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Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Statistical stories for 2012

By Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

Expectations are low for the Mets this season. Very low. Good luck trying to find someone who will pick them to finish with a winning record.

Yet, there is intrigue of a statistical nature to be mined from the depths of fan despair. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting numerical storylines for 2012:

Wright’s record pursuit
How long will David Wright remain a Met? Well, at least long enough to break a few records. Wright already holds the Mets marks for doubles and total bases. Among the most-prominent records in Wright’s sights are …

David Wright
Lincecum
Most RBI: Wright’s 725 are eight shy of the Mets mark held by Darryl Strawberry.

Most Runs: Wright enters 2012 with 699, 36 shy of now-former Met Jose Reyes.

Most Hits: No guarantee he’ll get this one, but with a full season, he should come close. Wright enters with 1,248 hits, 170 shy of Ed Kranepool’s 1,418.

Did you know … Lesser-known Mets records he could also surpass include most walks (45 shy of Strawberry), most strikeouts (63 shy of Strawberry), most sacrifice flies (five behind Kranepool) and times hit by a pitch (eight shy of Ron Hunt).

How will Citi Field play?
Last October, the Mets announced that there would be significant changes to Citi Field’s dimensions and outfield fence heights.

The reconfigured outfield wall will be a uniform eight feet in height. The dimensions from left to right are: 335-358-385-408-398-375-330.

The old measurements, although not precisely in the same spots, were: 335-371-384-408-415-378-330.

Mets management did studies showing the team would have hit 81 more home runs at home in the last three seasons, and allowed only 70 more with the new dimensions.

Those who figure to be most impacted by the changes are:

David Wright: Wright hit eight home runs to right-center field at Shea Stadium from 2006 to 2008, but only one to that area in the three seasons of Citi Field.

Jason Bay: During the last two seasons, Bay hit 12 fly balls to left field in Citi Field that traveled an estimated 370 feet or more. Only six left the ballpark. That’s underachieving. The typical 370-foot-plus ball to left field goes out of the ballpark 80 percent of the time.

Left-Handed Hitters: In their three-season history, no Mets left-handed batter has hit a home run to left field. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda should have a better chance at it now.

Did you know … The Mets have 169 road home runs over the last three seasons, second-fewest in the majors, ahead of only the Astros, at 158.

Johan
If nothing else, the Mets have a better-than-reasonable chance to spend at least one day this season above .500, since Johan Santana made it through spring training and will pitch on Opening Day against the Braves.
Tim Lincecum
Lincecum

The pitch to watch in Santana’s return will be the changeup. From 2004 to 2008, when Santana was in his prime with the Twins, there was no more valuable out pitch in baseball, per advanced stat measurements on Fangraphs.com. In 2009 and 2010, the pitch was still good, but nowhere near as valuable.

What could be frustrating is if the Mets bullpen and bats fail to support Santana, something he was familiar with in his first three seasons.

From 2008 to 2010, the Mets lost 15 starts in which Santana went at least seven innings and allowed two runs or fewer. Over those three seasons, that was the most team losses in a pitcher’s starts in the majors.

Did you know … If Santana finishes the season as an ERA-title qualifier, with a sub-three ERA, he would have three such seasons as a Met. The only Mets with at least three such seasons are Tom Seaver (9), Jerry Koosman (4), Dwight Gooden (3), Sid Fernandez (3) and Jon Matlack (3).

Replacing Reyes
The expectations for Ruben Tejada aren’t necessarily great, but there will be pressure on him to at least be adequate in attempting to replace Reyes.
Ruben Tejada
Tejada

What Tejada has going for him is that he’s young (22) and improving. He finished 2011 with a .360 on-base percentage (.368 after the All-Star Break) and had the second-highest line-drive rate on the team (21.4 percent), trailing only Willie Harris. He has shown flashes of being very good on the defensive end.

What’s missing from Tejada’s game is the wow factor that Reyes brought with him. In 174 major league games, Tejada has just one triple and seven stolen bases.

Tejada has minimal power, though he did hit a pair of home runs this spring. His .335 slugging percentage last season was two points lower than Reyes’ 2011 batting average.

Reyes had four years in which he was worth at least five Wins Above Replacement in his last six seasons. A reasonable expectation would be for Tejada to be worth half as much.

Did you know … Tejada will not be the youngest Mets Opening Day shortstop. Nor was Reyes. The distinction actually falls to longtime major league coach Jose Oquendo, who started at shortstop on Opening Day for the 1984 Mets at age 20.

Everybody Loves Lucas
The offensive expectations for Lucas Duda seem to be high after an impressive spring training and stellar work in the latter part of 2011.

Some have drawn the Dave Kingman comparison, because Duda fits the profile of the slugger who can’t catch the ball. But on the offensive side, Duda may be a little bit better. His strikeout rate last season was such that if given 550 plate appearances, he’d have had only 90 whiffs.

Duda hit a respectable .219 and slugged .391 with two strikes last season, both considerably above the major league averages of .184 and .279 for non-pitchers. He only missed about once for every six two-strike swings, also better than the major league rate of about one in five.

Did you know … Duda slugged .482 as a rookie in 2011, the fourth-highest slugging percentage by a Mets rookie with at least 250 plate appearances. The three higher were by Benny Agbayani (.525), Wright (.525) and Strawberry (.512).