This New York Mets season has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, with the team holding a tight grip on first place for a majority of the season early on, and then falling to multiple games behind in the division in the month of August.
As of late, the Mets have been as good as ever, pouring on 13 runs in a recent game against the gutted Washington Nationals. The usual star players have been underperforming as a whole this season, giving way to “bench mob” players like Kevin Pillar and Jonathan Villar to shine.
Typically in baseball, whenever possible, managers will choose to have hitters face opposite-handed pitchers. If the Mets opponent is a right-hander, manager Luis Rojas will likely choose to start players like Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil over other right-handed-hitting options on the bench.
Dominic Smith has been no exception to the trend of Mets star players underperforming, hitting only .247 this season, in comparison to his former batting averages of years past (.299 on average the previous two seasons).
The reason for this is that hitters are supposed to have an advantage against opposite-handed pitching. As a casual baseball player myself, the reason for this has to do with a longer amount of time to react when the ball is coming across from the opposite-handed pitcher as well as breaking ball pitches, like sliders and curveballs being “less nasty” in that they will curve towards you rather than away. Appledivisionbaseball.com states that batters facing opposite-handed pitching have an easier time recognizing the release point of the ball out of the pitcher’s hand.
Obviously, this is all personal preference but numbers don’t lie, and historically players have more success against opposite-handed pitching. It is even more difficult for left-handed hitters to hit left-handed pitchers considering lefties are less common and therefore they will have had less experience facing them.
This is where Dominic Smith comes in. Smith, a left-handed hitter, despite having faced more right-handed pitching (300 at-bats) than left this year (117 at-bats), has crushed same-handed left-handed pitching in comparison to right-handed. Against left-handed pitching, Smith has an OPS of .834. Against right-handed pitching, his OPS is .608, over .200 difference.
Despite the oddity of it, Luis Rojas may be best off platooning Dominic Smith against left-handed pitching from here on out, or until circumstances call for another change.
The Mets roster, believe it or not, is one of the deepest in baseball. With Kevin Pillar swinging a hot bat, Nimmo now a staple center fielder, and other options being former all-stars Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, the Mets outfield is as stacked as ever, a good problem to have.
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Now in the home stretch of the season, it will be interesting to see if the Mets can continue their hot streak, and see if Dominic Smith can continue his consistent success against same-handed left-handed pitching, a total anomaly.