Creating a better Mets lineup against lefties

Scratch LogoFor those of us who believe that the efficient use of Sabermetrics can improve a team’s chance of winning the remarks by Mets’ manager Terry Collins last month were dismaying.

In a USA Today article he said this:

“I’m not sure how much an old-school guy can add to the game today. It’s become a young man’s game, especially with all of the technology stuff you’ve got to be involved in. I’m not very good at it. I don’t enjoy it like other people do.

“I’m not going to sit there today and look at all of these (expletive) numbers and try to predict this guy is going to be a great player. OPS this. OPS that. GPS. LCSs. DSDs. You know who has good numbers? Good (expletive) players….”

Personally I believe that Collins is overall a good major league manager but that his greatest strength is the respect and affection his players seem to have for him. As an on-field strategist, meh. His bullpen usage has often been questioned (in fairness every fan says that about his team’s manager). Collins’ lineup construction has also never been a strong point.

Let’s concede right here that studies indicate that poor lineup construction is a minimally damaging thing. If a team creates the most efficient lineups possible they may garner one or two more wins per season over a team that does a bad job of that. Of course, one or two games may be what separates the Mets from the Washington Nationals come season’s end. So we shouldn’t be punting away those one or two games.

The following graphic shows the players who are most likely to be in the Mets’ lineups against southpaw starters. The stats show only their AB’s and percentages against lefties.

code AB BA OBP SLG% OPS
A 1443 0.340 0.433 0.572 1005
B 168 0.244 0.317 0.440 757
C 344 0.279 0.325 0.427 752
D 1269 0.281 0.327 0.421 748
E 139 0.223 0.297 0.439 736
F 519 0.281 0.363 0.355 718
G 1527 0.224 0.297 0.399 696
H 191 0.230 0.288 0.403 691
I 542 0.229 0.301 0.369 670
J 677 0.260 0.317 0.338 655
K 14 0.214 0.267 0.214 481

Your first thought is, “I love that ‘A’ guy” and well you should. You also figure to know it is David Wright and that if his health allows he will and must bat 2nd, 3rd, or 4th whenever a lefty starts. That’s a no brainer.

Also let’s dismiss player K for now because that is Michael Conforto and we can not know what kind of hitter he is or will be against lefties until he has many many more at bats against that hand pitching. 14 AB’s tell us nothing. Certainly for the first half of the season the place to bat Conforto against lefties would be somewhere in the bottom third of the lineup.
But now the plot thickens.

Does that “G” guy impress you? Sight unseen where does he belong in a lineup what with a .224 batting average, and sub .300 on base percentage? Plus with 1500 ABs on his resume it is not like we can expect some dramatic change for the better. Kevin Long is good but he is no miracle worker.

In this case “G” is for Granderson and yes we have to expect that manager Collins will continue to bat him leadoff when he plays because of some supposed comfort zone/respect thy veterans reasoning.

In some spring training lineups we have already seen a top two of Granderson and Neil Walker. That seems very promising if the starting pitcher throws righty but looks feeble if the pitcher is a southpaw. Walker is the guy showing with code letter “J”. So a top two of Granderson and Walker is poor in the on base department and combine for an OPS below 700. This is bad.

So if they don’t belong near the top of the lineup then who does? That fellow “F” has a .363 on base percentage for his career against lefties. Maybe he should lead off or bat second. That’s Ruben Tejada. And he could be joined at the top of the lineup by player “C” who is Juan Lagares. Center fielder Juan has the added bonus of being a potential base stealer once he gets on.

The Mets will face a lefty starter something like 25% of the time. Getting Tejada and Lagares to the top of the order and dropping Granderson and Walker down near the bottom will only help the team score more runs.

But with word coming out on Tuesday that Tejada has been placed on waivers it looks like the club will miss out on his favorable OBP versus lefties. Let’s hope that whoever is the “next man up”, my guess is that it would be Matt Reynolds, will be capable at least against lefty pitching.

Player “D” is the injured Asdrubal Cabrera. His career numbers against the lefties are impressive and he is another guy who fits well in the two, five, or six holes. Let us hope that he can put his knee woes behind him ASAP because his bat is sorely needed.

Let’s finish this by revealing which player has which code letter.

code player
A Wright
B d’Arnaud
C Lagares
D Cabrera
E Cespedes
F Tejada
G Granderson
H Flores
I Duda
J Walker
K Conforto

9 comments for “Creating a better Mets lineup against lefties

  1. Metsense
    March 16, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I too was extremely dismayed by Terry’s comments. There is a balance that can be obtained between sabermatics and the actual game that is being played with real, human players. The stats presented in your article leads me to some conclusions. The first one is that Wright should not be rested against a LHP which means Flores should get around 24 starts vs RHP. Flores is also the backup first baseman and second baseman so the intial plan should give him 40 starts against LHP. 20 for Walker and 20 for Duda. Walker and Duda should have a say in this because when they are starting vs LHP they can produce against them thus not have to sit as many as 20 games. This is the human element in the equation. The outfield is similar in that Lagares should always start vs LHP as he has strong platoon numbers. That should leave 40 games that Conforto and Granderson will be sitting. Resting 20 games each still gives each starting corner outfielder 142 games. If the sabermetics is mixed in with human element then this can be a well rested productive team. TC’s remarks give me the impression that this will not be done.

    • March 16, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      I would be less interested in resting Duda against LHP and more interested in resting him when he’s slumping – regardless of who’s pitching. Duda had an .878 OPS vs. lefties last year. A one-year fluke? Perhaps. But knowing this, it’s hard for me to see the default being — must sit immediately against southpaws.

      • Metsense
        March 16, 2016 at 7:01 pm

        Agree about Duda vs LHP, I forgot how potent he was last year.

  2. Name
    March 16, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    “The Mets will face a lefty starter something like 25% of the time.”

    I’ll take the under on that number. The last 2 years the Mets have faced 36 and 33 lefty starting pitchers respectively, and the NL east once again has a dearth of lefty starters.

    Braves : None.
    Nats : Gio Gonzalez
    Marlins : Wei Yin Chen for sure, Justin Nicolino, but way down the depth charts
    Phillies : Adam Morgan and Bret Oberholtzer, both fighting for the 5th spots.

    I don’t know what the Mets or MLB record for facing least amount of LH SP, but can the Mets make a crack at sub 30 starts?

  3. TexasGusCC
    March 17, 2016 at 1:34 am

    Stronger against lefties:
    Flores (or Wright), Lagares, Wright (or Flores), d’Arnaud

    Stronger against righties:
    Cespedes, Granderson, Conforto, Walker, Duda

    While I love Flores and Lagares, the Mets lineup is probably stronger against righties anyway, as Wright and d’Arnaud are no slouches against righties, but Granny, Walker, and probably Duda and Cespedes will all do better against righties. Conforto and Lagares cancel each other out since it will be close to a platoon, thus… I hope we don’t see a lefty all year!

  4. Havelock Hewes
    March 18, 2016 at 7:11 am

    Last season, in 100 AB’s, Flores had a .955 OPS against lefties. In the case of a very young player, who is improving, to stick him with numbers he compiled before he had to shave is not fair. I would like to see this entire list with 2015 numbers plugged in…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: