It’s been said that if one comes at an endeavor with a positive outlook, it makes whatever you’re up to that much easier. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, right? Not that playing a baseball game is a drudgery or anything, but there is a school of thought out there – famously espoused by our own Tug McGraw – that if you come into a game with what he called a “red hot frame of mind,” good things generally tend to happen. The converse thought is also valid, that if you’ve got your head down all the time, your production will likely suffer. Of course, in baseball, talent has a lot to do with success and the transactional nature of the sport has a lot to do with a player’s perception: it’s easy to have a sunny outlook when you’re hitting. It’s a chicken-or-egg kind of question, really. Which brings us to Brett Baty.

A little less than a year ago, some joker wrote a piece hoping “the kids” – Baty and Francisco Alvarez – would lead the Mets to a turnaround of their disastrous, very expensive 2023. Spoiler alert: they didn’t. Alvarez, for his part, shook off some early nervousness to put up the power numbers we’d all hoped for, 25 home runs in just 382 at bats, driving his final OPS to its .721 heights. Baty, on the other hand, was never able to get untracked and you could see that was an anchor around his neck. He seemed absolutely overmatched at the plate and that caused an issue on the other side of the ball. His defense at third was one the most discussed shortcomings in a season chock full of ‘em. I had a partial ticket plan in 2023, seats in the lower bowl, basically right behind third, so I got a full-on view of Baty’s slumped shoulders and gritted teeth. I was there at a mid-July game vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers when and easy infield popup landed with a loud thud on the infield dirt behind his left heel as a run scored. You could hear it plug the soil. After that Luis Castillo play, Baty found himself back in Syracuse at the beginning of August, where, away from the bright lights and Gotham scrutiny, he was able to salvage some semblance of the game that garnered him top-prospect status in the first place. He fared a bit better on his return, but still finishing with a dismal .598 OPS. I don’t think anyone welcomed the winter as much as Brett Baty did.

Over the winter, though, something happened. Francisco Lindor invited Baty to train with him for a couple of weeks in Florida, just before the start of spring training. Spending a lot of time working on his game with Mr. Smiles has seemed to restore his enthusiasm for the sport and has commensurately improved his performance on both sides of the ball. Despite the team’s Willie Randolphian 0-5 start to this year, Baty was one of its few shining lights – along with Alvarez, Starling Marte and Sean Manaea. The production is great, of course – he’s third on the team in OPS+ with a 116 and leading the squad with a .327 batting average – but it’s the attitude that’s most impressive. In a win vs. the Kansas City Royals on April 12, he scored the go-ahead run in an eventual 6-1 victory, rapidly clapping his hands as he crossed the plate with an ear-to-ear Brandon Nimmo-style grin on his face. His work with Lindor has also paid benefits on defense, as Baty is showing more confidence afield and more of a willingness to give up the body: it seems like he’s diving for balls a lot more often than last year and actually coming up with them.

Can Baty sustain this production? Probably not to the level we’ve seen in this very early going. It’s baseball: there’s always a slump lurking right around the corner. We’ll have to see if he rebounds from adversity this year as opposed to his total disappearance in the face of it in 2023.

But it sure looks like he’s enjoying himself out there right now and he never looked like that a year ago.

4 comments on “Brett Baty and the power of attitude

  • Jimmy P

    A guess about two days ago everyone in the media decided to talk about Baty and his new attitude and amazing results.

    And while there are some encouraging signs, it’s premature.

    I’m glad about the defense, which has been adequate, and that’s essential. There’s hope that he can be a not-awful 3B.

    Offensively, shrug. He’s been lucky, not really driving the ball, still hitting too many grounders, only one HR and last night’s well-struck double (which should have been caught, that CF was so shallow). Two XBH in 52 PA.

    Encouraging. It gives one hope. But I think all the talk about the new attitude — everyone is talking about it, including Gary, who is pushing that narrative — is just one of those stories that the media gloms onto.

    I’m not saying it won’t be true, or that it can’t be true. But this is April 13th. Pretty sure that he was tearing it up last April 13th, too. I need to see more before I drink that Kool-Aid.

    But wow, wouldn’t it be great if he’s actually a solid, productive 3B working for league minimum? Let’s hope.

    I’ve long felt that Alec Bohm was his upside.

    • CharlieH

      Fair enough, but to my eyes, he just looks like he’s enjoying himself more than he did last year. As Willie Stargell said ages ago, “The ump says ‘Play ball!’ He doesn’t say ‘Work ball.’”

  • BoomBoom

    Great title – love the “power of attitude”

    Definitely passes the eye test. Body language is much more confident and relaxed. He’s being aggressive on defense which has led to better fielding using his instincts / less thinking. And he’s making contact whether hard or not. Good things happen when you put the ball in the play.

  • Jimmy P

    Baty’s “hard hit %” and “barrel rate” are both down from 2023 season, when he was awful.

    His 2024 BABIP is currently at .395; I think last year it was at .280. Career it’s around .300.

    Luck. Some grounders are finding holes.

    He’s a slow, lumbering guy who hits too many ground balls. That BABIP is going to come down.

    I don’t mean to be overly negative about him. He might turn it around and have a great season. But the current narrative has become untethered from reality.

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