Mets' defense has issues

Ruben Tejada and the Mets have looked flawed in the field at times in 2013. Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It seems appropriate to write about the Mets' defense today, given the botches that led to their 9-4 loss to the Braves on Sunday.

The common thought in the sabermetric community is that defensive metrics bounce around quite a bit in the early part of the season, but it seems entirely appropriate that the Mets' Defensive Runs Saved total (findable, minus shift data, at Fangraphs.com) dropped from -4 to -10 overnight.

Defensive Runs Saved

That happened because the Mets failed to get outs on balls that should have been outs (Lucas Duda's misplay in left field and David Wright's inability to handle a grounder at third base -- both ruled hits -- among them).

We’ve referenced a stat, Revised Zone Rating, that looks at how often teams get outs on balls that are outs more often than not (balls hit into zones in which an out is recorded more than half the time).

The Mets converted only 11 of the 16 batted balls (68.8 percent) hit into “50-plus percent” zones into outs on Sunday, their second-worst day of the season. The only day worse was the April 16 doubleheader loss against the Rockies, when they converted only 19 of 28 (67.9 percent). The Mets' season rating is 82 percent. For comparison, the MLB average is 83.2 percent, led by the Braves at 86.7 percent.

The Mets presently rank eighth-worst in the majors in Revised Zone Rating, and fifth-worst in the two primary defensive stats -- Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).

Maybe we can’t glean much from a month’s worth of defensive data, but here are a few points to ponder:

• Duda is as much of an issue in left field as he was in right field. He’s been charged with costing his team six runs through 208 innings. Duda actually doesn’t rate badly in terms of his RZR, but his range outside those zones is minimal. He’s made nine plays outside those “50-plus percent” zones. His frequency of catching balls hit outside his zone ranks 20th among the 22 left fielders who have played at least 150 innings this season.

• Wright and Tejada have not played up to the standard expected from them yet. Tejada’s throwing issues early this season were well documented and are partly why he’s been charged with costing his team two runs.

Wright, who was among the major-league leaders with 16 Defensive Runs last season, is presently two runs below average for 2013. Wright has only been charged with one error, but according to video review, he’s been charged with seven Defensive Misplays. In 2013, he totaled only 22 Defensive Misplays.

The one thing Wright can point to is that (as we noted) the sample is small and the season is still young. Wright had no Defensive Runs Saved last season entering May 15. He finished with the most in the NL.

Daniel Murphy has been the Mets' most improved defensive player. He was charged with -11 Defensive Runs Saved last season, but is holding steady at a major-league average of zero Defensive Runs Saved through 240 innings in 2013.

The biggest difference for Murphy has been in how he converts the double play. Last season, he converted only 13 of his first 30 attempts (43 percent) as either relay man or pivot man. This season, he’s 24-of-35 (68 percent).

If other Mets could show the improvement that Murphy has, it would go a long way in making them a better team.

We’ll close on this note —- of the top 10 teams entering today in Defensive Runs Saved, nine have a winning record.