In response to pointing out how significantly better the Mets outfield defense would be with Jake Marisnick, many still advocated for J.D. Davis. While the support for Davis is admirable, it’s misplaced.
It’s misplaced because defense matters.
Over the past three seasons, the Mets are the absolute worst defensive team in baseball with a -228 DRS. That leaves them as the only Major League team to crack the -200 mark. Over those three seasons, the Mets have failed to make the postseason.
The same can be said for the eight worst defensive teams over that timeframe. In fact, the Mets are only one of 10 teams to have a negative DRS over this time frame. Of those 10, only one franchise has reached the postseason.
Looking at the best defensive clubs, all of the top five have reached the postseason at least once over the last three seasons. Expanding it further, eight of the 11 best defensive clubs have made the postseason at least once.
There’s a correlation between defense and making the postseason. You could argue it’s not quite causation. However, it should be pointed out better defensive clubs help keep runs off the board which helps their teams win games.
On the Davis/Marisnick point, at a -49 DRS, the Mets only have the 24th worst outfield defense over this three year time frame. From the Mets on down, only one of the seven worst defensive outfields have made it to the postseason.
In fact, over the last three years, there have been 14 teams whose outfields registered a negative DRS. Only two of those teams have made the postseason. None of these 14 teams have won a division title.
Conversely, all of the top eight defensive outfields have made the postseason at least once. Twelve of the top 14 have made the postseason at least once over that time frame.
All-in-all, 13 of the 16 teams with a positive outfield DRS have made at least one postseason. That includes all three World Series winners and all six pennant winners.
Breaking it down, teams who play good defense win games and make the postseason. In an era of launch angle, teams with better defensive outfields perform better and not only make it to the postseason, but also have gone deep in the postseason.
With respect to the Mets, they made the postseason in consecutive seasons. Over 2015-2016, the Mets outfield had a 45 DRS which was the fifth best in the majors.
Their team DRS of 4 wasn’t as good as the outfield DRS, but it was still a net positive.
Looking at the Mets, when they’ve had a good defensive team, they’ve performed well and made the postseason. When they didn’t, they disappointed and mostly finished under .500.
Looking at everything, teams who play good defense win games. They make it to the postseason. In the era of the launch angle, we see a premium on outfield defense.
On that note, the 2020 Mets are already sacrificing defense for offense at catcher, first base, second base, and arguably shortstop. Theyre doing this desire then having a DH this season allowing them to bat Yoenis Cespedes even if he’s not ready to play in the field everyday. Cespedes bat should permit the Mets to play at least one player due to their defense prowess.
That begs the question – With what you see with respect to the importance of defense, especially outfield defense, why would you purposefully opt to go from a very good defensive outfield to a flat out bad one? That goes double when you consider the Mets have more than enough bats.
In the end, the Mets can do what they did the last three years, or they can do what they did in 2015-2016. They can choose to follow the path of well versed analytical teams who not only realize the value of defense, but also win with good defensive clubs. The Mets can be one of those teams if they so choose.
So, before you avow Davis, who was tied for the Major League worst -11 DRS in LF, should play over Marisnick, you need to explain why defense doesn’t matter. Considering the correlation and trends we’ve seen, it’s going to be an exceedingly tough task and that’s before you consider the 2020 Mets starting staff will pitch to more contact than the preceding years.
Really, when you break it down, defense matters, and if the Mets want to win, they’re going to need to put a good defensive team out there. Right now, their projected Opening Day lineup is not going to be one. Fortunately for the Mets, there are players on the roster who can completely transform this team defensively. The only thing preventing the Mets from playing those players is the Mets themselves.
Each and every prospective lineup people put out for the 2020 Mets has J.D. Davis in left field. This is despite the fact Davis can’t play the position at all.
Last year, he had a -11 DRS and a -7 OAA. Both of those numbers are unplayable in left field. While you can argue he’s been working hard this offseason to improve, his 26.3 ft/sec sprint speed is just too slow to expect him from being anything that a below average outfielder.
But it’s not just Davis in left, it’s what it does to the entire defensive alignment. Davis in left then puts Brandon Nimmo in center as opposed to a corner OF position where he is much better suited.
In Nimmo’s career, he’s a -9 DRS in center, and he’s a 1 DRS in the corners. He’s a positive defender in left with a 3 DRS. Put another way, Nimmo belongs in left.
Historically, the Mets don’t care. They just want the bats out there despite that plan continuously failing. Consider this, since 2017, the Mets have had the absolute worst defense in Major League Baseball, and it’s not even close.
With each of these seasons, the Mets underachieved. That includes last year. With better defense, that could’ve potentially been a better performing team. Despite that, the Mets look at defense like it’s a novelty which you roll out there in the late innings failing to realize you may not get that lead because of those catchable balls in left went for base hits, and those singles or outs became extra base hits.
That’s part of the reason why Jake Marisnick needs to be in center flanked by Nimmo and Michael Conforto in 2020. With Marisnick posting elite defensive metrics year-in and year-out, he makes his team’s defense significantly better. He’d do that with the Mets as well.
Any concerns about his offense is a red herring, and it falls into the same trap the Mets always fall.
Consider this, Davis had a 138 OPS+ to Marisnick’s 80, and yet, Marisnick still had a higher WAR last year. The reason is because DEFENSE MATTERS.
Aside from the DH, there is far more than pitching and 2-4 PAs per game. You have to go out there and field your position. The position you play has an impact on defensive alignment. By playing Marisnick, you’re getting the most out of Nimmo and Conforto. You’re also getting the most out of your pitching by ensuring outs are outs and maybe stealing a few outs here and there.
The Mets also have plenty of offense across the diamond. Moreover, they now have a DH where they can stick the pure offensive player. With that being the case, there’s even less of an excuse to sacrifice defense for offense.
That goes double when you consider Marisnick is the overall more productive player than Davis. That’s an important point to consider when Marisnick was better than Davis when Davis was at his best.
In the end, the Mets need to remember defense matters, and more to the point to play the players who give them the best chance to win. That’s more productive players who help the team get the most out of the roster. That’s why Marisnick needs to play over Davis.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This goes more in-depth on the correlation between defense and making the postseason.
With the universal DH coming in 2020 (to the extent there even is a 2020), the common refrain is the Mets are one of the few NL teams well situated for this. After all, J.D. Davis is a positionless player who was terrible at third and LF last yearRo, Yoenis Cespedes is coming off double heel surgery and a broken ankle,and Robinson Cano is 37 years old. They also have a player like Dominic Smith who may well be an everyday first baseman for many Major League teams.
While we hear those names in the mix, one name we don’t hear as a DH possibility in 2020 is Pete Alonso. While the possibility is ignored, it shouldn’t.
Looking at Alonso’s rookie season, he was much better than he had been advertised in some circles. Before his rookie season, some gave the impression Alonso could little more than just stand a first base. Truth be told, Alonso put in a lot of work on his defense, and he made very clear strides. As a result, we saw him make many highlight defensive plays in 2020:
This caused many to question those scouting reports and just how much those scouts knew. However, when you peel back the highlights, while Alonso is FAR from the inept defensive player he was portrayed in some circles, he was still not a good defensive player.
On the year, he was a -3 DRS and a -7 OAA. That had Alonso ranked as the third worst defensive first baseman in the game by DRS and the worst defensive first baseman by OAA. In the end, even with the defensive gems, Alonso was just not good at first base in 2019.
On the other hand, Smith was very good at first base. In his limited attempts there, Smith had a 1 DRS and 1 OAA. Both marks put Smith in the top 20 out of the 84 players who played first base in the majors last year. With Smith, his defensive reputation in the minors proved true as he played a good defensive first base.
Just looking at Alonso and Smith, if you are going to put one in the field and one at DH, wouldn’t it make sense to put the far superior player in the field? There really isn’t an argument on how playing Alonso at first base with Smith at DH helps the team win more than by putting the vastly superior defender in the field.
Admittedly, there are caveats to this.
With the Mets selecting Alonso as their first baseman of now and the future, you can understand the impetus to keep Alonso at first. After all, why would you sacrifice one year of development for Alonso at first for the sake of trying to win in 2020?
There is also the Cespedes factor. At the moment, no one knows if he can play at all in 2020. If he can play, no one is quite sure what he can contribute. However, if he can hit, we have seen they type of dynamic game changing bat he can be, and it is going to be difficult to keep him out of the lineup, especially when you can certainly play Alonso at first.
Even if Cespedes can play the field and play it at a near facsimile to how well he played it in his career, he is still likely going to need his days off. In the end, if Cespedes can play and hit, he is the obvious and probably the best choice for DH.
If he can’t the Mets are likely juggling between a group of first basemen and designated hitters on their team. While many see this as a possibility to load the Mets lineup with bats, the reality is this should be a way for the Mets to be able to put a very good defensive team on the field and surround them with very good bats.
With that being the case, the Mets ideally should have Alonso at DH, Jake Marisnick in CF, and Smith at first base. They can certainly move that around as needed based on match-ups and to give players like Cano a day off here and there. Certainly, injuries are going to play a factor. However, in the end this is the Mets best lineup to try to win the 2020 World Series . . . assuming the 2020 season ever gets played.
That lead grew to 2-0 when Amed Rosario homered in the second.
Rick Porcello had a strong start picking up the win after allowing just two earned over 7.2 innings.
The Mets put some distance between them and the Diamondbacks in the eighth. Jake Marisnick hit a bases loaded two RBI single, and McNeil drew a bases loaded walk later in the inning to give the Mets a 6-1 lead.
The Mets fell behind 4-0 early in this game with Steven Matz not getting out of the fourth. The Mets pulled within 5-4 with a three run rally in the fifth, but they couldn’t complete the comeback.
The Mets had the bases loaded in that fifth inning, but Jake Marisnick flew out to end the rally.
Heading into the 2020 season, many anticipated Steven Matz and Amed Rosario would have breakout seasons. In the simulated game against the Milwaukee Brewers, we got a look into what that might’ve looked like:
Through six, the only run scored in the game was off a Rosario solo shot. At that point, Matz was straight dealing, and as such, Luis Rojas let him hit for himself in the top of the seventh.
That appeared to be a mistake when Eric Sogard homered off Matz to start the bottom of the seventh.
Jeurys Familia relieved him, and he’d pick up the win. Pete Alonso led off the eighth with a ground rule double. Jake Marisnick pinch ran for Alonso, and he’d eventually score on a Yoenis Cespedes sacrifice fly.
Well, there are some issues with the AI and decision making, but in the end, the main takeaway so far is MLB The Show doesn’t think the Mets quite stack up to the NL East competition.
All his life, Rick Porcello wanted to be a Mets pitcher, and he took a one year deal with the Mets to make that happen. You can be sure he didn’t want his first start to go like this.
First off, you can be rest assured he didn’t want his Mets debut to be simulated because of COVID19. He also didn’t want to take the loss while not lasting five innings.
His big problem can in the second when he got hit hard. The hardest hit came off the bat of Didi Gregorius who opened the scoring with a solo homer.
The Mets trailed 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh, with the lone run coming off a Brandon Nimmo homer off of Vince Velasquez. The Mets pulled to within 4-2 off a long Wilson Ramos RBI single. That’s when the bizarre AI kicked in.
Down two with two on and no outs, Amed Rosario bunted in front of Jake Marisnick, and the Phillies got the force out at second. Marisnick struck out, and then out of everyone on the bench, Jarrett Parker came up to pinch hit.
That’s the same NRI who was never going to make the Mets 2020 Opening Day roster. He grounded out to first to end the rally.
In the end, we can all assume Luis Rojas will be much better than this. If so, maybe the Mets don’t lose games like this 4-2, and mostly likely, they won’t begin the year losing their first four.
How much better they’ll be is up for debate. For instance, Baseball Reference‘s 2020 simulation with OOTP21 has the Mets with a 1-3 record at the moment.
Still, these are just simulations, and they’re helping us get through this stretch of self isolation and quarantine. Seeing these Mets start 0-4, we wait all the more for the real thing.