Back on March 30th, we posted a big list of semi-serious predictions for the 2014 season. It’s still fairly entertaining and surprisingly accurate (in places).
I made two predictions involving Travis d’Arnaud:
1) Travis d’Arnaud spends too much time with Dave Hudgens, begins to look tentative and confused at the plate, at which point Hudgens sagely nods and says, “Exactly, grasshopper!”
2) After struggles and bad stretches, Travis d’Arnaud establishes himself as a quality major league catcher, hits above .280 in second-half of the season.
I joked that Recker would hit more home runs. But I seriously predicted an over .500 record for the team. When you look up and down the roster, that was not going to be possible if we didn’t get some offense from d’Arnaud. Somebody has to hit, and there are clearly guys in the starting lineup that are not going to do much. The equation of d’Arnaud being bad and this Mets team being good does not add up. We saw the negative end of that for two months. Now, we are starting to see the positive side of the equation. Many of d’Arnaud’s recent hits have led directly to Mets wins.
Absolutely, he was a key. I never imagined him batting that low in the order. On a team heavy with lefty bats, the Mets needed d’Arnaud’s RH bat to provide balance. I guess Terry is still thinking that Chris Young is going to be that guy, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.
I hate to be negative —
Of course you do.
— but I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up once again how badly d’Arnaud was bungled in 2013. The kid needed to be at Citi Field from Day One last year, to get the struggles and bad stretches behind him. He is a full year behind where he should be. Think about where this team could be if Travis was hitting like he is now on April 1, 2014. And when the team made its dopey decision to send him down, they didn’t even know they would not have Harvey in 2014. It was awful planning and saving money in 2019 will never make up for the revenue damage done. And anyone who reads this site knows this is not second guessing. Being a successful GM is not just about winning some transactions, and holding down costs. A job well done includes building a winning team in a reasonable time frame. Sending d’Arnaud to Triple-A in 2013 was a huge mistake that has slowed down progress for this franchise.
Yes, agreed. We are seeing it with Wheeler this year. By struggling now, he’s building the foundation for future success. That’s the normal pattern. Matt Harvey must be seen as the outlier. You bring them up to struggle, so they can succeed down the road. Which is why the treatment of Wilmer Flores continues to be the same brand of misguided management, but we’ll save that for another day.
D’Arnaud started hitting the crap out of the ball as soon as he left town. We all know Vegas is a hitter’s paradise, but now he really does look like a different guy, the guy we traded a Cy Young winner for. I’ve heard they tweaked this or that, but I think he just needed to get his head together, and get his confidence back. In this particular case our Triple-A team being in Las Vegas might have helped. It’s the perfect environment for a hitter to relax and feel good about himself.
And maybe meet a nice girl, settle down, plant some annuals. Sometimes we can make a correct prediction based on all the wrong assumptions. I don’t know the true story of Travis’s “journey” this season. But going into the season, I believed two things:
1) Becoming the full-time ML catcher was a huge defensive responsibility, handling the staff, proving that he could do the job behind the plate. I suspected that it would diminish his offense, possibly for 2-3 years.
2) Being extremely cynical about the Mets red-hot emphasis on “approach,” I believed that — put simply — they’d screw him up. That Hudgens would get in his ear about not swinging at that, not swinging at this, that they’d turn him into a confused hitter, more worried about pleasing the teachers than in hitting the damn ball. I don’t know that it’s fair to lay that entirely on the patented “Sandy Alderson System of Success.” What I do know is that Travis has had many awful ABs this season, more than any other Met. He’s taken a ton of fastballs for strikes, then flailed at too many breaking balls out of the zone, often over-swinging wildly. It sounds simplistic, but: “See the ball, hit the ball.” The Mike Piazza Way. I didn’t get the impression that Travis was seeing the baseball. A lot of guessing, a lot of self-doubt in those ABs. The danger in burying hitters in too much data is that for most of them, the best thing is to unclutter the mind and simplify, simplify, simplify.
He seems like a freer hitter right now, more flow. Unburdened. I hope it lasts. I also hope — as I’ve said several times before — that he gets a shot higher in the order. Bat him in front of Duda, let’s see what happens.
We’ve all read about the computer studies that indicate batting order doesn’t particularly matter, but I don’t believe them, because the assumption is that guys would put up the same stats regardless. And of course the game, which is entirely situational, does not work that way. You can only run those models based on past performances.
I liked the lineup Terry used in Tuesday night’s deGrom game. Cool that he went with the double-leadoff man concept, though I think it only makes sense when the pieces are deGrom and Eric Young at 8 and 9. For whatever reason, batting Granderson at leadoff seems to have energized him, while maybe taking off some of the burden. Obviously, I like when Chris Young is not in the lineup, that’s a huge help. Maybe against LH pitchers, the Mets can keep Chris Young on the bench, slide Duda down to the 6th spot, and bring Travis to 5th in the order. I believe CY is hitting below .175 against LHP, yet TC keeps giving him those starts because, you know, sigh.
When Sandy makes a promise, ladies, it’s forever. Or at least into the middle of July.
In conclusion, if Travis is going to be part of a Mets turn-around, I’d like to see him plugged into a spot where he can make a significant difference. Batting in front of Ruben Tejada has been a handicap all season long. Let’s see if this boy can get hot and, with a few other key players, help lift this team out of the doldrums.