We are now through the first week of games in May for the 2022 season and the New York Mets still have not lost a series. This week, they split a four-game series with the Braves and a planned four-game series with the Phillies was reduced to three games due to weather-related postponements and the Mets won two out of three of those contests, one of which was one of the greatest comeback victories in franchise history. This week also featured two doubleheaders; the one with the Braves was a scheduled makeup game due to the delayed start to the season and the one with the Phillies was the result of Friday and Saturday’s games being rained out. The doubleheader against the Braves ended in a Mets sweep and yesterday’s doubleheader against the Phillies was a split.
The Mets were the first team in baseball to reach 20 wins and now hold a 20-10 record with a comfortable six game lead in the NL East over the Braves and Marlins. From an offensive standpoint, Thursday’s stunning seven-run inning was of course a highlight and was a result of the Mets stringing many hits together. By contrast, the Mets’ other big offensive breakout this week came in the second game of yesterday’s doubleheader, which was the result of two big multi-run homers off the bat of Pete Alonso. Folks around baseball continue to remark on the fact that the Mets are succeeding despite having one of the lowest hard-hit rates in baseball and while some of their success might be BABIP-driven and the result of pure luck, there is clearly more to it than that. Slugging is down across the majors in part due to the baseball seemingly being dead again and the Mets have changed their approach by simply making contact and putting more balls in play and that is yielding results. Guys like Jeff McNeil in particular have explicitly said that they have adjusted from simply trying to hit the ball hard in every at-bat to “hitting it where they’re not” and trying to beat the shift. And whether it’s sustainable or not, it’s working right now.
Since I mentioned Pete Alonso’s prodigious long balls from yesterday, let’s start with our very powerful Polar Bear, who earns a fireball for this week. His two home runs in the second game of yesterday’s doubleheader were responsible for five of the Mets’ six runs. As a result, he leads the team this week with eight RBIs—twice as many as anybody else on the team. He also leads the team in runs scored with five and shares the team lead in hits with ten. There had been some concern about Alonso’s lack of power in the early going, but half of those ten hits this week went for extra bases and three of them were home runs, so I think those concerns can go on the back burner for now, given Alonso’s team-leading 229 wRC+ in 29 plate appearances this week.
Starling Marte is the other Met who collected ten hits this week and he also earns a fireball for this week, posting a 225 wRC+ in 25 plate appearances. Of Marte’s ten hits this week, none was bigger than his RBI double on Thursday night that put the Mets ahead and capped off their wild seven-run comeback. In all, four of Marte’s ten hits went for extra bases, including a home run that put the Mets on the board on Thursday, which seemed insignificant at the time, but in fact turned out to be very significant indeed. The two RBIs he collected on Thursday account for all of his RBIs for the week, but he also walked once and scored four runs this week. It was a very good week for Marte, who had been previously slumping, to turn it around.
It is good that other bats have heated up because Francisco Lindor’s slump continues this week. However, I did not have the heart to give him a poop emoji despite the 29 wRC+ he posted in 30 plate appearances this week because it was really Lindor’s two-run homer that started it all on Thursday night in the ninth inning. That monstrous shot from Lindor cut the Phillies’ lead to 7-3 and victory still felt pretty improbable at the time, but the home run turned out to be very much not a meaningless, garbage time dinger, but in fact a crucial piece of a historic win. It’s also hard to give Lindor a poop emoji when his four RBIs for the week are the second-most on the team besides Alonso. Still, his home run was one of just three hits he had this week alongside one walk and it’s clear he still hasn’t emerged from his slump quite yet.
The crucial game-tying hit in Thursday’s miraculous ninth inning belongs to Brandon Nimmo, who continues to produce with consistency this season. Not surprisingly, Nimmo’s .444 on-base percentage this week leads the team—the result of six hits (all singles) and a team-leading five walks. His only two RBIs this week were from that game-tying single on Thursday, but they were about as clutch of a pair of RBIs as they come. Nimmo also scored four runs this week, including the ultimate game-winner on Thursday. Nimmo also had a big day in Game 1 of yesterday’s doubleheader, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, but the Mets fell just short in that game.
Travis Jankowski continues to show that he plays a crucial role for this team off the bench. Jankowski played an instrumental role in the Mets’ doubleheader sweep of the Braves on Tuesday, having a huge day in Game 1, in which he went 2-for-3 with a walk, three runs scored, and a stolen base. He also pinch ran for J.D. Davis during Thursday’s ninth inning rally and ended up crossing the plate as the tying run. After Tuesday’s doubleheader he quipped, “No one’s going to be buying my jersey.” But if he continues to play like this, that could change as he reaches folk hero status and continues to justify the Mets’ decision to keep him on the 26-man roster.
Speaking of a justification for staying on the roster, although Robinson Canó’s performance leading up to the Mets cutting him from the roster justified that decision on its own, part of the decision was also contingent on Dominic Smith playing an important role for the team. And unfortunately, Smith has not done well at the plate at all since he was chosen to remain with the team over Canó. Smith almost avoided the poop emoji because his two-run double in Game 2 on Tuesday was also key to the Mets’ sweep of the Braves in that doubleheader, providing all the run support Carlos Carrasco would need in that victory. But, that was literally Smith’s only hit this week in fourteen plate appearances, good for a -38 wRC+ that is too ugly to ignore. It’s also worth noting that right in the middle of the Mets’ inspiring ninth-inning rally on Thursday, Smith struck out swinging for the second out when he came to bat representing the tying run. Hopefully better times are ahead for Smith, but right now it’s hard to justify him getting the majority of the at-bats over J.D. Davis, even given their platoon roles.
So let’s talk about J.D. Davis in contrast, who happens to own the highest xwOBA in baseball at the moment. Unlike Smith, Davis came up huge in Thursday’s ninth-inning comeback. Right after Smith struck out for the first out, Davis pinch hit for Tomás Nido and sat on a 2-0 fastball from Phillies closer Corey Knebel (who had been perfect in save opportunities heading into the night), driving it down the left field line for an RBI double that brought the Mets within two runs and put the tying runner in scoring position. In total, Davis collected three hits and walked three times this week and posted a 116 wRC+ in 16 plate appearances.
Much like Jankowski, Luis Guillorme also continues to flourish in his bench role and is seeing more playing time as a result. Guillorme collected two hits, two walks, and two runs scored in eleven plate appearances this week. One of those hits was his first home run of the year—and just the third long ball in his major league career—in Wednesday’s lopsided loss against the Braves. Guillorme is the quintessential example of the Mets’ new approach at the plate—a player who makes a lot of contact, even if it isn’t always hard contact. If enough of those balls in play fall for hits, Guillorme continues to be an extremely useful player to have off the bench, especially given his defensive prowess, which again produced multiple web gems this week.
Speaking of a lot of contact, I mentioned Jeff McNeil and his change in approach in the introduction of this post and for the most part, it’s been working out for him, but he has cooled off this week to the tune of a 63 wRC+ in 27 plate appearances this week. McNeil had five hits this week—all singles—but he did also walk three times (unusual for McNeil), which matches J.D. Davis for the second-most on the team behind Nimmo. Like most of the lineup, McNeil was also involved in Thursday’s seven-run ninth inning, following Pete Alonso’s double with a single to advance him to third. Here’s hoping this week is just a bump in the road in what has otherwise been a very good season for Jeff McNeil so far.
Similarly, Mark Canha did not quite rack up the hit totals this week as he has in weeks past. Canha had just four hits in 21 plate appearances, good for a .211 batting average with a 77 wRC+. However, one of those four hits was his first home run of the season, which came in Monday’s game and put the Mets ahead 2-0 at the time, finally snapping a power draught for Canha. And another one of those four hits was an RBI single in Thursday’s seven-run ninth inning that kept the rally going and brought the tying run to bat. Canha eventually came around to score along with Jankowski on Brandon Nimmo’s game-tying hit. Overall, Canha scored three runs this week and drove in three runs. It was a mediocre, but not disastrous week for the Mets’ left fielder.
It was, on the other hand, a rather disastrous week for Eduardo Escobar, who has the unfortunate distinction alongside Dominic Smith of having made an out in the middle of the Mets’ ninth-inning rally on Thursday. To be fair to Escobar though, he hit the ball on the screws and lined out for the first out. Nonetheless, the results this week have been horrific enough for Escobar to warrant the poop emoji—a -4 wRC+ in 25 plate appearances. Escobar had just two hits and two RBIs in that span batting right in the middle of the order most days. Escobar is still walking; he walked twice this week. But, this week, he struck out twice as often as he walked, which is not the recipe for success he had been building in April.
The Mets’ catching tandem has been vastly underperforming with the bat overall this season, but this week painted a slightly brighter picture. James McCann and Tomás Nido each collected three hits in twelve and ten plate appearances, respectfully. Only one of those six combined hits went for extra bases—Nido hit a double in the sixth inning of Game 2 yesterday as part of a rally that ended up scoring an insurance run on a wild pitch. But neither McCann nor Nido drove in any runs or scored any runs this week. The Mets had a chance to break through in Game 1 of yesterday’s doubleheader in the sixth inning when McCann grounded into a double play with first and third and nobody out. That did result in a run scoring, but Francisco Lindor followed with an RBI double that brought the Mets within a run and the rally could have been much bigger if McCann had managed to reach base. However, the overall numbers for McCann and Nido this week are not as ugly as they have been in weeks past.