Will Mets’ hitting coach changes fix slow start for Francisco Lindor, offensive struggles?
Coming into the 2021 MLB season, there was a lot of optimism surrounding the Mets. The team sported one of the better-looking starting rotations in baseball and the lineup, bolstered by the trade for Francisco Lindor, looked like it had the potential to become a powerful one. However, the team’s offense has failed to live up to expectations through 23 games and that led the Mets to make an early change to their coaching staff.
After their 6-5 loss to the Cardinals on Monday night, the Mets decided to part ways with both of their hitting coaches, Chili Davis and Tom Slater. Davis had been with the Mets since 2019 while Slater had been a part of the team since ’18.
There are countless reasons that the Mets made this move, but chief among them may be the struggles of Lindor. The team surrendered a massive trade package, headlined by shortstop Amed Rosario and speedy infield prospect Andres Gimenez, to acquire Lindor in the offseason and signed him to a 10-year deal worth $341 million.
Entering play Tuesday, Lindor is hitting a paltry .163 on the season, which ranks 161st in MLB out of 167 qualified batters. Even worse, Lindor himself is only on pace for seven homers this year. That would mark a career-low for him even with MLB’s 60-game season in 2020, during which he hit eight homers. Overall, his slugging percentage is only better than the perennially power-light Elvis Andrus.
Lindor’s problems are a microcosm of the larger issue with the Mets. So far this season, the Mets have averaged a mere 3.3 runs per game. That’s a full run below the league average of 4.33 per game and ranks ahead of only the lowly 8-21 Tigers (2.72 runs per game). However, it’s not for a lack of opportunity. The Mets have averaged 3.57 runners left in scoring position per game, the sixth-highest mark in MLB. They’ve had their chances. They just haven’t converted, evidenced by the team’s .209 average with runners in scoring position, which ranks 29th in MLB.
That has been one issue that has dogged Davis’ teams throughout his career as a hitting coach. While his teams have generally hit well in terms of average and slugging, they have largely struggled with runners in scoring position. That’s part of the reason why he lasted just one year with the Cubs and why the Red Sox decided to part ways with him after a three-year stint as their team’s hitting coach.
The Mets will hope that the departures of Davis and Slater jumpstart the Mets offense after a two-plus year roller coaster of up-and-down results. Charged with turning the offense around will be minor league director of hitting development Hugh Quattlebaum, who will be the new hitting coach, and director of player development/former major leaguer Kevin Howard, the new assistant hitting coach.
New York’s new-look offensive tandem will get its first chance to help the team put up some runs Tuesday in another game against the Cardinals. They’ll look to get ace Jacob deGrom some run support, something that hasn’t happened much this year. They are averaging just 2.6 runs per game when the two-time Cy Young Award winner takes the hill. That’s the main reason why they’re 2-3 when deGrom pitches despite his sterling 0.51 ERA.
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