Powerless Mets Playing Old-Fashioned Baseball

Hot Stove New YorkSenior Writer IJune 1, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 31:  Dan Uggla #6 of the Florida Marlins turns a double play as Luis Castillo #1 of the New York Mets slides during their game on May 31, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Mets are playing like the Baltimore Orioles. Not the slugging Boog Powell/Frank Robinson Baltimore Orioles, but the 1890s Baltimore Orioles—the one with Wee Willie Keeler in right, John McGraw at third, Hughie Jennings at short, and Kid Gleason at second. In 1895, that team finished in first place in the National League (beating out the Cleveland Spiders by three games), hitting 89 triples with only 25 home runs, stealing 310 bases, and had a .324 team batting average.

The Mets aren’t going to hit .324 or steal 310 bases, but they’re not going to blast their way to the top of the standings either.

The Mets are 14th in the National League with 33 home runs. And while Citi Field is no home run hitter’s paradise, the team has actually hit more dingers at home (18) than on the road (15). The absence of Carlos Delgado along with David Wright’s lack of long ball success this season probably have more to do with it than the new stadium. But triples are another story. They lead the NL in that category with 15, and the home/road discrepancy is glaring—they’ve hit 13 at Citi Field and only two on the road.

The Mets also lead the league in stolen bases, with 51. And they’re doing it while Jose Reyes is on the sidelines nursing a calf injury. The number of stolen bases aren’t just piling up, but they’re coming during crucial times, late in games. Gary Sheffield pretty much won Friday’s game with a stolen base in the 11th inning, which set up the almost daily heroics of Omir Santos. And Wright swiped a base late in yesterday’s game with two outs, but ultimately didn’t score. Late-inning stolen bases are becoming routine for the team now.

The Mets are bunting runners over, hit-and-running for a change (which was supposedly invented by those same Baltimore Orioles of the 19th century), have improved their situational hitting and are even hitting with runners in scoring position this season. They’re second overall in the National League, with a .281 average. But they’re first in the league with runners in scoring position (.290), fourth with two outs and runners in scoring position (.256), and third from the seventh inning on (.274). That’s all a change from last season when they could hit in the first six innings (they still lead the league this season with a .284 average in those innings), but fell apart late in games.

The only situation where they just flat-out stink is with the bases loaded, where they’re only hitting .232, which is 14th in the NL.

Their lack of power may be their downfall yet this season, but right now they stand at sixth in the NL in runs scored, with 234, and have the fifth-best record in the National League. The brand of baseball they’re playing is more exciting than a station-to-station, waiting for the three-run homer style of play.

Now they just need to work on their squeeze plays, steal home once in a while, grow handlebar mustaches and start sporting some baggy uniforms, and then they’ll really be back in the 1800s.