Mets Playing Short in the Infield
There’s a saying in the NFL that if you have two QBs, you really don’t have a QB. The principal us that if you truly have a good QB, there’s no need for a QB competition. As a Giants fan, I remember the Dave Brown/Kent Graham days. People always debated who should start. It turned out everyone was wrong. When Eli Manning came along, there was no debate, and there have been two Super Bowls.
I was thinking of this as I was contemplating the Mets SS situation. From my estimation, Wilmer Flores plays SS with flyball pitchers like Bartolo Colon and Jacob deGrom. Collins plays Ruben Tejada with groundballs pitchers like Jon Niese. Essentially, Collins is trying to hide Flores’ poor defense with flyball pitchers while hiding Tejada’s poor bat by playing him only with the groundballs pitchers. In essence, the Mets don’t have a good SS option right now, so Collins is forced to mix and match like with Dave Brown and Kent Graham.
This wouldn’t be an issue if either Flores or Tejada fit the bill. Flores was supposed to be the offensive option. He’s hit .262/.294/.411, and that’s after a terrific last 20 games where he’s hit .324/.360/.521. Note, if he hits like this, you can live with his poor glove at SS.
Now, Flores may not be the disaster defensively that I thought he might be originally. That’s a testament to his work ethic. Last year, his UZR at SS was 4.0, which is above average. This year, he’s at -2.8, which is below average. Overall, in a limited sample size, the advanced statistics tell us he has decent range.
Now, this is where the advanced statistics conflict with the eye test. As per my eye test, he has limited range at SS. Furthermore, even though he’s better lately, he’s had trouble turning the double play. Also, why I don’t think errors are necessarily a true measure of defensive ability, it should be noted that Flores has the fifth most errors at SS in the NL despite playing only 85 out of a possible 132 games there.
With his struggling defense, it seemed Collins was forced to play Tejada at SS. The problem is despite the Mets assumptions, Tejada is not a good defensive SS. The advanced statistics show his UZR is -5.2, which rates to be quite a below average defensive SS. To be fair, a partial season of UZR data is not entirely reliable. Instead, we should look at his career UZR, which is -1.1. Generally, speaking he’s been slightly below average.
However, when applying the eye test, we see a SS who is much steadier than Flores. For all of Tejada’s faults, he looks to be more comfortable at SS, makes the routine play, and he is much better turning the double play. The problem is that’s all he is – steady. He will never even be thought of in the Gold a Glove competition. Furthermore, with a .253/.334/.338 triple slash line, it’s not like he’s hitting enough to justify his steady glove.
That puts Collins in a bind. He had to choose between a better hitter who’s a poor fielder and a steady at best fielder who doesn’t hit well. In sum, he doesn’t have a real SS option. I have to admit that despite his recent rough stretch, Collins has handled this situation well. He’s going to have to continue as the Mets have no other SS on the 40 man roster and cannot trade for one now. Actually they can, but that player won’t be eligible for the playoffs.
It’s amazing to think the Mets are here with no SS. Hopefully, Tejada or Flores will step up and take control of the situation. If not, I trust Collins can continue juggling the situation for now without dropping a ball.