position. The Mets are able to set the table but do not eat most of the time, and this is no surprise considering their .242 batting average with runners in scoring position. Murphy, Wright and John Buck are the only everyday players that hit over .290 in that situation. The chance of scoring a run without one of them at the plate is meager. Marlon Byrd is an honorable mention at .277, but Ike Davis, Anthony Recker, Omar Quintanilla and Justin Turner are all abysmal in the clutch Some hitters, such as Juan Lagares and Eric Young, are decent with runners in scoring position, but too many hitters are practically automatic outs.
The biggest disappointment is Davis. He had tremendous success throughout the second half of last season. Overall in 2012 he batted .252 with a monstrous .602 slugging percentage and 38 extra-base hits in just 68 games hitting in the cleanup spot, with an outstanding rate of a home run every 10.3 at-bats. Davis is not even half the man he was in 2012 when hitting fourth in the batting order this year. He is hitting a paltry .157 and slugging .265 with just five extra-base hits in 26 games from the cleanup spot this season. He has not made many appearances fourth in the lineup because his production has disappeared. Marlon Byrd has filled some of Davis’s void but lacks that level raw power.
The underlying problem with the lack of offense is hard to fix at the moment because it is due to a lack of talent. A majority of the lineup would sit on the bench of a contending team. They often fail to executive fundamentals, such as advancing runners and taking advantage of sacrifice fly and RBI groundout opportunities. The Mets often allow opposing pitchers to last six innings or more and do not pounce when the starter is approaching a dangerously high pitch count. They ground into double plays to keep the opposing pitcher at a reasonable pitch count. The team’s severe lack of pop often results in several singles scattered over nine innings that only add up to a few runs. On top of a lack of power their situational hitting is poor.
Manager Terry Collins started the season with a patient approach, but that was too passive. Now the hitters are too aggressive and often easy outs. He is strict about lefty-righty matchups and shuffles the lineup like a deck of cards on a nearly daily basis. Collins’s approach crumbles in key situations at times because his in-game managing strategy is uniform and often more like checkers than chess.
Collins is unable to turn lemons into lemonade, but it is hard to believe that any other manager would. The majority of players try as hard as they can, but the team clearly needs sluggers, particularly in the outfield, and players who can get hits in key situations. The starting rotation has a bright future but the lineup will need to provide support when they are not perfect.