One of the themes of the Mets’ second-half collapse has been an increase in strikeouts.
Entering Sunday night’s series finale against the Braves, the Mets had struck out 237 times in 28 games. That works out to an average of 8.46 strikeouts per game. It is a stark rise from the Mets’ 7.70 strikeout average (663 in 86 games) in the first half of the 2012 season.
And it has Terry Collins concerned.
“I’ve seen a rise in strikeouts. That’s what bothers me,” Collins said in his pre-game press conference.
“When you’re a team that does a good job of grinding out at-bats, strikeouts are something we just haven’t done a lot of. Lately, we’ve been striking out quite a bit,” Collins said. “We’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of power. It’s one thing if you go 1-for-4, hit a ball in the seats and strikeout three times. It’s another thing if you have to scratch out singles, doubles.”
The Mets’ 97 home runs ranks 26th overall. Only the Cubs (91), Padres (81), Giants (73) and Dodgers (69) have hit fewer home runs than the Mets.
“We have to do a better job with our two-strike approach,” Collins said. “In the first half, [with] two strikes we were dangerous. We were a good team with two strikes.”
Niese continues development
The development of Jonathon Niese continued Sunday night as the left-hander started the series finale against the Braves. He entered the game with an 8-6 record, 3.82 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 136 2/3 innings.
Signed to a five-year, $25.2 million extension in the offseason, Niese has provided the Mets with a starter capable of going deep into games. For a team whose bullpen has the second worst ERA in the sport (4.89), it is a welcome development.
“Jon Niese has kept us in a lot of games,” Collins said. “He’s one of those guys that when you look up he gives up three and we don’t score much.
“I think Jon Niese has done exactly what we hoped for, which is keep us in games start after start.”
As the Mets begin to reflect on the successes and failures during the 2012 season, one area in which the franchise decision-makers want more stability is organizational depth.
“We knew going in our depth [wasn’t optimal],” Collins said. “We knew from the beginning of the year, we said from the first day of spring training, that we couldn’t get hurt. We thought our depth wasn’t what we’d like it to be, and when we did have injuries, it hurt us. Especially on the pitching front.”
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.