Did the Mets Do Enough to Improve Their Defense?

Written by: Andrea Arcadipane (@scoutgirlreport)

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The Mets consistently rank among the worst teams in terms of defense. In 2020, the team defensive runs saved (DRS) was the 6th worst in MLB, at -16. With Steve Cohen leading the charge as the Mets new owner, there was an effort to add new players, and better defenders. So what kind of impact will these players make? And is it enough to improve the Mets team defense overall?

For this analysis, I primarily used Defensive Runs Saved to assess each player’s defensive ability. The values for DRS were taken from the Fielding Bible (by Sports Info Solutions), and may temporarily differ from those on other websites due to recent updates in the calculations. I also used DRS for both the 2019 and 2020 seasons to get a more accurate representation over a larger sample. For instances where players played in multiple positions, I considered them either: for both positions (where they played each position a significant amount of time) or for their primary position (where they played one position significantly more frequently than the other).

Improvement at Catcher

In 2020, the following three players were the Mets primary catchers:

  • Wilson Ramos
  • Tomás Nido
  • René Rivera (only played 9 games)

Wilson Ramos and René Rivera are no longer with the Mets, but the team did make a splash by signing free agent catcher James McCann this offseason.

McCann is an above average defensive catcher. He was in the 88th percentile in terms of pitch framing, and only allowed a total of 5 passed balls in 2019 and 2020.

Comparing the players DRS, we see that there is a defensive improvement at the catching position for the Mets this season.

The position is going from a -12 DRS to +9 due to the signing of McCann, which is obviously a huge improvement and a solid starting point for a team looking to drastically improve defensively.

Improvement in the Infield

The 2020 Mets infield looked pretty different from their expected 2021 infield. The main differences include:

  • Trading Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez for Francisco Lindor
  • Robinson Canó on the restricted list
  • Signing of Jonathan Villar

The biggest addition to the infield is Francisco Lindor, one of the best defensive shortstops in the league. He ranked second in terms of outs above average in 2019 and 2020, with +20 and +7, respectively.

Taking a look at how all of the changes compare in terms of DRS, it seems like the Mets infield will see a defensive improvement in 2021.

This improvement is largely due to the addition of Lindor. But his defense may be interesting to keep an eye on this season, as it may be affected by his positioning. The Indians (Lindor’s previous team) are the third best in MLB in terms of DRS, and I have a feeling a lot of their success can be attributed to the front office providing analysis and positional guidance for their fielders. If the front office and coaches in the Mets organization do not provide quality positioning recommendations for Lindor, we may see a regression in his defensive stats this season.

It’s also important to note that J.D. Davis’ infield DRS is -17, which is the biggest reason why the total values are so far below average. Without Davis, the 2020 DRS total becomes -4, and the 2021 total becomes +8. McNeil, Guillorme, and Lindor are all above average defenders.

Outfield Defense Is Still Up in the Air

The Mets offseason moves were not limited to the infield, as they added a couple of new players to their outfield:

  • Signed free agent Kevin Pillar
  • Signed free agent Albert Almora Jr.

Kevin Pillar was an excellent centerfielder a few years ago, with 2016 being his best year. Though he never won a Gold Glove, he was in the running for the award and consistently made highlight-reel worthy plays. That being said, his defensive numbers have started taking a downward turn. In 2020, he recorded -2 outs above average and didn’t make the tougher plays he used to.

Looking at the DRS comparisons, we see that even with the addition of these two players, the outfield DRS dropped even more.

This is due in part to Kevin Pillar’s defensive performance in 2019 and 2020. His DRS over those two seasons in centerfield is -14 combined. That being said, before Pillar was traded to the Rockies, he was playing right field in Boston. In right field, Pillar has a +3 DRS over the last two seasons. With Brandon Nimmo being the Mets starting centerfielder, I would imagine Pillar gets more playing time in the corner outfield positions.

The only starting Mets player with a positive DRS (above average DRS) in the outfield is Michael Conforto.

Unlike the catcher and infield positions, it appears as though New York’s outfield could have used some more work in terms of defense.

Overall, while it may seem like the Mets made some significant improvements to their team’s defense, I don’t believe they did enough. McCann and Lindor will have the biggest positive impacts, but they are only responsible for two positions. That duo–McCann especially–will also need time to adjust to their new team.

Year after year defense is the Mets’ biggest flaw, and it should have been prioritized this offseason if they are serious about making a playoff run.

Follow P365 MLB Analyst Andrea Arcadipane on Twitter! @scoutgirlreport

Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365

Graphs and statistics courtesy of Baseball Savant and FanGraphs

Featured image courtesy of the New York Mets

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