The New and Improved Michael Cuddyer

michael Cuddyer

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Michael Cuddyer. You may recognize the name from someone you knew back in June or July, but this is in fact somebody else entirely.

It appears that a 3-week-long DL stint was exactly what Michael Cuddyer needed to finally get his season on track.

During Sunday’s 5-4 win against the Boston Red Sox, Cuddyer started in left field and finished 3-for-3 with three singles, two runs scored, a walk, and the go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning.

“He’s an outstanding player and he’s a pro, and that’s why we got him,” Terry Collins said. “We brought him in here to be that kind of a player. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

Since returning from the Disabled List on August 10 to the less-than-open arms of many Mets fans–myself included–Cuddyer has hit .375 (27-for-69) including three 3-hit games, four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI in 17 games.

He also has just six strikeouts over the span, good for a rate of 11.6%, compared to 23.4% this season prior to his absence.

It’s not like his success can be attributed solely to having the pressure taken off of him by moving down in the lineup, or to always having a big bat behind him as protection (though these days it feels like every Met is hitting in front of a Silver Slugger). Cuddyer has hit in each of the four, five, six, and seven spots in the lineup since his injury, in addition to six pinch hit appearances.

Cuddyer looks to finally be as healthy as he ever will be at 36-years old and is showing that down the stretch, he can be exactly what the team expected him to be this season. That is, a veteran leader who isn’t going to play every day, but can be relied upon to have great at-bats, produce a high average when he does play, make up for a lack of speed with very intelligent baserunning, and not hurt the team defensively.

Cuddyer is probably the 5th or 6th best hitter on this team when everyone is healthy. Though his contract may contradict that, with the Mets playing like they have been this past month, they don’t need any more than that from him; Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, and a healthy Lucas Duda can take care of the middle of the lineup on most days. He has become a glorified role player for the Mets, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Because in the paraphrased words of Lt. James Gordon in The Dark Knight, Michael Cuddyer is the player New York deserves, but not the one it needs right now. This Michael Cuddyer won’t be competing for any batting titles or hitting 30 home runs this year. But he will put his head down, grind out his at-bats, and be yet another cog in the very dangerous machine we call the New York Mets.

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