It needs to be reiterated that the New York Mets need to send Mark Vientos back to Triple-A Syracuse. It’s readily apparent Buck Showalter has no intention of playing him.
Since Vientos was recalled, he has started in just nine out of a possible 18 games. He’s only played in the field three times. He came to the Mets red hot at the plate improving defensively (he’s still a bad fielder), and now, he’s not allowed to hit or field.
In September, you understand. Like last season, it’s about exposure and just getting your best guys on the roster to try to take your team over the top. However, it’s June.
Young players aren’t helped by sitting. They need reps to improve, or at the very least, show what they need to work on to ge able to play at the Major League level. Again, Vientos isn’t playing.
This is exacerbated by the fact the Mets are playing two people over Vientos who simply cannot be in the everyday lineup right now.
Daniel Vogelbach has become a DH who can’t hit. He’s been horrid for over a month now. On the season, he is down to a 93 wRC+. To put that in perspective, on May 14, he had a 132 wRC+.
Vogelbach is only making $1.5 million. There is team control though next season, but what’s the point when the 30 year old platoon DH can’t hit anymore.
Showalter won’t stop playing him. The only way to stop it is to DFA Vogelbach.
Now, Brett Baty is a more difficult call. He is a well regarded young player who did surpass Vientos as the third baseman of the future. That said, there are extremely troubling trends.
Baty’s ground ball rate is up to 49.5%. He’s hit onto more double plays (4) than he’s hit homers (3). He can’t hit a breaking ball at the moment (39.3 WHIFF%).
Teams are now exploiting that with Baty striking out in 41.2% of his plate appearances since May 25. Overall, Baty is down to a 90 wRC+, and there aren’t any signs that number will improve anytime soon.
It’s getting increasingly difficult to argue Baty should be in the majors instead of Triple-A. In fact, Baty belongs in Syracuse now. He’s regressing, and he’s at the point where he needs too much work.
There is no reason to play Baty over Vientos now. Vientos isn’t anywhere near the defender, but he could be working with Joey Cora to improve and become more playable.
Mostly, the Mets can give him a chance. Maybe he succeeds. Maybe he fails. Whatever the case, he has upside and promise. At the very least, he couldn’t possibly be worse than Baty or Vogelbach have been.
With Omar Narváez set to come off the IL, the New York Mets were going to have to make a move., While it seemed like sending Mark Vientos down was the obvious move since he’s not playing, the Mets instead opted to designate Tomás Nido for assignment.
On the surface, it makes sense. After all, Francisco Álvarez has played so well the Mets were not going to send him back down to Triple-A Syracuse. As such, Narváez is really just taking over Nido’s spot on the roster. However, that is such a grossly over simplistic view it needs to be disregarded outright.
With the catching situation, the first caveat is Álvarez has not caught more than 81 games in a season. That presents a challenge for the Mets to get him through a full season healthy and without mental or physical fatigue. As a result, the team will have to look to buy Álvarez time here or there.
Honestly, that is something the Mets did with Álvarez in Syracuse by having him DH on occasion. It’s at least one of the reasons why the Mets assigned three catchers to Triple-A Syracuse to start the season.
However, for that to work, Buck Showalter has to show a willingness to DH one of his catchers. You can hear him saying you can’t take the risk of a catcher getting injured and having your team lose the DH for the game. More to the point, Showalter very infrequently did it with Matt Wieters. Going through each of his stops, it is something he would do far less than 20 times a season.
Put another way, the odds are Álvarez isn’t going to DH. In fact, so far this season, we have not seen Álvarez DH in any games.
Instead, we are likely going to see Daniel Vogelbach be the primary DH for the Mets. Anytime there is a right-handed pitcher, we should expect to see Vogelbach. That is the case even with Vogelbach hitting Vogelbach is hitting .158/.284/.246 since May 3. On the season, Vogelbach has a 99 wRC+. In essence, he’s a below average hitter at a position where the only job is to hit.
Now, those Vogelbach at-bats could have gone to Álvarez on the days he’s not catching. Again, Álvarez will need time off here and there. Also, we should not expect Showalter to just allow Álvarez to get the vast majority of starts over Narváez.
Remember, this is the same Showalter who continues to bat Álvarez ninth and is still somewhat of the belief Álvarez is a platoon bat. That is to say the left-handed hitting Narváez is going to get his starts and his plate appearances. Showalter’s default is to appease the veterans. That should lead us to see more Narváez than we originally contemplated.
Again, this could have been a good thing because it would permit Álvarez to DH. However, that role isn’t open with Vogelbach still on the team. The odds of Showalter doing it without Nido as a third catcher are diminished. Because of the totality of the circumstances, we see the Mets opted to DH Vogelbach over creating more opportunities to have Álvarez in the lineup.
Entering the 2023 season, the consensus was Brett Baty was the New York Mets best third base option. When the season began, Baty was unstoppable with Triple-A Syracuse, and Eduardo Escobar could not have struggled more. As a result, very early on in the season, Baty was called up to take over the third base job.
For a time, Baty seemed to claim that job as his for the present and future. On May 5, he was hitting .319/.385/.511. Defensively, he was a 2 OAA. He was making everyone look good. His play was so good Buck Showalter even began playing him against left-handed pitchers and batting him fifth in the lineup.
Well, since that point, things have not gone well for Baty. Over his ensuing 24 games, Baty is hitting .173/.253/.284. He’s near an automatic out, and he’s down to a 90 wRC+.
There are a number of reasons for that. The ground ball rate is again an issue for Baty with a 1.84 GB/FB. He’s not barreling up the baseball, and while the strike out rate isn’t bad, he swings and misses a lot. That includes a 39% whiff rate against breaking balls.
Baty’s fielding has also slipped a bit with his OAA dropping from two to one. He’s been struggling on balls to his left. That’s not to say he’s been bad, but rather, his glove is not at the level to justify keeping an anemic bat in the lineup. Again, he has slipped from where he was a month ago.
While Baty is struggling, Escobar has come alive. Since May 1, Escobar is hitting .394/.444/.606. That’s a whopping 1.051 OPS. A large part of that is he has predominantly played against left-handed pitching.
Defensively, Escobar has been adept playing to a 0 OAA at second and third. Certainly, he has earned more playing time and more chances to prove himself.
In addition to Escobar, the Mets have a Mark Vientos problem. Since he has been called up, he has only started in nine out of a possible 15 games. By and large, Showalter is treating him as a platoon option for Daniel Vogelbach.
With Baty at third, and Showalter’s predilection towards playing veterans like Vogelbach, there’s not enough at-bats to give Vientos. That’s not to say Vientos shouldn’t be in the everyday lineup. Rather, the reality is the manager won’t do it.
Now., if Baty is sent to Triple-A, there is suddenly more at-bats available for Vientos. We can see him a little more comfortable, and we can get a better look at what Vientos can do with some regular playing time. Keep in mind, while Vientos struggles defensively, the Mets can and should call up Luis Guillorme as a defensive replacement.
Freeing up this playing time for Vientos is a consequence of who is managing. That in and of iteslf is not the reason to demote Baty. The reason behind that is Baty has been struggling for a while now, and we are starting to see some troubling trends like a dip in his defense and an increase in his ground ball rate.
It appears Baty needs to go back to Triple-A to work things out. When he does, the Mets should look to call him right back up because when he is going well, he is the Mets best option at third.
The New York Mets did what they did all season. They followed inexplicably dropping consecutive series to the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies by sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies at home. At this point, the unexpected has become the expected.
Putting the consistent inconsistency aside, we are starting to see some very positive signs emerge. More than anything, we should be focusing on that rather than the day-to-day results. After all, if certain things are working well for the Mets, the wins are going to come.
First and foremost, the rotation is starting to look like what we hoped it would be. Over his last four starts, Max Scherzer is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA while striking out 28 and walking just four over 25 innings.
Kodai Senga has become unhittable at home. In his five Citi Field starts, he is 3-1 with a 1.20 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, 4.2 BB/9, and an incredible 11.4 K/9. As we saw with Noah Syndergaard‘s rookie year, the home/road splits will eventually translate to Senga being able to be a great pitcher on the road. It just takes a little time.
With the exception of his Coors Field start and the start against the Tampa Bay Rays, Justin Verlander has largely been good. We also see José Quintana is on a path to get back on the mound. Overall, that’s four strong starters that becomes five with Carlos Carrasco pitching 6+ innings while allowing just one earned in each of his last two starts.
Offensively, Pete Alonso is chasing 60 and looks primed to be the first non-steroid National League player to hit that mark. Francisco Álvarez has been great at the plate and may be better defensively. Brandon Nimmo is having an All-Star caliber season (again).
Francisco Lindor is playing Gold Glove defense and has been hitting for power. We also have to remember with his struggles he’s a second half hitter. Jeff McNeil has struggled, but he too is at a point in the season where he usually takes off.
Where things are really promising is the older core from last season finding their games again. Since May 9, Starling Marte is hitting .288/.342/.356 and has stolen 16 bases this season. Since May 14, Mark Canha is hitting 333/.442/.556. Eduardo Escobar has thrived in a part-time role hitting .400/.442/.700 since April 20.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been any issues. Brett Baty is struggling at the plate hitting .200/.286/.400 since May 14, but he continues to play good defense with a 1 OAA. Since May 1, Daniel Vogelbach is hitting .170/.310/.254. With both to those players struggling, it is strange to see how infrequently Mark Vientos plays.
The bullpen doesn’t go that deep, but David Robertson has been a great anchor. You can rely on Drew Smith to be a bridge. However, Brooks Raley and Adam Ottavino are too important to be as shaky as they are.
That brings us to the Mets biggest issue – Buck Showalter. He’s managing like it’s 1988, and he does bizarre things like ignoring the numbers, batting Álvarez ninth, and shoe-horning Vogelbach into the lineup. He’s just never playing Vientos at this point treating him as a strict platoon player.
However, despite Buck (yes, despite him), the Mets are 30-27 just 3.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are 9-13 over their last 22 games. It’s allowed the Mets to get back into the NL East race.
The Mets are also currently the second Wild Card. They’re trailing the Arizona Diamondbacks/Los Angeles Dodgers by four games, but they have a one game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins, who are currently tied for the last Wild Card spot.
Of course, the standings right now don’t mean anything. We can just pinpoint the Mets last two seasons to illustrate that point. Rather, it just shows the Mets are in a great position to make a run. With the starting pitching emerging, their top hitters slugging, and the rest of the roster ready to break out, the Mets are poised to have a great summer, and hopefully, an even better October.
Finally, Buck Showalter was asked why the New York Mets best (or second-best hitter) Francisco Álvarez was batting ninth. Showalter gave a rambling answer which grew increasingly out of touch.
Apparently, Álvarez is batting ninth because Taijuan Walker is a right-handed pitcher. Obviously, Showalter is just going to ignore Álvarez having a 174 wRC+ against right-handed pitching and a 33 wRC+ against left-handed pitching.
He said Álvarez needed to hit ninth because he has some personal issues. Obviously, none of us are in a position to question that. However, it is strange how these personal issues are not present when there’s a left-handed pitcher on the mound.
Showalter said he likes having two high OBP guys ahead of Álvarez. On the surface, it sounds smart. Then, you realize those players are Daniel Vogelbach (.319 OBP in May) and Mark Canha (.324 OBP).
Apparently, Showalter is managing like it’s five years ago. That may not be a surprise given how his managerial approach is more akin to managing like it’s 30 years ago.
As if the above didn’t leave you dumbfounded enough, Showalter then said be views the ninth place hitter as important. He puts it of higher importance than most people.
Before Showalter was hired by the Mets, he only managed one other National League team – the Arizona Diamondbacks. When he managed the Diamondbacks, the pitcher hit ninth.
In the previous game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tomás Nido batted ninth. Nido has been the Mets worst hitter all season. In fact, Nido has batted ninth 18 times and eighth just three times.
Showalter can try to sell is he suddenly believes ninth is more important than we all think. However, this only seems to be the case with him when Álvarez is in the lineup against a right-handed pitcher.
Examining the response, there is no charitable reading of Showalter’s explanations. All told, he’s showing he’s ignoring the data and continuing to try to hold back the rookies in favor of the underperforming veterans.
If this was Luis Rojas, people would be demanding he be fired. For that matter, those calls were made for Rojas and Mickey Callaway before him for (scripted) decision making less egregious than this.
For some reason, Showalter has everyone fooled into thinking he’s better than them or anyone. As time increasingly passes, we see a game that has continued to pass him by. That’s all the more problematic when you consider that Showalter is a manager with one postseason series win in 22 years.
There is just so much to talk about with the New York Mets at the moment. On the good, we have Pete Alonso on pace for 60 home runs, and Francisco Álvarez increasingly looks like a lock for the National League Rookie of the Year.
The rotation is all over the place. At least, we know Kodai Senga can pitch at home. Max Scherzer appears to have turned a corner, and we will just have to see from there.
Buck Showalter can’t seem to help himself. He threw Mark Vientos into a platoon for no good reason. Daniel Vogelbach looks done, and Tommy Pham may just be pushing past Vogelbach as the player to keep.
While the focus is everywhere and anywhere, we all seem to overlook just how good of a season Brandon Nimmo is having. Nimmo was out there in the last game to remind us how good and important he is:
Another phenomenal play from Brandon Nimmo in CF. pic.twitter.com/Nx83lPEDtB
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) May 31, 2023
Nimmo made yet another great defensive play in center. That play was important too because his robbing Nick Castellanos of a home run kept the game tied at zero in what would eventually be a 2-0 Mets win. Considering it was a deep dive to left for Castellanos, we probably also avoided something horrible happening.
Defensively, Nimmo has been very good for a few seasons now. This year, Nimmo has a 2 OAA which ranks sixth in the National League. Since the start of last season, Nimmo has a 6 OAA which rates him as the sixth best in the National League.
Offensively, Nimmo has a 134 wRC+. That rates as the 33rd best in all of baseball. Among center fielders, Nimmo behind just Aaron Judge and Mike Trout. Of course, Nimmo rates ahead of both of them defensively. He’s also much closer to them as an overall player as you may think.
Nimmo’s 2.0 fWAR trails Judge’s 2.9, but it is ahead of Trout’s 1.9. Like with wRC+, they are the top three center fielders in the game. Overall, Nimmo’s 2.0 fWAR is tied for 14th overall. That rates him as the fourth best NL outfielder. That should mean he’s an All-Star, but every year, he just seems to get overlooked.
In terms of bWAR, Nimmo’s 1.7 is second on the New York Mets only to Alonso. It rates him as 34th overall and 15th among outfielders. He’s eighth among center fielders and third among NL center fielders.
Overall, Nimmo is having another great year, and he should be an All-Star for the first time in his career. Of course, he may not be as people tend to overlook all the great things he does. After all, with everything going on with the Mets, we tend to have our focus in other directions even if we need to take time to acknowledge Nimmo.
The danger with calling up Mark Vientos was that Buck Showalter was not going to play him. That is just Showalter’s instincts when it comes to young players. While veterans need not have to produce to keep a roster spot, young players have to go above and beyond to earn playing time.
When Brett Baty was first called up, he was immediately put into a platoon at third base with Eduardo Escobar. What was bizarre about that was Baty was called up to the majors specifically because of Escobar’s struggles. Baty has since played his way out of the platoon.
For two years running, the Mets said when Francisco Álvarez was called up to the majors, he was going to be the primary catcher. However, when Álvarez was called up after the Omar Narváez injury, Showalter first made Álvarez the back-up to Tomás Nido.
Eventually, Nido’s struggles and eye issues forced him to the IL, and now Álvarez is the primary catcher. However, even with Álvarez being the Mets best hitter for over a month now, he still bats ninth.
That brings us back to Vientos.
Vientos was called up because Daniel Vogelbach was not hitting for power, and he was slumping. Tommy Pham was not getting it done either from the DH spot. Mostly, the Mets needed more power in their lineup. Given the power display Vientos was exhibiting in Triple-A coupled with him dramatically cutting down on the strikeouts, the Mets were almost forced to call him up.
When he was first called up, it looked genius. Vientos would homer off of Ryan Thompson to tie the game and spark what would be the Mets best win of the season. Notably, Vientos was just one of four players over the past three seasons to homer off of Thompson’s slider:
Good thing they didn’t call up Mark Vientos sooner.
— Mike Mayer (@mikemayer22) May 18, 2023
Even with the homer, the Mets would not get him back into the lineup. He sat against the right-handed Taj Bradley. However, he would get into the lineup again against the right-handed Cal Quantrill. In that game, Vientos came up with the big base hit off Emmanuel Clase in the 10th to pull the Mets within a run.
For Vientos, that was two games played with two big hits producing an RBI. Despite that, he would not appear in the lineup until two games later. Being fair here, one of the games he missed the first half of a doubleheader. Still, after two big hits, Showalter’s inclination was to sit Vientos for two straight games.
Vientos struggled against Shane Bieber, who was excellent over eight innings. Then again, the Mets lineup only produced two runs on seven hits for the day.
Vientos would start at DH in the first game of the series against the Chicago Cubs with Drew Smyly taking the mound. After going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts, Showalter pinch hit Vogelbach for Vientos when the right-handed Jeremiah Estrada relieved Smyly.
When Showalter pinch hit for Vientos, there were runners on first and second with one out. Vogelbach flied out with Francisco Lindor and Alonso moving up. You’ll note when Starling Marte, the Mets worst hitter this season, came to the plate, Showalter did not use Jeff McNeil to pinch hit for him. Instead, he left Marte in to ground out killing the Mets chances of getting back into that game.
With Marcus Stroman taking the hill, Vientos was again on the bench in favor of Vogelbach. Vogelbach was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Again, Vogelbach had the type of performance which led to Vientos getting called up.
Taking all into account, here is where we are. Vientos was impactful the first two games but has not been since. He is struggling with sporadic playing time going 2-for-13 at the plate with a homer and two RBI (65 wRC+).
Vientos is not producing enough at the moment. He has also been taken out the rhythm he was in Triple-A with the sporadic playing time he has had. Put the blame where you want it, but the end result is Vientos not playing frequently and not producing the way he did even when he was first called-up.
Bottom four. Mets trailing 4-1 after Pete Alonso homered in the top half of the inning to get the New York Mets back into the game. Tylor Megill toes the rubber looking to build off a strong third after a very difficult second inning.
Michael Tauchman hits a soft liner right at Tommy Pham. It’s as routine as a play gets. Except, Pham can’t catch a ball hit directly into his mitt, and Tauchman is on second. Megill and the Mets unraveled from there.
This moment was emblematic of the type of season Pham is having. More than that, it was yet another reason for the Mets fanbase to become increasingly frustrated with Pham.
Defensively, Pham has flat out been bad. It’s not just the error. It is the fact Pham has a -2 Outs Above Average (OAA) in left field. That should come as no surprise to anyone because he is coming off a season where he had a -6 OAA with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox.
This is not a one year anomaly either. In 2021, Pham had a -7 OAA with the San Diego Padres, and the year prior, he had a -10 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Summing up, Pham has long established himself as a bad defensive outfielder.
Of note, Pham has lost a step. His sprint speed is down to 27.3 ft/sec. That rates outside the top 30 among Major League left fielders, and it is just 0.2 ahead of the recently released Aaron Hicks. In all, Pham was already a poor outfielder, and now, he is a slower poor fielder.
Despite that, Buck Showalter has pressed Pham into action. He’s in a stretch where he’s played in nine out the last 10 Mets games. That’s more than Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, and Mark Vientos.
Mets fans have noticed and are questioning it, and at some point, you have to wonder what exactly the organization is seeing with Pham.
To be fair to Pham, he was supposed to be brought it to platoon at DH with Daniel Vogelbach, or at least that is what we were led to believe. That plan has not been going well, and it is one of the reasons Vientos was called-up to the majors.
On the season, Pham is hitting .210/.298/.358 with three doubles, three homers, and 10 RBI. He has an 83 wRC+. Notably, Starling Marte and Vientos are the only Mets on the current roster with a lower wRC+.
The argument for playing Pham has been the analytics. He has a .267xBA and .469 xSLG. He also has a 92.5 MPH average exit velocity. Put another way, with how hard Pham hits it, you expect far better results than he’s had.
However, that is just part of the picture. Pham has a 50 GB% and 1.82 GB/FB. He rarely goes the other way. His hard contact percentage is down from previous years when he was also a below average hitter:
- 2020 – 79 wRC+
- 2021 – 102 wRC+
- 2022 – 89 wRC+
- 2023 – 83 wRC+
At 35, you really have to question how the Mets thought Pham was going to improve upon being a below average hitter. Circling back, it does need to be pointed out again he was supposed to be a platoon bat.
There was some validity to that thought. In 2022, Pham had a 115 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. However, the previous season, it was only 94. This year, we see it is an 86. In essence, Billy Eppler bought a one year anomaly for an aging and declining outfielder.
The decision making there is concerning when the Mets knew Brett Baty would be Major League ready at some point in 2023, and Escobar kills left-handed pitching. The Mets also had Vientos and Francisco Álvarez set to begin the year in Syracuse.
Overall, the best argument we have for Pham is he hits the ball hard occasionally, but he is not showing elite exit velocity numbers. He is a poor fielder who is getting slower. He has a fanbase that is getting increasingly frustrated by him. However, in the end, he apparently has a manager and GM who believe in him, so for the moment, he appears set to play until the situation no longer becomes tenable.
EDITOR’S NOTE:: This post first appeared on MMO
When Pete Alonso cursed on the field, it did bother some people. Sure, it was after 10:00 and worse things are said in the stands, but it is going to bother some people. That’s fine and to each their own.
However, most of the people who were upset or offended are not the manager of the New York Mets. Yes, Buck Showalter was not happy with the comments. That’s fine. Whether it was actually the language or how his team is perceived, he has every right to be upset.
He can and should address it with Alonso. He can and should speak with the team about how they represent the Mets. He should never have publicly aired his grievance publicly with one of his New York Yankee buddies:
Michael Kay: “Did it bother you when Pete (Alonso) cursed on the field?”
Buck Showalter: “Of course it did.”
— Metsmerized Online (@Metsmerized) May 23, 2023
On the Michael Kay Show, Showalter brought up the topic on his own. He wasn’t asked about it. However, he felt compelled to bring it up. He then went on to criticize Alonso for cursing and talked about how he addressed it with Alonso so it’ll never happen again.
This is disloyalty to the Mets best player this season.
You can see why other fanbases dislike Alonso. He is who he is, and he is unapologetic about it. He’s a rah-rah guy. However, he is not a bad guy. Not even close.
When Alonso won the Home Run Derby, he donated the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project and Tunnel to Towers. He’s been available for every interview, and he does everything he can to promote the Mets and the sport.
The LFGM was a thing between him and the fans, and he got carried away after a great win. For some reason, that moment irked Showalter so much he complained about it about a week later to his old buddy Michael Kay.
If Alonso were to criticize a teammate publicly, Showalter would be the first to say that needs to stay in-house, but those rules apparently don’t apply to Showalter. Extrapolating further, the Mets have a radio deal with WCBS, a sister station of WFAN. He went on with Kay to voice that displeasure.
There are beat writers who cover the Mets. Showalter didn’t give them that story despite them carrying water for him for over a year now. He didn’t give the story to SNY who covers the team. No, he gave the story to Kay.
Worse yet, Showalter brought it up so it could be discussed. This is not remotely acceptable. This is not how a manager comports himself, especially over a very minor off the field issue if you could even call it that.
Alonso deserved to be treated better by his manager. Showalter needs to keep things in-house unless he wants Alonso and the team publicly chastising him for overplaying Tommy Pham, running to pinch hit Daniel Vogelbach for Mark Vientos, and his general disdain for playing the Mets young players.
The Mets players won’t do that because they’re professionals. Needless to say, if that ever did happen, you can bet Showalter would appear on YES to tell everyone his problems with it.
One thing that has been abundantly clear is the New York Mets lineup isn’t working. Even going back to last season, Buck Showalter never truly maximized his lineup. That should change now, especially since Showalter can’t justify many of his decisions.
That’s not to say Showalter has been completely inflexible. To be fair, he did drop down Starling Marte in the lineup due to his early season struggles. On that point, Marte never should have been batting second. As we have seen, from a Sabermetric/analytical standpoint, your best hitter should bat second.
Instead, Showalter treated it like a second lead-off hitter. That never really worked last season, and it is time to see Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, or Brandon Nimmo bat second. If players like Aaron Judge and Mike Trout bat second, the Mets can put their top hitter there.
Since the start of last season, those are the Mets top three hitters. Alonso has a 141 wRC+. McNeil is behind him with a 136, and Nimmo has a 132. The Mets could easily justify batting anyone one of them second in their lineup.
Before getting to that point, the Mets do have to wrestle with who leads off. Part of the issue there is while Nimmo seems like the obvious candidate, the waters do get muddied a bit when looking at the numbers.
In his career, McNeil has been at his best batting lead-off (131 wRC+), his four games in the clean-up spot (144 wRC+), or towards the bottom of the lineup. He has been his weakest batting second (115 wRC+) and fifth (104 wRC+). While we can and should look towards analytics, we should also take into account where players thrive and meld the two.
On that front, Francisco Lindor has been at his best when batting lead-off (123 wRC+) or fifth in the lineup (183 wRC+) in his career. The caveat there is he’s hit fifth only once, so that should really be disregarded. Really, Lindor has spent his career in the top third of the lineup, and it is clear he’s a much better hitter when leading off.
For his part, Nimmo has a 135 wRC+ as a leadoff hitter. He’s got better numbers in other spots in the lineup, but there’s nothing close to an appreciable sample size to derive anything of it. This is where the Mets conundrum is. They have three players who thrive batting leadoff, but only one of them can fill that spot.
The question is how exactly do you balance that out keeping in mind this is all before you account for players like Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos.
Going back to Alonso for a moment, he has a 135 wRC+ batting clean-up. However, he has a 149 wRC+ batting second and a 151 wRC+ batting fifth. He’s very good batting third hitting third.
So going through the numbers, here is what we know. Nimmo has the best wRC+ as a lead-off hitter, but Lindor has the biggest drop-off from the lead-off to other spots in the lineup. Alonso can hit basically anywhere. Going deeper, over the past month, Álvarez has been the Mets best hitter with a 162 wRC+. Put another way, he’s arrived.
Basically, there’s a lot going on with the Mets lineup, but one thing we know is Álvarez batting last is something that needs to change immediately. We also know base stealing is easier with the closer base paths, and Lindor is their best base stealer out of their top hitters. Taking everything into account, perhaps the Mets can roll with something like this:
- Lindor, SS
- Alonso, 1B
- McNeil, 2B
- Álvarez, C
- Nimmo, CF
- Vientos, 3B
- Baty, LF
- Marte, RF
- Vogelbach/Escobar/Canha DH
Another interesting look is:
- McNeil, 2B
- Nimmo, CF
- Alonso, 1B
- Lindor, SS
- Álvarez, C
- Baty, LF
- Vientos, 3B
- Vogelbach/Escobar/Canha, DH
- Marte, RF
If that is too radical, the other option the Mets have in play is:
- Nimmo, CF
- Lindor, SS
- McNeil, LF
- Alonso, 1B
- Baty, 3B
- Vientos, DH
- Escobar, 2B
- Marte, RF
The second is the more likely scenario given the manager. However, it is still a major change. The biggest is acknowledging Álvarez is one of the Mets top hitters and needs to be recognized as such.
The other interesting part of the lineup is Marte ninth. This is a page out of Bobby Valentine‘s playbook when he would bat Roger Cedeño ninth in interleague games to give the Mets a leadoff hitter at the bottom of the lineup.
In the end, this is a balancing of what the players are comfortable doing with optimizing the lineup analytically. The Mets seem to be doing better with their top four batters rearranged, and if that is the case, the Mets can roll with that. However, the lower five needs radical reconstruction starting with batting Álvarez fifth.
That last part should be the easy part. Time will tell if Showalter sees it that way.