Thursday, June 8, 2023

Newsletter Excerpt, June 8, 2023 -- "NL East Notes"


This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider.

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New York Mets

Is it time to worry a little bit about Francisco Lindor?

The shortstop has been a different player with the Mets, still valuable, to be sure, but less than what he was in Cleveland. Lindor, to pick one nit, has yet to make an NL All-Star team, after making the AL team in all four of his full seasons with the -dians. He’s lost a small step defensively, with last year his worst per both Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average, with a bounceback in 2023. He’s not the baserunner or basestealer that he was in Cleveland, running less often and at a lower success rate. His 2021 campaign, his first in Queens, was the worst of his career by bWAR, 2020 aside, and his 2023 season is shaping up as his second-worst.

The biggest problem is at the plate, where Lindor is making the same swing decisions while getting worse results.

The Change

              Sw%    OSw%   ZSw%        
Pre-Mets     48.3    32.4   70.3    
With Mets    47.7    32.1   70.9

              Ct%    OCt%   ZCt%        
Pre-Mets     84.2    73.3   91.1       
With Mets    78.1    64.8   87.0

That’s a lot of numbers, I know. The first chart shows that Lindor, since coming to the Mets, is making almost all the same choices he made as a -dian: Swinging about as much overall, and at the same rates at pitches both inside and outside the strike zone.

The second chart shows that he’s not getting the bat to the ball when he swings. He’s not hitting the ball when he chases and, perhaps more concerning, when he gets a strike to hit. Lindor was once one of the best in the game at hitting strikes, and now he’s just another guy. His 2023 zone contact rate of 86.9% is middle of the pack for qualified hitters. This year, he has by far the highest swinging-strike rate, 11.3%, of his career. Pitchers are noticing; Lindor is seeing more pitches in the zone than he has since 2019.

Lindor’s batted-ball quality is still good, though not great -- barrel rates and hard-hit rates in the upper half of the league. He’s just not getting to the ball enough, which combined with some bad luck on those batted balls, has him hitting .216. You can squint and see some bad luck, but open your eyes and you see there’s some real loss in skills here that have to be a worry for a Mets team tied to Lindor through 2031.