Right before the start of the season, a story was posted here about the top 10 worries for the Mets. One of those was that Wilson Ramos would suffer another drop in SLG. Unfortunately, that one has turned out to be true here in the early going of 2020. After posting a .483 SLG in the three years before joining the Mets, Ramos notched a .416 mark last season. And right now he has a .214 mark. Ramos isn’t hitting at all, going 5-28, but he carries a woeful .036 ISO, one of three players with at least 5 PA on the club to not have a triple-digit ISO and easily the worst mark on the team.
Surprisingly, what’s keeping Ramos from getting more flack has been his defensive work here in the early going. There were offseason reports of how Ramos was going to adopt a one-knee-on-the-ground approach when no runners were on base in an effort to get the low strike called better. It’s beyond the scope of this piece to determine if that’s actually been helpful but it should be noted that Mets pitchers have done significantly better with Ramos behind the plate than with either Tomas Nido or Rene Rivera. Mets pitchers have a .710 OPS allowed with Ramos and a .797 OPS overall. And one of the non-Ramos starts was a game by Jacob deGrom. Pitchers have a 3.45 K/BB ratio with Ramos behind the plate and a 1.44 mark with Nido/Rivera.
Even Ramos’ throwing in the running game, which had to be one of the biggest disappointments about his defensive work last season, looks improved from a year ago. He’s already caught one guy stealing and thrown out another runner who tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt which was not technically a stolen base chance. His throws to the bases are on target and are not bouncing like they were in 2019.
As with all numbers after just nine games, we’re talking about tiny samples that can change drastically in just a few days. Regardless, it’s nice to see Ramos’ work with the pitchers here in the early going when there were definitely concerns about his defensive work. Hopefully, the hits will start falling in for him soon and perhaps his power will revert back to his pre-Mets days.
TOP OF THE ORDER STRUGGLES – In the Boston series at Citi Field, everyone was disgusted about how the Mets couldn’t get a timely hit. But what’s been going on for much longer than those two games is the lack of production at the top of the order. With the Mets seeing so many lefties start for the other team, Luis Rojas has insisted on batting Amed Rosario and his lifetime .305 OBP coming into the season as the team’s leadoff hitter. That move has worked out even worse than expected, as Rosario is 4-24 with no walks when he bats first in a game. That’s a .167 OBP and a .459 OPS. Numerous players have batted second for the Mets but the club has just a .678 OPS from what should be one of the most productive spots in the lineup. Pete Alonso has done particularly bad when slotted here, as he’s 1-12 with 4 Ks when batting second.
Rojas would be best served by batting Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil one-two in the order, regardless of the handedness the other team’s starter and the invitation to use a LOOGY in the middle to late innings. Nimmo has a .366 lifetime OBP against LHP while McNeil has an .811 OPS lifetime versus southpaws.
CANO ANSWERS THE DOUBTERS – Few people were high on Robinson Cano at the start of the 2020 season. While you’ll have no trouble finding people who were optimistic about him when the trade first happened, last year’s dismal season caused virtually all of those people to jump ship. And after getting off to a poor start in the first series against the Braves, Cano has been on fire here lately. In his last five games, he’s 10-17 with two doubles and a homer. Overall, Cano has a .393/.438/.571 line. It’s like someone switched the batting lines for Cano and Alonso. It will be wonderful if Cano can be a productive member of the offense all season long. However, everyone looks good when the hits are falling in and Cano stands with a .400 BABIP.
IS IT TIME TO MAKE A MOVE AT DH? – Most fans were happy with the news that the NL would utilize the DH in this shortened season, as it would give the club a chance to get Yoenis Cespedes’ bat in the lineup. Cespedes homered on Opening Day and we all had visions of great things from him. Woops. In 34 PA, Cespedes has just five hits and a .161 AVG. And it’s more than just bad luck, as he has an unsightly 44.1 K%, with 15 Ks. The announcers talk about how the bat speed is still there. But it’s fair to wonder if Cespedes is adopting the old “swing hard in case you make contact” approach. It was unrealistic to expect there to be no bumps in his return to action after missing so much time the past three seasons. But he’s got to make more contact if he expects to keep playing, especially with the team sitting either J.D. Davis (.953 OPS) or Dominic Smith (.889 OPS) in order to play him.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE … – Earlier the team’s inability to come up with the big hit in the Boston series was referenced. And those numbers are contributing to a lousy performance with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) for the Mets. It’s not a lack of chances, as the Mets rank 8th in the majors in PA with RISP. But they’re 15th in Runs and 25th in OPS with RISP. And they’re only that high in Runs due to several teams having played fewer games. The team’s failures so far have been more on the pitching side of things. However, it would be nice to see what life is like on the other side of the RISP coin. With only five more PA with RISP than the Mets, the Padres have scored 47 runs – the Mets have scored 24 – thanks to a 1.147 OPS in this split.