But I want to swing the bat NOW!!!

One point upon which stat geeks and grit-o-philes can agree is that swinging at balls outside the strike zone is a bad idea. I mean, sure, guys like Yogi Berra and Vlad Guerrero became superstars despite their penchant for being less selective than Mark Grace in a slump. But unless you’re a freak, plate discipline is incredibly important if you want to generate offense. Whether you’re trying to draw a walk or trotting around the bases after crushing a curveball waist-high and over the plate, laying off pitches outside the zone helps accomplish those goals.

Which is why I find the batting approach of the Mets this year so troubling. The entire team has seemingly decided, “screw it, let’s just put whatever we can into play and see what happens,” which is a terrible idea.

Fangraphs provides a statistic called O-Swing %, which in their own words is the “percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.” The Mets collectively had an O-Swing % of 24.2% in 2009, which was slightly better than the MLB average of 25.1%.  However, in 2010, the team has so far swung at 31.4% of pitches thrown for balls, which is the 4th worst in baseball. What more, there doesn’t seem to be one player on the roster who has been immune to this hack-happy tendency.

Unsurprisingly, the two biggest offenders are Rod Barajas and Jeff Francoeur, who have proven time and again to be less patient than a 15 year-old lad with a nudie magazine.  Barajas, who was recently sent to the Dodgers, has an O-Swing % of 45, which trails only the aforementioned Guerrero. And not far behind him is Frenchy at 43.3%, fifth highest in baseball.  But like I said, these are hardly surprises as they are consistently among the league leaders in this category.

What is more surprising, is that every single Mets player who has compiled at least 200 plate appearances in 2010 has a markedly worse O-Swing % than their career numbers. It must be pointed out that the MLB average on the whole is roughly 4 points higher this year than last.  But even putting that into consideration, pretty much the entire team has devolved.

This chart doesn’t include first baseman Ike Davis since as a rookie, he has no comparable data.  But take a look for yourself. David Wright went from 21.6% to 31.2%. Even Luis Castillo, who has led the league in this category from 2007-2009, sees an uptick that’s larger than the average increase. In fact, Castillo and Jason Bay are the only players who have demonstrated better than average numbers.

Due in large part to this  failure, the Mets are currently on pace to score fewer runs than they did in 2009 – a year in which they became the 2nd team since 1996 to fall short of 100 HRs.

So now I’m left to consider the potential causes of this malady.

  1. This is merely a coincidence, and we Mets fans need to go to our respective places of worship – whether synagogue, mosque, church, third bathroom stall in your local Denny’s, wherever – and beg for forgiveness because the unlikely continues to befall the franchise
  2. These players were told to “be aggressive” by Manager Jerry Manuel and his staff.  If this is the case, then it’s pitchfork time. Like the vast majority of the baseball world, the Mets batters are most effective when they are being selective. If the coaching staff doesn’t know this one simple fact, then my gast is simply flabbered.
  3. Jeff Francoeur is a clubhouse virus who infects everyone who comes in contact with him with a neurological disorder that makes them unable to discern balls and strikes. I mean, Rod Barajas is gone and the team is still not better. So I have no choice but to blame the walk-less wonder.

I really don’t know what the cause is because every single one of these options seems unlikely. But it has to be something, right? Or is this one of these statistical anomalies that we see every now and then?

Because if so, I need to head to a Denny’s.

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