Mets Offense Flowers Early

Second-year outfielder Michael Conforto has been a force for the Mets this season. Courtesy of Wikimedia

Originally published in The Fordham Ram on May 4, 2016.

Until they acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline, the 2015 Mets had a listless offense with a dominant pitching staff.

In the first half, they ranked third to last in baseball with just 310 runs and had arguably the worst slash line in the majors: a .223 batting average (MLB worst), .298 on-base percentage (fifth worst) and .363 slugging percentage (second worst). As a team, they struck out 21.1 percent of the time, bad enough to be ranked seventh worst. Basically, they were a garbage hitting club that would probably be better off just standing pat at the deadline and making a run for the World Series the next year with the same young pitching staff.

But they decided to go for it and traded for Cespedes, igniting their offense. Their second half stats showed it: they were third in the majors with 373 runs. They improved their batting average to .257 (16th best), OBP to .328 (seventh best) and slugging to .443 (fourth best). They even dropped to 16th in strikeout rate.

So naturally, coming into the 2016 season, the goal was to be a lot more like late-season Mets than early-season Mets. Through one month of play, they have been doing just that. The team slashed .256/.331/.446 in April, good for 11th, ninth and sixth in the league, respectively. They’re even fifth in home runs, more than doubling their home run total from last April by hitting 33. This offense, along with generally excellent pitching, has the Mets sitting at 15-8 so far.

The current Mets roster, while mixing some old faces in with the new, looks nothing like the first half team that couldn’t hit Bartolo Colon with a tennis racket in 2015.

After general manager Sandy Alderson re-signed Cespedes, it was considered a lock that La Potencia would be the primary offensive weapon. While he has been a little better than his career numbers (he’s slashing .292/.363/.667 with seven homers), he hasn’t even been the best player for the Mets this season.

The Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pirates during the offseason in exchange for erstwhile back-of-the-rotation starter Jon Niese in order to replace departing playoff hero Daniel Murphy. Walker has stepped right into Murphy’s spot, leading the Mets with homers (third-most in baseball) and slashing .315/.344./.620.

But not even Walker is the best offensive player on the Mets right now. No, that title belongs to 24 year-old Michael Conforto, currently in his second season. Conforto is slashing an unreal .342/.418/.633, leading the Mets in the first two categories and barely trailing Cespedes in slugging. And while he only has four home runs, he does have 11 doubles, including a string of six games in a row with a double. He leads the entire team in Wins Above Replacement by 0.3. Conforto looks like one of the best young players in the league, let alone the Mets.

While it’s still early, the Mets offense is much more palatable than it was this time last season. It was trade deadline tears that brought offensive fall flowers in 2015, and they’ve flowered right away this year.

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