10:30 am Jun. 13, 2012
In the abstract, a 33-29 record isn't terribly remarkable.
But don't tell that to the Mets, who have received star performances from R.A. Dickey, David Wright and Johan Santana, who even broke a little no-hitter slump that had lasted the franchise's entire existence.
Much of the early success has come from unlikelier sources, too: The Mets have received game-winning hits from Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin, and key hits from Justin Turner and Mike Nickeas. And those key hits have come, with extraordinary regularity, when there are two outs.
Tuesday night was a perfect example. Trailing 2-1, with two out and nobody on in the fifth, Omar Quintanilla singled, Nieuwenhuis doubled, and Valdespin, who entered the game with a .526 OPS, lashed a single to give the Mets the lead, 3-2.
Then the Mets broke the game open in the seventh. Again, this happened with two out and nobody on. Walk, double, walk, single, single, long home run by Ike Davis. 9-2 Mets, ballgame over.
Few things in baseball compare to the drama of a two-out rally, when a team has no margin for error. And the Mets have been enjoying them all year, having scored just under half of their runs with two out, 134 of 273, or 49 percent. By comparison, the Yankees have scored 111 of 290 with two out, or 38 percent.
The Mets are hitting far better with two out (.787 OPS) than they are with none out (.728) or one out (.640). The difference is even more pronounced with two out and runners in scoring position: The Mets have an .843 OPS in such situations, compared to an overall OPS, those situations included, of .719. Their mark with two out and runners in scoring position is the best in baseball, well ahead of a pair of top-four offenses overall in Texas and Colorado, both of whom play in extreme hitters' parks.
The overall effect is significant. That .719 OPS ranks 16th in baseball; the situational success has pushed their runs scored to 10th in the league.
And that .843 OPS itself with two out and runners in scoring position is an outlier compared to all offenses, regardless of overall skill, in recent years. No one managed better than a .785 OPS in such spots in 2011. That came from the Cardinals, who hit for a .766 OPS overall, well within range. The 2010 Red Sox led baseball with a .790 OPS, and an .836 OPS with runners in scoring position and two outs--still below the Mets.
Not since 2009, when the Red Sox and Angels both bested the Mets' .843, has a team been better in the ultimate clutch situation. And needless to say, the run environment was very different in 2009's American League, which posted a collective .764 OPS, than the 2012 National League, which has posted a collective .716 OPS.
Any baseball statistician will tell you that there's nothing inherently clutch about the 2012 Mets, and that that two-out production is simply an outlier that will regress as the season continues.
And yet they keep doing it. For a team to outperform expectations, sometimes it just needs to overperform in the right spots. Sixty-two games into a 162-game season, that's exactly what the Mets are doing.