Michael Conforto is thriving

There’s a lot of bad news surrounding the Mets these days. Most of it has to do with injuries, and boy do they just keep piling up. It’s tough to look on the bright side when so many important pieces keep going down and the season looks increasingly bleak. One shining beacon of hope for Mets fans, though, is the performance of Michael Conforto.

The young outfielder is currently slashing an outstanding .337/.430/.652 and his 1.2 fWAR leads all Mets offensive players. His slash numbers also lead all MLB left fielders, as do his wRC+ (178), ISO (.315), OPS (1.082), and wOBA (.444). He’s fourth in homers with 8 and his 21 RBI are the fifth most among left fielders. In short, he’s mashing and blossoming into the player we all thought (and hoped) he would become.

One of the major concerns with Conforto was his performance against breaking pitches. Three weeks ago I followed up a 2016 piece documenting his struggles against breaking stuff. His ability to adjust to the breaking ball is ultimately going to determine how close he comes to reaching his ceiling, but early on this season he seemed to continue struggling to make those adjustments.

What’s happened since then? The table below, compiled with data from Brooks Baseball, compares his approach and results on different pitch types up to that article on April 22nd and since then.

Fourseam 47.62% 38.55% 28.57% 21.69% 33.33% 46.99% 9.52% 7.23%
Sinker 37.14% 36.84% 20.00% 23.68% 42.86% 44.74% 0.00% 5.26%
Change 37.50% 42.22% 33.33% 33.33% 54.17% 53.33% 25.00% 28.89%
Slider 0.00% 27.66% 58.33% 40.43% 66.67% 48.94% 33.33% 17.02%
Curve 52.94% 58.82% 23.53% 29.41% 35.29% 17.65% 11.76% 5.88%
Cutter 100.00% 25.00% 0.00% 50.00% 0.00% 50.00% 0.00% 25.00%
Split 0.00% 0.00% 50.00% 0.00% 100.00% 100.00% 50.00% 0.00%
Knuckler N/A 33.33% N/A 23.33% N/A 50.00% N/A 6.67%

What jumps out immediately in the numbers above is the marked improvement in his approach against both the slider and the curve. We can see that not only is he swinging at them less, he’s also missing less often when he does take a crack at them. While he’s still not seeing positive outcomes against the curve ball, his batting average against the slider has been a healthy .308 since the 22nd of April. Additionally, the table below highlights some of his batted ball outcomes during these two time periods.

On 4/22 40 11.5% 46.2% 42.3% 15.4% 57.7% 26.9% 19.2% 46.2% 34.6%
Since 71 26.7% 40.0% 33.3% 31.1% 51.1% 17.8% 17.8% 37.8% 44.4%

There’s a sizable increase in his line drive rate at the expense of his fly ball and ground ball rates, which coincides with an uptick in his hard hit percentage. It’s no surprise that he’s seeing even more success than he was earlier in the season. What’s interesting is the large increase in his pull percentage since April 22nd and how it relates to where pitchers are placing their pitches against him. The two zone profiles from Brooks Baseball below are broken into the two time frames we’ve been working with throughout this article.

He’s clearly getting more stuff to hit in the zone, and it’s likely his increased patience on breaking balls is paying off in this way. Pitchers keep pounding him inside and middle, which plays into his power as he turns on them and pulls them to the right side. We can’t completely ignore his elevated BABIP (.367), but his numbers are so good right now that even when it normalizes a bit his overall performance stands a good chance of staying very strong.

All of this is to say that, hey, Conforto is doing what he needs to do to turn his potential into results right before our eyes. That’s something to be cheerful about amid all the gloom and doom, right? Of course, there’s that hamstring and the Mets’ medical staff to worry about…

2 comments for “Michael Conforto is thriving

  1. John Fox
    May 13, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Once Yoenis Cespedes returns, I see the everyday outfield as Cespedes in left, Conforto in Center and Jay Bruce in right, with Juan Lagares to fill in as needed and for defensive purposes. There may not be a spot for Curtis Granderson.

  2. Chris F
    May 13, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    game chatter?

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