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Mets' focus on getting better with gloves

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- According to Defensive Runs Saved, one of baseball's most popular glove metrics in an ever-evolving jungle of them, the Mets were the game's worst defensive team last season. Their total of -75 DRS ranked 32 percent lower than the next-worst National League team. The Mets finished as one of four teams to post negative DRS totals in each of the past two seasons.

It is not particularly difficult to see why. Although the Mets actually posted positive DRS totals at all three outfield positions, they clocked in negatively at the other six spots on the diamond. Their shortstops and third basemen in particular skewed the sample, combining for -41 DRS -- easily the worst performance in the Majors -- on the left side of the infield.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- According to Defensive Runs Saved, one of baseball's most popular glove metrics in an ever-evolving jungle of them, the Mets were the game's worst defensive team last season. Their total of -75 DRS ranked 32 percent lower than the next-worst National League team. The Mets finished as one of four teams to post negative DRS totals in each of the past two seasons.

It is not particularly difficult to see why. Although the Mets actually posted positive DRS totals at all three outfield positions, they clocked in negatively at the other six spots on the diamond. Their shortstops and third basemen in particular skewed the sample, combining for -41 DRS -- easily the worst performance in the Majors -- on the left side of the infield.

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It galled them. For years the Mets had devalued defense in their player assessments, building a lineup rooted in power. The front office's thought process was that with a high-octane pitching staff reliant on strikeouts, the Mets could hide their defensive deficiencies by reducing the number of balls in play against them. In 2015 and even '16, it wasn't a significant issue. But in 2017, Mets pitchers broke down, struck out fewer batters and exposed the roster's greatest weakness.

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Toward the end of the season, general manager Sandy Alderson acknowledged that the Mets must be more mindful of defense. Then he went and did something about it, making several moves to improve the club's acumen in the field.

"What happened last year is in the past, no doubt," said bench coach Gary DiSarcina, whose duties include supervising the infield defense. "Every year is new."

The most obvious change is personnel. Instead of relying on a mashup of Wilmer Flores, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, T.J. Rivera and Matt Reynolds at third base (with not a natural third baseman among them), the Mets handed the keys to the position to Todd Frazier, who has posted positive DRS totals in six of his seven big league seasons. By itself that could be enough to prevent the Mets from repeating as defensive outliers.

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Other, more modest enhancements are sprinkled across the diamond. At first base, four-time Gold Glove Award winner Adrian Gonzalez will split time with Dominic Smith, whose tough debut last summer included several uncharacteristic defensive lapses. An opportunity for improvement exists over Lucas Duda, a roughly average defender who submitted his worst career season at first base last season.

At second, the Mets believe Cabrera will be less of a liability than he was at shortstop, the game's most demanding infield position. Cabrera will turn double plays with Amed Rosario, who rates as a potential Gold Glove defender and should more than triple his playing time this summer.

Already strong defensively in the outfield with two Gold Glovers, the Mets will also give more innings early to Juan Lagares, who won the award in 2014.

"I think it's a huge part of the game," said Jay Bruce, who also rated positively on defense last season. "I take a lot of pride in it. It's going to be more and more; as we progress in the game and the game moves on, that's going to be valued more and more."

To that end, the Mets imported a pair of coaches who value defense in DiSarcina and Ruben Amaro Jr. Never one of the game's most aggressive teams in employing overshifts, the Mets instead plan to rely on their analytics department for positioning data, using it to fine-tune all nine defensive positions on an at-bat-to-at-bat basis.

"These guys have a lot of knowledge, and they have a lot of resources in their heads," DiSarcina said. "And I think if you blend that and you mesh that with the analytics side of things, we should be a lot better off."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

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