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Mets, Yankees very similar -- except for bullpen and defense
Coming up on the halfway point of the season, statistical surprises are abundant in baseball. Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig is hitting above .400 and former MVP Josh Hamilton is barely hitting .200 with the Angels.
But perhaps the most surprising involves a comparison of the Mets' and Yankees' production, especially when the Yankees have 10 more wins than the Mets.
The Mets are averaging 3.93 runs per game, slightly better than the Yankees' 3.86, through Friday's games.
But consider this: The Mets have had a better offense while having to bat a pitcher ninth for the majority of their games while the Yankees get to use the designated hitter. The Mets have been better while being so hard-up for outfielders that Eric Young Jr. and his .684 career on-base plus slugging percentage was considered an upgrade. The Mets have been better even though Ike Davis took the field 55 times before his poor performance grew so nauseating that he was demoted.
Here's another statistical surprise: the teams have nearly identical starting pitching numbers. Mets starters have a 3.84 ERA, 2.85 strikeout to walk ratio and 1.28 WHIP. The Yankees rotation has a 3.94 ERA, 2.98 K/BB ratio and 1.24 WHIP.
Head to head, the Mets swept the four-game Subway Series.
So why were the Yankees five games over .500 after Friday's games and the Mets 12 games under?
Even using newfangled stats, the old maxim holds true: pitching and defense win games. In this case, specifically relief pitching.
The Yankees have a huge relief edge, with their bullpen posting a 3.40 ERA, 3.24 K/BB and 1.30 WHIP. Despite the mostly standout performance of closer Bobby Parnell, Mets relievers have combined for a 4.27 ERA, 2.18 K/BB and 1.35 WHIP.
Whether using advanced or traditional measures, the Yankees' defense is also far better. The Yankees have plus-12 defensive runs saved, an advanced stat that is the key defensive measure in the oft-cited wins above replacement; they have a 5.3 ultimate zone rating, which measures a player's ability to get to balls hit in his zone. They've made 31 errors, good for a .989 fielding percentage, and have allowed 15 unearned runs.
The Mets have a minus-17 DRS, minus-22.1 UZR, have made 49 errors, posted a .983 fielding percentage and allowed 38 unearned runs.
But it goes beyond that: The Mets also don't have great timing.
The Yankees may be scoring fewer runs, but they're at least saving them for when it counts, scoring 76 percent of all of their runs during games they win. The Mets have scored 58 percent of their runs during games they win, often wasting offensive output in blowouts, which are far more frequent for the crew from Flushing. The Yankees have allowed seven or more runs 12 times. The Mets have done so 21 times.
Though it may sometimes seem like the Mets have a long road to reach the Yankees' talent level, it really might be as close as the 10 miles separating Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. Right now, however, the Mets are just stuck in traffic.