We baseball fans tend to be a passionate bunch. We lend more credence to our hearts than our minds, as much as we embrace sabremetrics. That’s why almost every Met fan is wrong about today’s Michael Cuddyer reinstatement.
GM Sandy Alderson announced Cuddyer would return Monday, but played coy about the corresponding move until well into the afternoon. Over the weekend he only said they would choose the best 25 players now with no plans for the future. The New York fan base has decided that means either beleaguered utility man Eric Campbell or rookie Michael Conforto are destined for Triple-A Las Vegas, and they’ve made their decision, which surprisingly is the same decision Alderson made.
Too bad they’re all wrong.
Assuming no unexpected roster moves are yet to be made, Alderson should have demoted Conforto. It’s nothing personal against the young outfielder; he shows a lot of promise and plays the right way. Don’t be surprised to see him as the left fielder in Citi Field for years to come. Just not now.
As the bare minimum, proper positioning requires Campbell to stick around. Cuddyer can play either corner outfield spot and first base; Campbell offers even more versatility while Conforto is strictly a left fielder. Kelly Johnson, Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores offer some versatility, but it is such a difference for skipper Terry Collins to have a reliable bench after that abomination in the first half.
Conforto actually holds the edge defensively in left field. Despite being advertised as a lumbering bat-first outfielder, the 22-year-old has shown above average range in his 11 games. Compare that to Cuddyer’s below league-average fielding in left, but above average fielding at first. In all of four games, Campbell has looked fine in left field, but only luke warm at the hot corner through 43 games.
But the 36-year-old Cuddyer is being paid $8.5 million and has an established track record, both indicators the Mets front office will tell Collins to start the veteran. Let’s not mince words, his 2015 numbers have been dreadful. Slashing .250/.303/.380 before hitting the DL, his .683 OPS is the worst in any of his 15 years, aside from 20 plate appearances in 2001. But he is hitting righties at a .257 clip with a .705 OPS; unfortunately his average against southpaws is a mere .226 with a poor .598 OPS.
Conforto has similar splits, albeit in just 11 games. His .226 average against right-handed pitching is weak, but that’s bolstered by a .744 OPS. That figure will likely come down some since he’s hit more extra-base hits than singles – three doubles and a home run in seven total hits, but it’s not unexpected to see him succeed. Against pitchers from the same side, he’s had just a single and a walk to produce a .200 average and .533 OPS.
Meanwhile, Campbell has served as the whipping boy for many underperforming Mets earlier this season. That’s not to say he didn’t deserve some of the blame, slashing.179/.301/.276 with a putrid .577 OPS, but he wasn’t alone. His splits for the season are terrible against both righties and lefties, with an under .200 average and .600 OPS against each. That said, there’s still hope of reviving his career. Campbell had a poor first month immediately filling in for the injured Wright, hitting .208 with a .654 OPS. But those numbers, and fans’ patience with the utility player, plummeted in May and June. He started 20 of 30 games and hit about .150. Those numbers trended upwards in July, finishing with a .208 average and .720 OPS with only 6 stats in 13 games; he’s also picked up a single and an RBI in three non-starting at-bats this month. What makes Campbell’s toxic offensive numbers a little less venomous are rank BABIPs. Among the four completed months, July easily had the highest BABIP at .267 BABIP . If the Mets have any hopes of using Campbell as a reserve piece in a playoff run – or Heaven forbid postseason play – they ought to figure him out now.
There is one other item of note with this decision. Whoever gets handed a ticket out of LaGuardia for McCarran will probably be back in New York before terribly long. Major League Baseball rules require active players to be on the 25-man roster by midnight Aug. 31 to be eligible for postseason play. The caveat is that each team’s 40-man roster is also eligible and available in every game from Sept. 1 until their season ends. Triple-A Las Vegas ends their regular season Sept. 7, and although they’re in first place and could possibly win the two best-of-five series for the Pacific League championship and the best-of-7 Triple-A National Championship series, Alderson has said the focus is in Flushing.