At this point in the Mets’ season, we know what they are.
This is a very good, even great team with above average players at nearly every important position. There’s a healthy mix of the high-paid stars, B- and C-tier players who turn losses into wins, and bottom-of-the-roster guys who fully understand their role.
Moving forward, one of the only things left to learn about the Mets is how their newly formed platoons will work out. Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf are set to share the designated hitter position based on the other team’s starting pitcher, and Tyler Naquin and Mark Canha will do a similar thing in left field. With one playing so well all year and the other one struggling, manager Buck Showalter can also play around with his deployments of Luis Guillorme and Eduardo Escobar at third base.
“The schedule each day kind of dictates it,” Showalter said of his lineups. “It’s one thing to have something you want to take advantage of, you also have to play enough to deliver that.”
Showalter said that one thing general manager Billy Eppler has been very adamant about is keeping an element of versatility on the roster. It’s not just that the Mets have a lot of capable players now, it’s that they have ones that also complement each other or add value to a hyper-specific part of the game.
“You’re also trying to attack bullpens too,” Showalter included. He used three pinch hitters against Atlanta’s bullpen on Friday. Two of them (Darin Ruf and Eduardo Escobar) succeeded in their roles as lefty tormentors, driving in runs off Braves’ southpaw Dylan Lee.
“It’s kind of in the eye of the beholder, how you weigh certain things. If you want to go just by batting average, or if you want to go by eight other evaluation tools.”
It also makes sense, at least from the outside, for new players to get acclimated to the rigors of New York by being part of a platoon rather than getting thrown to the wolves every day.
“You try to put yourself in their shoes and think about what challenges they face moving from San Francisco, Pittsburgh, wherever,” Showalter said. “It’s a different gig.”
The Mets’ propensity for sharing information amongst themselves is a nice way for the recently traded guys to feel welcome. During any given game, hitters can usually be seen standing at the mouth of the dugout after their at-bat, talking with a hand over their mouth as they relay information to the next guy. That willingness to help each other out is something that Showalter said has been in place since spring training and many of the assistant coaches deserve credit for fostering that kind of culture.
“It’s kind of a verification of what you’re looking for,” Showalter explained. “There’s things we go over in the pregame hitters’ meetings. Without getting into all the different things, you’re really looking for the verification of what you thought was going to be the case.”
Vogelbach has immediately become a major part of this Mets team. His presence in the clubhouse certainly does not go unnoticed, as there doesn’t seem to be a single teammate that Vogelbach doesn’t want to talk to. A .333/.474/.600 slash line (1.074 OPS) to begin his Mets’ career makes him much more likable as well, and Showalter has been astounded by his league-low 32.3% swing percentage.
“That requires a lot of discipline,” Showalter said, while noting that his problem was always putting too many balls in play weakly. “When you have that type of power and that ability to hit balls where they can’t catch them, you’d think that would lead to wanting to swing more.”
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Aside from the balls he watches, Showalter has also taken notice of the ones he swings at that land outside the white lines.
“Some of his foul balls and where he hits them, people aren’t hitting balls there,” Showalter marveled, referencing a specific one at Nationals Park. “I’m not talking, necessarily, about distance. You couldn’t stand at home plate and hit a ball up there with a fungo. Those are things that entertain me during a game.”
Before Vogelbach started this home run barrage, Max Scherzer had been playfully making fun of him for being a “singles hitter” and openly wondering where his much-ballyhooed power was.
“Vogey and Max [Scherzer] conversing is always entertaining.” Showalter snortled. “If I was Jimmy Fallon or one of those late night guys, I’d get those guys and just set them there on the set. You’d get a lot of, what do you call it, when they bleep stuff out?”
Showalter loves transportation. Earlier in the season, he spent part of his pregame press conference talking about how he prefers Cookie Monster to be the voice of his GPS app. He also has a near obsessive habit of talking about parking, making it clear that the experience of coming to a Met game also includes finding a reasonable place to leave a car.
On Friday, he was going down a similar train of thought when he shared some information about a Mets’ reliever and his adventures on the road.
“Joely [Rodriguez] got bumped from behind,” Showalter said. “He was late yesterday because he got in a little fender bender coming in here.”