In his first year as the manager of the New York Mets, Luis Rojas needs to bring an American League mindset to the field.
Like the rest of the National League, the New York Mets are playing under different rules than they have in the past. Rather than seeing their pitchers come to the plate once every nine batters, the NL has adopted the designated hitter for the 2020 season.
It’s old news and by now you’ve already seen what an everyday lineup with a DH looks like.
What is new is how manager Luis Rojas handles his in-game decisions. The rookie skipper is getting his first chance to direct a game from the dugout and in doing so he has to change his mindset from the National League to the American League.
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The main difference between the two leagues has been the use of a DH which causes a change to how managers handle bullpens. In the traditional NL, there are double-switches and pitching changes with the consideration of when his spot in the order comes up again.
Under AL rules, pitchers can go a little longer without the worry of having to pinch-hit for anybody.
The mentality is different between the leagues under normal circumstances. Games in the NL always felt more like a game of chess while AL matches were closer to tic tac toe where you just go through the motions and eventually find a winner.
Rojas became the Mets’ manager believing he would have the tough decisions of a typical NL manager. Instead, he’ll have to approach this season a little differently.
There aren’t major changes. One thing I would like to see is the consistent use of relievers for at least a full inning. Depending on the reliever, some are more readily available based on the number of innings they go while others are drained by just appearing in a game. Rojas will need to learn what works best for each of them individually and find the best balance. He must not overuse the guys who seem to flail in the wind when they don’t get enough rest.
For the position players, I like how Rojas has been able to implement NL tactics we usually see. Defensive replacements can help the Mets from blowing a few games and maybe even occasionally steal one along the way.
In a 60-game season, there’s little time to second-guess or try new things. This isn’t the season where you want to outsmart everyone else. The best way to win is to outplay them with everything you have.
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An American League mindset with some National League strategies could help the Mets remain a serious contender this year. As I believe we’ll all discover on a regular basis, all bets are off in this sprint to the 2020 World Series.