Like every manager in the history of the game, I love to tinker with batting orders. So much can happen between now and Opening Day, but when it is below freezing it is as good a time as any to think of what Terry Collins’ lineup could be this summer.
Collins is on record with Ruben Tejada in the leadoff slot, but I’m suggesting a different direction.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis had limited success last season when he first arrived, but pitchers figured him out. I’d like to give Nieuwenhuis the chance to lead off because he initially demonstrated patience and the ability to slap the ball around and run when he firs arrived. If he can rediscover that and become more disciplined he could develop into a good leadoff hitter, and since we’re thinking long-term let’s give it a try because there’s an upside with Nieuwenhuis hitting first.
Tejada would hit second because he has good bat control, knows how to work a pitcher and can bunt. All are ideal for a No. 2 hitter. Tejada can also hit-and-run and steal a base. If Tejada can do all those things, it could get a running game going with Nieuwenhuis. If Nieuwenhuis doesn’t pan out as a leadoff hitter, Tejada would go back to the top. Let’s give it a month.
Your best hitter, defined as the combination of average and power, hits third and that’s David Wright. Figuring Nieuwenhuis and Tejada work out at the top he should get RBI opportunities.
Ike Davis hits fourth because of his power potential. His presence batting clean-up– when he’s hot – should help protect Wright. I want two things from Davis this year: 1) discipline to cut down on his strikeouts and increase his walks, and 2) learn to go to the opposite field. Doing that would force pitchers to pitch to him, thereby making him more dangerous.
Fifth goes to Daniel Murphy because it gives him more RBI opportunities. Murphy is arguably the Mets’ most patient hitter with a high on-base potential. Because of that, I would be tempted to lead him off, but there wouldn’t be much of a running game. Murphy at five also separates strikeout machines Davis and Lucas Duda.
Six is a dilemma between Duda and John Buck. I went with Buck because I didn’t want to go with three consecutive left-handed hitters. Whether Duda bats sixth or seventh, he has no real protection, but splitting the lefties has a greater upside.
At seventh, Duda still has RBI opportunities with Davis and Murphy on base ahead of him. As with Davis, Duda’s success depends upon patience and not giving away at-bats. Collins said Duda has the power to hit 40, which is true. But, he has no chance if he’s still chasing breaking balls in the dirt.
Mike Baxter is eighth because he’s all that’s left and I’m not ready to go Tony La Russa and bat the pitcher there. My hope with Baxter is he’ll get on enough to clear the pitcher’s spot.
Ninth, of course, is the pitcher.