Posted by Reese Kaplan at 10:30 AM
A lot can be said about Terry Collins’ lineup construction (and not much of it very good). He’s seemingly of the mindset that bunting is an unforgivable sin, the leadoff guy must be the stolen base leader on the team, whomever bats second must play 2nd base, and all rookies must be banished to the 8th slot in the lineup with no protection because setting them up to succeed, well, it just doesn’t seem to make sense to him.
Let’s pretend for a moment that we had a real leader who actually managed games with the idea of trying to win them. Well, maybe that's not a fair assessment, but looking at how he manages the games and his career record as a loser (a below .500 record – fact, not opinion), perhaps we can see how the Mets might better utilize the flawed talent they have on their roster in the construction of a more effective lineup.
Many sabermetric studies have been done to suggest you want your best contact hitters up in the 1 and 2 slots of the lineup as they are going to come to the plate most often and you want them on base as much as possible to set the table for the RBI guys who follow. Towards that end it doesn’t necessarily follow that an Eric Young type whose only skill was stealing bases made for the best leadoff option. Similarly, you don’t necessarily look to put your best bunter 2nd even if you had a manager who understands what the concept of a bunt is. The two mirror images of one another in this regard are Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores, guys who spray the ball to all fields, hit doubles frequently, rarely strike out and who get on base. Flores has and edge over Murphy in power but Murphy has the edge when it comes to stealing bases. I’d go with Murphy leading off and Flores batting second.
The third spot in the order should go to the best overall hitter in terms of OBP, batting average, RBI production and power. In his prime without a doubt that player is David Wright. One can only hope that with a winter (plus) to recover he will recapture some of what he used to deliver while playing at Shea.
The fourth spot in the lineup should be reserved for your bopper – the guy you want up when runs need to be produced. Without a doubt based upon last season that would be big Lucas Duda. He led the team in home runs, RBIs and OBP. While he’s a bit anemic when it comes to lefty pitchers, he is the prototype of what you want when you need someone to push runs across the plate.
The fifth spot should go to a cleanup hitter alternative. Now you could make a case for any of three hitters here. I would advocate the role belongs initially to Michael Cuddyer. He was brought in as a professional hitter who at various times has eclipsed 30 HRs and 100 RBIs as well as a .300 average. However, his overall career numbers are not quite that stellar. His 162 game average is a respectable .279 with 21 HRs and 86 RBIs while getting on base at a decent .347 clip.
The sixth spot is the man most likely to ascend to the 5th spot in the order, catcher Travis d’Arnaud. He showed the power and hitting consistency in his return visit from Las Vegas that made him a top prospect when he was obtained in the R.A. Dickey trade. As he continues to develop, he may show increased power and OBP capability that could surpass Cuddyer on the down side of his career arc.
The seventh spot goes to the expensive left fielder who has power but not much else in his offensive arsenal. Last year Curtis Granderson delivered but 20 HRs and 66 RBIs to go along with 141 strikeouts, a .227 average and a .326 OBP. He used to steal some bases but he hasn’t really been much of a threat since 2011. As he ages, that part of his game is probably in decline permanently.
Batting eighth would ironically be the guy who, after Lucas Duda, probably made the biggest offensive improvement from 2013 to 2014, Juan Lagares. His batting average increased from .242 to .281 and his stolen base total went up from 6 to 13. He has stolen as many as 25 in a minor league season, so it’s possible he’ll continue to develop in that regard. Those things are all good. What’s not so good is his pace to K over 100 times which is very bad for a singles hitter. His career OBP in the minors is .322, matching his .321 from last season. While I applaud the strides he’s made as a batter, you can’t afford to keep giving away ABs at the top of the order with arguably (next to Granderson) your least effective hitter. Minimize the damage by giving him as few opportunities as possible.
So here’s the final projected lineup I would use. Note I'm not in favor of the pure L/R alternating batters approach, but rather the right people in the right position:
Of course, I don’t expect this lineup to materialize. More likely it’s more of the same:
What’s your ideal lineup given the cards that we’ve been dealt?