A week ago, I came across an article by Mike Vorkunov of the Star-Ledger who pointed out that the Mets seemed to have changed their approach at the plate and that the results have been dramatic to say the least.
At the time, he wrote that they are walking less frequently over the last 30 days and have become more aggressive, including swinging at more pitches out of the zone.
More importantly their contact rate has remained nearly the same, while Mets hitters have struck out less often.
When Sandy Alderson fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens, he also made plainly clear that the approach would be the same with Lamar Johnson, but clearly it isn’t, the metrics provide documented evidence of that.
A week after Hudgens was fired and the Mets were mired in a losing streak, Alderson was quick to say I told you so, referring to his comments that changing the hitting coach won’t change much.
“The conclusion I would draw at this stage, consistent with what I suggested at the time we made the change, is sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” Alderson said. “It doesn’t mean there won’t be some change in the future that one can measure. But, at this point, we haven’t seen an uptick.”
Guess what Mr. Alderson, we have an uptick and the Mets are winning.
On-Base Plus Slugging
- Lucas Duda – With Hudgens .710, With Johnson .949
- Curtis Granderson – With Hudgens .695, With Johnson .821
- Ruben Tejada – With Hudgens .541, With Johnson .754
- Travis d’Arnaud – With Hudgens .588, With Johnson .715
- David Wright – With Hudgens .753, With Johnson .760
Since Lamar Johnson took over, the maddeningly patient Lucas Duda is now as aggressive as any other point in his career, swinging more frequently than ever on first to third pitch counts. Granderson has become one of the best hitting outfielders in the league, so much so that he’s now batting leadoff and flourishing there. Wright has been hitting the ball with more authority and Tejada has found his stroke and his .379 on-base percentage is second-best among all shortstops.
I recall one of our readers commenting during a game thread after Lucas Duda hit an opposite field home run on a 1-1 that was outside the strike zone. “Hudgens would’ve said that was a bad swing.”
He posted a link to some quotes from Hudgens that included what he preaches to all his hitters and cited an incident that took place with second basemen Daniel Murphy.
He snatched a piece of paper and drew a plate. The surface is 17 inches wide. He shaved off the outer two inches on each side. He tells his players, in general, they hit .200 on those outer edges. “We want to hit these 13 inches in the middle,” he said.
On Monday night, Daniel Murphy offered at a 1-1 changeup on the outside. The pitch was probably a strike. No matter. When Murphy came back to the dugout, Hudgens pulled him aside for a refresher course in “the one area he needs to make progress on.”
“He will get some hits on that (pitch) — because he’s a good hitter,” Hudgens said. “But he’s not going to do any damage on it. And early in the count, 1-1 is early, you want damage.”
I believe Hudgens had the team dwelling too much on the science of hitting and putting undue pressure on all of them. Our hitters – young and old – began to doubt themselves as hitters and were now questioning if they got this far as major leaguers just by being lucky and not because they were good.
Most of their confidence was shattered. Don’t take it from me, listen to the last three months of what former batting champion Keith Hernandez has been saying.
“This team has become too defensive up there, too tentative and too mechanical. No longer relying on pure instinct, every pitch is being mentally processed. Just go up there and hit the bejeezus out of the ball, guys.”
Whenever d’Arnaud is asked how he accounts for his turnaround at the plate, he says clearly that he had to get rid of all the noise that was crammed into his head. He says that he had to take himself back to the hitter he was before he joined the Mets. He had to go back to doing what always made him successful, filter out all the foreign advice, and return to being himself. Asked often to expand on that, he doesn’t. But I think his silence speaks volumes.
The bottom line is that the offense is hitting again. Walking less, but hitting. Taking fewer pitches but hitting. That’s what it’s all about – hitting. They are now back to using their unique talents and their natural instincts and the results plainly speak for themselves.
As Ron Darling pointed out, “These guys don’t care about the science of hitting and the hundreds of different metrics that are out there. These players are athletes and they are driven by their instincts and their competitive nature.”
I seem to recall Dave Hudgens mocking Hernandez and Darling on his way out.
“I won’t miss those guys. I just shake my head at the old-school guys that have it all figured out. ‘Go up there and swing the bat.’ Well, what do you want to swing at? It’s just hilarious, really.”
Not as hilarious as you Mr. Hudgens.