Quick, what do Miguel Olivo, Garret Jones, David Wright, Gary Sheffield, and Grady Sizemore all have in common?
All four players lead their respective teams in homeruns, but have hit less than 20.
Here’s where it gets scary — the season totals for these four:
Olivo (Royals), 19
Jones (Pirates), 19
Sizemore (Indian), 18
Wright and Sheffield (Mets), 10
Now, homeruns aren’t everything, but they do have a significant place in today’s game of watered-down pitching and emphasis on offense. And 20 is just a number — though most would agree it is something of a benchmark. A player who knocks at least 20 balls over the fence is generally considered to be a “power threat” — the type of hitter one needs to pitch carefully to in tight situations.
Yes, the injuries to Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran had something to do with the Mets not having a 20-HR hitter this year (though the pace of each suggested barely hitting 20 through 600 ABs). But Wright’s 15-day stint on the DL wasn’t the reason he is unlikely to reach that milestone. Further, the only other players on the Opening Day roster who had hit as many as 20 in a season were the 40-year-old Sheffield and Fernando Tatis (whose 34 in 1999 smell mysterious).
And before you point to vast expanse of Citi Field, consider that opponents have hit 75 homeruns in Flushing — or, a dozen more than visiting teams have hit in Coors Field. Chew on that one for a moment.
In fact, the Mets have hit 46 of their dingers in their home stadium, compared to 39 on the road. So Citi Field may have stolen a few fly balls, but that doesn’t explain the lack of power when visiting other parks.
Now consider this: there are currently 71 in MLB right now with at least 20 homeruns. In fact, 19 of them have 30 or more. Not one is a New York Met.
With a shade less than 20 games left in the season, there’s a very real possibility that the Mets finish the year as the only team in MLB without a 20-HR hitter. I’m not sure of the last time that has happened to an MLB team, but I know it hasn’t happened to the Mets since 2003, when Cliff Floyd and Jeromy Burnitz hit 18 apiece. You have to back another ten years, to 1993, to find a sub-20-HR guy lead the team (Bobby Bonilla, with 19, if you care).
Can a Major League team make it to the postseason in this day and age without at least one power threat? Some may argue a playoff-bound team requires at least three. Going into this offseason, the Mets are likely to let Delgado go, leaving Wright and Beltran as the only players under contract with the potential to hit 20 homers in a season — though they have an arbitration / non-tender decision to make with Jeff Francoeur, who has hit as many as 20 HR once in his five-year career. Assuming Francoeur returns, will those three “sluggers” be enough power to contend in 2010?