Spotlight on Yoenis Cespedes since his return from the DL

Here in late July, many people are unhappy with the makeup of the 2017 Mets. That’s not really different from the way many people felt when Spring Training opened. However, the prevailing thought in February was that the offense was too one dimensional to be ultimately successful and the reality today is that on days when Jacob deGrom doesn’t pitch, the results from the mound have been unacceptable. The team is 32-45 (.416) when someone else starts.

There were many different ways the 2016-17 offseason could have shook out. The Mets had roughly $60 million to spend and the biggest chunk of that went to re-signing Yoenis Cespedes. While many questioned the wisdom of bringing back the old gang, virtually no one was disappointed that the club hitched its wagon to Cespedes for four more years.

Since being acquired at the trade deadline in 2015, much was made of the team’s record with Cespedes in the lineup and without him. No doubt that Cespedes had played well since arriving in Queens. But to attribute all of the team’s success to one individual was shaky, at best. Especially since in 2015 his arrival coincided nicely with the promotion of Michael Conforto and the return of several players from the disabled list. And when the Mets went on their run last September, Cespedes batted .214 with a .675 OPS.

Right now in 2017, the Mets are 46-51 for a .474 winning percentage. In games that Cespedes has started, the club is 24-24 and overall the team is 26-26 if he’s appeared in the game. An improvement over the team’s overall record, yes. Still, hardly the stuff of which legends are made.

As noted Sunday, the Mets are playing their best ball of 2017 right now. They’ve gone 15-10 in their last 25 games. Cespedes has started 21 of those games and appeared in 22. He has a .236/.261/.326 line in those games. It’s hard to give the lion’s share of the credit to Cespedes here.

Unfortunately, Cespedes’ poor hitting extends longer than the Mets’ string of good play. Since being activated from the DL, he has a .712 OPS in 132 PA. When he first returned, he had three multi-hit games in his first eight appearances but it’s been all downhill since then. He’s gone 87 PA since his last home run and even the announcers are talking about how he’s missing pitches they’re used to seeing him crush.

Hey, it’s a slump, the type of thing that happens to everyone.

Last night we saw Cespedes crush a ball to center that resulted in a triple and a few nights earlier he had a double. Hopefully those extra-base hits are a harbinger of things to come. No one expects Cespedes to challenge for the batting title but we all hope for an ISO higher than the .133 mark he’s posted since being activated.

One of the things that was most impressive about Cespedes was how he seemingly transformed himself since his arrival in New York. In his pre-Mets career, Cespedes drew 134 BB in 2,186 PA for a 6.1 BB%. He had a 9.4 BB% in 2016 and a 14.7 walk rate prior to going on the DL this year. But since being activated, Cespedes has just 4 BB in 132 PA (3.0) and two of those were intentional passes issued last night.

It may be a chicken and egg thing as to which came first but it seems pretty obvious that Cespedes’ lack of walks and lack of power are connected. Before going on the DL, in a tiny sample of 75 PA, he had .349 ISO to go with that 14.7 BB%.

We all want to see the power drought end. But perhaps what we need to see first is a willingness to take a walk. In April, Cespedes had a 31.0 O-Swing% and a 68.7 Z-Swing%. Here in July he’s swinging at more pitches outside of the zone (37.6) and fewer inside (59.8). Understandably, pitchers are working him away and he’s bailing them out by chasing those outside pitches.

Back when Dave Hudgens was the hitting coach, the phrase “hunting strikes” was often used and often mocked. But that’s what Cespedes needs to get back to doing. The goal isn’t for him to get more walks but rather to reduce the amount of times he’s swinging at pitches that are balls. The goal is a double in the gap or a homer over the wall, achieved by hitting pitches in the zone. The byproduct is increased walks because there are going to be plenty of times that the pitcher isn’t going to give you a pitch to hit.

Cespedes is too good of a hitter for this power outage to last, even if his strike zone judgement doesn’t increase significantly. After all, he had a .201 ISO his first three years in the league and a .183 mark with the Tigers in 2015 before his trade to the Mets. But we want to see the .250 ISO he put up last year in New York, a pace he exceeded here in April of 2017. And if he has to take a few walks to do that, so be it.

7 comments for “Spotlight on Yoenis Cespedes since his return from the DL

  1. John Fox
    July 25, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    It is odd that Cespedes selectivity at the plate would vary so much over the years, not so good for the first part of his career, good in 2015 and 2016, then not good again this year. you would think that was one skill that would be more consistent. Eddie Matthews had a great career and always drew a lot of walks but even after his slugging eroded he still drew walks, same for Mickey Mantle and a lot of other players.

  2. Pete In Iowa
    July 25, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    I thought so at the time, and I am more convinced than ever that this signing was a mistake.
    First of all, the first year of the deal is a bust, for whatever the reasons may be. A bust is a bust. That’s one down and three to go. What is he going to look like in 2019 and 2020? Pretty scary.
    Secondly, he’s looking more and more like a Kingman or Duda in left rather than an Edmunds or Griffey. How he ever won a gold glove, I’ll never know. He seems somewhat shaky on almost any ball he has to chase to go get. But he can throw, for whatever that is worth.
    Thirdly, he flails at the plate in nearly every at bat.
    Finally, the man never hustles on either side of the ball. I can’t stand the way he plays the game. My best description of him is that he’s a less disciplined Cano.
    For those who think he was a good signing, ask yourselves this question: With the deadline a week away, would any other club be interested in a trade for him? Funny how his name never comes up in trade talks.
    I hope I’m wrong about this because I hope the Mets can turn things around relatively quickly. But, with him, I just don’t know.

  3. Eraff
    July 25, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    He’s obviously Injured…whether he has fault in that or not, it doesn’t change the reality.

    A Monster Season from him or Not, they’d be in the hunt with “any 3 healthy and happy Starting Pitchers”…below expectations, but above the present pit of despair.

    He’s an anchor…a star..a lightening rod—I’ll predict a tremendous 2018

  4. Jimmy P
    July 25, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    I am a fan. He’s a star and an galvanizing presence at the plate. Perfect for NYC, warts and all. I like him a lot and enjoy watching him play.

    I don’t want to watch a team full of bland Walker/Bruce types. You need an assortment of colors, styles, personalities.

  5. Metsense
    July 25, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    When he is healthy he is one of the best left fielders in the game. He just needs to get his pitch recognition and timing together. It will happen.

  6. Matt Netter
    July 26, 2017 at 8:23 am

    I didn’t realize that Hudgens is now hitting coach for the Astros. I know hitting coaches are given too much credit/blame, but he must be doing something right over there. Incidentally, he had seven career MLB at bats and went 1 for 7.

    Regarding Cespedes, it goes beyond the numbers. He adds balance and an intangible element to the lineup. He’s the only feared hitter on our team and the only one who makes you stop what your doing and give your undivided attention when he’s up. He’s transformative, not quite in the Barry Bonds sense, but in the way only a dozen or so guys in MLB are, where they make the hitters around them see better pitches and force the opposing manager to pace in the dugout. Unfortunately, he’s a Ferrari – exciting as hell when running on all cylinders, but often in the shop. Rickey Henderson was like that.

  7. July 26, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Tuesday night in first inning, 2-2 pitch, Cespedes lays off ball just outside of strike zone. Next pitch, he turns on a pitch on the inside half of the strike zone and homers. Beautiful to see.

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