The Mets have seen some unlikely heroes the past few games. We’ve seen some over-the-hill guys and balsa-wood bats go deep and while it’s been incredibly fun to watch, it’s also made some folks lose all perspective and make some crazy comments. The same people who were cheering because the Mets were supposedly making contact and hitting the ball the other way are now going crazy over guys who have hit HR lately but who have done almost nothing else entirely. And why have they changed their tune? Why else – because they’re veterans and they’ve heard their names before, even if they don’t know the context.
You hear some variant of – “it’s great to have these guys on your bench rather than some untested rookie.” Aaron Altherr, Rajai Davis, Carlos Gomez and Adeiny Hechavarria have combined to hit four homers in the past week. That’s awesome! I love homers and those guys have come through with the long ball. But that quartet is also a combined 11-63 in a Mets uniform. If that doesn’t seem so hot, you’re absolutely right. That’s a .175 AVG. So, which one is more likely to continue in the future from this foursome – great power or a sub-replacement level AVG?
Altherr has been released by two teams this year and in the last two years has a .167 AVG with 9 HR in 318 PA.
Davis is on his fourth team in the last three years and has a .232 AVG with 7 HR in 590 PA.
Gomez is on his third team in the last three years and is batting .230 with 27 HR in 860 PA.
Hechavarria is on his fifth team in the last four years and is batting .244 with 18 HR in 1242 PA.
These guys have bounced around because teams recognize they’re not good enough to keep. This quartet has a combined recent production of 43 HR in 3,010 PA. That’s a HR every 1.4% of the time they come to the plate. The MLB average this year for all hitters is to hit a HR in 3.5% of their trips to the batter’s box. Our quartet’s 4 HR in 70 PA with the Mets works out to a HR in every 5.7% of their trips to the plate. Do you really think that pace is going to continue? And what happens when they stop hitting HR at this week’s pace but continue to get hits and walks at their pace of the last few seasons?
Well, essentially you have four guys hitting like the recently-released Keon Broxton.
In 2014, the Mets had a 20 year old come up and bat .220 with 3 HR in 66 PA. That’s 45 more points of AVG and one fewer HR than our veteran quartet that everyone loves so much right now in an extremely similar sample. But just about no one was excited about our youngster’s production that season. And he started the next year in the minors, came down with a shoulder injury and has been trying to establish himself in the majors ever since.
If you didn’t figure out who that youngster was, that guy is now back with the Mets in Triple-A – Dilson Herrera. And Herrera is actually getting some game time in the outfield now, at age 25. Like our veteran quartet, Brodie Van Wagenen brought in Herrera because of a lack of upper level prospects in the farm pipeline. In the past few years the Mets have sent Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Tomas Nido, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to the majors, so they don’t have a ton of guys in the upper minors ready to step up and contribute.
But ask yourself this: If Luis Guillorme, Herrera, Braxton Lee and David Thompson – all guys age 25 or younger at Triple-A Syracuse with minimal or no experience in the show came up to the majors instead of our veteran quartet – do you think they would be capable of going 11-63?
I wouldn’t want to wager on it. Let’s be honest – Lee and Thompson are hitting a smidge below that in Triple-A and it’s unlikely their hitting would improve against MLB pitching. But it wouldn’t be a total shock for Guillorme and Herrera to string together some hits in a small sample. And our quartet has 11 HR in the minors, so it’s not like they’re completely devoid of power.
Let’s say our 25 and younger quartet came up and went 9-63 with 2 HR, instead. Would anyone be singing their praises? You’re kidding yourself if you answer yes. Everyone would be saying things like – These guys stink! This is why you can’t trust rookies and have to use veterans!
But the point that everyone should keep in the front of their mind is that our veteran quartet has not been good at all. They have two things going for them. One, is that they bunched four homers together in a short period of time so everyone glosses over the fact that those are 36% of their total hits, while the MLB average this year is for homers to be 16% of your hits. Two, the Mets don’t have a reasonable alternative younger than 30 with the possible exception of Herrera.
In Triple-A, Herrera has an .893 OPS in 133 PA. Compare that to Hechavarria (.828 in 102), Davis (.747 in 132) and Gomez (.829 in 140). But Herrera can’t play SS and has just 84 innings of experience in the OF. He deserved the promotion based on his bat but his position justifiably kept him in the minors. If Herrera had signed with a team like the Cubs or Rockies or Marlins who desperately need a 2B, perhaps he’d be in the show now. Sometimes life isn’t fair.
But while life tends to be fickle and unjust, we as individuals should aim to be better than that. If you’re going to criticize Sandy Alderson’s power approach and embrace making contact and hitting the other way, don’t turn around and praise four old guys who happen to hit a HR in the same week just because they have MLB experience and you recognize their name.