Mets Hitters Couldn’t Be Less Clutch by Jeff Sullivan June 30, 2016 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: 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.