Monday, September 5, 2016

Wilmer Flores' Friends Want Him to Play Every Day

Wilmer Flores' new walk-up music is "I'll Be There For You", the theme to the long-running television show, "Friends".  That story seems to have taken over social media for the past 24 hours.  But the real story should be how Flores is making a push to be in the everyday lineup.

Flores had a fine season at the plate in 2015, collecting 22 doubles, 16 homers and 59 RBI to go with a .263 batting average and .408 slugging percentage.  He also made solid contact, striking out just 63 times in 510 plate appearances.  That made him the eighth-toughest person to strike out in the National League.

However, with the Mets' acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera and the trade for Neil Walker, Flores was a man without a position at the start of the 2016 campaign, and his performance suffered as a result of his sporadic play.  On the morning of June 24, Flores was batting .226 with a .357 slugging percentage and a .648 OPS.  He had also started just 31 of the team's first 71 games, and most of those starts came as a result of David Wright's annual injury.  But something clicked as the summer got underway, and Flores has been one of the team's most productive hitters since then.

On June 24, Flores began a four-game stretch in which he reached base eight times and drove in four runs.  A week later, he became the second Met in team history to collect six hits in a game.  That Alfonzian effort kicked off an 11-game stretch in which Flores batted .412 with seven homers and 13 RBI.  And Flores hasn't stopped producing.

Since the middle of June, Flores has hit 14 homers and has 42 RBI.  That production has come in a mere 216 plate appearances.  To put that into perspective, that's more pop and run production than Yoenis Céspedes has had in the same time period with a similar number of plate appearances (Céspedes has 11 HR and 28 RBI in 205 PA).  And since June 24, Flores is batting .296 with a .536 slugging percentage and an .880 OPS.  Even more crazy is the fact that Flores has a .264 BABIP since mid-June and he's still become one of the team's top run producers.  Eventually that low BABIP (an average BABIP is around .300) will even itself out, which means the potential to drive in more runs exists for Flores.

One of the reasons why Flores wasn't starting many games early on was his inability to hit right-handed pitching.  He was mashing left-handed pitching to the tune of a .340 batting average but was struggling to get to the Mendoza Line against right-handed pitchers.  But that lack of success against RHP has begun to change.

In today's game against the Reds, Flores had three hits against Cincinnati right-handed starter Robert Stephenson.  This came less than 24 hours after Flores went 2-for-4 versus the Nationals, collecting a double off starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez and a single off reliever Mat Latos, both of whom are right-handed.  Four days earlier, Flores turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead by clubbing a two-run homer off Marlins starter Jake Esch - also a right-handed pitcher.  The night before that, Flores picked up a double and an RBI single off Miami pitcher Tom Koehler.  And what do you know?  He throws with his right hand as well.

(Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
In fact, Flores hasn't had a hit off a southpaw since August 26, when he hit a grand slam against Phillies starter Adam Morgan.  Since that salami, Flores has reached base 13 times (ten hits, three walks) in eight starts.  All 13 times he's gotten on base, a right-handed pitcher was on the mound.

With Neil Walker out for the season, Asdrubal Cabrera playing through an injury and James Loney struggling to the tune of a .174/.195/.187 slash line since August 9, Flores was bound to get more at-bats.  But even without the less-than-100% infield, Flores has 100% earned the opportunity to start every game for the Mets, regardless of whether the pitcher is a lefty or a righty.

His BABIP is low even with the high production.  His inability to hit right-handed pitchers appears to be a thing of the past.  And his teammates are dropping like flies.  The reason to sit Flores is gone.

Wilmer Flores wants everyone to know that his favorite TV show is "Friends".  Flores should know that he has his own friends in Mets fans who feel his bat should be in the lineup every day.  After all, Flores' bat has certainly been there for us since the beginning of summer.

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