Mets Hitters Couldn’t Be Less Clutch

Let’s face it: As the Mets go, there’s no shortage of things to worry about. The team overall remains in a decent position, but now there’s concern regarding two pitchers’ elbows. Meanwhile, Matt Harvey still doesn’t quite look like himself. David Wright is probably done for the year. And the lineup just isn’t producing runs. Injuries haven’t helped, and Michael Conforto’s collapse didn’t help, but the pitchers are getting so little margin of error. Things in New York are frequently tense. They’re tense today. It feels a little like last season, before the season turned beautiful.

I can’t say anything about Steven Matz. I can’t say anything about Noah Syndergaard. I can’t say much about the various injuries, or about Conforto’s chances of getting it going. I don’t know where the Mets are going to go, and their struggles have helped open the door for the Marlins. What I can say is this: Offensively speaking, the Mets have been impossibly unclutch. It shouldn’t continue like this. Of course, what’s done is done.

Just to provide a quick reminder of the Official Stathead Position on this: Mostly, we don’t believe in sustaining clutch performance, but we do believe in the reality of clutch performances. Obviously, there are important situations. Obviously, those situations end with results. Someone gets the better ones, and someone gets the worse ones. There most definitely have been clutch players and teams, in hindsight. Even if it wasn’t a real “talent,” events that happen can’t be taken back.

All right. We have a Clutch statistic here. Actually, even before I get to that, let me point out that, according to BaseRuns, the Mets should be averaging 4.07 runs scored per game. They’re actually at 3.58, which gives a difference of -0.49. That’s the biggest negative difference in the game, out of the 30 teams, and it works out to about 38 missing runs. And that would work out to about four missing wins. Something has gone horribly wrong. A recent buzzword has been “sequencing.” Call it whatever you like, but the Mets have shot themselves in the foot.

The Clutch statistic! Back to that. Clutch effectively tries to measure the difference between actual WPA and expected WPA. It captures offensive performance and then folds in the context. In April, Mets hitters ranked 29th in Clutch. In May, 22nd. In June, they’re 29th. Overall, they’re dead last, and it’s not very close. The Mets have been the least-clutch offense in the game, and they wouldn’t just stand out in 2016. We have this information stretching back to 1974, and, let me tell you something about their pace.

“Pace” is always misleading, because paces are un-regressed. The Mets have played just short of half a season, which is more than half a season away from being a full season. So, know that going in. But going back to 1974, I calculated every team-season’s Clutch score per 162 games. Then I adjusted those marks for the league average, since the average isn’t set to 0.0. The 10 lowest team ratings as of right now:

10 Least Clutch Offenses
Team Season G Clutch/162
Mets 2016 77 -10.9
Padres 1994 117 -9.0
Twins 1978 162 -8.5
Indians 2005 162 -7.6
Yankees 1981 107 -7.4
Dodgers 1989 160 -7.2
Angels 1981 110 -7.2
Orioles 2004 162 -7.2
Expos 1983 163 -6.9
Giants 2002 162 -6.9
1974 – 2016. Note that certain seasons are incomplete.

It’s the Mets, then a strike-shortened season, so you can see how sample sizes matter. But at this pace, the Mets would be the least-clutch offense on record by about two full-season wins. No, I can’t imagine they actually finish this low, but this gives you a sense of how they’ve performed. They’ve performed like a horribly unclutch baseball team, and that’s a surefire way to make observers upset. The offense hasn’t been good, but when you mix in bad timing, it makes the lineup seem atrocious. It makes everything seem worse than it is.

This would be a glimmer of good news: Unclutch lineups haven’t stayed unclutch lineups. I looked over the last five years, and I gathered each team’s first- and second-half Clutch numbers. I put each over 2,500 plate appearances just to give a common denominator. If it were easier to do, I would’ve gone with a bigger sample, but I think this is convincing enough:

clutch-1st-2nd

Zero relationship. That’s almost a perfect random scatter. The Mets shouldn’t remain unclutch, and that’ll make the lineup seem stronger. Just last season, they didn’t have these issues. It seems like it’s just been miserable luck. But as you could imagine, it’s shown up most dramatically with runners in scoring position. Ken Davidoff just touched on this. The Mets have a .704 OPS, but with runners in scoring position, that drops to .607. That’s horrible! Horrible to what would be a historic extent.

Going now to the Play Index, we can look at how teams have done in the past in those situations. My stat of choice is tOPS+, which measures split performance vs. overall performance. By this measure, the worst team in recorded history with runners in scoring position is the 1962 Mets, who finished with a tOPS+ of 77. The 1987 Indians finished with a tOPS+ of 80. As I write this, this year’s Mets have a tOPS+ of 74. Another mark that would be the worst ever, if it were to keep up. Clearly, the points are related. The Mets have been historically unclutch, and it’s mostly because they’ve been historically bad with runners in scoring position. They shouldn’t stay like this going forward, but a lot of damage has already been done.

Thankfully for them, they remain in the race. And no one should be convinced that the Mets are bad. The Mets, on talent, are one of the better teams in the league, and though they’ll probably be without Wright, they could trade for an infielder. Or they could sign Yulieski Gurriel. Travis d’Arnaud should hit more than he has. The Mets basically have what they should need, and it would be absurd to write them off. It’s fine to be disappointed by the offense. The offense has been disappointing. It ought to improve. And then maybe all the concern should be reserved for Syndergaard and Matz. To me, those issues seem more likely to linger.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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screamin_jay
Member
screamin_jay

i’m sure losing 80% of games vs the nats the last 3 years and the embedded losing culture of the mets franchise (worst in all major professional sports) hasn’t already crushed all these players already

JR and the Off-Balance Shots
Member
JR and the Off-Balance Shots

the nats’ very existence and success is going to kill all my spirit

screamin_jay
Member
screamin_jay

even when the mets “dominated” the nats the games were almost always competitive. and the nats actually impacted the outcome of the mets’ seasons. just one more reason one is a blessed franchise and the other doomed to never be anything and lose even their most real fans like me

1877kars4kids
Member
1877kars4kids

lol the nats are waaaay more cursed in the playoffs than we are. How are they a winning franchise when they had a huge collapse last year and never seem to make it out of the playoffs. I’m a huge mets fan too, but I’m sick of people perpetuating the losing culture myth. This decade has mostly been bad because we’ve mostly been bad. Luckily Sandy is turning that around and the future is bright. So buck up, and lets just enjoy the fact that the mets are goingto be competitive in the recent future without all the doom and gloom whenever anything goes wrong.

screamin_jay
Member
screamin_jay

hey, but CARLOS BELTRAN tho

the only bad thing that ever happened to the mets

screamin_jay
Member
screamin_jay

also this pretty normal lolmets snafu is almost too regular to even bother with at this point, but i guess it’s still not as franchise-crushing as that whole natinals thing that i know you guys really had to suffer through

JR and the Off-Balance Shots
Member
JR and the Off-Balance Shots

i mean, i broke it down this way
-prospects who have not busted
-trades that haven’t gone against them
-signings that went really bad
-players who they let go who got much better after leaving

it’s pretty ridiculous. now they’ve been absurdly healthy this season, murph is putting up monster numbers, and their old guys are starting to look rejuvenated. guys like ross/roark way overperforming. harper hasn’t been that good since april ended either. it’s annoying

Joser
Member
Member
Joser

I realize you’re just another troll (and not even a particularly good or interesting one) but I find it hilarious that you can assert that the Mets have the worst “embedded losing culture” (whatever that is) in all major professional sports in a world where (a) the Mets went to the World Series just last year, and (b) the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Cleveland Browns all exist as professional sports teams.

screamin_jay
Guest
screamin_jay

i don’t troll, i state facts

Joser
Member
Member
Joser

Uh huh.