The 2022 Mets are off to a hot start, going 28-15 through their first 43 games of the season. Coupled with slow starts for the rest of the division, this streak has staked the team to an eight-game lead just a quarter of the way into the schedule. Both the offense and pitching have performed just as well as expected, if not better. However, with recent injuries to starters Max Scherzer and Tylor Megill, in addition to relievers Trevor May and Sean Reid-Foley, the pitching staff is suddenly much thinner than expected. This has led to Trevor Williams, Adonis Medina, and others pitching high leverage innings in critical games. On top of this, the Mets are on the precipice of a stretch in which they will face some of their toughest competition, with series against the Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Brewers, and Astros (twice), all in the month of June.
If the Mets are to avoid the June decline that has cost them several seasons in recent years, the offense will have to take a step forward and carry the team toward the All-Star break.
By the Numbers
The Mets offense currently ranks sixth in Major League Baseball in runs scored, behind several other likely postseason-bound clubs:
By most measures, this has been a great start to the year, carried by stalwarts Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo, as well as a resurgent Jeff McNeil. However, the torrid start has seemingly slowed in recent weeks, with a .724 OPS in April compared to .705 in May. Over the past weekend, despite a series win, the team tallied just ten runs in three games at Coors Field. In addition, this offense is not yet firing on all cylinders, with Francisco Lindor, Eduardo Escobar, and Starling Marte all hitting below their career averages.
Room for Improvement
In addition to sub-par performances from a few key players, the team might also benefit from a change in lineup construction. Here is the team’s OPS splits by lineup position:
Evidently, the Mets are benefitting from stacking some of their best hitters at the top of the lineup. However, the .665 OPS from the third spot is a glaring outlier. This is typically where teams position their best hitters, but the Mets have not gotten nearly enough production here. This is largely due to the contributions of Lindor, who is posting a .653 OPS in that spot, relative to a .965 OPS when batting second. Elsewhere in the lineup, Eduardo Escobar has become a black hole batting fifth, and the J.D. Davis/Dom Smith platoon in the sixth spot is reaching its expiration date. The back third has been buoyed by Jeff McNeil and Mark Canha, who have earned themselves more plate appearances.
Speaking of Canha, he has been inexplicably missing from the starting lineup several times, starting just 65 percent of games this year despite a 128 OPS+. This could be smart managing by Buck Showalter, or a desire to give the older Canha more rest days. However, with every bench playing aside from Luis Guillorme off to a miserable start, the Mets can ill-afford to bench one of their better hitters. Guillorme, though, certainly appears to have earned himself a greater share of the playing time, sporting a .323/.400/.435 slash line for a 145 OPS+.
Constructing a Lineup
Given the performance of the offense so far, Showalter has begun tinkering with the lineup, namely moving up Jeff McNeil from his original place batting eighth, and making Luis Guillorme a nearly daily presence. Without a doubt, Showalter has also shown a propensity for mixing in bench pieces and keeping everyone involved day-to-day, so it is unlikely we will see a stable lineup permutation. That being said, an updated configuration could look something like this:
In this arrangement, the Mets get their best on-base bats at the top of the order ahead of Alonso. In addition, Guillorme is showing more promise than Smith or Davis, and can drastically improve the third base defense. Escobar has thus far been the Mets’ worst defender by BaseballSavant’s outs above average (OAA), and the Mets could also shuffle positions around, allowing for more DH days for Canha.
On the whole, the Mets offense has performed admirably, but likely needs to take another step forward to keep the Mets’ hot start going through June. Buck Showalter has thus far shown an ability to get the most out of his players and must continue to do so going forward.
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