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Tipsheet: Pressure mounts on slumping Lindor as Mets sputter

Tipsheet: Pressure mounts on slumping Lindor as Mets sputter

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Mets fire hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant Tom Slater

FILE - In this Sunday, April 18, 2021 file photo, New York Mets' Francisco Lindor grounds out against Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela in the first inning of a baseball game in Denver. Francisco Lindor's contract negotiations with the Mets seemed pretty smooth. His swing certainly has not. The $341 million star shortstop entered Wednesday, April 28, 2021 batting .212 with three RBIs through 18 games with his new team and started hearing boos Tuesday night at Citi Field after grounding out late in a 2-1 loss to Boston. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman shares some eye-popping stats about Cards shortstop Paul DeJong, celebrates Topanga’s 40th birthday and, as always, chooses a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented Monday-Friday by The Milliken Hand Rehabilitation Center.

High-priced New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor is squirming under the Big Apple spotlight.

He has been hearing boos from the Mets’ not-so-faithful. Lindor has never felt such rejection before at this level.

He had another rough night Monday, going 0-for-4 with a walk, two strikeouts and six men left on base as his batting average sank to .163.

Lindor has not been producing like a $341 million ballplayer.

Not coincidentally, the Mets fired hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant hitting coach Tom Slater after the team’s 6-5 loss to the Cardinals. Hugh Quattlebaum is the new hitting coach and Kevin Howard will assist him.

“Our job is to support the players and put them in a position to succeed as a baseball operations group and we just felt the players needed a different level of support and maybe some different skills brought into the mix,” general manager Zack Scott said after the game.

Before the game, manager Luis Rojas defended his deployment of the slumping Lindor in the No. 2 slot in the batting order.

“This guy is a star, not only for his bat, he’s a star for everything else he does,” Rojas said. “Do we think his bat will come along? Yes, we think his bat will come along.”

Not surprisingly, Lindor appears to be trying to do too much at the plate.

“I have been seeing him try to pull sometimes, forcing to pull the ball instead of naturally pulling,” Rojas said. “There’s been some pitches middle/away to away that he’s tried to pull and he just can’t get there and it turned into weak grounders, because he has to throw his hands, he can’t reach out there.

“I don’t know if he’s going for the [home run] result, but he wants to pull the ball in the air or he’s tried to pull the ball in the air.”

Writing for Baseball Prospectus, Shaker Samman had this take on Lindor:

Through 103 plate appearances, only four qualified batters are hitting for a worse average than his .163, and only one has a worse slugging. If more advanced metrics are your game, his isolated power is less than a third of what it was in last year’s COVID-shortened season, and nearly a fifth of what it was in 2019, his last full season with Cleveland. And if you rely on the eye test, look no further than this: only twice in 23 games this season has Lindor tallied more than a single hit. He’s reached base more than once six times. He’s struck out more than once thrice.

When the Mets traded for and then extended Lindor, the belief was that he’d be their missing piece; a dominant hitter that could finally help deliver the run support that Jacob deGrom and co. had desperately needed in previous seasons. It’s still early. Despite having an 11-12 record, New York sits just a half-game out of the NL East lead, and PECOTA still projects them as favorites to win the division.  A $341 million, 10-year contract extension brings different kinds of expectations, none of which Lindor is currently meeting.

A subpar 2020 season can largely be written off—Lindor wasn’t alone in having a strange few months. But it’s 2021 now, and the 27-year-old shortstop has played more like he did last season than he did from 2017-2019, when he was one of the best batters in the American league. There’s still plenty of time to turn things around. The lights aren’t going out yet. But as we saw tonight, sometimes, they do so without warning.

TALKIN’ BASEBALL

Here is what folks have been writing about Our National Pastime:

Matt Snyder, CBSSports.com: “The Dodgers started the season 13-2 and looked every bit like a historically-good team at the time. The offense was great, the rotation was both elite and deep and the bullpen had so many late-inning options it was getting scary. Their only losses were a funky opening-day bout in Coors Field and an extra-innings loss to the A's.  At that point, it was reasonable to start thinking big. Huge, in fact. No, not based solely upon the record. We know teams get hot during the course of 162 games. This team was already projected by every reputable outlet to win well more than 100 games. The gambling total (also known as the ‘over/under’) was 103.5 and I took the over. A team this talented and deep playing without the pressure of needing that elusive World Series title? C'mon, that's a great bet.  After they spotted themselves that 13-2 start, that meant we could lay our eyes on the record. That is, the 2001 Mariners' single-season 116-win record. After all, the Mariners didn't win their 13th game until they had four losses.” 

Alden Gonzalez, ESPN.com: “When the season began at the start of April, the Los Angeles Dodgers possessed what could only be described as an excess of quality pitching. It was an embarrassment of riches; an overindulgence of their sport's most valuable resource. By the third day of May, they suddenly didn't have enough of it. This is not an indictment of the Dodgers so much as it is a glaring example of pitching's fragility, further exacerbated by the unprecedented innings jump after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season that still vexes most of the industry. When Dustin May opted to have season-ending Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, the Dodgers were left with four healthy starting pitchers. David Price is rehabbing a hamstring strain that will probably keep him out through the end of the month. Tony Gonsolin, who has been on the injured list since the first week of April, is only starting to get built back up as a starting pitcher. Josiah Gray, arguably the organization's most promising prospect, is still too inexperienced to be considered a viable option. And Jimmy Nelson, eighth on the starting-pitching depth chart when the season began, is helping out a bullpen that is still navigating the absence of high-leverage relievers Joe Kelly, Brusdar Gaterol and Corey Knebel.”

Will Leitch, MLB.com: “Good luck making heads or tails out of the NL East at this point. Just when you’re ready to write off the Nationals, they’re in first place and you’re not sure how that possibly happened. But the one thing the metrics all agree on is that the Marlins are a lot better than their record is showing right now. They’re the only team in the division with a positive run differential, and, in fact, no one else in the division is particularly close. (Fun fact: Heading into Monday, the Orioles had a better run differential than every non-Marlins team in the NL East.) Unfortunately for Miami, that run differential has been distributed in a way that has them five games under .500. The good news is that if they can crawl their way back to .500, in this division, that might just get them to first place.”

Bob Nightengale, USA Today: “Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker has witnessed just about everything imaginable in the 5,627 games he has managed and played in his baseball career, but beginning at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday when he boards the team bus from their New York midtown hotel, he’s bracing for an atmosphere of loathe and hatred. ‘It is,’ Baker said, ‘going to be wild.’ This is the first time the Astros are visiting New York since their infamous cheating scandal from their 2017 World Series championship team was publicly exposed, and, certainly no one in the five New York boroughs have forgotten, much less the 49 other states. The Astros have been taunted, booed and cursed wherever they’ve gone on the road this season. In Los Angeles, Angel fans tossed inflatable and actual garbage cans onto the field, as a reminder that the Astros banged on trash cans to signal which pitches were coming to their hitters at the plate. Well, now that they’re at Yankee Stadium for a three-game series, that hostility is about to go to Defcon 1.”

MEGAPHONE

“That’s the main focus, to get [Christian Yelich] and myself back in the lineup and do everything possible to make sure we are healthy. It’s definitely been a rocky start for me, starting in Spring Training and then the regular season, as far as health-wise. I feel like I’m constantly playing catch-up, but once my number is called I’m going to go out there with the boys and play some ballgames, and be consistent through the rest of the year.”

Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain, on his return to active duty.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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