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The Mets are struggling at the plate, but the lineup should be fine

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Very few Mets are hitting as well as their career norms right now, but that should change.

MLB: APR 17 Mets at Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Through the first twelve games of the 2021 season, the Mets are 7-5 and in first place in the National League East despite the fact that the team has scored just 3.17 runs per game, the lowest rate in Major League Baseball.

Collectively, the Mets have hit .241/.330/.346 with a 95 wRC+ that ranks 17th in the sport. A quick glance at the team’s .304 batting average on balls in play suggests the team hasn’t been unlucky as a whole, at least to the extent that you can ascertain luck from BABIP. But given the hitters that make up the Mets’ lineup on a regular basis, you’d certainly expect better results overall.

While it might not feel like it, there are a few Mets who are hitting well to start the season. J.D. Davis leads the way with a 209 wRC+ after hitting a home run last night. Luis Guillorme has a 188 wRC+ that he’s achieved solely by hitting singles and drawing walks, which is impressive. Brandon Nimmo has a .490 OBP and a 173 wRC+ even after his very bad night at the plate last night. Tomás Nido has a 149 wRC+, albeit in just six plate appearances. And Jonathan Villar has a respectable 115 wRC+.

If you were drawing up a list of the Mets’ best hitters off the top of your head, Nimmo might be the only one—depending on how well you’d rate Davis—that you would name from that group. Six of the Mets’ everyday players—75 percent of the non-pitcher spots in the lineup—are performing well below their career norms thus far.

wRC+

Player 2021 Career Diff.
Player 2021 Career Diff.
Jeff McNeil 64 136 -72
Francisco Lindor 62 117 -55
Pete Alonso 93 134 -41
Michael Conforto 76 126 -50
Dominic Smith 99 115 -16
James McCann 80 85 -5

Of those six, only McCann is hitting close to his career norm, but if you buy into his significant improvements at the plate in 2019 and 2020, he’s performing below expectations, too.

The good news, though, is that it would be reasonable to expect all of these hitters to get back to their career norms. And on top of that, at least a few of them have been hitting the ball better than their current stats would suggest. Statcast’s xwOBA—expected weighted on-base average—currently suggests that several of those regulars are hitting the ball better than their results thus far. The handful of Mets who are hitting well right now are performing over their respective xwOBA marks, though not quite as drastically on average.

wOBA vs. xwOBA

Player wOBA xwOBA Diff.
Player wOBA xwOBA Diff.
Smith, Dominic .309 .457 -0.148
McNeil, Jeff .256 .366 -0.110
Lindor, Francisco .252 .329 -0.077
Alonso, Pete .301 .334 -0.033
Conforto, Michael .274 .287 -0.013
McCann, James .280 .275 0.005
Guillorme, Luis .450 .439 0.011
Davis, J.D. .482 .414 0.068
Nimmo, Brandon .426 .353 0.073
Villar, Jonathan .336 .261 0.075

On top of all of that, the Mets have been struggling when it matters most, as the team has hit just .192/.308/.222 with runners in scoring position and .220/.338/.329 with men on base. That sort of thing usually evens out over the course of the season, but it’s significantly magnified a legitimately poor start at the plate.

The Mets have had the most irregular schedule in all of baseball to start the season, as they’ve had games postponed by COVID, rain, and snow. Given more time and a more regular schedule, the hitters in the lineup are simply better than this. But it would obviously be preferable to see them start hitting soon.