When we came into Spring Training, one of our main issues was to have a good approach at the plate — to work counts, to get ourselves in situations where we’ve got runners on base via the walks. And I think we did that. I think Dave [Hudgens'] insistence on it — I think the players bought into it as we kept going in to the season. And I look now at the end of the year and we had a lot of guys get on base. I think the approach is going to spread. I think it’ll go through the organization now due to that. To me that’s one of the keys to why we played as well as we did. We got ourselves on base a lot.
- Terry Collins, pre-game Wednesday.
For whatever reason last offseason I started charting the Mets’ “wasted at-bats,” their number of plate appearances by players finished the year with on-base percentages below .300. It’s not by any means a great way to assess an offense — just charting the team’s on-base percentage would be more useful — but it has become a great way to exemplify the improvements at the fringes of the roster brought on by the new regime in Flushing.
Last year, the Mets gave 1633 plate appearances to players with sub-.300 OBPs, by far the most in their division.
This year, the Mets gave 185 plate appearances to players with sub-.300 OBPs.
Outside of the muscly Cardinals, every other team in the National League had at least one single player with a sub-.300 OBP amass at least 185 plate appearances. Several teams have multiple regulars giving away at-bats all the time.
The Mets finished second to those Cardinals in on-base percentage for the season. Despite their home field and general lack of power, they finished sixth in the National League in runs per game, behind three playoff teams and the park-aided Reds and Rockies. By adjusted OPS+, the Mets tied with the Brewers as the NL’s second-best offense.
Of course, nabobs will be quick to point out that the Mets finished 77-85, and maybe their strong on-base skills mean nothing because they can’t grit out clutch hits or something. But the Mets lost 85 games principally because they allowed the fourth-most runs per game in their league. The offense was absolutely not the problem.
Speaking of: Imagine what the Mets offense could have done if it stayed healthy and optimized all season long? What would have happened if the offense looked more or less like this all year long:
Reyes (143 OPS+)
Davis (123 career OPS+)
This is assuming Davis would not have continued his torrid pace and Murphy could have lasted longer at second base than he ever has without getting injured, and it’s purely hypothetical. Injuries are inevitable, but if that lineup could have averaged 450 at-bats apiece, it would have given the Mets about 3600 at-bats’ worth of a 122 OPS+. If the reserves provided about a 90 OPS+ in the remaining 2000 at-bats, the team would have finished with an OPS+ of 111.
Again: This is all shoddy math that I’m endeavoring for my own entertainment. But if the Mets scored 4.43 runs per game with a 102 OPS+, they would score about 4.82 runs per game with the 111 total. Assuming the team could prevent runs at the same rate, using the Pythagorean expectation formula, that would make for about a .525 winning percentage. So, still not good enough to make the playoffs. But hey: better.