FanPost

Dave Hudgens vs. Howard Johnson

I apologize in advance to Eno Sarris for writing a post on the exact same subject he covered in this great piece a week ago. The reason I still decided to write this is because my piece covers a totally different angle in the discussion.  While Eno Sarris focused on the plate discipline process, I will be focusing more on its outcome and on batted balls.

As most of you already know, the Mets have pretty much stopped hitting home runs since David Wright and Ike Davis were DL'd and Beltran's three homer game in Colorado.  The Mets approach has been based on speed and hitting the ball with as little backspin as possible.

Year

BB% (Rank)*

K% (Rank)

BABIP (Rank)

w(2B+3B)** ()

2011

9.2% (3)

20.4% (13)

.305 (5)

128 (6)

2010

8.2% (19)

20% (12)

.287 (26)

248 (16)

*The Rank is out of all 30 MLB teams

**w(2B+3B), weighted doubles and triples, is a statistic that weights doubles and triples by their respective Linear Weights, it can also be referred to as wIPXBH (weighted In Play Extra Base Hits).  It's basically weighted XBH-HR.

Last year under Howard Johnson, the Mets were not very patient and had a horrific BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play).  This year Dave Hudgens has brought a more patient approach to the Mets as the only two teams with a higher BB% in baseball are the Yankees and Red Sox.  Also, the Mets have managed a much higher BABIP and w(2B+3B).  I think this might have to do with a change in hitting philosophy by the Mets heading into this year.

Year

LD% (Rank)

PU% (Rank)

FB% (Rank)

Speed Score ()

SB% (Rank)

2011

18.9% (17)

8.4% (4)

37.9% (8)

5.6 (1)

79% (4)

2010

17.5% (26)

9.5% (17)

40% (4)

5 (4)

75% (9)

 

Three large components of BABIP are line drives, popups and speed.  The Mets have raised their LD% pretty significantly even if they're still in the bottom half of the league in this category and their PU% is outstandingly low. Popups are almost always outs and therefore have a negative correlation with BABIP, in other words, the lower your PU% the higher your BABIP projects to be and the more hits you are projected to get.  The Mets are also leading the league in Speed Score meaning they have a fast team which also correlates well with BABIP.

Ground Balls

Line Drives

Year

BABIP

OPS+

BABIP

OPS+

2011

.264

122

.708

103

2010

.227

93

.692

95

OPS+ is On-Base Plus Slugging, divided by the league average and scaled to 100, meaning everything above 100 is above average and vice versa.

The Mets have improved tremendously in converting line drives and ground balls into hits this year.  While they were below average at it last year, they are above average this year.  This improvement can be attributed to a change in program by Dave Hudgens, where their main goal has been to hit the ball all over the park and forget about hitting home runs.  The Mets players are clearly hitting the ball with a lot less backspin this year which has manifested itself through lower PU% and fewer home runs.  It could be that Dave Hudgens has devised this plan around adapting to Citi Field and its dimensions.  Citi Field suppresses home runs, but has large alleys and therefore inflates double and triple production.  By abandoning the homer, the Mets are essentially playing to the park's strengths instead of against them.  

Another feasible possibility is that the Mets are regressing towards the mean.  Last year they were extremely unlucky and therefore if you combine this year's and last year's batted ball production into one aggregate total, the Mets would be pretty much league average OPS and BABIP wise.  An alternate reason could also have to do with Dave Hudgens.  It could be the Mets are just hitting the ball harder this year.  You can either attribute this to Dave Hudgens and his methods or to the return of Reyes and Beltran to the lineup (even though last year the Mets had Wright and Davis).  

All in all it seems pretty clear that as a team, the Mets have a new plan of attack based on patience and keeping the ball out of the air.  So far it seems as though it is working.  Right now we can hypothesize all we want, but once HITf/x data becomes public we'll be able to answer definitively on what exactly leads to a high BABIP.  We'll also be able to look further into batted balls and if the Mets actually have been swinging faster and with smaller launch angles, which have most probably led to less popups, less homers and more hits.  Since we do not have access to HITf/x technology just yet, only time will tell if this current trend is in fact a true improvement or just an aberration. 

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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