Analytics Reveal Mets Need to Improve Infield Defense in 2020

Amed Rosario, New York Mets

The New York Mets won 86 games in 2019 and probably could have won a lot more if their bullpen wasn’t blown games left and right. Their offense pulled them out of a few jams, but what about their defense. Analytics show the Mets could use some improvement on defense, especially in the infield.

Some of it has to do with the revolving doors around second and third base, Pete Alonso still learning his way at first base and Amed Rosario just beginning to get comfortable at shortstop.

From Deesha Thosar of the NY Daily News:  



For the third straight year, the Mets finished bottom five in the league in Defensive Runs Saved (-93; 29th) and bottom 10 in Ultimate Zone Rating (-12.8; 24th) in 2019, per Fangraphs. The Amazin’s -93 DRS were second only to the Orioles’ -105. The Dodgers topped all of MLB with 136 DRS last season, an overwhelming turnaround from the 47 DRS they posted in 2018.

 

Los Angeles also shifted their defenders in 50.1% of all plate appearances in 2019, which led the league, per Baseball Savant. The Mets, on the other hand, only shifted in 14.1% of all plate appearances, which was tied for the second-lowest shift rate in MLB with the Indians. Only the Cubs (12.7%) shifted less.

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen has identified defense as one of the team’s key objectives this spring under new manager Carlos Beltran and his staff. The Mets’ starting pitchers specialize in ground balls and it would behoove them to have an defensive infield that can capitalize on that.

“Contact and ground-ball pitchers, in particular, will depend on solid infield defense behind them in order to be successful on the mound,” wrote Thosar. “Stroman ranked fourth among MLB starters in ground-ball rate (53.7%) in 2019, per Fangraphs. Syndergaard (48.0%), deGrom (44.4%) and Porcello (38.1%) were not far behind him.”

The Mets’ infield is basically comprised of the same players from last season: Alonso and Rosario are cemented in at first and short. Jeff McNeil will likely be moved around between the outfield and third base, flipping with J.D. Davis, while veteran Robinson Cano will be the starting second baseman. Expect another veteran, Jed Lowrie, to get some playing time all over the infield to spell these four. That makes for a lack of continuity and, truth be told, none are gold gloves to start with.

The Mets will have to work with what they have to improve their numbers on defense. Rosario appears to have had a breakthrough and Alonso has made great strides as well. But, again, a platoon at third base and Cano’s range issues at second are elements to be concerned with.