When the New York Mets made Francisco Lindor the richest shortstop in history, it understandably came with high expectations. Though he was coming off a down year, Lindor had established enough of a track record to be deemed arguably the best all around shortstop in the majors. 17 games into the season and things aren’t exactly going as planned. With a startling lack of offensive production, some Mets fans are getting anxious with their new star, but is it justified? Was Lindor’s lukewarm 2020 a premonition of things to come, or is his cold bat just a typical early season slump?
A History of Slumps
The first thing that, ironically, should ease some concerns is that Lindor has a history of starting off slow. Even in his best, MVP worthy seasons, the month of April is always unkind to him.
In his career, his April slash line is .265/.340/.446 with a 91 tOPS+. In 2018, his statistically best season, Lindor was slashing .245/.331/.409 (73 tOPS+) in April. He wound up finishing 2018 slashing .277/.352/.519 (132 OPS+).
In May, Lindor should, like he always has, get a nice bump. His .309/.380/.529 (119 tOPS+) slash line that month should serve as a reminder of what’s to come for Mets fans. That said, there’s obviously no way of knowing if this trend will continue this May.
As for why all this happens, who knows. Maybe Lindor just naturally takes longer to get fully stretched out. Or maybe Mr. Smile can’t start hitting until the May sun comes out.
A Typical Slump?
So does this mean Lindor’s current slump is nothing to worry about? Maybe. It’s hard to tell, because while his April struggles are well documented, he’s far exceeding those struggles this year.
At no point in his career has he ever started off as poorly as right now. Hitting .210/.324/.274 (72 OPS+), he’s only recorded 13 hits on the season.
However, assigning all the blame solely on Lindor is a little unfair. For one thing he’s showing a good eye at the plate, having only been punched out eight times in 75 plate appearances. That’s good for a career-best 10.7% strikeout rate. Similarly, he’s also walking more than ever with 10 free passes so far (13.3% walk rate).
Likewise, anyone who’s been watching him this year knows that no matter which direction he goes, he’s hitting the ball right at defenders. A .222 BABIP accentuates just how unlucky Lindor has been this year when putting the ball in play.
It’s also not as if he is hitting the ball softly. His 39.3% hard hit rate and 88.5 mph average exit velocity are a touch lower than normal, but for all intents and purposes are about in line with his usual marks.
What can be placed on Lindor is his complete lack of solid contact. Though he’s hitting the ball hard, he’s failing to get any sort of lift on it.
Right now, his average launch angle of 9.9 degrees is nearly five degrees lower than last season. He’s also producing a career-worst 1.8% barrel rate, further highlighting just how poor his contact has been. The result is a career high groundball rate of 50% and only two extra base hits.
Don’t Push the Panic Button Yet
At the end of the day, here is everything that can be deduced as of now. Lindor always plays his worst baseball in April, but his current April production is still worse than ever. Lindor always performs exceptionally well in May, but this doesn’t guarantee he’ll reach those heights this year.
Still, for arguments sake, if Lindor does end up producing the worst offensive season of his career, that doesn’t mean the Mets should try and trade him right away. With 10 more years left on his contract, Lindor will have plenty of time to make some adjustments and get back on course. In all likelihood, he’ll probably make those adjustments before this current season ends.
2021 may very well end up being the worst offensive season of Lindor’s career. However, Mets fans will need to see more than just 17 games to come to that conclusion.
Featured Image Courtesy of Mark Brown/Getty Images
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