Mets' Reyes could bat third… for a little while

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Mets manager Jerry Manuel has already come up with his first big idea of the spring; he wants to bat usual leadoff man Jose Reyes third, though only until Carlos Beltran returns from knee surgery.
“Reyes, in my opinion, has evolved,” Manuel told the New York Post “I could really stretch our lineup out if he is able to handle that spot.”
By stretching out the lineup, Manuel means he could place his lousier hitters at both the top and bottom of the order, rather than congregate them all in the fifth-through-eighth spots.
Reyes told SNY that he would be OK with the idea:
“Whatever spot he puts me in the lineup, I’m going to be able to do it. Whatever is best for the team, I’m going to do it. So let’s see what happens. He said when Beltran comes back, I’m going to be the leadoff guy again. I don’t know if he’s sure right now. We just talked about it yesterday. He doesn’t know if it’s going to happen or not. He’s going to think about it… He’s the boss. Whatever he says I’ll do it. I just want to be on the field playing baseball.”
I naturally assumed that David Wright, the best OBP guy on the team, would bat third with Beltran sidelined. However, it looks like Manuel still wants him in the fifth spot. As things stand now, this could be the Mets’ Opening Day lineup, along with each player’s career OBP:
1. Angel Pagan – CF – .331
2. Luis Castillo – 2B – .369
3. Jose Reyes – SS – .337
4. Jason Bay – LF – .376
5. David Wright – 3B – .389
6. Jeff Francoeur – RF – .311
7. David Murphy – 1B – .331
8. Omir Santos – C – .290
Reyes’ career mark doesn’t describe the player he is now — he’s been between .350 and .360 each of the last four seasons (including the 36 games last year before he got hurt). But to say that he’s evolved is baffling. He took a huge step forward in 2006, but he hasn’t gotten any better at all since. There’s little if anything to be gained by moving him down to the third spot for a month, and it actually could spell disaster if Reyes thinks it means he should focus more on hitting for power than getting on base.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.