Last season, the Mets were top of their division for four months before collapsing. They finished with a record of 77-85, their 10th defeat in the last 15 seasons. One of the biggest culprits: Crime, one of the worst in the Major League Baseball. Only three teams ran less, and those teams suffered an average of about 100 losses.
The Mets look completely different this year. They have the best record in the National League. They beat only the Yankees in victories and the Yankees and the Dodgers in every run until Thursday. Their offense is more disciplined and patient, leading baseball with a major percentage in a single season after ranking 17th in this important statistic.
The reasons for the return are many: new staff additions with experienced strikers (Mark Canha, Starling Marte and Eduardo Escobar), players returning with improved performance after low years (Jeff McNeil and Francisco Lindor) and new fighting coaches (Eric Chavez and Jeremy) Barnes). However, it is worth taking a lot of deep breaths and a little self-talk.
Watch the Mets hit closely and you’ll see that their four best strikers – Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Canha and McNeil – often come out of the kick box not only to fix their strike gloves or to look for a hint from the coach. as well as filling their lungs with air, calming themselves and distracting them.
It’s not unique to the Mets – one of the best strikers in baseball, Rafael Devers of Boston, does it – and it sounds simple, but “makes a big difference,” said 29-year-old Nimmo, an outsider. “There’s a reason Pete did it, Jeffin did it, I did it.”
“Of course it helped,” Alonso added. “If you look not only at us, but at other children, like any athlete, they have their own way of using such trailers.”
During the 162-game regular season of the marathon, it can be difficult for even veteran players to manage their emotions. A relatively healthy and skilled player will get more than 600 plate performances in a year, and each plate appearance is about four pitches. Imagine that you are at the peak of your mental attention for at least 2,400 pitches, most of them approaching you at speeds of more than 90 miles per hour and spinning in every direction, and some on the line of play.
“In any situation – in any big situation – I’m lying if I say my heart isn’t beating fast enough,” Nimmo said. “It simply came to our notice then. One way to combat this is to try to breathe a little, take a deep breath, and you can really slow down your heartbeat.
But it’s not just nerves that need to be fought, said outsider Canha. Nine months from the beginning of spring training to the end of the World Series is almost a daily game. According to Canha, deliberately stopping breathing while shooting forces him to regroup.
“On a daily basis, it’s very easy to lose focus because it’s so repetitive and so monotonous that you need something to collect it,” he said. “Otherwise, there are times during the season when you walk without losing your mind, and it’s almost routine, and you don’t really focus on what you’re doing. So this is a way for me to be prepared and focused.
Alonso, 27, said he has always been good at taking deep breaths and breathing slowly during a stroke since high school. According to him, the coaches of mental abilities helped him to improve this approach.
Alonso, who is having a strong 2021 season but is trying to reach the top this year (20 home runs, 66 RBI. 913 base plus a percentage reduction until Thursday). “But when I get there, it basically takes my breath away and turns off my mind. Best of all, I feel like I’m stuck in a box, and I just believe what I see and walk away.
Canha, 33, said that although he read books on breathing techniques (“it’s a bit of hockey”), he developed his method throughout his career.
“I’m sure I’m always breathing,” he said. “It’s important to just breathe in and hear the exhale.”
When Nimmo first made his way into the major leagues in 2016, he said the Mets’ mental skills coach, Will Lenzner, helped him learn more about the mental side of baseball and how it could help him win at the highest level. sports.
Nimmo said Lenzner helped him master visualization (the act of imagining success) and breathing techniques. During the bat, Nimmo comes out of the box, takes a deep breath, and then says to himself, “I want to do this: I want to draw a line in the middle.” He said that instead of allowing his mind to compete with the moment, it allowed him to reset after each pitch.
“Lowering your heart rate allows you to think a little more clearly,” said Nimmo, who has a .388 key percentage in his career, including a .361 mark this season, and has struggled with several injuries during that time. “When your adrenaline rises and you fall into a restless fighting or flying state, it closes the critical thinking part of your brain.”
McNeil, 30, is enjoying a resurgence after a low 2021 season that hit .251 with .679 OPS. Among the Mets, who have played at least 200 games this season, he leads with an average of .327 as of Thursday. His .850 OPS just went after Alonso.
No Mets striker can quietly do a better job than an opponent’s can. When he entered on Wednesday, he saw 4.23 yards per plate appearance, the team’s highest score and one of the best in baseball. It has an average of 0.286 strokes and a base percentage of .378, just behind McNeil’s.
Canha leads an attack that has the best .283 in MLB and is in goal position with runners coming from behind in 16 of 45 wins. When sitting on a plate, Canha just doesn’t breathe; he also speaks to himself.
“It’s to keep the rhythm of my bats and not to forget or see what my approach is,” he said. “It’s like a kind of mantra,” he said. Not the same thing every time. It’s just, ‘That’s what you’re trying to do, and stick to the plan.’
He said if he was looking for a fast ball down and far away, Canha would remind him out loud. Asked if the opposing team could hear him or read his lips, he replied: “They don’t know where the ball went anyway.”
Whether with the help of fresh oxygen or self-talk, the Mets know where their crimes are going this season. They hope this will help them reach their first playoff spot since 2016 and perhaps their first World Series title since 1986. Until then, Mets fans, take a few deep breaths.