The Mets were shut out by the Padres on Monday after being swept out of Milwaukee, capping off a stretch where they have won just three games out of their last twelve, dropping from first place in the division to third. Unlike the start of the season, though, the stumbling block has not been an ineffective bullpen or imploding starting pitchers. Instead, it’s the suddenly-silent bats that have averaged just over two runs per game in that time.
What happened to the squad that burst out of the gate with clutch hits and MVP candidates? Well, like so many things about the Mets, there’s no simple answer.
The biggest issue for the Mets right now is that a full third of the starting lineup has put up OPS’s at or below .500 for a solid week: Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Brandon Nimmo, and even Pete Alonso are all mired in deep slumps. Cano and Nimmo are of particular concern as their struggles at the plate coincided with hit-by-pitches, which raises the question as to whether one or both is quietly nursing an injury.
To make matters worse, roster changes have sidelined players who saw success early on, such as J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith, while giving more time to players who have yet to get in the groove, most notably Todd Frazier.
Indeed, while it would be unfair and inaccurate to place an entire team’s offensive shortcomings on a single player, it’s hard to overlook that his arrival and his .473 OPS have coincided with the Mets’ worst offensive stretch of the season. As Frazier adjusts after having missed most of spring training, his production is very likely to improve, but for now, it’s definitely part of the problem, particularly with Davis’s .821 OPS relegated to the bench.
The serious issues with the bats overall is further exacerbated by a major drop in performance with runners in scoring position. For the last 12 games, the Mets’ OPS in those scenarios is just .562, a huge drop-off from their .775 in the preceding games. This is the difference between an above-average run-producing team and a bottom-five one, and the Mets are counting big time on this run of bad luck coming to an end.
Their need for big numbers with runners in scoring position is in part driven by anemic power numbers. In the midst of a season characterized by a huge spike in power across the league, the Mets’ 37 home runs rank 23rd in MLB, and their 34% hard-hit rate ranks 24th, despite the fact that they have played relatively few games at their notoriously tough-on-power home field.
New hitting coach Chili Davis is well-known for his emphasis on going the other way and making contact in an era when the focus is increasingly on launch angle and power hitting. If the Mets continue to come up empty at the plate, the coaching staff may have to rethink how these seemingly contradictory approaches can be wedded in a way that allows the team to take full advantage of a ball built to fly.
Many of these obstacles for the Mets will self-resolve: Ramos will get more than a handful of extra-base hits, the team’s average with runners in scoring position will rise above .200, Alonso will go back to hitting jaw-dropping moonshots. But with the season rapidly looking like it’s slipping away, they need to act fast wherever they can, whether that’s reassessing the Cano and Nimmo injuries or rethinking a hitting philosophy that is increasingly at odds with the reality of how runs are scored in baseball today.