With Travis d’Arnaud set to return from Las Vagas today when the Mets take on the Swingin’ A’s at Citi Field, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez of SNY discussed in the top of the 3rd inning of Sunday’s win against the Marlins some potential ways the Mets and Terry Collins could go about constructing the lineup to maximize the offense and produce more runs without so much power.
I had originally wanted to focus specifically on how Keith would construct it under certain circumstances, but the entire conversation the two had was so interesting that the majority of it will be included below.
Firstly, Keith and Gary were talking Curtis Granderson and where he best fits in the lineup. Keith said he likes Grandy up in the order, 1 or 2 depending on whether Eric Young, Jr. is in the lineup. When discussing Travis d’Arnaud‘s return, Keith said he feels they should put him middle of the order where someone could protect him, and I, for one, couldn’t agree more on both accounts regarding Curtis and Travis.
“Take a chance on a role that (Travis) is coming back in a rhythm, he’s red-hot, and put him there, and that could just get him on his way.”
Gary began asking him questions on how Keith would go about putting the lineup together, also under the auspices that Terry keeps batting the pitcher, sans Bartolo Colon, in the 8-hole.
Keith: I think you gotta keep Duda in the cleanup spot. I’d put d’Arnaud in the 5-hole…’Here, son, you’re back. You’re red-hot. You’re in the 5-hole.’
Gary: So…but if you’ve got Granderson hitting 2nd behind Young, then-
Keith: We’ve got Lagares. That doesn’t necessarily mean Young’s gotta hit up in the order. You could lead off Lagares, hit Granderson 2, or vice versa.
Gary: But then you got Murphy and Wright 3 and 4.
Keith: That’s the key right there. I like Murphy in the 3-hole.
The Mets then scored their 3rd run on a David Wright sac fly, scoring Curtis, so moments later, they picked back up their conversation.
Keith: I’m kinda monkeying around with potential lineups, Gary, when d’Arnaud and Lagares come back. If…the pitcher hitting 8 gives you lots of positives, and lots of, you know, there’s a downside of it, too.
Keith: We’ve discussed it.
Gary: What I’m thinking is…and tell me if I’m wrong, with the lineup, with the pieces the Mets have right now, particularly if you want to bat Granderson in the top part of the batting order, they’re probably better off hitting Young 9th, and having the pitcher bat 8th.
Keith: Yes! That’s my point. And then you’re gonna suffer down in the lower end with Tejada or Flores hitting in the 7th position…do you stick Duda there to protect d’Arnaud? My feeling is d’Arnaud was too much of a valuable property, and I would try to make…Duda’s gonna do what Duda’s gonna do. And he’s got a good eye, he’s patient. I think if Tejada or Flores are hitting behind him, he’s not going to be happy about that, but at least he has the patience to take pitches and take a walk. d’Arnaud, we want to, the Mets want to get him going, and Duda, the left-handed bat behind him, I think he’ll get more pitches to hit. So, I’m looking at either Granderson, Lagares, or Lagares, Granderson, Murphy, Wright, d’Arnaud, Duda, Tejada or Flores, pitcher, Eric Young…It’s all what makes baseball so beautiful, all this…I’m sure Terry Collins has been very much ahead on this and thinking it over, uh, quite a bit. What his options are, and what he feels is gonna be best. It’ll be very curious to see what he decides upon. ‘Cause ultimately, Terry is the one that’s gonna be making the lineup out.
Gary: He’s got a bigger scratch pad than you do. But I’m sure he’s been tinkering with these things in his mind for a while. The interesting part to me is the Murphy piece. Because we’ve talked about this a lot. When Murphy first came up, he self-identified as a 3-hitter-
Gary: But now, he’s really changed, to where he really doesn’t feel comfortable in the 3rd hole.
Keith: Do you know what Murphy hitting in the 3rd hole would mean? We know that Murph could hit left-handers, we know that he could hit in the clutch…he’s been the best hitter on this ballclub the whole season. He’s a solid line-drive hitter. With (Eric) Young hitting 9th and 2 extra- 2, 3 fast guys in front, he can drive in 100 runs! I would WELCOME that!
Gary: Well, it’s funny because if you do go with the pitcher batting 8th, then when you’re hitting 3rd in the order, sometimes it’s like you’re hitting cleanup.
Keith: Right. Agreed. I mean, conceivably, you could, ’cause of the 9th hole being a player, you could keep Wright in the 3rd hole and hit Murph in the 4th. It’s not a power-hitting team!
Gary: And I think that’s the point, is that at some point, you have to recognize who you are. The Mets have tried to add power to this team, signing Granderson for the long-term, they brought in Chris Young who they thought would add power, but the fact of the matter is they’re next to last in the National League in home runs. They’re not going to be a power-hitting team. And I think that being able to accept that and try to put together a bunch of line-drive hitters that can produce runs, that-
Keith: I will harken back to the 1982 Cardinals. Even though that team had a lot more speed, still had line-drive hitters, astroturf, and they did quite fine.
Gary: And this is a team that has shown they can draw walks. I mean, they lead the league in walks, they have base runners, now the question is how do you drive them in?
Keith: And Lagares can hit-and-run. He needs to work on that ’cause he’s comfortable with hitting-and-running, I’ve seen him do it. And he just needs to hone that skill….that’s an enormous weapon. He goes the other way naturally, he’s a line-drive hitter, and you do it when he’s red-hot, and he’s feeling good at the plate, makes things happen. And you tell Daniel Murphy whether he’s in the 3rd hole or the 4th hole , “Hey, look. We don’t want you doing ANYTHING differently than what you do in the 2-hole! You drive in runs in the 2-hole. What’s the difference whether you’re in the 3-hole?”
The 3 biggest items to come out of the convo was Grandy’s role, Travis’s spot and Murphy in the 3-hole.
Starting with Curtis, I would agree to keep him higher up. Based on the numbers over his career, he is most dynamic in the 1 or 2 spots and the Mets should forget the idea that he needs to be a middle-of-the-order bat.
Next, wholeheartedly agree to protect d’Arnaud by putting him in the 5-hole, or just NOT hitting the pitcher behind him. We have been saying this here at Rising Apple since the beginning of the season, and hopefully Terry finally recognizes that you are doing no favors to Travis’s evolution by batting him just ahead of the pitcher.
Lastly, the Murphy one is very interesting. In his current hitting incarnation, Murphy does profile as a 3-hitter in a lineup without much power, and all the points made by Keith and Gary are right on.
The Mets have not been able to generate the type of offense that wins ballgames over the course of a full season for a while now. Taking some of these pointers from the best broadcasting team in baseball might just help alter their course.