Saturday, June 8, 2013

Time For The Mets To Switch Things Up

Unless you've been spending the first few months of the 2013 season in seclusion, you know that the Mets are off to a less-than-spectacular start.  Through 56 games, the Mets have a disappointing 23-33 record.  The only teams in baseball that are more than ten games under .500 are the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros and Miami Marlins.

One of the reasons for the Mets' poor start is their inability to hit.  New York ranks 29th of 30 teams in batting average, with only the Marlins (.227) possessing a lower team batting average than the Mets' .228 mark.

The Mets' lack of success at the plate is more noticeable when two statistics are considered.  New York's right-handed batters are hitting .225 versus right-handed pitchers and their left-handed batters hit a mere .210 against southpaws.  Ordinarily, a team would combat this by employing a switch-hitter or two.  That way, there would be more lefty-righty matchups, which have traditionally favored the hitters.  There's only one problem with that.  The Mets don't have any switch-hitters.  And it's not like they have many switch-hitting options in the minors, either.

Last of the Mohicans?  Not really.  But Andres Torres was the last switch-hitter to bat for the Mets.

New York's current 40-man roster does not feature any switch-hitters.  But wait, there's more.  Their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas had only one switch-hitter on the roster.  However, that dually skilled hitter (catcher Landon Powell) was only batting .159 in 82 plate appearances and was released today.  The Mets also have just one player who bats from both sides of the plate at AA-Binghamton.  But switch-hitting second baseman Daniel Muno is only hitting .217 in a team-leading 241 plate appearances.

Unless the Mets make a trade for a switch-hitter, it does not appear as if they will have one on the major league roster at any point this year.  The only other season in which the Mets did not have a single at-bat credited to a switch-hitter was 1964, almost half a century ago.

In late inning situations, opposing teams usually have left-handed pitchers available to face lefty hitters.  Similarly, they use right-handed relievers against right-handed hitters.  But with the Mets not having any switch-hitters on their active roster, they're forced to use their bench players or keep their starters in the game for a unfavorable hitting matchup.

An average starting pitcher can go about six innings.  Therefore, innings six through eight are usually reserved for tiring starters and/or middle relievers.  Any batter should be able to hit a tiring starter.  Likewise, a switch-hitter would have no problem against a middle reliever because he can bat from either side of the plate.  So how are the Mets doing at the plate in innings six through eight?  They're hitting a paltry .211 in those innings with a .273 on-base percentage - numbers that are considerably lower than their overall figures (.228 batting average, .295 OBP).  Makes you wonder if those numbers would look better if the Mets had a couple of switch-hitters in their employ who could foil potential lefty-lefty and righty-righty matchups in the later innings.

When constructing a roster, teams always try to have a lefty or two in the bullpen.  The Mets currently have two such pitchers in Robert Carson and Scott Rice.  But teams should also have their share of switch-hitters on the roster.  The Mets have zip, zilch, nada.  Their inability to send a switch-hitter up to the plate in the late innings has made them very vulnerable against an opponent's bullpen.  That makes it exceedingly difficult for them to erase late-inning deficits.  (The Mets have been outscored, 97-71, from the sixth through the eighth innings.)

The Mets need many things.  They need a dependable bullpen.  They need better outfielders.  They need to clone Matt Harvey.  But one thing they also need is a switch-hitter.  After all, they already have a bullpen (sort of).  They have outfielders (or guys who play outfielders on TV).  They even have a Matt Harvey (and his achy breaky back).  But they don’t have a switch-hitter.  It’s time for the Mets to switch things up if they want to fix that gaping hole on the active roster.

No comments: