Mets: Rene Rivera’s scorching pace a pleasant surprise for the team
Veteran catcher has exceeded all expectations thus far at the plate.
They say you’re never too old to learn and Rene Rivera might be a perfect embodiment of that statement. In his ninth season in the majors, Rivera has been one of the most consistent hitters for the Mets, and maybe the biggest pleasant surprise in an otherwise disappointing year to date.
Rivera has played in 22 games for the Mets and is hitting .324 through 71 at-bats. Granted it’s not a large sample size, but consider this: Rivera is sitting at a batting average north of .300 for the first time in the Majors since 2006. He is also on a 10-game hitting streak, the longest by a Mets catcher since 2007.
What’s the secret to Rivera’s sudden success? Just to the eyes it looks like his swing has better timing and the statistics bear out the type of contact he’s making. Rivera’s hard contact numbers are up six percent over his career average and he’s hitting more line drives. Even on his home run on Tuesday, when he was a little out in front, Rivera still launched it out at a 103 MPH exit velocity.
Not much else has changed. Rivera is still seeing near the same pitches per plate appearance this season (3.77) as he has over his career (3.71). He isn’t going to draw any walks or work the count much. Rivera has three free passes this year and 71 in 421 major league games.
Another aspect worth noting is the fact that Rivera has seen the lowest percentage of fastballs in his career this season. Rivera has been thrown a fastball 46.6% of the time and he’s facing more sliders this year (26.9%) according to Fangraphs.
Rivera was expected to be a defensive minded catcher that could serve as a back-up to Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard’s personal backstop. With both aforementioned guys on the shelf due to injury, Rivera has taken on a much larger role and has flourished in the early going. So much so that d’Arnaud may get less playing time when he’s ready to return.
Next: Mets injured starters embark on their return
It’s hard to envision a career .220 hitter suddenly flipping the switch over an entire season. However, if Rivera manages to keep anywhere close to this pace then he’ll provide some much needed consistency at the back half of the lineup in more appearances than most envisioned before the year commenced.