SAN DIEGO — General manager Sandy Alderson has never been shy about his affinity for the home run. Throughout his career, he has favored lineups capable of producing instant offense.
Even with the Mets playing in a pitchers’ park, he has long hoped to build a team of sluggers. It appears he has found success.
Entering Thursday’s series opener against the Padres, the Mets have slugged 40 homers, the highest number in franchise history through the season’s first 26 games. As an added bonus, the Mets’ pitchers have also proven stingy when it comes to surrendering dingers.
The Mets have given up just 12 home runs, the lowest total in the National League. Their home run differential is a league-best plus 28, a major reason that they began the day 17-9.
“We’ve got a lot of guys feeling good at the plate, that’s what it is,” Mets hitting coach Kevin Long said. “And more than anything else, they’re good hitters that have power.”
Indeed, the Mets have come to lean on that power. They have scored 54.2 percent of their runs via the home run, the highest figure in all of baseball.
But perhaps most encouraging is that the Mets’ home run barrage may be sustainable, not just a fluky run of good luck.
For example, the Mets entered play leading the NL with a hard-hit ball percentage of 34.6, according to FanGraphs, a number that Long admitted as “unusual.” It would be above last year’s league-leaders, also the Mets at 31.6 percent.
But the power numbers appear more encouraging.
Thus far this season, 14.6 percent of the Mets’ fly balls have turned into home runs. A season ago, the Blue Jays led baseball at 15 percent. It’s conceivable that the Mets finish the year at around the same number.
“It’s still a little too early to label us and say we’re this kind of team or that kind of team,” said Mets captain David Wright. “But we’ve got a dangerous lineup and home runs will hopefully be more abundant than recent years.”
Of course, that home run power can sometimes come at a price. Manager Terry Collins said on Thursday that the Mets have proven in the past that a pitcher on his A-game can silence even the most powerful lineups. And Wright said he hopes that the Mets improve their situational hitting, as a way to guard against slumps when the homers aren’t flying over the fences.
“Homers are streaky,” Long said. “I always say they come in bunches. I’ve said that all throughout my career.”
Still, under Alderson, power potential has long been a major consideration when it comes to acquiring players.
Yoenis Cespedes is coming off a 35-homer season and it’s territory that both Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda have entered recently. Meanwhile, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker have shown pop for their positions.
Those track records are more reason to believe that the Mets’ home run barrage could be much more than an early-season mirage.
A year ago, the addition of Cespedes at the trade deadline helped to revamp a Mets lineup that finished with 177 homers, tied for third in the league. Could they finish in the top three again, or perhaps exceed last year’s total?
“Yeah,” Collins said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.”