On the heels of multiple strike-zone arguments leading to multiple ejections in the past week, it makes sense to question how well the Mets are controlling the zone. We took a look at the swing rates for each of the key players in the lineup last week, and we found that many key Mets are reaching for pitches outside the zone more than they have in their respective careers. Let's zoom out a little and see if we can spot any other trends in the team data. It seems that Howard Johnson should maybe be a little nervous about some of these numbers.
Given our first post on this matter, it shouldn't surprise anyone that this team does have a addiction to reaching outside the zone. They are second-worst in the National League in that category (29.8% to the Giants' 30.9%), and far, far away from the best team in the league (Arizona, 22.2% O-Swing%). Surprisingly, the Mets own an average strikeout rate (21.8%, good for seventh in the National League). This isn't from any sort of contact-rate fueled goodness, not really: The Mets are ninth in the National League in overall contact rate (79.9%). On the other hand, it is sort of because of contact rate in the end: The Mets are third in the National League in contact rate outside the zone (67.3%). I guess if you swing at pitches outside the zone a lot, you can get better at making contact with those pitches. Anecdotally, it's worth noticing that the leader in O-Swing%, Arizona, is also the worst team in the majors at making contact with pitches outside the zone. A theory!
But it can't be a good theory, because 'contact' does not equal 'good contact' and most contact outside the zone is not good contact. Take a look at three Mets' swing zones that I broke down in a post for GodBlessBuckner earlier this year. These swing zones used a database that Jeremy Greenhouse released to show graphically with linear weights and swing percentages that David Wright and Jeff Francoeur, like most players, perform best on pitches middle-in, middle-middle and low-middle. If they are swinging outside the zone, they aren't doing great things that are showing up in the linear-weights style analysis at least.
Another reason this reaching is bad is because it can mean fewer swings at pitches inside the zone. It's sort of a no-duh moment, but the Mets are the worst in baseball at swinging at pitches inside the zone. It also has to be a dampener on their power numbers, which explains how the Mets have a strong flyball rate (41.3%, best in the National League) but a poor ISO as a team (.146, which is both below-average (around .150) and good for 10th in the National League). That they have the second-worst line drive rate in baseball (16.2%) might also not be surprising. The word 'reaching' alone suggests a low-power poke.
Hopefully this isn't the result of some team-wide declaration by the brass like the misguided Tony Bernazard decision that "Everyone Should Go Oppo!" That stinker has been demonstrated repeatedly as being a Dumb Idea. If Howard Johnson is telling his guys to "Be Aggressive, B.E. Aggressive!" then this reaching is a bad idea. Swinging at all those balls outside the zone means fewer solid swings with strong results. That's at least what the team-wide batted ball data is showing right now. And it makes a lot of sense intuitively.