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Some Guys Have All The Luck

Having watched roughly every Mets games this season (give or take) I think I can say with a fair degree of certainty that this isn't a great team. They're old, injury-prone, and otherwise inconsistent in a lot of areas. For all of their individual faults, their biggest problem this season has been scoring runs. The pitching has been solid if unspectacular, ranking fifth in the National League with a 3.93 staff ERA. The offense has been generally unimpressive, ranking in the bottom half of the league in almost every conceivable category.

As bad as the Mets have been at the plate, I've had a sneaking suspicion for a little while now that they've been getting short-changed by Fortuna's stingy hand. Our eyes have a way of playing tricks on us, though, so it's always comforting to fall into the cold embrace of empirical data to give you that warm-and-fuzzy about our own oft-shoddy anecdotal memories. To see how the Mets have been doing in the luck department I used a couple of stats.

  1. BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), which is exactly what it says it is. How often are balls in play converted into outs? Leage average is around .300, with better hitters often scattered above and crummy ones sprinkled below.
  2. eBABIP (Expected BABIP), which is calculated by taking a batter's line drive rate (LD%) and adding .12. It should be fairly intuitive that the harder you hit the ball the more likely it is to fall into play, so line drives = good.

Here are all Mets regulars (75 PA or more) with their BABIP, eBABIP and delta.

Player BABIP eBABIP Delta
Brian Schneider .352 .444 -.092
Carlos Beltran .300 .360 -.060
Jose Reyes .289 .337 -.048
Carlos Delgado .252 .290 -.038
Ryan Church .366 .402 -.036
David Wright .303 .334 -.031
Angel Pagan .342 .350 -.008
Luis Castillo .274 .272 +.002

The first thing that jumped out at me was "Brian Schneider has a 32% line drive rate?" And it turns out that, yes, the man who didn't have an extra-base hit all year until a week ago hits a third of his balls in play right on the button. Beyond that, the Mets have six regulars who are significantly underperforming their expected balls in play average. Even Ryan Church, who has hit the heck out of the ball all year long, chould conceivably be doing better if he had been a bit luckier. I know it's easy to explain away statistical oddities by blaming the difference on luck, good or bad, but even the staunchest subjective baseball nut must concede that when you hit the ball "right on the screws", as they say, you're far more likely to have good things happen.

Offense seems to be down a bit all around baseball, so it's only fair to pick another team for comparison to see if the Mets are the exception or the rule. I ran the numbers for the Marlins, since many would agree that they have been playing *better* than expectations. Again, only players with 75 plate appearances are included.

Player BABIP eBABIP Delta
Dan Uggla .344 .262 +.082
Jeremy Hermida .365 .290 +.075
Hanley Ramirez .356 .300 +.056
Matt Treanor .383 .328 +.055
Josh Willingham .362 .307 +.055
Alfredo Amezaga .264 .258 +.006
Jorge Cantu .319 .315 +.004
Cody Ross .170 .171 -.001
Mike Rabelo .278 .292 -.014
Mike Jacobs .270 .299 -.029
Luis Gonzalez .293 .358 -.065

Luis Gonzalez and Mike Jacobs are both in the red, but the Marlins have five regulars who have dramatically outperformed their expected BABIP and seven with deltas higher than any regular position player on the Mets. That's a stark contrast, and it does help to explain why the Marlins have been playing so extraordinarily well despite countless predictions to the contrary.

I haven't run full team numbers, nor have I run player numbers for every team in the league, but this is at least a tiny snapshot of what the Mets have been dealing with. It's very easy to say that the Mets' hitters haven't been as bad as the results would indicate, but it certainly helps your argument when you have some data to pack up those outlandish claims. None of this changes what has already happened, but if the Mets continue to maintain high line drive rates then there is a very strong chance that their luck will improve and those liners will start finding holes in the defense.