LOS ANGELES — For Michael Conforto, 2018 hasn’t contained many surprises. From a wacky spring training to a slightly delayed start to his regular season to early struggles and more recent success as he becomes further removed from shoulder surgery a year ago Thursday, this season has gone more or less as one might expect following a major injury.
But one aspect of his season has mystified Conforto and the Mets: his dramatic home/road splits.
But one aspect of his season has mystified Conforto and the Mets: his dramatic home/road splits. On Tuesday night, he smoked a 2-run homer to center at Dodger Stadium to put the Mets up 4-0 in the third inning. He went 1-for-5 in the 11-4 loss. But at Citi Field, Conforto is hitting .186 with a .297 OBP, .291 slugging percentage, six homers and 18 RBIs in 60 games. That leaves him looking a lot like the up-and-down-from-the-minors version of himself from 2016.
In away games, Conforto had a .265/.375/.494 slash line with 14 homers and 37 RBIs in 68 games entering play Tuesday. That’s a lot more like the 2017 All-Star version.
Why the drastic difference? Manager Mickey Callaway said there aren’t any leading theories at this point.
“I think it’s just kind of random,” said Conforto, noting that he sleeps well at home and is comfortable in his New York living space. “I don’t know if there’s anything there, because as far as how I feel, I feel the same at home as I do on the road. I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you.”
Said hitting coach Pat Roessler: “I got no explanation for it.”
This year is the first Conforto has experienced that phenomenon, but it has been the norm for the Mets for years. At home, they have scored 3.19 runs per game this season, a full half-run lower than the lowest-scoring team overall, the Marlins (3.73). On the road, the Mets are up to 5.06 runs per game. Only the Red Sox and Yankees score more often.
The Mets’ front office is researching potential reasons why but hasn’t come to any conclusions yet.
“We’re still trying to make sense of all that,” Callaway said. “We’re not quite sure exactly why those things happen. We’re still looking into all the possibilities. It happens from time to time, but when you see it happen over and over and over again, we have to do something about it.”
If you chalk it up to a season-long anomaly for Conforto, other developments for him are far more encouraging. Most notably, in the eyes of Roessler: Conforto’s average exit velocity is up from about 87 mph — about league-average — in the first half to about 92 mph in the second half.
Conforto’s bottom-line production is in line with that massive bump. He slashed .216/.344/.366 before the All-Star break but is at .255/.335/.471 since. Along the way, weeks ago he passed his previous career-high mark of 109 games played — only two-thirds of a season.
That all leaves Conforto, who is keeping up with his shoulder-strengthening exercises, feeling good about the future, both his and the team’s.
“This is where I’m going to be for a while,” Conforto said. “I feel like this is how it’s going to be a while. I feel like I’m an established major-league player and I’m going to be a big part of this team moving forward.”