The Mets have traded a bunch of productive offensive players and the ones they didn’t trade are on the disabled list. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that in their last 17 games the Mets are averaging just 3.7 runs per game. Sure, they’ve played good teams in that stretch. They’ve also played the Marlins and Reds, whose pitching staffs are hardly the stuff of legend. The Mets have managed just six runs the past two days against the Reds.
It’s a far cry from May, when the club averaged 5.7 runs per game. But few liked that club, which, as the complaints go, was filled with one-dimensional, non-clutch performers. Better to ditch them now for a bunch of guys who, if everything breaks right, might develop into 2017 Hansel Robles. But better something than nothing and at least this way they can let the kids play. Even if it took two outfield injuries to get Brandon Nimmo in the lineup and Gavin Cecchini still barely gets off the bench.
Are Cecchini and Nimmo long-range answers? No, probably not. But neither are Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes yet they don’t seem to have trouble getting playing time in this season that’s gone down the tubes.
We all know by now that Sandy Alderson’s preferred way to build an offense is to focus on power bats. And if we’re being honest, neither Cecchini nor Nimmo seem to offer much promise in that regard. Maybe they can develop some doubles power but the idea that either would collect 20 HR in a season seems far-fetched.
My preference is for power, too. But one of my core baseball principles is that there is more than one way to get things done. There are benefits out there for the taking if 29 clubs insist on doing things one way by moving in the opposite direction. From a theoretical standpoint, if all of the other clubs are chasing power, you can assemble a good team by chasing contact.
I can feel the excitement in the room already. For years there has been no shortage of comments from readers who would rather lose a game 3-2 where the two runs scored thanks to hit-and-runs and sacrifice flies than to win a game 7-3 when four runs came on solo homers. Personally, the allegiance to a certain style of play over results never made any sense to me. It makes no difference to me if the wins come by a majority of 2-1 scores or 8-4 ones. Just as long as the winning percentage exceeds .600 – that’s what matters.
For the record, it would be great to live in Lake Woebegone where all of the players were above average and excelled in all facets of the game. But those players are few and far between and tend to be very expensive. You have to make choices in the real world.
The Mets will have to make choices on two players who are, perhaps not polar opposites but rather on opposite sides of the fence. In one corner we have Juan Lagares, who is the best defensive player on the team and one who thrives offensively when he carries a high BABIP and the hits are falling in. And in the other corner we have Wilmer Flores, who is a defensive disaster who thrives when hitting the ball for power.
Can you commit to one style of play and still keep both players as more than bench players?
The speed-happy Cardinals featured first George Hendrick and later Jack Clark, so the answer is yes. But those Cardinals employed those sluggers at first base and outfield. If the Mets go for a contact-over-power approach, they would seem to have an ideal first baseman in place in Dominic Smith. And the Mets have never been open to play Flores in the outfield. If they’re going to play a game where runs are scarce, can they afford to play him somewhere besides first base? Second would seem to be the next best position but they insist on making him a third baseman, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Meanwhile, Lagares is still the same guy. The good news is that his defensive numbers seem to have gone back to 2013-14 levels, which makes carrying his bat more palatable. This was far from a given, as generally speaking defense declines earlier than offense. The bad news is that he still can’t stay healthy and he still contributes very little besides singles. Since returning from the DL, he has a .529 OPS, with just 3 XBH and 2 BB in 63 PA. For the season he has a .105 ISO and a 4.8 BB% and both marks are bad.
Neither Flores nor Lagares are perfect players. Which player is more likely to have his strengths outweigh his weaknesses over a full season? Does either player still have likely growth? Does either have likely regression? Both are going to play a lot the remainder of the season for anyone who hasn’t made up their minds on the player yet.