The Mets Offense is Sneaky Good by Ben Clemens November 6, 2020 Yesterday, I did a deeply meaningless thing. I ignored our site’s excellent projections — both ZiPS and Steamer do a great job of projecting future performance — and made my own terrible ones using some old methodology. Why? Partially because I’m not smart enough to build my own ZiPS, but mainly so that I could walk through the very basic way projection systems work — not by wishcasting or hoping or by finding some sneaky data point no one else has, but by carefully using and weighing the data we all have. Of course, that’s a buttoned-down and boring way to think about things. Let’s talk about something fun instead! The top of the 2021 projections I made yesterday is dotted with a bunch of people you’d expect, and since I didn’t even bother park-adjusting it, a few too many Rockies. The impressive Fernando Tatis Jr. comes in at 11th in wOBA, which is cool given he still has a season of zeroes in there. Freddie Freeman is continuing his ascent. But here’s a shocker: there are four Mets in the top 40. That sounds, well, wrong. The Mets aren’t supposed to be a good offensive team. They’re supposed to be a pitching team, what with Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard atop the rotation (upon Syndergaard’s recovery) and Edwin Díaz locking down the bullpen. There’s just one problem with that narrative: it’s completely wrong. The Mets were, in fact, tied with the Dodgers for the best wRC+ in baseball last year. They finished fifth in position player WAR — the defense wasn’t a strength — but generally hit an absolute ton. Their 2020 performance was keyed by spectacular seasons from Michael Conforto (.322/.412/.515) and Dominic Smith (.316/.377/.616). The rest of the Mets regulars chipped in as well — Robinson Canó, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, Pete Alonso, and Andrés Giménez all put up above-average lines in at least 100 PAs of playing time. If that doesn’t exactly sound like a dynamic lineup to you, well, you’re right — it didn’t to me at first either. Canó is old, Giménez is young, Nimmo’s always hurt, and Davis was a journeyman only two years ago. That’s absolutely a story you could tell, and that’s what made the Marcel projections I ran so interesting to me. Here are the highlights of those projections, including free agent Wilson Ramos: 2021 Mets Marcel Projections Name PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA Jeff McNeil 512.7 16.5 .304 .370 .486 .364 Pete Alonso 562.1 35.4 .254 .345 .532 .363 Brandon Nimmo 501.0 16.0 .254 .377 .450 .359 Michael Conforto 550.2 24.6 .262 .361 .475 .355 Dominic Smith 463.5 20.2 .266 .330 .488 .345 J.D. Davis 525.8 19.0 .270 .345 .452 .339 Robinson Canó 465.3 15.5 .273 .333 .451 .333 Wilson Ramos 442.3 13.6 .280 .341 .435 .332 Amed Rosario 445.6 10.8 .268 .310 .410 .306 Look — these projections aren’t supposed to be foolproof. They’re named after a monkey on purpose! But the fact of the matter is, they’re based on what the players have done over the last three years. If you ignore the fact that your brain has unfairly filed them away as “inconsistent Mets,” you can just look at the numbers and see it. Take McNeil, the best-projected Met: Jeff McNeil, Career Stats Year PA K% BB% BABIP HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+ 2018 248 9.7% 5.6% .359 3 .329 .381 .471 137 2019 567 13.2% 6.2% .337 23 .318 .384 .531 143 2020 209 11.5% 9.6% .335 4 .311 .383 .454 130 McNeil isn’t exactly a household name, but maybe he should be. He has a career .383 OBP. Marcel gives him credit for his consistently elevated BABIP (it feeds through to his average and OBP) in a way that I might quibble with slightly. On the other hand, dock his BABIP 20 points and that would slash his OBP 15 points (to a still-excellent .365). An injury-marred 2020 — an intercostal strain, a bruised knee, and brutal-sounding “gastrointestinal discomfort” — led to lower power output, but he managed an excellent season despite it, and even if you want to lower expectations slightly, he’s still certainly going to be an above-average hitter. What about Alonso, only narrowly behind McNeil in these 2021 projections? He doesn’t have any 2018 numbers to speak of, but the two years since then have been solid enough to make up for it: Pete Alonso, Career Stats Year PA K% BB% BABIP HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+ 2019 693 26.4% 10.4% .280 53 .260 .358 .583 143 2020 239 25.5% 10.0% .242 16 .231 .326 .490 110 Despite a woeful .242 BABIP in 2020 (Alonso should run a lower-than-average BABIP because of his fly-ball-happy ways, but not that low), he managed a respectable batting line. The walks and strikeouts work well enough for a hitter with Alonso’s prodigious power, and he actually cut his chase rate while increasing his contact rate on in-zone pitches this year. The defense isn’t pretty, but at this point, it’s clear that Alonso is an excellent hitter. “Fine,” I can hear you saying. “McNeil and Alonso are good hitters, we get it. Brandon Nimmo, though? What are you trying to sell us, Clemens?” Again, I’m basically just trying to sell you Nimmo’s own career: Brandon Nimmo, Career Stats Year PA K% BB% BABIP HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+ 2016 80 25.0% 7.5% .365 1 .274 .338 .329 89 2017 215 27.9% 15.3% .360 5 .260 .379 .410 118 2018 535 26.2% 15.0% .351 17 .263 .404 .483 148 2019 254 28.0% 18.1% .293 8 .221 .375 .407 114 2020 225 19.1% 14.7% .326 8 .280 .404 .484 148 That’s just year after year of above-average batting lines after a brief 2016 cameo. His availability is certainly a concern — I project only 501 PA for him this year, and Depth Charts checks in at 491 — but it’s hardly a fluky line. Nimmo walks enough that his league-average power and slightly elevated strikeout rates simply don’t matter. He’s always on base, and that counts for a lot. His career .390 OBP checks in at fifth in baseball since his debut — that’ll play. Whatever, okay, the Mets have three great hitters. The rest of them, though, all bums! Except, well, Michael Conforto is great too! Take a look at his whole career, which like Nimmo’s has been varied but consistently above average: Michael Conforto, Career Stats Year PA K% BB% BABIP HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+ 2015 194 20.1% 8.8% .297 9 .270 .335 .506 133 2016 348 25.6% 10.3% .267 12 .220 .310 .414 97 2017 440 25.7% 13.0% .328 27 .279 .384 .555 147 2018 638 24.9% 13.2% .289 28 .243 .350 .448 120 2019 648 23.0% 13.0% .290 33 .257 .363 .494 126 2020 233 24.5% 10.3% .412 9 .322 .412 .515 157 Again, there’s not a lot to nitpick in these numbers. Unlike my silly projections, Steamer knows that Conforto had an excellent 2017 as well — mine cut off after three years — and thinks he’ll be even better in 2021. That’s an excellent four-batter core — two on-base machines, a thumper to drive them home, and an all-around stud in Conforto. Overall, 290 hitters batted at least 100 times in 2020 and at least 300 times the year before — roughly speaking, “non-rookie regulars.” The Mets had nine such players. Eight (!) of them finished in the top half of my 2021 projections. Ramos won’t be back next year, and Canó is getting old, but that’s still a deep roster of hitters. It also doesn’t include Giménéz, who will likely be locked in a time share with Amed Rosario next year. As my colleague Craig Edwards noted yesterday, the Mets have holes to fill in free agency this offseason. They’ll be looking for a catcher — J.T. Realmuto is the best free agent on the market and Steve Cohen is the richest owner, so the two have been linked — and for depth across the diamond and on the mound. I think that all makes a ton of sense — you can’t make a team out of six or eight hitters. Here’s the thing, though: this isn’t some rebuilding job, constructing an offense and pitching staff out of nothing. It’s easy to think of the New York offense as lackluster, because we all remember the two years where deGrom was lights-out every five nights and the Mets put up donut after donut. That’s just wrong at this point, though. The Mets are already awash in great bats, and they’re likely to add at least one more this offseason. When deGrom takes the mound on Opening Day next year, some little part of my brain will be telling me that he’ll likely have to overcome puny run support. It will be wrong, though. Sometimes our brains remember old things too well and discount new information too much, or vice versa. Don’t let it trap you the way it trapped me, at least until I engaged in a little projecting. The Mets had one of the best offenses in baseball this year, and they’ll likely be one of the best offenses in baseball next year too.