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.
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.
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.
Much of the reason why the 2020 Mets are going to miss the postseason is Pete Alonso having a sophomore slump. In fact, it’s been worse than anyone could’ve imagined.
Entering last night’s game, he was teetering at the Mendoza Line, and he was at a -0.7 WAR. During this time, he went from fan proclaimed future captain to people worrying if he could ever return to his 2019 Rookie of the Year record setting form. Last night, we saw a hint he could return to that form.
The key to that was in the fourth when he hit an opposite field home run off of Blake Snell to give the Mets a 2-1 lead:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 23, 2020
We haven’t seen much of Alonso driving the ball the other way like he did much of last year. Harkening back to last year, he drove the ball with authority to all fields. That was the essence of his power and production.
Now, the home run numbers have essentially been there with all of Alonso’s struggles. After all, he was 13 homers so far this year which is a near 40 homer pace. With respect to Alonso, the singles and doubles haven’t been.
One did last night when Alonso singled home Dominic Smith to increase the Mets lead to 3-1. Coupled with an RBI groundout in the eighth, he had three RBI on the night. More impressively, he drove in a run in three separate plate appearances.
This was the player Alonso was last year. This is what the Mets need from Alonso the rest of the way this year and in each of the ensuing years. Seeing him do it last night begs the question why he hasn’t previously done it. Alonso has a theory:
Pete Alonso cites his .215 BABIP and 88.5-mph average exit velocity as evidence that he's been more unlucky than anything this season: pic.twitter.com/F1EZ3X6Ijk
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 23, 2020
Alonso definitely has a point. He’s still hitting the ball hard, and his BABIP does indicate an extraordinary amount of bad luck. That’s part of what happens with this 60 game season.
Your failures are magnified. The stats are skewed in polar opposite directions. You didn’t have the normal ebb and flow of a season of sufficient time to ramp up for the reboot.
There’s also the small matter of the 2019 juiced ball which seems to be gone. That could be part of the reason why we see Alonso’s hard hit percentage and barrel rates drop quite a bit with his whiff percentage trending in the wrong direction.
Overall, this has been a rough year for us all, Alonso included. He has five more games to continue to try to remind us why he was great last year and can be in the future. If he goes on the type of tear we know he can, maybe, just maybe, the Mets can win out and shock us all.
Game Notes: Robinson Cano and Guillermo Heredia also homered. Seth Lugo picked up the win after allowed two runs (one earned) off four hits and one walk over 6.1 innings while striking out seven. Edwin Diaz picked up the save and now has more saves than blown saves this year.
Well, if the miracles were going to happen, it needed to start tonight. Fortunately, Jacob deGrom was on the mound. Unfortunately, the Mets are still the Mets.
It started with Michael Conforto going from routine day off in a must win game to having hamstring tightness. Then, it was the Mets calling up Guillermo Heredia to replace the yet again injured Jake Marisnick while leaving Luis Guillorme in Brooklyn. Finally, it was the game.
The run in the second inning never should have scored against deGrom.
After deGrom issued a rare leadoff walk to Nate Lowe, Joey Wendle doubled. On the play, Lowe overran third and was dead to rights. However, that mattered little as Amed Rosario flat out dropped the relay throw. That allowed Lowe to not only retreat back safely but also to score on the ensuing Manuel Margot sacrifice fly.
That meant it was 2-0 Rays and not 1-0 Rays when Lowe homered off deGrom in the fourth.
The real shame is deGrom was otherwise phenomenal striking out 14 Rays. He rose to the occasion to keep the Mets in the game and the season. That included his working around a Wilson Ramos passed ball putting Lowe on third with one out in the sixth.
It didn’t matter as the Mets offense was stymied by the bullpenning Rays. The Mets were limited to just four hits and could only muster a two out rally in the fifth.
In that fifth inning, Heredia drew a two out walk. The bases were loaded after a Ramos single, and Brandon Nimmo was hit by a pitch.
Jeff McNeil came through with what should’ve been a game tying single. However, Willy Adames made a great sliding play up the middle to smother the ball. It was still an RBI single, but it was 2-1 instead of 2-2.
That was magnified when J.D. Davis lined out to end the inning. Overall, Davis was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk dropping his plummeting OPS to .777.
After Davis failed to deliver there, the Mets didn’t get another hit. In the end, the Mets went down weakly in this 2-1 loss and have now lost three out of four to all but destroy their postseason chances.
Game Notes: deGrom became the first Mets pitcher since Dwight Gooden in 1985 to strike out 14 twice in a season.