Why the Mets Have Played Better on the Road

Subtitle: Or Have They?

I should note that this was inspired by an email sent to the Mostly Mets Podcast — MostlyMetsPodcast at gmail dot com — sent by hero/listener David M., asking about the Mets’ home and away records this season. Basically, the Mets have played awfully at home and pretty good on the road, and he’d like to know why. I think we’ll discuss it on the podcast this week, but some preliminary glances at Baseball-Reference has lead to the discovery of some interesting statistics I’ll share now. I guess as a teaser to the show or something.

Movie Announcer Voice: In a world . . .

First, the Mets are 33-46 (.418%) at home this season and 43-38 (.531) on the road. This is a little unusual, in that teams in all sports generally play better at home than on the road. I don’t know why, and there’s no definitive answer as of yet — unconscious umpire bias is one popular suggestion supported by some studies. Maybe teams simply party less at home. But teams usually play better and win more games at home, and the Mets have done the opposite this season.

One level down — baseball statistics work like Inception — the Mets have scored 321 runs and allowed 362 at home, and scored 390 runs and allowed 375 on the road. Turning those runs scored/runs allowed differences into expected winning percentages, the Mets expected home record is 35-44 (.445) and their expected road record is 42-39 (.518). So they’ve outplayed their runs scored/runs allowed numbers on the road and underplayed them a bit at home, but only by a game or two in either direction. Nothing weird going on yet.

And I say yet because . . .

Mets hitters home: .264/.336/.392, .321 wOBA, 4.06 runs per game
Mets hitters road: .264/.335/.391, .321 wOBA, 4.81 runs per game

As a team, the Mets have hit almost identically at home and on the road, but have scored far more runs on the road. When there’s a split like this, with similar overall performances but a gap in the run production, it’s almost always caused by performance with runners in scoring position. The Mets have hit well overall in the clutch this season, .280/.347/.411 in high leverage situations, but I’d wager that there’s a pronounced home/road split hidden in that number. Basically, the Mets have been better stringing hits together on the road, and that’s why they’ve scored more runs despite similar batting numbers.

As for the performance of the pitchers on the home and road: It’s weirder.

Mets pitchers home: .257/.325/.379, 3.69 FIP, .301 BABIP, 4.58 runs allowed per game
Mets pitchers road: .275/.341/.443, 4.35 FIP, .312 BABIP, 4.63 runs allowed per game

This one makes no sense. By the numbers, the Mets have pitched much better at home than on the road. The fielding is a different story — while an 11 point gap in batting average on balls in play suggests they’ve fielded better at home, they’ve also been much sloppier at home, allowing 50 runners to reach base via error at home against just 26 on the road. I’m inclined to believe that the gap in BABIP is probably a wash with the errors. So the point remains, the Mets have pitched significantly better at home than on the road, and not played significantly worse defense, yet have still allowed a nearly identical number of runs per game. And that’s weird.

The answer once again is probably performance with runners in scoring position. While the hitters strung hits together on the road and not at home, the pitchers have allowed hits to be strung together against them at home but less so on the road. Mets pitchers have a 69.3% strand rate at home, third worst in baseball, and a 72.6% rate on the road, 14th best in baseball. Baserunners left at third on the road are coming in to score at Citi Field. So while the Mets have pitched to about their expected level on the road, they have been prone to big innings at home. Which is why they’ve given up so many runs at home.

So on the surface, win-loss record, the Mets have played worse at home than on the road. One level down, runs scored/runs allowed, they’ve still played worse at home than on the road, being outscored at home and outscoring their opponents on the road. But when you go two levels down, they’ve actually outhit their opponents at home, and been outhit on the road. This suggests that, from one angle, the Mets have actually played better at home than on the road this season, despite the record. The real difference has come in the clutch — which is either an indication that the Mets’ pitchers are decent on the road and choke in front of the home fans, and the hitters are all supermen on the road whose powers are useless at home . . . or it’s just randomness at play. You’ve got thirty teams playing full seasons every year, and sometimes you get a team that does something weird like this. Everyone can decide for themselves what it all means.

I’d just thought I’d share this information, because it’s weird. Mostly Mets Podcast, this week, coming to a blog or iTunes near you.

1 Comment

Filed under Columns, Mets, Words

One response to “Why the Mets Have Played Better on the Road

  1. nice way to end the season today…people will forever be shaking their heads at the Mets as a franchise for doing stupid stuff until they stop doing stupid stuff.

    anyway, congrats to jose on the batting title, i’m sure he enjoy it next year in a red sox jersey…

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