The Mets are starting to draft their plan of attack against the Dodgers…
With the Division Series between the Mets and Dodgers now just a week away from starting, the Mets have begun to outline a strategy of attack for their five game series.
With the Mets prioritizing defense and arguably a hot bat, Andy Martino of the Daily News says the Mets will use Ruben Tejada as their primary shortstop against Los Angeles, with Wilmer Flores primarily being their right-handed bat off the bench.
Tejada has resurrected his career with his best season since 2012, hitting .266/.344/.357 in 297 plate appearances. He’s also been hot at the plate over his last 28 games, hitting .328/.406/.443. That along with his defense compared to Flores’ recent struggles makes the decision easier for the Mets, at least as of now.
As far as the rest of the lineup is concerned, the Mets will not be playing the matchups heavily against the Dodgers left-handers, including Clayton Kershaw, according to Martino.
Only Michael Conforto, who has 14 plate appearances against left-handers since July 24, will sit against the Dodgers southpaws. That probably means he will see limited time in the first round, but Martino says Conforto will serve as the Mets primary left-handed bat off the bench in those games.
Terry Collins has said repeatedly in the latter portion of the season that for now, Conforto will not play against lefties, although he believes he will beginning next season. It’s certainly debatable, but the roster has been constructed in a manner which can handle left-handed pitchers consistently thanks to the increased depth and strengths against left-handers from Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares and Juan Uribe.
The mentality, at least from people close to the team, is “why fix it if it isn’t broken?”
That’s not to say the Mets are benefitting from the configuration. After all, Conforto has hit left-handers during his brief minor league career. But in fairness to the Mets, the playoffs isn’t a time to be experimenting with an unknown.
Having said that, Granderson will face the Dodgers left-handers, and he has struggled badly against southpaws all year long, posting just a .563 OPS with nine extra-base hits in 142 plate appearances. But as Martino says, without Granderson in the lineup, the Mets lack a true leadoff presence, and the Mets simply have to have that pressure at the top of their lineup in order for it to be effective.
As for the bullpen, Collins said on Thursday it’s possible they could swap the roles of Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed, thanks to Clippard suddenly struggling to locate his pitches and be consistently effective.
Clippard’s struggles could be due to overwork in the month of August when he was spotless, but at the end of the day the Mets have to find a lockdown formula to be successful in the playoffs, and right now, Reed is about as lockdown as there is having not allowed an earned run since joining the club five weeks ago.
Lastly, Sandy Alderson said on Tuesday it’s clear who three of their starting pitchers will be in the playoffs: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, with Harvey likely to be slotted as their game three starter.
As for the fourth starter, the Mets are still debating who that might be, and a lot depends on how Steven Matz feels following an extended relief outing this weekend against the Nationals, whenever that is.
If Matz comes out ok, the debate probably ends there, as he would seem destined for the rotation and Bartolo Colon to the bullpen, although the Mets insist it’s still up in the air.
Colon will also pitch in relief against the Nationals this weekend.
But if Matz has continued back soreness – and right now the team is confident he will be ok – then that opens the door for either Colon or Jon Niese to be in the rotation.
Against the Dodgers anyway, it may make more sense strategically to start Niese.
Los Angeles has a very lefty-heavy lineup, and he has very good numbers against Chase Utley in his career (he’s just 3-for-36 lifetime against Niese) and Adrian Gonzalez (he’s 0-for-11 lifetime against Niese).
Those numbers alone might get Niese on the roster regardless of his role.
The Mets have until next Friday to set the Division Series roster, leaving time for Matz, Flores, Uribe, and all of the other unknowns to settle before the playoffs actually start.