Michael Conforto is trying to do something only seven other hitters in Mets history have done: sustain a .400 on-base percentage over the course of a full season with the Mets. The season is almost two-thirds of the way finished, and Conforto is currently showcasing a .408 OBP. If he can hold that for another two months and attain at least 500 plate appearances, Conforto would join John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rickey Henderson, Cleon Jones, Dave Magadan, David Wright, and Keith Hernandez as the only qualified Mets hitters to do it.
In total, it has happened 10 different times, with Olerud and Hernandez doing it more than once. David Wright was the last Mets hitter to accomplish it, back in 2007. Conforto would tie Wright for the youngest Mets hitter to do it, both in their age 24 season.
Mets hitters with .400 OBP
The reason only seven other hitters in team history have held a .400 OBP over an entire season is because, well, it’s really hard to do. It takes a combination of plate discipline and a healthy respect from opposing pitchers to generate a strong walk rate to help fuel an on-base percentage. Conforto’s walk rate is currently at an excellent 14%, 14th best in baseball and well above the league average of 8.5%. Opposing pitchers have shied away from consistently attacking the strike zone against Conforto. Pitchers have thrown a first-pitch strike to Conforto roughly 52% of the time, the sixth-lowest rate in baseball. Just under 42% of the total pitches Conforto has seen have been in the strike zone, one of the 25 lowest rates in baseball.
It takes strong bat-to-ball skills to consistently mash the ball at velocities and angles best equipped to cut through defenses and get on base through hits. Conforto is currently batting .294, nearly 40 points higher than the league average of .255. Conforto pops up less than average, hits more line drives than average, hits hard ground balls, and can hit the ball to all fields, helping to fuel his batting average.
Conforto’s .408 OBP currently ranks eighth-best in baseball. The league average on-base percentage in 2017 is .324, and has hovered between .315 and .325 over the last five seasons. Conforto’s OBP is 56 points higher than the next best on the 2017 Mets, Neil Walker, who has a .352 OBP. Conforto’s peers have taken notice. Conforto was voted into the All-Star game by player vote. His high-level skills have earned him respect around the league as one of the game’s best young hitters.
In what has largely been a rough season for the Mets, Conforto’s emergence as a budding star is something positive to take out of it. He looks like the anchor of the lineup for the foreseeable future, and a possible replacement for David Wright as the non-pitcher, homegrown face of the franchise.