Mets statistically are the best baserunning team in baseball
PHOENIX -- Marlon Byrd's drive Friday night banged off an odd corner of the tall centerfield fence at Chase Field. It bounced directly toward leftfield, past two Diamondbacks outfielders who had given chase.
As Byrd motored around second, he looked up for a sign from third-base coach Tim Teufel, though he already had an idea what was coming. A moment later, Teufel waved his arms, giving Byrd the green light to try for an inside-the-park home run.
"I thought he could make it, that's why I sent him," Teufel said. "It didn't work this time."
Indeed, the Diamondbacks executed a perfect relay to cut down Byrd at home plate for the first out of the inning. But that was an exception for the Mets, who have turned their baserunning into an asset.
In Friday night's 5-4 loss to Arizona, the Mets watched as baserunners were thrown out trying for that inside-the-park homer and a triple, the latter attempted by rookie Juan Lagares with two outs in the seventh inning.
However, the aggressive approach has worked more often than not for the Mets, who are statistically the best baserunning team in baseball.
"It's been great, absolutely great," said Mets manager Terry Collins, long a proponent of aggressive baserunning. "Look at the numbers. We lead all of baseball in taking extra bases. I attribute that to the fact that my third-base coach is extremely aggressive, forces people to make plays, forces other teams to make plays. We've scored a lot of runs, which has kept us in games and helped us win games."
Baserunning accounts for a relatively small portion of a team's offensive output. But when it's done well, that advantage can be magnified, as has been the case with the Mets.
Entering Saturday night, the Mets had taken the extra base at a 48-percent clip, the highest in baseball and well above the MLB average of 40 percent. (This reflects the percentage of times a runner advanced more than one base on a single or more than two bases on a double when possible, according to baseball-reference.com.)
Meanwhile, according to FanGraphs, the Mets' aggressive baserunning and base-stealing has accounted for a net gain of 15.5 runs this season, which translates into more than a full win in the standings.
No team in baseball has extracted more on the basepaths than the Mets. Compared with last season, the improvement is stunning. A year ago, the Mets took the extra base at a 42-percent rate, only slightly above the league average. Overall, they cost themselves three runs on the bases, 18th in the majors, according to FanGraphs.
Perhaps even more impressive is that the Mets' gains have come with a roster mostly devoid of a burner. With the exception of outfielder Eric Young Jr., the Mets lack any true speed threats. Still, only backup catcher Anthony Recker has cost the team any runs on the basepaths.
David Wright leads the Mets, generating 4.3 runs this season with his baserunning, a product partly of swiping 17 bases on 20 attempts. Young's baserunning has been worth 4.2 runs and second baseman Daniel Murphy ranks third at 3.1 runs.
Way back in spring training, the Mets put a priority on running the bases properly. But the team's overall improvement has been rooted less on physical traits and more on mental approach. Said Collins: "It sets a frame of mind that we're going to be aggressive."
When presented the chance to take an extra 90 feet, the Mets have gotten used to getting the green light from Teufel. They expect to be sent.
"You're always anticipating, waiting for his hands to go up," said Byrd, whose baserunning has been worth 1.2 runs this season. "That's how you're safe at home on those bang-bang plays."