Coming into the season, the Mets’ offense was supposed to be led by the C & C boys – Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto. But it hasn’t worked out that way at all. Cespedes has been limited to just 38 games and while he hit okay while active, the hope was that he’d provide more than an .822 OPS. Now he’s done for the year and some unspecified part of 2019, too, as he will undergo surgery on both heels, procedures that will take at least eight months of recovery and probably more. Cespedes actually had the surgery on his right heel. The plan is to rest 2-3 months before having surgery on his left heel, giving him the chance to get some mobility back before the second surgery.
Meanwhile, Conforto was supposed to be out some unspecified time at the beginning of 2018, due to shoulder surgery. The target date for his return was May 1 and he beat that by a considerable amount. But while Conforto returned to the field on April 5, he really wasn’t the hitter the Mets were expecting him to be. After a blistering six days to start the season, where he posted a 1.089 OPS in 23 PA, Conforto went into the All-Star break with a .208/.334/.349 line in his last 323 PA.
However, since the break, Conforto has been the hitter the Mets were expecting in 2018. In his All-Star season of 2017, Conforto put up a .939 OPS. In his last 23 games he’s posted a .301/.392/.542 line for a .934 OPS in 97 PA. It remains to be seen if Conforto can keep up this type of pace for the remainder of the season. It’s up for debate if this is merely a hot streak or a young hitter who’s finally healthy and ready to hit like he’s expected.
Last year, Conforto put up his big season with a .328 BABIP and a .276 ISO, both very healthy marks. In his current hot streak, he has a .377 BABIP and a .241 ISO. So, compared to last year, the hits are falling in, which is making up for his drop in power. Conforto has 10 XBH in 97 PA during his current stretch, split equally between doubles and homers. Given that he had 21 XBH in 346 PA in the first half, it’s a marked improvement. But it’s still not at last year’s level.
It feels like Conforto is having strikeout issues but his K% is right in line with where it was a year ago. In 2017, he had a 25.7 K% and this year it sits at 25.3, although he’s been whiffing slightly more during his current hot streak. Not all related to strikeouts but one of the big changes this year for Conforto is how he handles sliders. Last year, on a per 100 pitches basis, Conforto had better results against sliders than any other pitch. This year, on the same 100-pitch basis, his results have been the worst against that offering.
He’s doing slightly better against curves this year and significantly better against cutters and change-ups, so it’s not like the pitches that wiggle are giving him fits – it seems to be one specific pitch. His results against the slider this year are similar to what they were in both 2015 and 2016, so it’s possible that last year was just an outlier. But as you’re watching Conforto’s ABs the remainder of the season, see how he does against the slider.
Regardless, it’s nice to see Conforto producing results here in the last month that were in line with expectations coming into the season. With Cespedes’ status unclear for next year, a healthy and productive Conforto is more important than ever. And the same holds true for the remainder of 2018, too. The Mets need Conforto to provide a threat in the middle of the order.
And perhaps down the stretch the Mets can see what it’s like to have two productive bats in the lineup at the same time. When Conforto started heating up as play resumed in the second half, Brandon Nimmo was in the middle of a month-long slump. But Nimmo now has nine hits in his last seven games, with seven of those going for extra bases. Let’s see if the first-round picks can be hot together the final six weeks of the season.