Mets have room to improve in 2nd half

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
12:14
PM ET
Travis d'Arnaud, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Chris YoungAP Images, Getty ImagesAt 45-50, the Mets have room for improvement. We break down some of the weaker links.
If the Mets are going to make a post All-Star break push, it stands to reason they could improve in a number of areas.

Here are a few that seem both noticeable and significant to us.

Zack Wheeler's efficiency
Wheeler closed out the first half with four good starts in five outings, but he got through seven innings in just one of them.

Wheeler still seems to be a work in progress in some regards, one of which is controlling his pitch count. In each of his three starts prior to the break, he threw at least as many pitches (111) as he did in his three-hit shutout June 19, resulting in his being pulled mid-inning by manager Terry Collins.

Wheeler averages 4.14 pitches per plate appearance to opposing hitters, the third-highest among any starter currently qualified for the ERA title. Bringing this number down a little would benefit both Wheeler, who would be able to go deeper into games, and an overused bullpen that would have fewer outs to get.

Travis d'Arnaud's pitch-blocking
Now that d’Arnaud has figured out what was troubling him on the offensive side, he seems in need of fixing on the defensive side.

D'Arnaud currently ranks last among catchers in Defensive Runs Saved, a stat based on his ability to deter base stealers, handle bunts, keep his pitching staff’s ERA low and catch tough-to-catch pitches.

The latter seems to be a significant concern, based on what the numbers show.

Video tracking has credited d’Arnaud with 207 blocks on pitches in the dirt (or way out of the strike zone) in situations in which there was a man on base. D’Arnaud has been behind the plate for 23 wild pitches and committed six passed balls.

From that you can formulate a “block percentage” stat, which is the number of blocks divided by the number of opportunities (blocks plus wild pitches plus passed balls).

D’Arnaud’s block rate is 87.7 percent, which rates 47th among the 50 players who have caught the most innings this season. By comparison, backup Anthony Recker rates 17th (93.5 percent). The top 10 all are at 94.3 percent or better.

Baserunning
After reading an article about some of the Yankees' baserunning issues this season, I ran a checkup on the Mets, and as it turns out, they have similar woes.

Last season, the Mets ranked first in Fangraphs’ advanced baserunning metric, which measured the ability to take extra bases on hits (go first to third or second to home on singles), base-stealing efficiency and avoiding baserunning mistakes, such as getting doubled off or picked off. This season, they rank 24th.

Among the culprits -- a 73 percent stolen-base rate (down from 77 percent a year ago), a 41 percent extra-base advancement rate (down from 46 percent) and 11 outs made at home plate, the same total they made for all of 2013.

Chris Young's hitting
Young may have played himself out of getting many opportunities other than as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement, given his .202 batting average this season.

But in fairness to Young, he probably deserves at least a little better outcome based on what he’s done at the plate.

Young’s rates of chasing bad pitches and missing on his swings are both near his career levels, so it’s not like there’s anything worthy of concern there.

Young is 17-for-33 (.515 batting average) this season when registering what video tracking credits as a hard-hit ball (batted balls are grouped into being hard-hit, soft-hit or medium-hit based on velocity and sweet-spot contact).

That’s both below the major league average (usually around .700) and Young’s established success rate in the previous four seasons (.664). Had Young hit at that rate on his hard-hit balls, he’d be hitting .226 instead of .202, which is not necessarily a great improvement, but it might have saved him from a few boos.

Young may actually be best served to continue doing what he’s doing and hope that some rewards come in the second half. And that may apply to the Mets' offense as a whole. They currently rank last in the sport in batting average when hitting the ball hard.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
14 4.02 143 190
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .295
HRL. Duda 28
RBIL. Duda 86
RD. Murphy 76
OPSL. Duda .832
ERAZ. Wheeler 3.49
SOZ. Wheeler 180