What's Wrong With Francisco Lindor?

ALSO: ATLANTA BRAVES GET LOW GRADES FOR APRIL

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Pregame Pepper

Did you know ...

If MLB mandates seven innings for both ends of doubleheaders, pitchers who hold rivals hitless should get credit for a no-hitter [that means you, Madison Bumgarner!] …

On a Cardinals team that features Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, how could Paul DeJong be the top home run hitter? . . .

New York Giants ace Christy Mathewson needed only 67 pitches to beat the Phillies, 3-1, on Apil 23, 1913 . . .

Card prices for up-and-coming Tampa Bay shortstop Wander Franco, still just 20, are going through the roof . . .

Barry Bonds and Brady Anderson are the only major-leaguers to have 50 stolen bases in a season and 50 home runs in a season, though both did it in different years.


Leading Off

What Is Wrong With Francisco Lindor? 

By Ray Kuhn

Spoiler Alert: Nothing

One bad month does not make a career. It does not even make a season. When the month in question is not even a full month, I would opine that there should be even less attention paid to what has not been the introduction Francisco Lindor hoped to make to New York.

The Mets are 19 games into the 2021 season, and Lindor has played in all of them. At this point, there is enough baseball behind us that Lindor and the Mets do begin to lose the excuse of having an uneven and non-existent start to the 2021 campaign as their entire opening series was postponed. New York also dealt with some weather issues early in the season, but they have at least settled into a regular groove and routine of games. Of course, the two off-days this week do not help.

The Mets acquired Lindor this winter in one of the splashiest trades of the off-season and the shortstop appeared to jump right in with both feet. As one of the game’s brightest superstars and one of its best players, Lindor found success in Spring Training and immediately took on a leadership role. Everything was trending in the right direction, and then came the 10-year, $341 million contract extension that would keep Lindor in the blue-and-orange through his prime years — and then some.

At this point, what could wrong?

Do we need to remind you that this is the Mets? As a general rule of thumb, what can go wrong will go wrong for the Mets. Their history is littered with player upon player who is acquired under great fanfare and expectations only to fizzle out and leave a disappointed (and booing) fan base. Additionally, we can dedicate a whole week’s worth of articles (at a minimum) of players who left the Mets and then found success with their new team. After all, this same team is still paying Bobby Bonilla!

The beginning of Lindor’s career with the Mets has him hitting .203 with one home run, three RBI, eight runs scored, and no stolen bases in 83 plate appearances. I do not care who you are, what your contract or track record is; that stat line is just plain bad. You can apply whatever other adjective you want to what could be called a dumpster fire of a debut in New York for Lindor, but still, it is just one month. A mere blip on the radar.

Lindor does not get a do-over. April 2021 will always be part of his Baseball-Reference page, but it can very easily be forgotten. In reality, all it takes is one good week (I mean the bar is pretty low right now) to kick-start the season for Lindor and this month will be a distant memory. If this came in July after Lindor had already punched his ticket to the All-Star Game and the Mets did not have a 9-10 record, would anyone care?

I think everyone knows the answer to that question; even those who have already begun to serenade Lindor with boos, deep down, have to know as well. They will also be the same people giving him a curtain call the next time, which would be the first time the shortstop does something good in Flushing.

We can sit here and dig into Lindor’s advanced statistics and his career track record, but he is simply too good of a player to be nickeled and dimed over hard-hit rate, barrel rate, and BABIP. Lindor only has one error so far this season, his body language has not suffered, and he is still taking care to be an active leader with the Mets. If you did not watch him flailing at the plate, you would not know how truly badly he is performing. That is a credit to Lindor and why we should have confidence in his performance rebounding.

Not to make excuses, but it was a less than ideal start to the season for New York, and it is clear that Lindor is pressing in an attempt to impress his new team and city while also justifying his contract.

Let us give Lindor another month and then revisit. That much we do owe him. All it takes is one game to turn the narrative around.

Ray Kuhn currently writes and talks about the game from a fantasy angle at Friends With Fantasy Benefits after previously covering the Houston Astros as part of the FanSided network at Climbing Tal’s Hill. Reach him at @ray_kuhn_28 or raykuhn57@gmail.com as he is always interested in talking or writing about our great game. 


Cleaning Up

Bad-News Braves Earn Failing April Report Card

By Dan Schlossberg

Although I don’t usually believe in karma, this one is different.

Call it the Curse of Atlanta – the worst thing that’s happened to the town since General Sherman paid a visit.

Ever since Rob Manfred rushed to judgment in ripping the All-Star Game from Truist Park on April 2, the Braves have been enveloped in a fog, unable to hit, pitch, field, or escape their own shadow. Removing the All-Star Game logos from their uniforms was the baseball version of Samson cutting his hair.

The Bad-News Braves have become the first team in baseball history to record one or fewer hits in a game three times in April – or any other month.

Talk about impotence!

Injuries have hit hard, sidelining three starting pitchers, two key relievers, and a pair of center-fielders, but the blame falls everywhere — even though the club has rebounded with a vengeance over the sad-sack Cubbies this week.

Since today is the last day of April, the first-month report card is no guarantee of graduation to postseason play. Here’s why:

Alex Anthopoulos – Wasting $11 million on Drew Smyly was bad, especially when that money could have kept two of the three righty relievers who left [Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Darren O’Day]. The GM should also have kept Adam Duvall and Charlie Culberson and non-tendered Luke Jackson and Josh Tomlin. Adding Nate Jones has been horrific. Grade: D

Brian Snitker – A true organization man, he’s the oldest manager in the National League. He’s also one of the most set in his ways, stubbornly refusing to juggle the lineup when most of it is hitting below the Mendoza Line. A little pine time couldn’t hurt for Marcell Ozuna and Dansby Swanson, among others. Normally a great cheerleader, he’d be tearing his hair out if he had any. Grade: C

Atlanta’s future success depends on kid sluggers Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Austin Riley, shown here in their Arizona Fall League tenure. Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Ronald Acuna, Jr. – Off to a flying start, the 23-year-old could be on pace for a 40/40 season – or better – if he had any support in the lineup. He also needs to start sliding feet-first, as his recent abdominal injury knocked him out of the Yankees series. Grade: A

Freddie Freeman – He’s hit a few home runs but his batting and slugging averages are way off, certainly unbecoming of the reigning MVP. He’s striking out more than usual too. Even Anthony Rizzo struck him out! Grade: C

Ozzie Albies – A flop in the No. 2 spot, he hasn’t done much better batting fourth or fifth. A switch-hitter without merit, he’d be wise to give up batting left-handed. He should also use his speed to drop bunt-hits and steal bases instead of swinging for the fences. Grade: D

Marcell Ozuna – One extra-base hit over the first three weeks doesn’t cut it, especially after he led the NL in home runs and RBI during the virus-shortened 2020 season. His throwing from left field has also cost a couple of games. He’s showing some signs of life lately but he still had a horrid month. Grade: D

Travis d’Arnaud – The light went out on his offense between the Division Series and Championship Series last year. Now that he’s in the walk year of his contract, he needs it to go back on. Grade: D

Dansby Swanson – Prone to good and bad streaks, he has a reputation as a clutch hitter. But not this year. He strikes out way too much, often on called strikes, and seems to be suffering from a power vacuum as well. Maybe burning sage in center field will help get him out of his rut. Grade: D

Austin Riley – After a miserable start, he finally hit his first two homers. But his throws from third base have not reminded anybody of Nolan Arenado. Grade: C

Guillermo Heredia – A pleasant surprise when pressed into service, he’s filled the gap in center and provided some timely and unexpected power after his waiver-wire pickup from the Mets. Grade: B

Pablo Sandoval – A terror off the bench, this switch-hitting slugger had three pinch-homers in the first three weeks. But he’s a liability on the bases, where his running has hurt the team, and hasn’t helped on defense in the few chances he received. Grade: B

Ehire Adrianza – A spring training find, he’s versatile enough to play infield and outfield and to provide a threat as a pinch-hitter. Would love to see him spell Swanson for a while. Grade: B

Charlie Morton – After a slow start, he’s proven his value as a starter who can give the bullpen a rest. Even though he’s the old man of the team at 37, he should justify his $15 million contract. Grade: B

Ian Anderson – Like Morton, he’s coming along after a sluggish start. But he’s not about to duplicate the Fernando Valenzuela feat of winning Cy Young and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. Grade: B

Max Fried – Off to the worst start of his career, he may have caught a break when a hamstring injury, incurred on the basepaths, sent him to the sidelines for a while. The Braves desperately need Fried, a Cy Young contender last year, to recapture his former form. Grade: F

Drew Smyly – Wish he would have left himself, as well as his heart, in San Francisco. He yields too many homers, too many homers, and too many walks. Hope the Braves replace him with Kyle Wright, whose reward for one good start was a return to the alternate training site. Grade: F

Huascar Ynoa – Who knew he’d be this good – or any good? Pressed into service as an “opener,” he’s become a valuable member of the depleted rotation. He can hit too. Who knew? Grade: B

Will Smith – Promoted to closer after Melancon defected, he’s been erratic, either striking out the side or walking the bases loaded. So far, he hasn’t justified his three-year, $40 million contract. Grade: C

Tyler Matzek – Great as a retread last year, he’s fallen far from his 2020 form. Once a strikeout machine, especially against lefties, he has trouble throwing strikes and avoiding wild pitches. Grade: D

Nate Jones – Unlike Matzek, his recent record wasn’t good. Now I know why. Grade: F

Luke Jackson – Very surprised and disappointed he’s back. Extremely undependable, liable to give up more than his share of hits, walks, and homers. Grade: F

Sean Newcomb – Pitched well in relief until he disappeared onto the IL for undisclosed causes. Grade: B

Bryse Wilson – Convinced he’d be decent if given regular work. Certainly better than Smyly. Grade: C

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has been a Braves fan since 1957. In addition to Here’s The Pitch, he contributes to forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Ball Nine, Sports Collectors Digest, and more. He is also the author of 38 baseball books. Complain to him at ballauthor@gmail.com.


Timeless Trivia

The Braves were the 11th team since 1901 to be held to one or no hits in consecutive games, the first since 2014, and the first in franchise history since 1916 . . .

Yankees first baseman Mike Ford was the only man to be Princeton’s Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year in the same season . . .

Since Atlanta is the biggest black-majority metro area in the nation (51 percent), moving the All-Star Game impacts minorities especially hard, with the area expected to lose a $100 million windfall it needs badly in the wake of the pandemic . . .

Pete Alonso, who won the Home Run Derby when the All-Star Game was played last in 2019, can’t wait to defend his title at hitter-friendly Coors Field . . .

The shortest nine-inning game, between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies, consumed just 51 minutes on Sept. 28, 2019. The Giants won, 6-1.


Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.


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