The Mets have scored 10 runs in their last seven home games, and — surprise — they’ve lost all seven of those games. They also lost two of three to the Brewers on the road somewhere in the middle, putting the Mets at 1-9 over their last 10 games. Also with a 66-81 record, the Mets are guaranteed their fourth consecutive losing season with one more loss. We can go on — have you seen David Wright’s second half numbers? — but enough is enough at some point.
Anyway, the one remaining good thing in this season is that the Mets resemble a competitive baseball when R.A. Dickey pitches. Or, at least, they should. Here’s the lineup the Mets ran out last night against Cliff Lee:
SS — Ruben Tejada
2B — Daniel Murphy
3B — David Wright
RF — Scott Hairston
1B — Lucas Duda
LF — Jason Bay
CF — Andres Torres
C — Mike Nickeas
P — R.A. Dickey
Terry Collins’ lineup starts out well enough. Ruben Tejada is the Mets’ best shortstop, Daniel Murphy their best second baseman, Wright their best third baseman, Hairston their best outfielder against left-handed pitching . . . and then things get weird. I generally like Terry Collins, but the idea of him setting lineups for important October baseball games make me quiver in my boots. This is, if I were wearing boots that were a little loose.
Let’s start here: Lucas Duda played first base, while Ike Davis sat. If you ignore defense, you can sort of see why Terry Collins might have done this. Duda has a career .672 OPS against lefties, while Davis has a .633 OPS. Duda was 4-for-12 against Lee with a home run, Davis was 1-for-11 — after the game, Collins said he set his lineup based on career matchup numbers against Lee. Neither’s a great hitter against a tough lefty like Cliff Lee, but all the numbers, no matter how reliable, point towards Duda as the better option of the two platoon-split sluggers.
Only you can’t ignore defense. And while Duda looked surprisingly sure-handed at first, Davis is a superior defender at first base. This may or may not make up the 40-point game in OPS, but it certainly narrows it. But it’s not like Duda can only play first — he’s a not-unbearably terrible left fielder. If the goal is to win the game and the Mets lack good right-handed options, I think Davis is the better option at first base and Duda should be out in left field. Only left field was occupied last night by . . .
Jason Bay, who owns a .492 OPS against left-handed pitchers this season (not the thing Collins was looking at) and a 4-14 career mark against Lee (probably the thing Collins was looking at), with a home run against Lee earlier this season. Do Bay’s decent-ish numbers over Lee make up for his terrible numbers against left-handed pitching this season, and for his dramatic decline in general?* He’s also a better defender than Duda, but the gap may be similar to that between Duda and Davis at first.
So the question for Terry Collins wasn’t Duda vs. Davis, it was really Davis-and-Duda vs. Duda-and-Bay, and which pair gave the Mets the best chance to win Monday with R.A. Dickey on the mound. I’m not sure Duda-and-Bay was the right answer. Though Bay did make a nice catch on a ball in left that Duda probably doesn’t catch. So what do I know.
This brings us to Torres, who is probably the best option in center against a left-handed pitcher. Torres has an .807 OPS against lefties this season and a .754 mark for his career. He’s the best defensive option, etc. Torres should play against left-handed pitchers the rest of the way. Cool? Cool.
And then we get to the catcher’s spot. Mike Nickeas has a .490 career OPS and a .511 OPS against lefties. Kelly Shoppach has a .739 career OPS and a .878 OPS against lefties. Nickeas started against Lee. I don’t see this one, so let’s try to think like Terry Collins: Nickeas was 0-for-3 against Lee . . . Shoppach was 0-for-9 . . . Jimmy Leyland. Nope, that didn’t work either. Nickeas would have to be not just a little bit better defensively, but WAY WAY better defensively for this to make sense. As in, Nickeas would have to be a seven-foot-tall robot knuckleball-grabbing vacuum cleaner to justify playing him over the better-hitting Shoppach. At least in a game the Mets are trying to win for Dickey.
Anyway, Bay and Nickeas went 1-for-5 combined — Nickeas did score the Mets only run and dropped down a surprise bunt single — while Shoppach and Davis went 1-for-2 as pinch-hitters. The Mets scored one run against Lee and Jonathan Papelbon and lost 3-1.
These are all minor points. But when the Mets are losing just about every game, that’s really all we have left: Minor points like rooting for R.A. Dickey to get more wins, a stat I don’t put much value in, so that maybe he’ll have a better shot at an award. But it’d be nice if Terry Collins ran out the Mets’ best lineups on the days R.A. Dickey is pitching. At the very least so the Mets could win a game now and then.