Mets offense hoping April's tough luck brings May powers
PHILADELPHIA - In theory, the relationship is simple. Hit the ball hard and good things will follow.
But in baseball, theory often gives way to reality. Luck complicates matters. And in the case of the Mets, it appears that fate has not been on their side.
So far, they've been hitless wonders, wrapping up an encouraging opening month at 15-11 after Wednesday night's rainout. It's their best record to start the season since 2007. They enter a four-game series against the Rockies Thursday night as winners of seven of their last nine games.
The Mets have gotten by relying on a familiar formula: pitching and defense. Their starters have posted a 3.37 ERA, seventh in the National League. Their fielders have converted 71.7 percent of batted balls into outs, sixth best in the league.
But if the Mets intend to follow through on their fast start -- and make a legitimate bid to reach the 90-win goal set by general manager Sandy Alderson -- they'll need more out of an offense that has done just enough to get by.
"It's just a matter of you've got to continue to plug forward," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Keep applying yourself, don't get down about what you're hitting. Just try to continue to put a good swing on the ball."
The Mets have scored 4.08 runs per game, good for seventh in the National League. But they have done so despite ranking 14th in average (.220), 10th in on-base percentage (.300) and 15th in slugging (.319). As of yesterday, they led the NL with 242 strikeouts.
Nevertheless, there is optimism within the front office that the hits will eventually start falling. It's rooted in the belief that the Mets have not been rewarded for scorching the ball.
At 21.7 percent, the Mets' line-drive rate ranks fifth best in the major leagues, according to data from FanGraphs.com. Considering how hard the Mets have hit the ball, one estimate puts the team's expected batting average for balls in play at a healthy .326, good enough for third in all of baseball.
Instead, the Mets have just a .282 average for balls in play, which lags at 25th.
That disparity points to some bad luck.
Of course, that belief isn't universal. Statistics recording batted balls are ultimately subjective. One observer's liner could be another's fly ball. For instance, Inside Edge scouting data ranked the Mets among the worst at making solid contact.
Even Collins said recently that he takes batted ball data "with a grain of salt."
"Yeah, we've hit some balls hard," he said. "But I haven't noticed a big bunch of balls that people are making catches on or anything."
Within the Mets clubhouse, the focus has remained more on process. Lately, they have been pleased with their at-bats.
"You've got to take legitimate stock of yourself," second baseman Daniel Murphy said.
But the nature of baseball -- specifically the role of luck -- can complicate that simple task
"Sometimes you get a hit and it's not a good AB," Murphy said. "That's kind of the goofy part of this game. You can do everything right and have no success and do everything wrong and get a base hit."
Notes & quotes: Rain wiped out Wednesday night's scheduled game against the Phillies. It will be made up on June 2, which had been an off day for both teams. Bartolo Colon had his scheduled start pushed back to Thursday night's series opener in Colorado . . . Centerfielder Juan Lagares is expected to be activated from the disabled list before Thursday night's game, He has been sidelined with a right hamstring strain.