Monday Mets: The Jekyll and Hyde Start For Yoenis Cespedes

The Mets got off to a hot start this year, and statistics would seem to suggest that they did it without the help of their star outfielder, Yoenis Cespedes. A deeper look at the numbers though, reveals that there are two sides to this story.

Many people chalked up the beginning of the Mets season to good pitching and timely hitting. Despite winning 11 of their first 12 games, the team never really dominated their opponents; but they won, so who cares, right? It didn’t seem to matter why they were winning, as long as they were consistently outscoring their opponents. Well, now that they’ve lost 5 of their last 8 games, people are looking for the source of the rut.

At first glance, it seems that some of the responsibility for this slump could fall on the impressively large shoulders of the team’s leftfielder. Cespedes’ season has gotten off to a rough start. Twenty games into the year and he is still batting below the Mendoza Line. Even uglier, he has 37 K’s in his first 82 AB’s. In other words, Cespedes is striking out almost every other time he steps up to the plate. That’s even worse than 2017 Aaron Judge numbers (yes, I know, Judge was awesome last year, but for the sake of this story, let’s remember that the dude struck out way more than a lot). His OPS so far this year is .612. For comparison, light-hitting (and that’s generous) Kansas City Royals shortstop, Alcides Escobar, had a .629 OPS last season. In short, yuck. In shorter, ew.

“But wait, that can’t be,” is what anyone watching the Mets closely would say. Cespedes has had some huge hits so far this year, most recently a game-winning single in the 12th inning of the Mets victory over the Braves on Saturday night. And this is where the numbers get fun (if you’re into that sort of thing)…

So far this year, here’s how Cespedes is doing in the following situations:

  • With nobody on and nobody out – Cespedes is batting .083 (1-12) with a HR
  • With runners in scoring position – Cespedes is batting .348 (8-23), with a .966 OPS (he has 4 walks to go with his 8 hits), a HR and 14 RBI’s (or RBI, if you want to be that way)
  • With RISP and 2 outs – Cespedes is batting .556 (5-9), with a 1.489 OPS, 1 HR and 9 RBI’s

In other words, the Mets have depended on timely hitting in the first few weeks of the season, and nobody’s hitting has been timelier than that of Yoenis Cespedes.

Then again, while “nobody on and nobody out” might not be the sexiest of batting situations, it is rather important. The past two series against the Nationals and the Braves respectively, revealed what the team looks like when their hitting isn’t timely. Mets fans recognize this hitting from last year, which is angst-inducing.

As valuable as it is for the lineup’s focal point to come through in the clutch, there are times when the team will need him to get the rally started as opposed to putting the finishing touches on it. After two straight relatively lackluster series for this lineup, that time may just be now.