Where does the Mets offense rank in the NL East — and how much does it matter for 2021?
The groups that won the World Series the last 2 seasons mauled their method to the top, a minimum of throughout the routine season, as the Nationals in 2019 and after that the Dodgers in 2020 each led the National League in runs scored.
In addition the groups they beat for the NL pennant — the Dodgers in ’19, the Braves in ’20 — ended up second in runs scored, indicating that offense was the common measure for success, particularly thinking about the Braves had the worst starting-pitching PERIOD in the league in 2015.
All of that appears worth keeping in mind at the minute, as the Mets will include a lineup in 2021 that is possibly as vibrant as any in the league… if their failures in the clutch last season don’t rollover to the brand-new year.
The 2020 Mets, after all, might mash. They really led the NL in batting average at .272 and ranked 3rd in OPS at .807, yet ended up seventh in runs scored, balancing a run per video game less than the Dodgers and Braves.
The distinction was primarily their failure to strike with runners in scoring position, as the Mets ranked 12th in the league because classification with a .245 batting average and 11th with a .734 OPS.
It’s affordable, obviously, to think the RISP numbers were a short-season fluke and would have increased over 162 video games. Definitely that was the dominating viewpoint of scouts and executives I asked over the winter season about it.
“Those numbers usually even out over a full season for good hitters,” one scout said. “And the Mets have enough good hitters that it probably would have happened for them.”
There doesn’t seem to be a pattern either. The 2019 Mets, for example, were a middle-of-the-pack offensive team in NL rankings, but with runners in scoring position they actually hit for a higher average and a higher OPS than otherwise.
All of which makes for an intriguing outlook in the NL East. Pitching is obviously going to be an important factor but the ability to deliver timely hits and score runs on a daily basis will be vital in what should be a brute of a division.
Last year the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals all outscored the Mets. That can’t happen again if Luis Rojas’ team is going to live up to expectations and earn a postseason berth.
With that in mind, here’s how I’d rank the offenses in the NL East:
They averaged 5.8 runs per game in 2020, scoring one run fewer than the Dodgers. And with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies still under 25, Freddie Freeman coming off his MVP season, and Travis d’Arnaud morphing into the hitter the Mets once envisioned, there’s no reason to think the Braves won’t be explosive again.
Re-signing Marcell Ozuna was imperative, and while they’d be better overall if they could DH him again, he’ll still be an offensive force if he has to play left field.
Top to bottom, the 2021 lineup should be the most explosive the Mets have had since 2006. In fact, six of their current position players ranked on MLB Network’s recent list of Top 100 players in the big leagues, and other than Francisco Lindor, at No. 15, none of them made it for their defense, put it that way.
Adding a superstar shortstop to an already-dangerous lineup makes for grand possibilities. Lindor has hit 30 or more home runs in each of his last three 162-game seasons, and nobody seems all that concerned about his down year in 2020, when his OPS fell to .750 and, oddly enough, he performed as poorly in the clutch as the Mets, hitting .167 with runners in scoring position.
Figuring in bounce-back years from Lindor, Pete Alonso, and J.D. Davis, the Mets should have an offense that challenges the Dodgers and Braves as the highest-scoring teams in the NL.
They had plenty of problems in other facets of the game, but the Phillies were a very good offensive team in 2020, averaging 5.1 runs per game, finishing fourth in the NL in runs scored. And chances are they’ll be a force again this season after re-signing J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius, keeping their lineup intact.
Bryce Harper quietly had a strong season, posting a .962 OPS. The question remains, however, as to whether he’ll ever take the Phillies to a higher level by again putting up the 2015-type numbers that made him the NL MVP at age 22, with 42 home runs and a .649 slugging percentage.
Third baseman Alec Bohm emerged as another weapon, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting and further lengthening an imposing lineup.
Suffice it to say if their revamped bullpen is significantly improved over last year’s disaster, the Phillies have the firepower to be a factor in the NL East race.
The Nats weren’t a terribly imposing offensive team last year and yet they scored seven more runs than the Mets, ranking sixth in the NL, mostly because they had two of the most dynamic offensive players in baseball, Juan Soto and Trea Turner.
At age 22, Soto might be the best hitter in the game, and Turner had a superstar-type year at shortstop, putting up a .982 OPS. To that the Nationals added a couple of impact hitters this winter season in Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber, while Ryan Zimmerman is back after opting out last year.
So while pitching likely will dictate how far the Nats go this season, their offense should be improved in 2021.
The Marlins scrapped their way into the expanded playoffs last year by doing pretty much the opposite of the Mets, hitting when it counted.
They hit only .244 with a .703 OPS overall, ranking 11th in the NL in runs scored, however with runners in scoring position they hit .273 with a .779 OPS, a big element in their 31-29 record.
Chances are it will be difficult to repeat that type of success in 2021, however. Trading for Starling Marte last summer proved to be their one big move going into this season, as they continue to wait on their top prospects to blossom. They hit only 60 home runs last year, third-lowest total in the NL, and relied on 51 stolen bases (2nd in the NL) to help create scoring opportunities.
Big picture, the Marlins need their young pitching to carry them if they’re going to contend, because they won’t have actually the offense to match up with the other groups in the NL East.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long included to this report.