As the NLDS against the Dodgers approaches it looks like Ruben Tejada will be manning shortstop for the Mets at least for Game One against Clayton Kershaw. Tejada has good career numbers against Kershaw with a .357 BA so I have no problem with him starting the series opener, but I have some concerns if the plan is for him to be the starting shortstop for the entire series, and beat writers seem to be hinting that is the case.
There is no hiding the fact that Tejada plays a better defensive shortstop than Wilmer Flores. He has a little more range, is more fluid, and has more Major League experience at the position. The mindset behind putting Tejada at short is that these games against the Dodgers will be pitching duels and bad defense can kill you in the postseason.
While Tejada is always held in higher regard defensively, I have been impressed with the way Flores has manned the position in the latter half of this season. I actually don’t believe there is a major drop off defensively as some feel there is and statistics bears that out.
Ruben Tejada has a fielding percentage of .982 this year while Flores’ is .966. This takes in account the whole season though, and Flores struggled greatly at the position for the first two months. Before May 31, Flores committed 10 errors but has only made 4 more errors the entire rest of the season.
I was actually surprised when I found out that Flores had a slightly better defensive WAR than Tejada this season, finishing with a DWAR of -0.6 as compared to -1.6 for Ruben.
In the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday against the Nationals, we watched the Mets botch a perfect double play opportunity that would cost the Mets the game. Although Daniel Murphy could have fielded that ball more cleanly, he was able to recover quickly enough to flip the ball to Tejada. But with plenty of time to complete the inning-ending double play, Tejada’s throw pulled Lucas Duda off first base and the runner was safe. The next batter Bryce Harper would hit a tie-breaking two run homer.
In the second game of the double header, Matt Harvey fielded a bunt cleanly and threw the ball to second, a double play might have been turned if Tejada did not double clutch, and with the pitcher Max Scherzer busting it down the line there was no play. Now I am not saying that Flores would have made these plays, I am just trying to illustrate that Tejada is no Andrelton Simmons at short.
We watched firsthand what good pitching can do to a lineup when Scherzer no-hit the Mets. The Mets are likely to face Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw for four of the five games if the series gets that far, and runs will be hard to come by.
While Flores has not been hot of late he does have a flare for the dramatic which could help the Mets in these tight ball games. Flores delivered one of the most memorable moments of the season on July 31, when he hit that incredible walk-off homer in the 12th inning to cap a 2-1 victory against the Nationals. I think most of us would rather see Wilmer Flores come to the plate in the eighth with a runner on than Ruben Tejada. Flores has the ability to turn a game around with one swing of the bat and I hope gets the opportunity to do so.
He’s also batted .310 with a .355 on-base percentage and .600 slugging percentage in 100 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season.
A quick view of some situational stats show Flores producing a .740 OPS with 7 homeruns and 34 RBIs in high-leverage situations, while Tejada counters with a .654 OPS, no homeruns and 15 RBIs in those instances.
In 135 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Flores has driven in 43 runs with a .286 batting average and .423 slugging. In 105 plate appearances with RISP, Tejada is batting .233 with a .326 slugging and 24 RBIs.
Additionally, Tejada has posted a .333 average and .688 OPS in seven games against the Dodgers this season, while Flores has appeared in one less game and batted .524 with a 1.123 OPS.
Again I am not saying that Wilmer Flores is a better defensive shortstop than Ruben Tejada, only that the difference isn’t very stark, and that the impact he can have with the bat is worth inserting him in the starting lineup especially with the Mets struggling offensively over the last week of the season.
However it plays out, I hope we get to see some more magic out of our 2015 Eastern Division champions in October. Lets Go Mets!