It’s not just a National League-high 20 wins and plus-36 runs. Advanced stats love these Mets, too. His hitters have placed more Vince Above replacements than any other team in the NL. He also has the best WRC+ in the senior circuit and has scored the third-most runs in home runs despite finishing ninth, demonstrating a diverse approach on the offense that is equal parts refreshing and effective.
The Mets offense from a season ago was built like a deck of cards. That’s no longer the case, and the trio of free agent hitters who arrived this winter (and are in dire need of a fun nickname) are the major stabilizing forces that have allowed the Mets to build on big innings rather than pick up the pieces and start over. .
While none of the three – Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Marc Canha – are yet to top .400, they have all been undeniably helpful in their own way. In his first month as a mate, Marte has lowered his K-rate considerably. The striking athletic outfielder has punched in 19.9% of his big-league plate appearances and started his career with three straight seasons, up 24%. This year, he has fallen to 14.8% and is also running the lowest swinging strike percentage of his life. Many things about baseball have changed over the years, and even in the ten years Marte has been in the league, one thing that will never change is the seldom swinging and missing advantage. .
Marte has also been untrue (in a literal sense, as it is in no way an entire season) in the scoring position with the Runners. Consider that he’s falling short of .348/.464/.522 with runners in the scoring position, collecting 16 RBI in 28 plate appearances, then wonder how crazy those numbers are when the pressure builds up. With two out and runner scoring positions, he is at .556/.667/.889. The man can be as clutch as he is, posting a .436 average in the sixth inning or later. That calm, unshakable veteran presence, as well as his proficiency in the outfield and base paths, have made him one of Buck Showalter’s favorites.
Escobar has endeared himself to his new club by completely reversing course in a major statistical arena. The switch hitter has hit 35 homers in a season, made an All-Star team, and once led the major leagues in triples. One thing she’s never done, though, until this season, is to take a walk.
In his season aged 33, Escobar has found some late career patience. He is swinging on lesser pitches than before. But more importantly, he is laying down even more pitches in the zone, letting the pitcher direct his bat instead of hunting down his pitches. Escobar had a swing percentage of about 72% on pitches in the strike zone during his final years in Minnesota and with Arizona and Milwaukee embracing the free swing lifestyle. It worked for him and helped unlock the power that eventually paid off. But now that the bag is secured, he has been able to relax a bit. Right now, Escobar is swinging on 69.1% of the pitches he gets in the zone, his lowest figure since 2015.
Like other newcomers to the Big Apple, the Mets’ new third baseman is running more than ever. The main result of this less aggressive approach – he’s also chasing bad pitches less often – is a 14.2% run rate. This is not only the first time in his entire career that he has achieved above 10%, it is also currently tenth in the National League, ahead of plate discipline gods Joy Voto and Mookie Bates.
For Kanha, the lack of extra base hits rings some cool alarm bells, but he compensates for it by finding a hole in the ball every time he is in play. Kanha’s hitting line resembles that of a midfielder from the 1950s: 23 hits, 21 of them singles. He has a batting average of .311 because of it, and as the weather warms up, the Mets will happily trade some of those who see doubles in the gap and balls over the fence.
But Kanha has done well this season in utilizing the entire area, another encouraging sign as the slugging percentage continues to hibernate. With Berkeley graduating mostly sixth and seventh in the order, he doesn’t even need to be a 30 long ball or 100 RBI type player. Any team under the sun averages .311 from its seven hitters, and even as Kanha’s batting average on the balls in the game falls back toward the benchmark of his career, he would go on to advance to the Mets. Would be an excellent lineup expander.
Travis Jankowski also deserves some love (nine hits in 20 games! Base running! Hair!) but if the Mets are in a position where he’s playing more often, that means something’s amiss. Right now, things are mostly going according to plan, and that victory is showing in the column.
Even better for the Mets and their supporters, crime has historically increased in the summer months. In other words, these really, really, really good mates could soon be looking even better.