Terry Collins Repeating his Michael Conforto Mistakes with Brandon Nimmo
With the Nationals starting a left-handed pitcher in Gio Gonzalez, Terry Collins was going to start Juan Lagares no matter what. On the one hand, Collins will tell you he wants Lagares’ bat in the lineup against lefties. In reality, Collins just doesn’t trust young left-handed hitters against left-handed pitching.
With that in mind, when Collins filled out the lineup card yesterday, he had Lagares in center, Curtis Granderson in right, and Alejandro De Aza in left. Collins started De Aza despite the fact that De Aza entered the game hitting .181/.252/.276. He started De Aza despite the fact that De Aza is a career .235/.299/.350 hitter against lefties. Looking at these numbers and just how poorly De Aza has played this entire year, Collins decided to start De Aza. In a shock to no one, De Aza was 0-3 on the day in a game that the Mets lost 3-2. There is really no justification for this decision other than the unsupported notion that Nimmo can not hit lefties.
Before his call-up, Nimmo was hitting .338/.338/.500 in 74 at bats against lefties. Given these stats, it’s fair to assume that Nimmo would be a better bet to hit a lefty than De Aza would. However, Collins isn’t willing to give him the chance. He would rather hamper a player’s development and stick with a veteran who has already proved he cannot do the job. It’s the same thing Collins did last year with Michael Cuddyer and Michael Conforto.
Last year, Cuddyer was just a shell of himself. He needed core muscle surgery. He had a knee injury that plagued him all year. Through all of it, Cuddyer hit just .259/.309/.391. It was a far cry from the career .277/.344/.461 career hitter he was. Despite Cuddyer showing he no longer could play up to the level he once could, Collins decided it was better to play him against lefties than it was to play the rookie Conforto who was hitting well in the majors. Collins made this decision despite the fact that Conforto was hitting .333/.414/.490 against lefties in AA. Still, for whatever reason Collins could conjure, he determined that Conforto was not able to hit lefties at the major league level. The idea got so stuck in his head that Collins followed the same plan coming into this season.
Then suddenly it happened. Conforto was no longer able to hit left-handed pitching he had not seen in quite a while. In 2016, Conforto hit .091/.128/.091 in his 44 at bats against lefties this season. This would then become part of a greater overall issue where Conforto stopped hitting all together. The seminal moment was the time Collins actually let Conforto hit against a lefty. In true Collins’ fashion, the lefty he chose was Madison Bumgarner. Conforto would go 0-5 on the day. He then went into a prolonged slump that saw him hit .148/.217/.303 over his next 44 games. In that span, Conforto went from hitting .365/.442/.676 on the season to hitting .222/.296/.431. The Mets were all but forced to send him down to the minors and call-up the left-hand hitting Nimmo.
Sure enough, Collins is repeating the same mistakes with Nimmo as he did with Conforto. Last year, it was to get Cuddyer at bats. This year, it is to get De Aza at bats. It didn’t make sense then, and it makes less sense now.