Luis Rojas has ‘aggressive’ fix for Mets’ MLB-worst offense

Coming off a series in which they struck out for more than half of their outs, the Mets got to step away from the stench of their bats on Thursday.

But when they get back on the field Friday in Philadelphia for a series against the Phillies, one of the league’s worst-performing offenses in the early going will have a directive from its manager.

“We just gotta clean it up. We gotta do a better job,” Luis Rojas said. “I know we’re advancing pitchers and slowing things down as far as what the opposing pitcher has, but we’re not translating that into the game. We got nothing but trust in our hitters because we know they can hit. We know what they’ve done in the past, a lot of the guys that are in this lineup. So you expect that to happen soon, but it’s something we need to go and turn it around right now.”

The numbers from the two-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox were ugly for the Mets — especially considering they weren’t facing Boston’s top two starters, but Garrett Richards and Nick Pivetta. The Mets batted 9-for-60 in the series with 28 strikeouts, four walks and just one run scored.

New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith #2 strikes out
Dominic Smith has been among the Mets struggling mightiest.
Robert Sabo

The numbers for the season aren’t much prettier — granted they have still only played 19 games, the fewest in MLB. The Mets entered Thursday last in the majors in runs scored per game (3.00), often negating their strong pitching staff that ranked fifth in runs allowed per game (3.68). They were also last in slugging percentage (.353) and had the fourth-worst OPS (.671), a number that is largely buoyed by their solid on-base percentage (.318).

“I think we are all surprised at the lack of hitting so far,” owner Steve Cohen tweeted Thursday. “Thankfully, the pitching has been outstanding. The season has a long way to go.”

The Mets’ issues with runners in scoring position have carried over from last year, hitting an MLB-worst .187 in those scenarios. But against the Red Sox, they struggled to even put runners in scoring position.

Rojas harped on the Mets being “in between” in their at-bats in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss — leading to chasing pitches outside the zone or taking strikes in the zone — and planned on talking to his hitters about being more decisive at the plate.

“Right now, we just gotta remind ourselves that we gotta be aggressive,” Rojas said. “We gotta hunt the fastball and we gotta adjust. We didn’t do that [Wednesday]. We’re just in between and it cost us chances and probably several pitches in different ways — whether we chased or whether we took versus different pitchers.”

While that may have been an issue on Wednesday, it has not been an overwhelming problem this season, according to Statcast. Only three Mets regulars had swung at pitches in the zone less frequently than the league average (66.6 percent), per Baseball Savant: the deliberate Brandon Nimmo (65 percent), Francisco Lindor (64.3) and James McCann (62.6). The same trio were also the only regulars to swing at first pitches less often than the league average.

Though nobody has been immune from the more pronounced offensive struggles recently, Dominic Smith is stuck in a 5-for-36 slump over his last 10 games — with a 32.1 percent chase rate on the season.

“They pitched him backwards and they’ve been successful against him that way,” Rojas said. “The 1-0s, the 2-1s, some of the traditional fastball counts or when the hitter’s ahead, they’ve been throwing him off-speed and he’s been chasing. He hasn’t been able to adjust to the soft stuff. … He’s gotta lay off some pitches. He’s gotta take his share of walks. He can do that.”

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