Yoenis Cespedes is at the heart of the Mets blackout at the plate
Very little has gone right for the Mets during their last six games, with Sunday’s 11-2 loss serving as the culmination of their most recent 2-4 stretch.
But their offense – which had been so good for so long while averaging nearly 6.5 runs per game over the previous six weeks – has suddenly gone dead which, aside from their problems on the mound, has been at the foundation of their struggles on this homestand.
They’ve been outscored 35-14 during this stretch. They have hit five home runs during their last six games, but haven’t produced many runs outside of the long ball.
They’re just 6-for-40 with runners in scoring position through the first six games of this homestand.
The heart of their team-wide slump – offensively anyway – seems to be Yoenis Cespedes, who was hitless in his previous 17 at-bats heading into Sunday’s game against the Yankees.
“I’ll be out of this slump,” Cespedes said before the game. “I can’t tell you if it’s going to be today, I can’t tell you if it’s going to be tomorrow. But I’m sure it will happen eventually.”
Cespedes did show some positive signs on Sunday night, notching his 39th double in the fifth inning against CC Sabathia. It was the first time Cespedes has reached base since being plunked by Tom Koehler on Tuesday night.
He insists the hit by pitch is not the root cause of his slump.
“I know some of you may be thinking there was something to do with when I got hit by the pitch,” Cespedes said early Sunday. “It has nothing to do with that. There’s really no specific reason.
“The only thing I’m scared of is death,” Cespedes concluded.
The Mets have scored just ten runs and struck out 44 times in their last five games, during which Cespedes has just the double on Sunday night.
In fairness to Cespedes, regression was inevitable. There was no way for him to keep going on the pace he was on for much longer. He had hit nine home runs in his first 13 games in the month of September.
But it just so happens his second slump as a Met has come at home after his first slump – an 0-for-16 slide – also came at home on the previous homestand.
Generally, Cespedes has struggled at Citi Field in this small sample. He’s hitting just .200/.264/.450 in 21 games at Citi Field this season, compared to .342/.380/.763 in 25 games away from Citi Field.
It could just be a coincidence.
After all, he has been tremendous in other pitcher parks like Turner Field, Nationals Park, and Marlins Park, and his regression just so happens to be taking place at Citi Field. He has shown he is plenty capable of mastering the dimensions and wind patterns at Citi Field as well, so it could simply two ill-timed slumps.
He tends to agree.
“You can say it’s the same thing that can happen to any other ballplayer,” the outfielder said. “It’s just a slump, just like it can happen to anyone. I have had worse slumps.”
The main issue is how the club can stay out of a team-wide funk when their centerpiece isn’t hitting. In general, they’re swing rate on pitches outside of the zone has ticked up over their last six games which is resulting in less hitters counts and shorter sequences as well.
But they’re also missing a lot of hittable pitches inside the strike zone as well, which is of course impacting their ability to produce on strikes they should be able to successfully attack.
Again, all of this has taken place since Cespedes hit the skids.
As well as they’ve hit since he got here, they haven’t necessarily overcome a cold streak from Cespedes.
Even against these lesser opponents over the next ten games, that will need to change soon.