new-york-metsThis is the final installment of the Mets Need series. If you haven't done so already take a look at the first two articles, Mets Need: Defense! and Mets Need: Pitching! In those posts I explained why the Mets must improve their defense and what kind of pitchers the Mets need to improve their pitching. Today, I'll discuss what kind of hitters the Mets need to improve their hitting.Mets Hitting Coach Howard JohnsonBefore I dive into that, let me just say that although I would've liked the Mets to have signed hitting coach extraordinaire, Rudy Jaramillo, I'm glad to have Howard Johnson as the Mets hitting coach. I know some Mets fans partially blame Johnson for the Mets poor situational hitting or David Wright's increased strikeouts and drop in homeruns in 2009. However, HoJo has been a winner all his career, especially as   a coach in the Mets system and if the best and most important player on the team is taking time off this winter to work on his hitting with HoJo, then I need no other vote of confidence.<!--more-->Now let's talk about ways to improve the Mets hitting. Specifically, I want to discuss On Base Plus Slugging (OPS), Line Drive Percentage (LD%) and Batting Average of Balls in Play (BABIP). Essentially, by targetting players with a high LD% and building a team around high OPS, the Mets should increase their BABIP and score more runs.First, let's discuss these terms a bit and why they are important. OPS is the sum of On Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage (SLG). A player or team that can consistently get on base and hit for power to an OPS of above 0.900 indicates excellent hitting, while an OPS of 0.700 or above is average.LD% is the percent of batted balls that are line drives. This is important because, "a line drive is harder for the defense to turn into an out than a ground ball, a pop fly, or even a fly ball."
In other words, if you hit a lot of line drives, you'll have a higher BABIP.   And unlike BABIP for pitchers, line drive percentage is fairly consistent.   If you hit a lot of line drives this year, odds are you'll do the same next year, within reason, anyway.  
The league average LD% is 18% and a high LD% can increase a player's BABIP. The league average BABIP lies between .290 and .300. BABIP is a touchy subject for some because the basic argument  is that  a high BABIP is a result of good luck and vice versa. You can do the research on your own and decide for yourselves. However, guys way smarter than me have been figuring this stuff out for years so I have no problem taking their word.Here  is how the Mets Core  did in these areas over the past three years:
NAMEOBPSLGOPSLD%BABIPeBABIP
Carlos Beltran.375.510.88520.5%.309.325
Jose Reyes.356.443.79920.8%.311.328
David Wright.399.512.91124.8%.361.368
 WrightSo, if we agree that the average BABIP is .300 and the league average LD% is 18%, then we can say that LD% is 12% lower than Expected BABIP. By adding .120 (12%) to  a players LD%, we are able to calculate the  Expected BABIP. As you can see, there is a reason why the Core  has done so well and it is amazing to think their numbers should increase in the future. As much as we would like to see Wright hit more home runs, this chart makes a strong case for Wright to  focus on hitting line drives.Now let's look at how the rest of the team compares:
PLAYEROBPSLGOPSLD%BABIPeBABIP
Daniel Murphy.331.437.76821.5%.307.335
Luis Castillo.369.342.71217.9%.320.299
Jeff Francouer.314.409.72420.2%.310.322
Omir Santos.290.381.67121.1%.282.331
Angel Pagan.339.457.79620.3%.341.323
A  few things pop out here. First, Castillo may be in for a regression in his BABIP if he does not start hitting more line drives. However, he does a  good job of getting on base. Pagan does a good job of getting on base and slugging, but his BABIP is unsustainable unless he starts hitting even more line drives. Next, although Francouer is known to be a free swinging slugger, he certainly has not been slugging the ball like he should be to compensate for an awful OBP. Daneil Murphy looks like he should have a better BABIP next year and if he can slightly increase his OPS, he might make a case for being a Citi Field mainstay for some time. Omir Santos' numbers are the most intriguing, though they are based on a limited sample.  Santos may be due for a .050 jump in his BABIP which should improve his OPS.As a whole the current team has five players with an  average or better OBP (Wright, Beltran, Castillo,  Reyes and Pagan). An average OBP is .340. Typically, these players should be in the top of the lineup so that the sluggers in the bottom of the lineup can drive them in. The league average SLG is approximately .420. The Mets have  five players with an above average SLG (Wright, Beltran, Pagan, Reyes and Murphy).Angel PaganIdeally, with the current team, Reyes, Wright and Beltran would be your 3-4-5 hitters, though some would argue that as the best hitter on the team, Wright, should bat third. With  Castillo's high OBP he should be batting  near the top of the order and with Murphy's above average SLG he should be batting  near the bottom of the order. Pagan would seem to fit in either the top or bottom of the order. Missing from this equation are Francouer and Santos who both need to improve their slugging if they want to hold on to their starting positions.Although the market is somewhat lacking, I've compiled a list of 2010 OF, 1B, 2B and Catcher Free Agents  who have near above average LD%, OBP and SLG over the past 3 years.OF
  • Xavier Nady (23.3%, .344, .493)
  • Fernando Tatis (22%, .352, .458)
  • Ryan Church (22%, .345, .432)
  • Jack Cust (21.1%, .378, .462)
  • Brian Giles (20%, .363, .408)
  • Randy Winn (19.9%, .346, .410)
  • Marlon Byrd (19.8%, .352, .468)
  • Jermaine Dye (19.6%, .334, .496)
  • Matt Holliday (19.3%, .403, .555)
  • Johnny Damon (19%, .364, .449)
For the sake of comparison, Jason Bay is 16.9%, .362, .493). I left him off because with his poor Line Drive % he is not the type of hitter to benefit from Citi Field's dimension.1B
  • Carlos Delgado (21.2%, .347, .488)
  • Adam LaRoche (20.9%, .347, .481)
  • Ryan Garko (18.7%, .350, .437)
  • Russell Branyan (18.2%, .340, .510)
2B
  • Kelly Johnson (20.9%, .349, .438)
  • Felipe Lopez (20.6%, .345, .389)
  • Mark DeRosa (20.4%, .355, .445)
  • Orlando Hudson (20.4%, .366, .435)
  • Ronnie Belliard (19.7%, .342, .445)
C
  • Yorvit Torrealba (18.7%, .322, .382)
  • Bengie Molina (17.9%, .302, .440)
Fernando TatisI like Holliday or Damon to start in LF, Tatis or Church to back up in the outfield. Then I'll take LaRoche who has very similar numbers to Delgado and Garko for the bench. For 2B, Johnson and Belliard but probably wouldn't be an upgrade over Castillo. Finally, at Catcher, Molina is the obvious choice because of his SLG.  Will it be a Happy Matt Holliday for the Mets?Tim Dierkes at MLBTradeRumors predicted the Mets would sign Holliday at "a six or seven-year deal for more than $100MM", given that the best offer he's received is 5/$82.5M from the Red Sox.  Or, if the Yankees move on from Damon, who has been asking for 2/$20M and turned down 2/$14M, could the Mets meet somewhere in between? LaRoche has been seeking a 3/$31.5M  but may have to accept much less because no one seems to be knocking on his door. Nobody is seemingly interested in besting the Mets 2/$10M offer to Molina. Holliday and Molina could cost $22M, leaving room to add a starter or elsewhere. Damon, LaRoche and Molina may cost around $25M. Throw in a couple of million for Garko and either Tatis or Church, and the team will be built towards hitting lots of line drives and a high OPS.It's funny how this analysis has led to many of the names that are mentioned here. What to do you think, would you feel comfortable with the offseason after adding these players?