Defense Key to Winning at Home for New York Mets

By Paul Festa
Chris Young
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

There have been many theories about how the New York Mets can shake their losing ways at home. Fewer fly balls? That would help, considering the still-deep outfield dimensions of Citi Field. More line drives? Sure! Who doesn’t love a good line drive? But maybe the secret doesn’t lie in the offense at all. Maybe the secret is pitching and defense.

This week, the Mets have played six games at home against very good teams. Three against the Atlanta Braves, and three against the St. Louis Cardinals. They’ve won three and lost three. The scores were: 6-0 Braves, 7-5 Braves, 4-3 Mets, 2-0 Mets, 3-0 Cardinals, and 3-2 Mets. If we consider the 7-5 game the statistical outlier, we see that the games tend to be low-scoring – seven combined runs or fewer between both teams.

So maybe the key isn’t how to find more offense at Citi Field, but how to find ways of preventing runs at Citi Field.

On Wednesday night, the Mets won because of their defense. Starting pitcher Jon Niese gave up a lot of hard-hit balls to the outfield, but Chris Young, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Curtis Granderson (left-to-right) were equal to the task.  The degree of difficulty was particularly ramped up by the swirling, gale-force winds that plagued Flushing Meadows all night. Citi Field has been known for cold, damp, and windy conditions in April ever since it opened in 2009.

That could be its home field advantage. Just as Coors Field in Denver is known for its offense and huge outfield and Wrigley Field is known for the influential direction of its wind, Citi Field will come to be known for its large dimensions and quirky environmental conditions. The Mets outfield defense needs to have that local knowledge that visiting teams don’t. That’s something New York teams of the past have lacked, but it’s something they may have this year.

With Young, Granderson, Nieuwenhuis, Eric Young, Jr., and the presently-injured Juan Lagares at their disposal, the Mets finally have the kind of outfield they envisioned when former GM Omar Minaya pictured Carlos Gomez, Lastings Milledge, and Fernando Martinez patrolling the pasture for years to come.

The Mets have gotten of to a great start defensively in 2014. Combine that good defense with better-than-average starting pitching, soon to be bolstered by the promising young arms of the future (Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, and a returning Matt Harvey), and New York may have finally found a winning formula at home.

Paul J. Festa is a baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter at @pauljfesta and add him on Google.

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