Dominic Smith Not A Platoon Player

There are certain left-handed pitchers where no matter how good your left-handed batters are, you’re sitting them. Names which come up mind include Clayton Kershaw and maybe Madison Bumgarner.

Whatever your list, it’s not going to include Matt Moore. As such, when the New York Mets sit Dominic Smith against him, they’re announcing they see Smith as a platoon bat.

If that’s the case, it’s extraordinarily bad decision making, and really, it’s a poor assessment of the talent on this Mets roster.

Honestly, that is an assessment which should’ve been discounted last year. In 2021, Smith hit .283/.391/.509 against left-handed pitchers.

That wasn’t a one year anomaly either. In 2019, Smith hit .303/.361/.515 against them. Overall, since 2019, Smith has hit .291/.380/.512.

That equates to a 141 wRC+. In that time, only Brandon Nimmo, another left-handed hitter, has a better wRC+. Yes, he’s even better than Pete Alonso (126).

That means not only is Smith one of the Mets best hitters, but he’s one of their best against left-handed pitching too.

For sake of comparison, Kevin Pillar, who started over Smith, has a 119 wRC+. Albert Almora‘s is a woeful 40. All told, while Pillar is good, he’s not better than Smith.

Now, you can argue this is too much of a reaction to just one game. After all, Pillar is going to have to get into games. There are also other factors like his defense why you’d play him.

That said, this was the Mets first game. There was literally no other competing objective than put your best team on the field. That makes their first game a clear indication they believe Pillar is a better player against left-handed pitching than Smith.

That puts Smith in a platoon role where he sits against left-handed pitching. With Smith being one of the best hitters against left-handed pitching, they’re flat out wrong and making a mistake.

Smith is an everyday player. In fact, he’s clearly one of their best, and there’s no reason why he isn’t playing everyday.

Figuring Out The d’Arnaud/Plawecki Platoon

Since cracking the Opening Day roster in 2014, Travis d’Arnaud has averaged 90 games per season behind the plate with last year being his high at 112 games.  This is because d’Arnaud has not withstood to the day-to-day rigors of catching.  Each and every year, he deals with a different injury to another part of his body, and as a result, the Mets have been left scrambling to figure out their Major League catching depth.

With the re-emergence of Kevin Plawecki as the Mets catcher of the future and the minor league signing of Jose Lobaton, the Mets are in a much better position from a catching standpoint than they have been in years past.  While the Mets have better depth, the end game should be to keep d’Arnaud healthy for a full season.

And for that matter, with Plawecki finally showing the type of bat the Mets believed he had, the team needs to find a spot for him in the lineup.

To that end, a platoon between the catchers makes sense.  Fortunately, both catchers seem inclined to go forward with the plan, and they both thrived under the situation last September with d’Arnaud hitting .297/.343/.656 in 20 games and Plawecki hitting .278/.400/.426 in 19 games.

So based upon their production in an admittedly small sample size, we know it could potentially work.  What we don’t know is how it should work next season, especially when you consider both are right-handed hitters.

Perhaps, the Mets should approach this from a different perspective.  Instead of focusing on what pitcher is on the mound for the opposing team, the Mets should focus on what pitcher is on the mound for their own team.   That is, much like what we saw in 2016 with Noah Syndergaard and Rene Rivera, assign a catcher to a Mets starter based upon whom the pitcher works best.

When you look at the numbers, what is quite startling is just how much better the Mets starters numbers are with Plawecki behind the plate.  There is a very important caveat to that.  Plawecki did the bulk of the catching of these pitchers back in 2015 when they were all healthy and dealing.  It was d’Arnaud who had to deal with each one of them having real injury issues which corresponded with diminished stuff and stats.

Basically, this will come down to comfort, and for starters, we know that likely means Plawecki will be catching Syndergaard because as we saw in 2016, he and d’Arnaud have had difficulty getting on the same page.  As an aside, it was somewhat telling Syndergaard was caught by Plawecki and Tomas Nido in his two “starts” at the end of the season.

Coincidence or not, there may be something to Plawecki not catching Jacob deGrom at all last season.  Given their track record together, which includes deGrom winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year Award and his amazing 2015 postseason, or their both having lower case ds in their last name, there is a rapport between deGrom and d’Arnaud which should continue.

Likely, you want to get each of the catchers 2-3 days in a row when they do play in order to afford them to maximizing rest and getting in rhythm.  To that end, d’Arnaud should catch deGrom with the fourth and fifth starter, whoever they may be.  This would set up this type of rotation:

  1. Jacob deGrom (d’Arnaud)
  2. Noah Syndergaard (Plawecki)
  3. Jason Vargas (Plawecki)
  4. Matt Harvey (d’Arnaud)
  5. Steven Matz (d’Arnaud)

Really, after deGrom and Syndergaard, you can order the pitchers anyway you want, and you can certainly resort them depending on which catcher and pitcher feel most comfortable as a tandem.  In the end, what really matters is Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Glenn Sherlock communicate with the starters and catching tandem to find the best fit for each pitcher.  If done properly, we may see the catchers last a full season, and more importantly, we could see the pitching staff as a whole revert to their 2015 level.

Platoon?

As I wrote in my last post, the Mets have a lot of versatility. After thinking about it, I noticed something:

2B: Kelly Johnson (L) & Wilmer Flores (R)

3B: Daniel Murphy (L) & Juan Uribe (R)

CF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis (L) & Juan Lagares (R)

This is the making of the perfect platoon situation.  Last night the lefties played against the right handed Zach Lee. The aforementioned lefties were in the lineup. Once the game was out of control, the better defensive players were the Juans who came out onto the field (can’t wait to use that pun again). 

I believe Collins will look to ride the hot hand more than he’ll look to platoon players. However, when the Mets have faced lefties this year, he has loaded the lineup with right handed batters. I think the platoon system is the prudent way to go that unless/until the Mets get reinforcements (trades, players returning from injury). 

Remember, the only two times the Mets won the Workd Series, they effectively used a platoon system. 

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Finally Lose Opening Series

After the opening series against the Washington Nationals was canceled due to COVID19, the New York Mets finally played their first series of the season. They should’ve taken the series, but didn’t;

1. That was your typical Jacob deGrom start. He’s dominant. The Mets don’t score. The bullpen blows it.

2. Much was made of deGrom coming out after six. People overlook deGrom being part of and agreeing with the decision. He had a long layoff, and it’s going to be tricky getting everyone through the season.

3. James McCann was a mixed bag. He called a great game, and he was great framing it. However, he did let some balls get behind him, and he did a Wilson Ramos impersonation on Luis Guillorme‘s throw.

4. With J.D. Davis being down, Guillorme and Jonathan Villar may get a chance to prove they should play everyday. So far, they’re making a good case.

5. Pete Alonso looks like a man on a mission. He’s completely locked in at the plate, and his defense has never looked better. He could be on the verge of an MVP type season.

6. It was actually surprising to see his ball didn’t go out on Tuesday night. Last year and the year before those balls might’ve been 20 rows deep. Instead, that ball died at the wall. That may be a real sign the ball isn’t traveling like it did in prior years.

7. The Mets were down because the bullpen hasn’t been great so far.

8. Trevor May has struggled in both games, but it was good to see him come into the second game, fight it, and get out of the inning unscathed. That and his taking ownership of his poor performance is an indication he is going to be just fine in New York.

9. The Aaron Loup signing was curious, especially given the three batter rule. We saw just how that can help a team implode. After he plunked Bryce Harper, he was facing J.T. Realmuto. It should come as no surprise that inning got out of control.

10. There were some good signs out of Jeurys Familia and Miguel Castro. Overall, with Edwin Diaz not getting into a game, the Mets best reliever in the series was Joey Lucchesi, who is also their fifth starter.

11. There could be some questions as to how Luis Rojas managed these games, but it is first important to remember he is not the one who fills out the lineup card. Some of his decisions are also very defensible like leaving in Kevin Pillar in the fourth inning of a game where the Mets had deGrom on the mound and had a 2-0 lead.

12. The fact the Mets would not bat Brandon Nimmo atop the lineup is beyond crazy. Even with a left-handed pitcher on the mound, it’s crazy. In fact, Nimmo has been the Mets best hitter against left-handed pitchers the last two years. The second best? Dominic Smith.

13. Dominic Smith isn’t a platoon player, and he shouldn’t be treated as such. He showed that on his first at-bat of the season.

14. Jeff McNeil has hit the ball with real authority so far this season. It was probably a good idea to get him a mental break ahead of coming to New York.

15. On that note, we are likely going to see a number of players miss some unexpected games here and there as they get vaccinated and deal with the side effects. Well, everyone except Davis.

16. Marcus Stroman was great on the mound, and he not only looks like an All-Star with that new forkball, but he could be a very real contender for the Cy Young this season.

17. Francisco Lindor has been everything as advertised so far this season. His defense has been great. He is giving good at-bats. He was a real leader talking to David Peterson after a rough outing. The Mets are very lucky to have him around for the next decade.

18. The long layoff was probably a factor, but Peterson showed he probably needs more time in Triple-A, which is fine. It would’ve been better to put Jordan Yamamoto in the rotation to start the season. That goes double when the Mets could have skipped the fifth starter, which they are.

19. Michael Conforto struggled with runners on base during this series, so naturally people are going overboard in their reaction. Fact is, Conforto is still a .271/.393/.512 hitter with runners in scoring position in his career. He’s going to be fine, and the Mets should still be pushing to sign him to an extension to make him a Met for life.

20. The Mets were put at a disadvantage not playing the Nationals series, and the Atlanta Braves got to fact that decimated Nationals team. Mets showed some rust, but this is still a very good team. They’re now in the flow of things, and we should look for them to have a good first homestand of the season.d

Mets Third Base Dilemma

Simply put, third base was the biggest hole the New York Mets had this offseason, and they did nothing to address it. Now, they’re scrambling.

The incumbent, J.D. Davis, is the worst defensive player in baseball. Not hyperbole, his DRS is literally the worst since joining the Mets.

With the Mets not improving, they’re starting to sell he’s improved there. They even point to Francisco Lindor working with him. There are two problems to this.

First, it’s useless talking point we hear every Spring akin to “best shape of their life.” Second, Davis is still quite bad in the videos promoting his defense.

Really, he can’t play the position, and the Mets need to stop trying to make it work. The problem is if not Davis, then who?

Yes, the answer is literally anyone else on the team would be better, but that’s also not a good answer. One early talking point is the idea of a Davis platoon with the left-handed hitting Jonathan Villar.

Villar, too, is a bad defender. Over the last two years, he has a -12 DRS in the middle of the infield. The counter-argument is third may be an easier position to play and a better fit for him.

However, that point ignores the disaster Jose Reyes was at third. Players in defensive decline just don’t automatically stem the tide and thrive at third. That’s an important consideration for a player in Villar who hasn’t played there since 2016. In that year, he played 346.2 innings there and had a -5 DRS.

So, looking at it, we return to Jeff McNeil, a player who has actually been the Opening Day starter there the last two seasons. He also has a career 5 DRS and 3 OAA there in his career.

Yes, he had a tough stretch there last year, and he had a tough Spring Training game. Even with that, he’s still been FAR SUPERIOR than the players who are under consideration for third. If you couple that with the ability to put Luis Guillorme and his Gold Glove caliber defense at second, it’s hard to argue there’s a better option.

The only problem is the Mets seem to be reluctant to both put McNeil at third and to play Guillorme everyday. It’s a bizarre thought process with zero sound reasoning given the construction of this roster.

Whatever the case, this is how the Mets built their team. It’s imperative they put their best players on the field in the best position to succeed and help the pitching staff who induces a lot of grounders.

Short of the Mets making that trade for a third baseman, they’re stuck trying to figure out a dilemma they failed to address this offseason. Rather than push sunk costs, lost cases, and poor thought processes, they need to do what helps them win in 2021.

Making Sense Of Mets Signing Kevin Pillar

When you look at the New York Mets 40 man roster, Albert Almora was probably the only player you trusted playing center field. Unfortunately, even with his success working with Chili Davis in the past, he really didn’t have a sufficiently good enough bat to stick in the lineup. That made Almora good depth, especially with his having a minor league option.

It appears Almora is going to use that option this year with the Mets signing Kevin Pillar.

Pillar, 32, used to be one of the best defensive center fielders in the game even if he didn’t have the Gold Gloves to show for it. In fact, from 2015 – 2017, Pillar only trailed Kevin Kiermaier in terms of DRS among center fielders. He had accumulated the sixth highest WAR among all Major Leaguers during this stretch.

After that, Pillar’s defense took a nosedive. From 2018 – 2020, Pillar has a -14 DRS. Essentially, he transitioned from Gold Glove caliber to a player who needs to move to a corner outfield position. To be fair, OAA has painted a slightly different picture with Pillar posting a -1 OAA over that stretch.

Regardless of whether you trust DRS or OAA, it should be clear Pillar’s days of being a defensive replacement are all but over. He no longer has the glove to be that late inning defensive replacement, and truth be told, Brandon Nimmo has posted not too different defensive numbers. In fact, over the last three years, Nimmo has a -11 DRS and -2 OAA albeit in fewer innings.

Looking at it that way, you could question what role Pillar would play. To that end, the answer very clearly could be as a platoon bat. In fact, over the past three years, Pillar has a 105 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Over the past two years, that number is a 119 wRC+.

Of course, the problem is that’s not necessarily an upgrade for the Mets. Over the past three years, Michael Conforto has a 112 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Nimmo has a 126, and Dominic Smith has a 128. That makes all three of the projected Mets Opening Day outfield as better hitters against left-handed pitching.

That said, Pillar is still a better option that players like Almora, Guillermo Heredia, and Mallex Smith. You can trust Pillar a lot more defensively than Jose Martinez. Really, when you break it down, Pillar provides good depth at all three outfield positions, and he gives the Mets some late inning pinch hitting and double switch opportunities.

Pillar is also a solid hedge against injuries. On that front, teams are going from 60 games to 162. There is likely going to be more attrition than we see over the course of a typical season. We will likely see some more injuries, and we almost assuredly going to see players need to take off more days than they usually would.

Undoubtedly, Pillar has improved the Mets depth. He’s a player you can trust in the starting lineup for extended stretches, and he pushes Almora to the minors. He is a late inning defensive replacement for a team starting a first baseman in left field, and he is a good pinch hitting option against left-handed pitching. All told, while not awe inspiring, this is a move which makes sense and makes the Mets better.

 

 

Todd Frazier Worth A Minor League Deal

When you look to build a roster, your bench should be reflective of what you are missing from your everyday players. For the New York Mets as constructed, they are missing a good defender at third, and they have a heavy left-handed hitting lineup. Ideally, a bench player for the Mets should be a strong defender at third, and it should be someone who can hit left-handed pitchers.

Like it or not, that describes Todd Frazier.

Since originally signing with the Mets, Frazier has been a 2 OAA for the Mets at third base and a 3 DRS overall. While this isn’t the plus defender he once was, Frazier remains a strong defender at the position, which puts him light years ahead of their incumbent third baseman J.D. Davis.

As a hitter, Frazier has not been the same player since he posted a 117 OPS+ in 2015. Over parts of the last three seasons with the Mets, Frazier had a below average 98 OPS+ with a 97 OPS+ overall. Looking behind those numbers on Baseball Savant, Frazier is a player with declining exit velocities and barrels.

All told, we see with Frazier he is a soon to be 35 year old baseball player. Before he signed with the Mets, he was a relative iron man. Since 2018, he has been nicked up here and there. With that also comes a player with years of experience who has been a leader in the clubhouse. In fact, when the Mets re-acquired him at the trade deadline last year, the Mets players were happy he was returning:

However, he does provide more value than just a good glove and a good guy in the clubhouse. While he has faltered against right-handed pitching, he continues to thrive against left-handed pitching. Since 2018, Frazier has a 95 wRC+ against right-handed pitching and a 105 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. That would make him a strong platoon option and late defensive replacement.

In his career, he he has been strong coming off the bench hitting .286/.389/.494 in 77 career games entering the game as substitute. With the Mets, we have also seen him have the penchant for a clutch late inning homer:

Looking at what Frazier has provided the Mets and his positive presence in the clubhouse, he is someone who merits consideration. Seeing what he could provide the team in 2021, he does deserve a closer look from this front office.

That said, he is still 35 and still in decline. Because of that, he really doesn’t merit anything beyond a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. If he performs well then, he should get a role on the Opening Day roster. If not, he can certainly go down to Syracuse as depth. That is, if he is willing to do so.

Overall, whether fans like it or not, Frazier could make a positive contribution to the Mets in 2021. However, that would only be in a very limited role, one which he has been unaccustomed for much of his career. All told, if he’s willing to accept a minor league deal to return and to stay closer to home like he wants, it is something that could be mutually beneficial to both sides.

Albert Amora Very Good Move For Mets

With the Mets signing of Albert Almora, it is important to understand what the signing is and is not. The signing wasn’t to find the Mets everyday center fielder. Rather, this was purely a signing for depth and defensive replacement purposes.

Almora, 26, is a defensive replacement for all three outfield positions. Since 2017, he has a 6 DRS and a 11 OAA. Most of those stats were accumulated during an outstanding defensive 2018. Past that season, he has been a slightly above average defensive centerfielder. For the Mets perspective, that makes him a significant upgrade defensively.

Offensively, Almora really isn’t a good player. Since 2014, he has declined precipitously at the plate. After posting a 104 wRC+ that season, he dropped all the way down to a 36 in 2020. That 36 wasn’t even fully attributable to the shortened and disjointed season. In fact, when the ball was juiced in 2019, Almora only mustered a 64 wRC+.

However, that doesn’t mean Almora is completely over-matched at the plate. In his career, he has been able to handle left-handed pitching. In his career, he has just an 85 wRC+ against right-handed pitching as opposed to a 95 against left-handed pitching. Perhaps, he can be more than that. In fact, we know he once was.

On Baseball Savant, we see Almora has been able to hit both fastballs and breaking pitches fairly well at different points in his career. However, he has not been able to do both in the same season. In fact, in 2020, he did neither. Still, that doesn’t mean he can never do it. That is something to keep in mind for a player entering his prime.

In many ways, that makes Almora akin to what Juan Lagares once was for the Mets. He’s a defensive replacement who can be a viable platoon partner when he is hitting well. Of course, the fair question is what can Almora possibly offer if he’s not hitting because as we know, if he’s not hitting, he’s not really a good enough hitter to justify taking up a roster spot.

On that front, Almora has an option remaining. That means, if he’s bad, the Mets  can demote him to Triple-A Syracuse. Keeping that in mind, that makes him outfield depth this organization did not have over the course of the past two seasons. Mostly, because of that, this makes signing Almora a relatively risk free move.

If Almora recaptures something, he could emerge as an important part of this Mets team. If not, he’s a good depth piece. Over the last two years, we saw Brodie Van Wagenen trade valuable prospects to try to plug this role. This offseason, the Mets did this by signing him to a free agent deal. It was a good deal at that as well. That is why, in the end, this was a very good move for the Mets. They acquired depth and fulfilled a need without having to part with much.

Kiké Hernandez Good Fit For Mets

As the New York Mets continue to build their roster, one area they need to address is depth a versatility. Case in point, Guillermo Heredia, a player with a career 84 wRC+ and -7 DRS in center is slated to be the team’s fourth outfielder.

There’s also J.D. Davis who can’t play a defensive position. That really leaves Luis Guillorme as the only real capable MLB utility player on the roster, and he’s just an infielder.

Looking at the free agent list, one name which really stands out is Enrique Hernandez. He’s a very versatile player who is a right-handed bat which can compliment a very heavy left-hand hitting Mets roster.

Hernandez has been a good to adequate defender across the diamond. In 2020, he played every position but third recording a 0 OAA at each position. In fact, he’s never been worse than a -3 OAA at any position in his career.

What really stands out is his good he’s been at second and center. At second, he has a career 2 OAA and an 18 DRS. In center, he has a career 4 OAA and 4 DRS. That also happens to be two big areas of need.

With center, Hernandez can be a late inning defensive replacement there. He can also be that at second for Jeff McNeil thereby allowing McNeil to move to third. Of course, this assumes the Mets don’t add new starters at these positions.

Even if they do, Hernandez can still serve as a defensive replacement. Moreover, with no DH in the NL, Hernandez is a strong option to double switch into games. Really, he plays seven defensive positions, and he’s quite good in the outfield and second.

On that note, Hernandez isn’t the strongest hitter. He has a career 99 wRC+. That’s been dragged down by consecutive sub 90 wRC+ seasons.

Still, Hernandez has traditionally hit left-handed pitchers well. Since 2015, he’s posted a 122 wRC+ against them. That’s one of the reasons Dave Roberts controversially started him against David Price in Game 5 of the 2018 World Series.

Whatever the impetus was for that decision, it’s apparent Hernandez can hit left-handed pitching, and he’s a good defender. With his versatility, he can platoon in center with Brandon Nimmo or with McNeil at second.

Hernandez is a player you can trust starting for small stretches in case of injury. He’s also accustomed to producing with irregular playing time. He can give you very good defense and hit left-handed pitching.

Overall, Hernandez just complements this Mets roster. He provides a balance to a team which is left-handed hitting friendly, and he’s a good defensive player across the diamond. As a result, the Mets should strongly consider him.

David Dahl Not Good Fit For Mets Right Now

There were some surprising non-tenders this year with David Dahl perhaps being the most surprising. After mashing his first two full seasons with the Colorado Rockies, the organization was perhaps too reactionary to his having one poor season at the plate which was by and large due to Dahl’s dealing with a shoulder injury which would need surgery.

Now, if Dahl’s shoulder is more serious than many anticipated, you could understand the non-tender. That said, it’s difficult to imagine a more severe shoulder injury than the one Michael Conforto suffered, and he re-emerged to play at an All-Star, near MVP level in 2020. So, for all intents and purposes, we should reasonably anticipate Dahl returning to form at some point in 2021.

That form was very impressive. From 2018 – 2019, Dahl hit .291/.342/.528. Sure, that was partially driven by his playing in Coors Field. That said, Dahl did have an 111 OPS+ meaning he is a well above average hitter. As we have seen, the Coors Field effect is more home/away splits during the course of a season, and it is not something which should translate to moving to a new team.

That said, there are some splits which are at least moderately concerning with Dahl. The left-handed hitter has been neutralized by left-handed pitching in his career. While Dahl has a strong .289/.342/.515 batting line against right-handed pitching, he has only hit .277/.312/.438 against left-handed pitching. That right there is an indication he is a poor fit for the New York Mets.

Right now, the Mets corner outfielders are Brandon Nimmo and Conforto. While Dahl has been a strong hitter, he has not been the caliber of hitter either Nimmo or Conforto has been. Moreover, Nimmo and Conforto are left-handed hitters who have handled left-handed pitching better than Dahl. Taking that into account, Dahl would not be coming to the Mets to supplant either one of those players in the everyday lineup.

That is somewhat important because it would seem Dahl at least has the talent to be considered a starting outfielder by any number of teams. Even if he were to shirk a starting job elsewhere to consider the Mets, he probably still isn’t a fit as a fourth outfielder. He can’t be used to platoon with either Nimmo or Conforto as they are all left-handed hitters. He also should not be used as a defensive replacement.

In his career, Dahl has not been a particularly good defensive outfielder. In his career, he has a a -1 OAA and a -7 DRS in left field. Now, to be fair, with the thin air and large outfield, Rockies outfielders usually rate poorly in defensive metrics. Looking at his defense, he does have good sprint speed of roughly 28.1 feet/sec. That would put him roughly as fast as Nimmo and faster than Conforto.

Realistically speaking, with Nimmo and Conforto in the way, the Mets do not have a starting outfield spot to offer Dahl, and realistically speaking, he is a poor fit as a complement to those two. Now, you could argue the Mets could sign Dahl to be their primary DH. However, there are two significant obstacles.

First and foremost, the NL will not have a DH in 2021. As per the agreement, the universal DH sunsetted at the expiration of the 2020 season. Even if it were to be re-adopted, the Mets have Pete Alonso already slated to be the DH with Dominic Smith taking over first base duties.

All told, every which angle you look at this, the Mets simply do not have a position to offer Dahl. At best, they can offer him a bench role for a very left-handed hitting team. Unless there is a trade or two, the Mets are better suited to setting their sights to one of the other available non-tendered players or other free agents.