Posted by Ernest Dove at 10:00 AM
Game one is upon us!!!!!!! And as the Mets (and the fans/media) battle each other online in conversations about who should start, pitch, relieve and make it we still have one Wilmer Flores. After all the apparent hardships starting day one with Wilmer manning shortstop, being traded.....well almost traded.....then a burst which includes an April homer binge, and a late .300 BA stretch........then we enter the most important time in Mets baseball in 9 years and Wilmer gets strep throat......wait what?
Amongst everything else we now can discuss the role of Wilmer in the postseason. From starting second baseman, to starting shortstop, to a (non) platoon type role sharing short with Tejada, to recent reports of Wilmer being "out of gas" in late September, to back spasms to his throat. What else can possibly go wrong with the young cult hero of the Metsies?
As we've discussed (argued) amongst ourselves about the role we want for the 22 year old Michael Conforto in the playoffs, we now find ourselves possibly wondering how Wilmer can best be used at this point at all, let alone in the upcoming NLDS. Lets start with some stats..................
Ruben (Rodney) Tejada was apparently already anointed to everyday starting shortstop to start the postseason even before the recent throat thing for Wilmer. And, based on the world famous art of the 'Small Sample', we see that Tejada is 5 for 14 all time against Clayton Kershaw, with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts. Wilmer is 3 for 6 with an RBI and a strikeout against Kershaw. (He's 3 for 8 against Greinke).
Well, since both Mets players here are right handed batters, I won't spend the extra research on any splits in general vs righty/lefty pitchers. Especially when it comes to these tow often punching bags of the Mets. So let's get right down to it, shall we? In his last 29 games, Tejada is hitting .297, with a .357 OBP, a .406 SLG and a .773 OPS. Tejada, as well as know, is the better defensive shortstop.
And regardless of who plays/starts at second base in the NLDS for Mets the fact remains that the person over there will be at best an average to below average player defensively at that position. And if, from I'm hearing is being reported, one Michael Cuddyer will be the starting left fielder, that in my opinion again further puts into my mind the need for Wilmer to be in the field. But where does all this leave Wilmer?
Once the trade deadlines were over and done with, and especially since September call ups, Terry Collins has had the luxury of mix and matching everybody through the games and within each game. This includes plenty of times where Lagares can come in for defense, and Tejeda could also join him in the field for the late innings as needed. But it's now playoff time. First time in almost a decade for the Mets. Juan Uribe doesn't seem to be available as an extra solid above average glove in the field. And then there's also the simple fact that Juan Uribe is a right handed hitter. With him gone, the Mets are going to need some solid bench pieces to come into crucial situations in the late innings and go for the big hit.
However, I was able to dig up a little random stats for ya....... Basically, based on wonder stats, Wilmer is at his best when batting between the 4th and 6th innings, where in 189 plate appearances he is hitting .309 with a .339 OBP, .541 SLG and a .880 OPS. Those number pretty much fall right off the table in the other 6 innings, which obviously include the late innings. But can Wilmer still somehow be considered clutch?
Maybe he has a flare for the dramatic (ok, i'll stop there and not make any emotion showing comments). I did notice that 43 of Wilmer's 59 RBIs this year have come with RISP. He's also hit a respectable .286 for the year in this situation. Heck, he's even 6-14 with the bases loaded, so he's not afraid up there at the plate regardless of situation. Hey, here's a fun stat for the fancy stat lovers out there......... Wilmer, in 118 plate appearances of what baseball reference has listed as 'high leverage' situations, Wilmer has 9 strikeouts.........9.........and his BABIP is only at .237. Sooooo hey, maybe he's had some bad luck, and now's a good a time as any to have some balls drop a little more often.
Either way, starter or bench player, it still seems a little confusing about what Mets will really do with Flores. With the team entering such important games, they are publically stating their desire to go with their big horses, regardless of their splits. This means that Daniel Murphy is lined up to face the lefty Kershaw despite his poor season overall against lefties. Murph is hitting only .254 with one home run against lefties this season. Although Murph, again small sample size, is 3 for 10 against Kershaw with a very impressive ZERO strikeouts.
So, lost weight or not, Wilmer Flores may ultimately be the number one go to righty off the bench for this team in the postseason (at least when a lefty is on the mound to start a game which causes Cuddyer to apparently be in the game from the jump over Conforto).
And, in my opinion, I'm ok with all of this. Wilmer Flores one way or another definitely deserves to be on the playoff roster. His fielding has improved. He has had some hot streaks in him offensively, although perhaps I'm a little worried about the lack of overall power numbers, specifically homers, these past few months. But I believe he can come through in the clutch. And I also believe that you simply can't take Tejada out of the starting lineup right now, due to not only his fielding but his hitting. And Tejeda also knows how to walk so easily slot him right in for that 8th spot in the lineup and trust that he won't swing at bad pitches and take the pass as often as given.
But I was wondering what everyone else's thoughts are here? Do you believe in Wilmer's defensive improvements enough to want him starting? Do you believe he will show power again in the brightest of lights here in October? Is he the right handed bat you're excited about seeing in the 8th-9th inning of a tie game? Can Mets try to go on a game by game basis with Wilmer and Tejada and try to judge/evaluate/guess who is hot and who is not in just a 5 game series? Let me know.