Imagine that you are a Major League Baseball manager. You wake up in the morning, go to your office at the ballpark and begin to fill out the lineup card for today’s game. Conventional wisdom says that you should bunch your best hitters toward the top of the lineup. You decide to “Buck” the trend. You place two of your best hitters at the top of the lineup and then put one of your worst performers in the three hole. Behind him you place the best power hitter in the game. Does this seem logical to you?

Well, it is exactly what the Mets have been doing this season. Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil are two of the Mets’ best hitters. Nimmo is an elite on base percentage guy and McNeil is a batting champion. Pete Alonso, the number four hitter, is the best power bat in the game today. Wedged in between them is Francisco Lindor. Increasingly evident is that the $310M the Mets are spending on Lindor is a waste of money. This year he is among the worst performers in the game. A harbinger of things to come from last year was that he left 293 men on base. This year he is on a pace to beat even that abysmal record.

This year Lindor’s batting average on balls in play is .236. His career average is .291, which is not that great to begin with. His OPS last year was .788 – not great, but not terrible. His OPS this year: .691, which is terrible. Consequently, he has been the perpetrator of more fizzled-out rallies than any player in the game. This evaluation, of course, is by the eye test. There is no particular statistic that would measure such a statement. But Lindor’s performance at the dish this year has been awful. The Mets’ offense has been very spotty this year, and Lindor’s presence in the most important position in the lineup is why.

One simple measure of Lindor’s decline this year is to divide his total bases by his plate appearances. Lifetime, Lindor has 2,094 Total Bases over 4,997 Plate Appearances. That’s a .419 lifetime percentage. This year: 94 Total Bases on 257 Plate Appearances – .366. I like this measure because it rewards both power and walks. For comparison, Pete Alonso has a lifetime .466 TB/PA, 1,167 Total Bases on 2,506 Plate Appearances. This season Alonso is perfectly consistent with his lifetime average: .464 (117 TB on 252 PA’s.) For historical context, the all-time MLB leader in Total Bases is Hank Aaron. His TB/PA is .492, derived from 6,856 TB on 13,941 PA’s. Lindor’s .366 TB/PA is 53 points lower than his lifetime average of .419 – and it shows. If Lindor can straighten himself out and prove that he deserves to be higher up in the batting order, then – and only then – should he be the three hitter.

On the flip-side, he has played exceedingly well in the field, notwithstanding yesterday’s flub. A shortstop with his glove stays on the field, but he does not hit in the three hole. The Mets would be better served to put him down further in the lineup, perhaps seven or eight. They excelled last year because the combination of Nimmo and Starling Marte (who hit in the two hole most of the season) at the top of the lineup. Marte, who has been hurt for much this year, would still be a better fit at the top of the lineup. My suggestion would be to put him back in the two hole and make McNeil the three hitter. Alonso would still hit in the four spot and either Brett Baty or Francisco Alvarez would be the five/six (lefty/righty). I would put Mark Vientos seven – against both lefties and righties. Lindor would be the eighth and Mark Cahna would hit ninth.

By the way, isn’t it about time that the Mets move on from SNL Alum “Chris Farley” as the primary DH? His .671 OPS, 2 HRs and 14 RBIs are embarrassing. He has 35 TB on 135 PA’s. That’s an unbelievably poor .259 TB/PA. Clear the roster space and bring up Ronny Mauricio. Making that roster move adds speed, a fielder and power. Billy Eppler made two awful moves at last year’s trade deadline. They have already moved on from Darrin Ruf. It’s time to admit that Vogelbach was also a mistake.

Lastly, I know I am going to take flack for using TB/PA throughout this article. I am not the first to suggest its use and I am not sure why it hasn’t gotten more traction as a handy/simple way to measure a batter’s worth. If the main goal of a batter is to make a trip around the bases, then using a metric that rewards both power and a good eye at the plate makes sense to me. The only thing it doesn’t reward/account for is sacrifice flies/bunts – I suppose if you were to subtract those from the plate appearances they could be accounted for.

The game’s greatest players are all in Hank Aaron’s zip code in terms of TB/PA. Willie Mays: 6080/12545 (.485). Ted Williams: 4884/9792 (.499). Babe Ruth is astonishing: 5793/10627 (.545). Mike Trout: 3099/6409 (.484). These are lifetime statistics. This gives me comfort that the TB/PA is an accurate measure of a batter’s value.

5 comments on “On batting Francisco Lindor third in the order

  • Brian Joura

    There are so many metrics available to rate offensive production that I don’t understand why you would use something different. In order for a new metric to have utility, it needs to tell us something we don’t know or be easier than what’s currently available. I can go to any website and get OPS or go to a specific website and get more advanced numbers, like wRC+. For TB/PA, is it showing me something that OPS doesn’t? Because when I have to look up TB and then look up PA and then divide them – it’s certainly not easier than OPS

  • Name

    SLG is TB/AB.
    TB/PA actually devalues walks because PA = AB + BB + HBP + Sacs. You noted in the article of the negative affect on sacs and walks have the same effect on the value.

  • MikeW

    Any way you look at it, Lindor is having a bad year at the plate. Maybe he will turn it around.

    Now, we have just DFAd a real slugger in Nido. It was the right move.

    I agree about Vogelbach. Mauricio deserves a real shot.

  • NYM6986

    Interesting article and Lindor needs more than a day off. I’d hesitate to drop him in the order and get him less at bats. Someone needs to work with him ASAP. Bye bye Nido, wish you would had hit better because you would have made a good backup catcher. Vogelbach gets a little more time with Mauricio spraining an ankle, but he’s got to go too. We need an infusion of offense. No one is really ripping the cover off the ball, save for Alonso and an occasional explosion from Canha or Pham. Losing is getting old.

  • Metsense

    At this point, Lindor should be batting 5th. The fifth position is a RBI position and Lindor is 15th in MLB in RBIs. It also is a power position and Lindor is 39th in home runs and 30th in doubles. He isn’t ” among the worst performers in the game”. He is 6th in UZR and 15th in DRS.
    Batting Baty 5th is the real crime and sitting Escobar. Pham and Canha are playing better right now than Vientos. I’m not saying bury Baty ,Vientos and Vogelbach on the bench. I’m saying go with the hot hands because the Mets need offense desperately.
    At the time of the trades, what evidence do you have that the trades were “awful moves”? At the time, Ruf and Vogelbach were better than JD and Holderman and they were to fill a need.
    This article makes absolute statements without justification.

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