Mets won't make deep dive into adding power
As the late 20th century proverb says: Chicks dig the long ball. But Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter? Eh, they can go either way.
Coming off a season in which the Mets scored plenty but were not particularly powerful, their public position is they don’t view adding another slugger as a critical component of the offseason master plan. They’re looking at all sorts of batters, sure, but they frame homer-hitting as not a necessity.
“If the overall production is there, that’s what matters at the end of the day,” Eppler said Tuesday at the winter meetings in San Diego. “You can play some arguments on, should you try to hit the three-pointer? I prefer ways where you can beat teams, whether you beat them through contact, maybe you beat them through some speed-and-baserunning element, or you beat them through power.
“I kind of like to try to serve all of those, if possible, and really create balance. Because you never know who you’re going to face on a particular day.”
Showalter said: “I don't stay up at night [thinking] about, oh, gosh, we've got to have X number of power and let's add X number of strikeouts. And to beat the really good pitchers, you have to be able to do some things other than just hit home runs. No, I don't think that's a prerequisite.”
On their way to winning 101 games, the Mets finished tied for fifth in the majors with 4.77 runs per game in 2022. Scoring mostly was not a problem.
They had a decent slugging percentage of .412, eighth overall, but were far worse in home runs, totaling 171 to tie for 15th. They were in a field of non-contenders, just ahead of the Reds, Red Sox and Pirates and behind the Diamondbacks and Twins.
In a lineup that is poised to be largely the same going into 2023, the Mets’ one true slugger is, of course, Pete Alonso, who is about as good as it gets. He leads everybody with 146 homers since he reached the majors at the start of the 2019 season. (Second on that leaderboard: the Yankees’ Aaron Judge with 137).
And then they have several players who have solid pop but who aren’t true power hitters. Last season, Francisco Lindor hit 26 home runs and Eduardo Escobar got to 20 after a hot finish. Starling Marte (16), Brandon Nimmo (16) and Mark Canha (13) also reached double-digits.
“We scored enough runs to win,” Showalter said. “And the better the pitchers are, sometimes the less home runs that are given up.”
That is true, but the best pitchers also give up fewer hits generally. With home runs, it takes only one hit to score a run — and three hits can create three runs. That is more productive than trying to string together baserunners to scratch one across, which is what the Mets often did in 2022.
In the same way that basketball teams have decided that emphasizing three-point shooting, to borrow Eppler’s comparison, is a worthwhile and efficient offensive approach, so too is going deep.
The Mets’ inefficiency struck at an unfortunate time for them last fall, on consecutive weekends September into October. Atlanta plainly outslugged them in a series sweep that cost the Mets the NL East title, then the Padres (a poor power-hitting team overall) did the same in the Wild Card Series.
There is room for internal improvement next season, notably at catcher (where prospect Francisco Alvarez is likely to figure into the playing time) and at DH (where the Mets almost have to get better by default).
But in mulling external lineup upgrades during the coming weeks, the Mets aren’t committing to prioritizing power.
“We’re going to still be active on the position player front, so whether that yields somebody that’s more power-oriented or somebody that’s more contact-oriented [remains to be seen],” Eppler said before the Mets re-signed Nimmo. “One of the things that we generally try to stay true to, though, is having good selectivity in the batter’s box and good decision-making and things of that nature.”