You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
Even if you’re not on the road, it’s good to have guiding principles. Take Sandy Alderson, for instance. We know his guiding principle is that power is of utmost importance, for both hitters and pitchers. We also know that he places a lesser importance on defense. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t value it at all. We do have the five-year contract for Juan Lagares and he’s certainly not here for his offense.
But we were led to believe that one of Alderson’s guiding principles was of the importance of on-base percentage. Unfortunately, when push comes to shove, OBP has been valued on the Alderson Mets on a level much closer to defense than to power. In the past we would have blamed a team’s unwillingness to bat a high OBP guy in one of the first two spots in the order on the manager. But when the GM has stood by the manager for seven years, five of which have been losing campaigns, and nothing has been said – much less done – about fixing the issue, well, the GM at the very least has signed off on it.
Let’s look at the top two guys in the lineup during the Alderson-era Mets.
2011 – The team had Jose Reyes as its primary leadoff guy, a holdover. Reyes turned in an incredible year and had a .384 OBP. The second spot in the order was a revolving door all year long. It would have been nice to see Daniel Murphy and his .362 OBP in that spot but he was moved up and down in the lineup all year.
2012 – With Reyes gone, the leadoff spot in ’12 resembled the second spot in ’11, with Ruben Tejada and his .333 OBP getting the most time with 78 games batting first. It should be pointed out that Andres Torres, an Alderson acquisition, was the team’s Opening Day leadoff hitter. Prior to joining the Mets, Torres had a lifetime .318 OBP and he was coming off a year with a .312 mark in the category. The second spot was a revolving door, much like it was in ’11. Murphy and his .332 mark saw the most time.
2013 – Alderson acquisition Collin Cowgill got the Opening Day nod at leadoff but didn’t last long. Mid-season pickup Eric Young Jr. and his .318 OBP got the bulk of the leadoff time. Murphy logged 113 games in the second spot but had just a .319 mark. But it’s not like there were a ton of good options.
2014 – Young and his .299 OBP saw the most action at the leadoff spot, although Curtis Granderson (.326) and Lagares (.321) also saw a lot of time batting first. Murphy was the primary second hitter and he notched a .332 mark this season.
2015 – Granderson logged 138 games as the team’s leadoff hitter, easily the most games to date of anyone. He had a .364 OBP this year. Five different players saw at least 20 games batting second, led by Tejada’s 39 games. David Wright, who always ran high OBPs, batted second 24 times and given that he had just 38 starts, he spent the majority of his time in the two-hole. Wright had a .379 OBP.
2016 – Granderson began the season in the leadoff spot but was unable to duplicate his numbers from a year ago. The club brought back Reyes and he saw 60 games in the top spot. The former had a .335 OBP and the latter a .326 mark. Wright batted second when he was healthy but Asdrubal Cabrera and his .336 OBP saw the most time second.
2017 – Reyes started the year batting leadoff and was absolutely dismal. In perhaps the best move of his managerial career, Terry Collins installed Michael Conforto in the leadoff spot and the offense responded with a terrific 5.7 runs per game in the month of May. With Conforto on the DL and Granderson on the Dodgers, Collins has used Reyes and Nori Aoki in the leadoff spot. Cabrera and Reyes have gotten most of the time in the second slot of the order.
We see that the Mets haven’t had great options for the top of the order in most years here recently. Sure, there was Reyes in ’11 and Granderson in ’15 and Conforto in ’17. But whether by (bad) luck or design there just haven’t been multiple people with .350+ OBP to choose from to bat first and second. But here in the bitter end of the year, the Mets have that option and are choosing not to deploy him, which is pretty frustrating.
Brandon Nimmo has a .401 OBP and last night he batted sixth, the same spot he hit the previous game. He’s led off in just seven of his 32 starts. To be fair, he shouldn’t have been leading off before the end of August, as the Mets had an outstanding candidate in Conforto and Nimmo was establishing himself as a guy who could get on base at a regular clip.
But Conforto last led off on August 9 and played his last game on August 24. By the 24th, Nimmo had a .391 OBP. He actually did lead off the game of the 25th and went 1-3 with two walks and two runs scored. And then for some reason he batted eighth in the next game and was atop the order just one time since.
If Alderson and the Mets truly valued OBP, Nimmo would be batting first or second and not sixth. He has batted second seven times since Conforto’s season-ending injury. Yet he’s batted fifth or lower nine times since then.
In a time when wins and losses no longer hold the primary focus of the club, the final six weeks should be used to find out about guys. But instead of giving the 24-year-old, former first-round pick a shot to establish himself as a leadoff hitter, the Mets are playing a 34 year old and a 35 year old in the top two spots. And neither of those two guys are better than 50-50 to be back next season.
Reyes had his magical ’11 season but other than that, his career high in OBP is the .358 mark he put up in 2008. In the past four years and 1,973 PA, he has a .320 OBP. Aoki is better with a lifetime .350 OBP. But in addition to his age, Aoki is arbitration-eligible and he makes $5.5 million this year. Wouldn’t it be better to find out if Nimmo, a pre-arb guy, could hold down Aoki’s spot in 2018?
The way this season turned out has been a giant disappointment in 20 different ways. As terrible as it’s been, it also created the perfect storm to create value for Nimmo, a guy that you would expect the organization to have a vested interest in, seeing how he was the very first draft pick under the Alderson regime.
Two outfielders traded and two outfielders on the disabled list created a spot for Nimmo, one which any non-partial observer would conclude he’s taken advantage of entirely. Since becoming a full-time starter on August 18, Nimmo has an .827 OPS. So why is he placed in a less favorable spot for his skill set than Aoki?
This is nothing against Aoki, who was a shrewd pickup and a guy who has performed well since joining the Mets. But what Aoki does, Nimmo has done better. So why are the Mets giving preferential treatment to a guy on his third team this year and seventh overall in his six-year MLB career over their own first-round pick who’s also 11 years younger?
This may seem to you a lot of complaining for very little reason. Except that it’s a continuation of a pattern whereby a guy from outside of the organization is always seen as preferable to a guy scouted, signed and developed by the home team. It doesn’t make any sense to operate this way, unless you believe your scouts and development people are horrible. And if somehow this is the case, replace them already. It’s also another data point to show how the team really feels and values OBP.
The Nimmo pick was controversial from the start and has only been made to look worse in the ensuing years, as injuries stunted his growth and guys picked behind him went on to establish themselves as stars. You would think the organization would be thrilled with his play in the majors this year and look to cash in to whatever little extent that they could on his success.
Instead they bat his .401 OBP sixth and you never hear his praises being sung in the mainstream media or even MetsBlog. Shoot, we’ve heard more about the end of the season being an opportunity for Lagares to re-emerge as a candidate as a starter. Since Lagares returned from the DL on August 11, he has a .213/.265/.323 line in 137 PA. There just isn’t enough lipstick you can put on that particular pig – it’s just ugly.
And yet the myth that Alderson and the Mets value OBP continues.