Jed Lowrie has yet to suit up for a game, exhibition or otherwise, for the New York Mets. When he does return, what kind of impact could he have?
The New York Mets seem to have a lineup that is functioning at its highest capacity or near it. There are no identifiable “easy” outs or players that will not battle to provide a tough at-bat for the opposing pitcher, however, the addition of Jed Lowrie can truly balance the lineup for long-term stability.
It might seem counterproductive to remove Pete Alonso, one of the Mets best early season hitters, from the second spot in the lineup. Yet, if Lowrie is placed there and then Alonso is used in between Robinson Cano and Michael Conforto, the two lefties would be separated, leaving them less susceptible to opposing bullpens. Another advantage of this would be for Alonso to see more left-handed pitchers due to this exact same lineup position.
This lineup is deeper as compared to the current iterations. The bottom third would be Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, and the pitcher’s spot. One could argue that this is not only significantly deep but a proper blend of veterans and young players to provide their manager with versatility. Lowrie could also move to second base to spell Cano or shortstop in relief of Rosario, as Luis Guillorme would likely head to Syracuse.
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Combined with McNeil’s versatility, Lowrie will provide Mickey Callaway with a plethora of opportunities to get an assortment of players their playing time. Keon Broxton or Juan Lagares can slot into center field, while Brandon Nimmo slides to left field, and McNeil or J.D. Davis patrols third base, depending on the respective matchup. Todd Frazier will also find much playing time around the infield, as he is even testing out shortstop in rehab assignments.
Lowrie is an excellent source of OBP and since receiving a significant eye surgery in 2017, he has registered two OBP’s above .350 and an OPS+ well above 100, the line of demarcation, for both seasons. OPS+ seeks to combine on base and slugging percentages more accurately, thus succeeding in that category is a major plus. These last two seasons have arguably been two of the most productive of his career and thus he will be a major asset to the Mets.
A well-balanced lineup should have a basic structure of two or so players that readily reach base followed three to four batters that can drive them in, especially via the home run. At the bottom of the order, a team should have two to three batters that can still work the count and be legitimate threats, so that a pitcher has no respite. The vital importance of thoughtful, patient hitters in the first two slots is that they will force a pitcher to throw strikes and therefore he is laboring from the outset, while also displaying his entire arsenal for the middle of the order to see.
Therefore, selective hitters with power like Cano, Alonso, and Conforto can gauge what he is throwing when they face him. Of course, this is not a uniform process that is successful with every turn through the lineup. Yet, it is successful enough for a lineup to be structured this way.
The concept behind this is that a team wants to give it best and most powerful hitters a chance to hit their doubles, triples, and home runs with men on base. All the while, these middle of the order batters still have the ability to manipulate counts and cause a pitcher to labor. Thus, Lowrie’s importance in the two-hole is not simply to balance the lineup in terms of handedness, but also in terms of ability. The odds are the players that find their way on base more often will score more often when the best home run hitters bat with them on base.
For example, the Astros in 2017 had George Springer and Alex Bregman ahead of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. The 2018 Red Sox batted Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi in front of J.D. Martinez and Xander Boegarts. While both teams had powerful leadoff hitters, the general trend consisted of batters with high on-base percentages in front of batters with high slugging percentages. The Phillies are following that trend this year, with Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura starting off for Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto, as will the Mets upon Lowrie’s return.
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Specific batting orders aside, Lowrie’s return, although not imminent, will be impactful in both production and versatility.