As the 2013 season wound down, one major area of improvement became apparent — the New York Mets have trouble winning at home. Since 2011, the Amazins are 105-144 at Citi Field and a game over .500 (122-121) on the road. In a VERY small sample this year, the Mets are 2-4 — they were swept in the opening series by the Washington Nationals, then won two out of three against the Cincinnati Reds.
General manager Sandy Alderson and the Mets’ front office have tried to address this issue. Following the 2011 season, they moved the outfield fences in and lowered them to a more standard eight feet tall. They went 36-45 at home in 2012. While the dimensions are fairer, you can almost fit some smaller playing surfaces, like those of Citizens Bank Park and Great American Ballpark inside the dimensions of Citi Field (you can look it up).
Last year, the Mets’ home woes continued, as they posted a 33-48 record in Flushing. They were 41-40 on the road. Was the ballpark to blame? Citi Field was 27th in runs scored last year, but it was also the ninth friendliest place to hit home runs. The issue lies in which team was hitting them — out of the 144 long balls hit at Citi Field in 2013, only 58 were hit by the Mets.
The Mets didn’t have a lot of legitimate home run hitters last year. David Wright is good for an average of about 25 dingers a year, but he missed a month or so with a hamstring injury. Ike Davis, who hit 32 homers the year before, hit only nine in 2013. Marlon Byrd hit 21 before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August.
Looking at batted ball statistics, the Mets had a line drive percentage of 19.9 percent — same as their opponents at Citi Field. Their fly ball percentage of 38.4 percent was only a little higher than their opponents’ 36.2. The difference is, the visiting clubs turned 11.2 percent of their fly balls into home runs. The Mets? 7.9 percent.
That means the Mets needed more power, and they got some during the offseason. Curtis Granderson hit more than 40 home runs in each of the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Injuries limited him last year, but thanks to a four-year free-agent contract, he’s now a Met. Was he aided by Yankee Stadium’s short dimensions? He hit a similar amount of home runs on the road than he did at home. If Chris Young can come back from his quad injury and return to his 20 home-run form, that would also be a help. Most importantly, if one of Lucas Duda or Ike Davis can fulfill their power potential, the Mets can make some real home improvements.
One other area they’ve improved is in outfield defense. Granderson, Young and Juan Lagares have all been center fielders at one time or another, and all can cover some real estate. Improved outfield defense should help the Mets prevent runs at home.
The Mets are trying something else this year, and it has to do with home cooking. Until this season, the Mets would provide a light buffet before batting practice, then a proper meal before game time. On the road, they ate a bigger meal before batting practice because they hit after the home team. This year, they’ll eat the heavier meal before batting practice at Citi Field. Hey, it can’t hurt. One can’t underestimate the power of sustenance.
They’ll have to figure something out, because for the Mets to have a successful season this year and beyond, they’ll have to win at home.