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Making sense of the Mets' terrible August offense

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August has been brutal for the Mets' offense, but things shouldn't stay so bad for long.

Jim McIsaac

In August, the Mets' offense has a 57 wRC+. The next three worst teams—the Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox—are all at 71 wRC+. The Mets have a .247 wOBA. The Red Sox are the next worst at .278. The Mets have generated –32.4 in offensive value. The next worst is the Diamondbacks, at –20.4. I’ll give you a minute to let those stats sink in, maybe grab a strong drink, and pet a dog to make you feel better. Take your time.

Now, drink in hand, I hope to drag you back from the ledge. It doesn’t take a statistician to know that this sort of performance is not sustainable; the worst full-season offensive performance by wRC+ was the 69 mark posted by the expansion Mets in 1963. The ineptitude necessary to maintain a 57 wRC+ over an extended part of the season is nigh on impossible, barring a voodoo BABIP curse or the entirety of the roster eating a bad Shake Shack burger and missing all of the season. Here is the offensive data for the five worst team performances from each month over the 2014 season:

Month Team BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG Month wRC+ Season wRC+
June Padres 7.10% 23.70% 0.084 0.215 0.171 0.237 0.255 40 82
August Mets 6.00% 20.10% 0.080 0.247 0.206 0.262 0.286 57 88
April Astros 8.20% 24.50% 0.147 0.254 0.210 0.282 0.358 80 97
April Pirates 8.40% 21.40% 0.129 0.259 0.221 0.296 0.351 84 106
July Brewers 5.30% 21.30% 0.142 0.271 0.228 0.279 0.371 78 97
July Orioles 6.20% 23.40% 0.146 0.272 0.229 0.286 0.375 82 102
April Padres 6.50% 23.00% 0.110 0.273 0.217 0.270 0.327 70 82
August Rangers 7.20% 22.20% 0.113 0.273 0.229 0.291 0.341 71 88
June Cubs 5.80% 22.80% 0.148 0.275 0.227 0.277 0.374 77 87
July Giants 7.70% 19.90% 0.099 0.275 0.229 0.292 0.328 80 96
August Diamondbacks 7.60% 20.30% 0.108 0.276 0.229 0.291 0.338 71 88
May Mariners 7.90% 19.90% 0.125 0.276 0.233 0.300 0.358 86 90
July Reds 6.70% 21.60% 0.119 0.277 0.228 0.286 0.347 75 87
August Red Sox 7.90% 20.80% 0.102 0.280 0.232 0.291 0.333 71 89
June Red Sox 7.90% 22.00% 0.116 0.281 0.230 0.297 0.346 77 89
April Mets 9.30% 24.00% 0.099 0.282 0.220 0.300 0.319 79 88
May Twins 7.50% 22.50% 0.119 0.282 0.231 0.291 0.350 80 97
May Reds 6.70% 21.40% 0.129 0.282 0.233 0.288 0.362 78 87
May Royals 6.50% 15.70% 0.093 0.282 0.246 0.300 0.339 78 93
June Phillies 6.20% 20.50% 0.117 0.285 0.240 0.291 0.357 79 87
April Cubs 7.80% 24.30% 0.119 0.296 0.236 0.300 0.355 81 87
July Mariners 5.40% 20.40% 0.099 0.305 0.251 0.294 0.350 81 90
August Blue Jays 8.10% 19.80% 0.085 0.305 0.250 0.310 0.335 77 107
June Marlins 7.60% 25.30% 0.097 0.307 0.234 0.297 0.331 73 93
May White Sox 7.40% 24.70% 0.123 0.309 0.245 0.305 0.368 86 98

The Mets’ August still hasn’t quite reached the June Padre level of ineptitude, but it’s not far off. Unsurprisingly, bad offensive teams appear on this list more often than good ones, since they can more easily reach these lows through random variations. Even so, solid offensive teams like the Pirates, Orioles, and Blue Jays also appear. In short, bad months happen to just about every team.

The most obvious (and perhaps simplistic) explanation for a month of putrid offensive performance is simply a poor BABIP. Here are the five worst BABIPs from the previous list, along with the xBABIPs for the same time period and the next month's performance:

Month Team BABIP wRC+ xBABIP Next Month BABIP Next Month wRC+
June Padres 0.215 40 0.298 0.303 95
August Mets 0.247 57 0.310
April Astros 0.254 80 0.321 0.309 111
April Pirates 0.259 84 0.309 0.329 113
July Brewers 0.271 78 0.308 0.289 100
July Orioles 0.272 82 0.309 0.311 124

Lo and behold, there are the June Padres and the August Mets at the bottom of the BABIP barrel. Encouragingly enough, all of these teams were significantly underperforming their xBABIPs and then bounced back big time the next month, always outperforming their season wRC+.

This data reinforces the idea that hot or cold streaks have little predictive power. Wright, Murphy, and Granderson, three of the Mets' four best hitters on the season, are mired in awful slumps, and the holes in the lineup are being more obviously exposed as a result.

The Mets' lineup as currently constructed is not good, evidenced by its 88 wRC+ mark for the year. Recently, it’s been borderline torturous to watch the team's offensive flailings on a nightly basis. But both common sense and some simple predictive metrics indicate the sky is not falling just yet. As Met fans, it’s tough to have anything resembling optimism, but there’s no reason to panic.