Are Mets Leaning Too Heavy Into Analytics For Lineup Construction?

Are Mets Leaning Too Heavy Into Analytics For Lineup Construction?

By: Frank Schaeffer 

Francisco Lindor is a leadoff hitter.

He bats from both sides of the plate, he can run, he came up in the Indians system as a leadoff hitter. And, more importantly, the numbers prove Lindor has done his best work in the big leagues from the leadoff spot.

During the 2018 and 2019 seasons in Cleveland, Lindor set career highs for home runs (37, 32), runs scored (122, 101), stolen bases (23, 22) and had two of the top three RBI seasons (90, 73) of his career from the leadoff spot (he drove in 78 runs in 2016 with the Indians batting mostly third).

So why then has Lindor only batted leadoff 16 times over four games since joining the Mets in 2021?

And before you say Brandon Nimmo, consider Nimmo has never had double-digit steals in a season. He has stolen just 26 bases and been caught 17 times in his career. Yet, Nimmo has batted leadoff in 524 of 763 career games. Can Nimmo run? Yes. Does speed translate to being a great base stealer? No. Nimmo’s greatest tool is his patience at the plate – the number of pitches he sees per plate appearance – and his ability to hit with two strikes. His career walk percentage is 13 percent, while Lindor’s is 8 percent, and so Nimmo’s career OBP is 38 points higher than Lindor’s in 463 fewer games.

So, one could argue that with Lindor at the top of the order, the threat of him stealing bases would only increase Nimmo’s walk rate or batting average by forcing pitchers to respect his threat to steal. Throw in the new rules implemented last season – namely limits on how often a pitcher can throw over to first base and the pitch clock, and analytics SHOULD dictate that Lindor bat leadoff and Nimmo second.

Lineup construction is of course based on roster construction.

These Mets, outside of Pete Alonso do not have a lot of proven run-producers outside of Alonso and Lindor. But, that by itself is not enough to justify batting Lindor second or third in the lineup. The argument could be made that batting Lindor leadoff could put pressure on opposing defenses and pitchers allowing the Mets lineup to score more runs early in games.

However, the top of the order is not the only issue when it comes to the Mets lineup construction the past couple of seasons.

For all the talk about protecting Alonso, the Polar Bear has hit 40 or more home runs and driven in 118 or more runs in three of his first five seasons. Throwing out the Covid-shortened year of 2020, Alonso just missed those marks in 2021, hitting 37 home runs and driving in 94.

Adding J.D. Martinez will lengthen the Mets lineup, but his addition is not going to make Alonso a 60-home run, 140 RBI guy either.

In a perfect world, lineups that go right-left up and down the order are optimal because it forces pitchers to change their pitch sequences every other hitter. But again, lineup construction is dependent on roster construction. In other words, talent trumps which side people swing from when constructing a lineup.

Perfect example would be the opening series of 2024.

Batting Jeff McNeil and Tyrone Taylor behind Alonso over Francisco Alvarez or even Sterling Marte made no sense, not even by analytic standards. McNeil has 35 plate appearances, Taylor 30 in the clean-up spot in their careers. Neither player has driven in more than 75 runs in a season and that was McNeil once in 2019.

Make no mistake, there is a mentality, an aggressiveness, a clutch gene required to hit in the middle of the order.

It would appear that in trying to “protect” their younger hitters the Mets are stunting their growth at the big-league level. Going back to last season, Francisco Alvarez, Mark Vientos and Brett Baty have mostly occupied the bottom third of the order. All three of these hitters came up through the farm system as run producers who hit in the middle of the order. Suddenly dropping them to the bottom third of the order does not help them be more successful in the big leagues. They get fewer at bats and less “clutch” opportunities to drive in runs.

Either a player is ready or they are not, which is not to say you bring them up and bat them leadoff or cleanup on day 1. But if this is the year the Mets need to find out who is ready and who is not, then at least put players in the best chance to succeed.

And while we are on the subject of best chance to succeed, keeping Zack Short, Joey Wendle and DJ Stewart while sending Vientos to repeat a level he has dominated for two years, is not great roster building.

First, one could argue that Short, Wendle and McNeil are essentially the same type of player. Another argument could be made that Vientos, Baty and Ronnie Mauricio were left at third base and shortstop far too long coming up through the farm system. Neither Baty or Vientos are considered elite defenders at third, and with Mauricio blocked by Lindor at shortstop, he would be far better suited to play third base. Baty and Vientos should have been moved to the outfield or and given reps at first base given the timing of Alonso’s free agency.

Finally, Vientos should be on the roster over Stewart as an extra outfielder with occasional starts at third and first.

And, if President of Baseball Operations David Stearns preferred to keep Short as a right-handed option to McNeil, then Wendle should have been traded or released. Vientos is a serviceable enough outfielder, first baseman, third baseman and DH to have made the opening day roster.

So, the Mets offensive struggles to start the season are two-fold – poor roster construction, leading to poor lineup construction. As it stands, the Mets best lineup would look something like:

SS Lindor

LF Nimmo

1B Alonso

C Alvarez

3B Baty

RF Marte

DH Vientos

2B McNeil

CF Bader


Between Lindor’s threat to steal and Nimmo’s high walk rates, Alonso and eventually Martinez and Alvarez should see more RBI situations. Once J.D. is ready to join the roster, the lineup should look more like below, with Vientos getting his AB’s spelling Baty at third against tough lefties, giving Marte and Bader an occasional day off in the outfield and allowing Alonso to DH for Martinez:


SS Lindor

LF Nimmo

1B Alonso

DH Martinez

  C Alvarez

3B Baty / Vientos

RF Marte / Vientos

2B McNeil

CF Bader


None of this is meant to be overly critical of owner Steven Cohen, Stearns or the analytics department, but it seems the Mets have perhaps bought so deep into analytics, that they are not giving enough weight into the fact that heart and the mentality of where a player bats in the lineup also matters.

And, it may not be long before Acuna and Gilbert play their way into the equation, injecting more youth and energy into the lineup.

That is when players like Short and Taylor will have to be moved. Decisions loom with regard to the future of Alonso and McNeil among others at the trade deadline. And, the return of the switch-hitting Mauricio in 2025 (if healthy enough to return this year, I would put him at triple-A and make him the everyday third baseman in preparation for next season) will also force decisions on Baty and Vientos.

Until then, the Mets should bat Lindor leadoff, Nimmo second, followed by Alonso, Martinez, Alvarez, Baty, Marte, McNeil, Bader – with Gilbert and Acuna replacing McNeil and Bader at the bottom of the order and unless Marte bounces all the way back, giving Vientos the chance to supplant him in RF.

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