PHOENIX -- Pitching, defense and hitting are all critical to winning. But Mets manager Terry Collins knows there is another reason why the Mets have been playing significantly better since late June.
"Look at the numbers," Collins said. "We lead all of baseball in taking extra bases."
The most relevant statistic is a metric called Ultimate Baserunning Rating (UBR), which attempts to quantify baserunning contributions in the same way that Ultimate Zone Rating provides rough estimations of defensive value. The Mets lead the Majors in that category by an enormous margin, entering Saturday's play with a 15.5 UBR, according to Fangraphs.com. That indicates that New York's baserunning has been worth 15 runs more than an average team's.
The next closest club, the Royals, had an 8.7 UBR. Fifteen of the league's 30 teams had a negative UBR, indicating that they have cost themselves runs on the bases.
Particularly valuable to the Mets have been David Wright, Eric Young Jr. and Daniel Murphy, each of them at least three runs above average.
"I attribute that to the fact that my third-base coach is extremely aggressive," Collins said. "He forces people to make plays, forces other teams to make plays. We've scored a lot of extra runs, which has kept us in games and helped us win games."
The downside of such aggression can be significant, simply because it is more noticeable than the upside. Third-base coach Tim Teufel took heat after Friday's game for encouraging Marlon Byrd to pursue an inside-the-park home run with no outs in the second inning, resulting in a critical out in a one-run loss. But Teufel rarely receives credit for all the runs he has helped create this season.
"Some days it's going to work and some days it's not," Teufel said. "I think so far this year, it's worked more than it hasn't."
Teufel believes the Mets have gained a reputation for taking extra bases, which forces opposing defenders to work quickly and fall victim to more mistakes -- a bonus made possible through nothing more than sheer aggressiveness.
"We can control that," Murphy said. "We can't control hits or errors a lot of times, but we can always have effort on the bases."