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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Are the Mets sacrificing anything by not bunting?

Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores hits a sacrifice fly,

Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores hits a sacrifice fly, allowing Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares to score against the Toronto Blue Jays during the third inning of a game at Citi Field on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Exactly one week ago, the Mets' Juan Lagares tried to bunt for a hit with Curtis Granderson on first in the bottom of the first. It was a terrible bunt, a line drive that -- thankfully for the Mets -- landed foul on the third-base side.

Lagares followed with a single to center. Granderson moved to third and later scored on a passed ball.

Later in the game, Lagares came up in what for about 100 years of baseball has been an obvious sacrifice bunt situation: Trailing 8-7 in the sixth inning, the Mets had runners on first and second with none out.

Lagares did not attempt to bunt. He hit a three-run homer to give the Mets a 10-8 lead in a game they eventually won by that score.

It's not just that teams don't use the sacrifice bunt much anymore. The Mets hardly ever use it. And most statistically inclined folks would tell you they are better off for it.

As Jeff Sullivan wrote on June 3 on baseball states website "When I first started getting into sabermetrics, there were a lot of people writing about the stupidity of the bunt. That's one of the first lessons everyone learns."

The Mets this season have had two successful sacrifice- bunt attempts by a position player (all stats are before Saturday's game). Both were by shortstop Wilmer Flores, who also is tied for the team home run lead with 10.

The Mets are next-to-last in the National League in sacrifice bunts (or "sacrifice hits," which they also are called on stat sheets) with 13.

The Cubs, who bat their pitchers eighth under Joe Maddon, are last in the NL with 10 sacrifice bunts. Only one was by a pitcher. The other nine were by position players.

Why have the Mets eschewed the bunt? In 2014, they were tied for sixth in the NL with 59. This year, they are on pace for about 30.

Part of it is philosophical -- general manager Sandy Alderson is a graduate of the "Moneyball" school -- and part is personnel.

"Nobody's a bunter," manager Terry Collins said. "It's just a phase of the game that I think everybody should be able to do it. But, as you know, unless you do it in a game or do it at full speed, it's a bad idea. We don't have the guys to do it."

Perhaps because of this, the Mets lead the NL in an unwanted category: grounding into double plays. They have banged into 65.

The Mets also are 11th in the NL in stolen bases with 27 in 69 games. Lagares is the team leader with five. As a team, the Mets have attempted 33 stolen bases, giving them an 81.8 percent success rate.

Again, the lack of stolen-base attempts is partly a function of philosophy and partly a function of personnel. Better to stay put than get caught.

"When you're running yourself into outs, you're taking away multiple runs," Collins said. "We're going to try to live with the power."

That's a tough task, though, given that the Mets are eighth in the NL in home runs with 59.

So the Mets don't bunt, don't steal bases, don't hit as many home runs as they might have hoped and play their home games in what still is a pitcher's ballpark.

Put it all together, and it's not a shock that the Mets are 13th in the 15-team NL in runs.

While some traditionalists and fans would conclude that a return to small-ball strategies is in order, Collins is not planning to go that route for another reason.

"We don't drive them in," he said. "Earlier in the year, when we did that kind of stuff, we didn't drive anybody in. There was a time when there was a discussion that we've got to stop bunting with the pitchers because we weren't driving anybody in."

The numbers agree. With runners in scoring position, the Mets are hitting .255, which is ninth-best in the NL. They have scored only 184 runs and have a .694 OPS in those situations, both of which are 12th in the NL.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the results were mixed on Flores' two sacrifice bunts.

On April 12 in Atlanta, Flores (batting seventh) successfully sacrificed two runners into scoring position in the eighth inning of a 3-3 game. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Daniel Murphy hit a sacrifice fly to give the Mets the lead. They went on to a 4-3 win.

On May 13 against the Cubs in Chicago, Flores (batting fifth) sacrificed a runner to second in the ninth inning of a 1-1 game. But the next two batters were retired and the Mets eventually lost, 2-1.

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