How will the Mets align their outfield throughout the World Series?
The Mets will begin their quest for their third World Championship in franchise history beginning Tuesday night against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
But now come some difficult decisions on how to not only construct their World Series roster, but aligning their pieces in a manner that puts them in the best position to win that third World Championship.
The Mets will be challenged by a Royals team which makes a lot of contact, battles in counts and doesn’t strike out a lot (they had the best strikeout rate in baseball at 15.9 percent in 2015), hits a lot of line drives, can turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples, and can lockdown a game late with a lights out bullpen.
On Saturday, Terry Collins said it’s crucial the Mets emphasize defense against the Royals in the World Series, which could hint at how the Mets intend to align their outfield against Kansas City in the final showdown of the 2015 season.
The Mets will have the luxury of having a designated hitter in four of the potential seven games in the World Series, which could help them strategize their defensive alignments.
Here is a look at the alignment options in the Mets outfield as well as their associated designated hitter solutions…
Yoenis Cespedes in left field, Juan Lagares in center field, Curtis Granderson in right field.
This is the alignment the Mets typically employed against left-handed pitching down the stretch of the 2015 season, and provides them with their strongest defensive solution in the National League park.
In the American League park, this alignment has Michael Conforto as the designated hitter against right-handed pitching, which is what the Mets will mostly see in the World Series from the Royals.
But in reality, this is a logical late-game alignment for the Mets. Given the Royals are very right-handed heavy in their rotation and Lagares has mostly struggled against right-handed pitching in 2015, it’s not so certain Collins will employ this solution, even if it gives the Mets their best possible solution defensively.
And don’t forget, Conforto has quickly emerged as an upper-tiered defensive outfielder, producing nine defensive runs saved (DRS) with an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 7.5 sine he was called up on July 24. The Mets really aren’t losing much, if anything, with Conforto in left field, as the stats would suggest.
The one concern with Lagares against the speed of the Royals is his ability to throw.
The book is out on his elbow problems, and there’s no question his ability and even willingness to make aggressive throws are reduced. The Royals could exploit that over the course of a nine inning game, resulting in extra bases and extra runs which the Mets cannot afford to allow, especially with Kansas City’s lockdown bullpen.
Of course, Lagares’ mobility, range and reads off the bat go without saying at this point – he’s a tremendous center fielder even in his diminished state in 2015.
Michael Conforto in left field, Yoenis Cespedes in center field, Curtis Granderson in right field.
This was the alignment the Mets predominantly used against right-handed pitching down the stretch of the season, and seems to be the logical alignment for the Mets to use when they return to Citi Field on Friday for Game 3.
It’s a step down from having Lagares’ glove and range in center field, only because Cespedes – while a tremendous center fielder – is probably a better left fielder than he is center fielder, and certainly has more mileage in left field than he does in the center of the outfield.
But again, Conforto has proven to be an excellent left fielder, and even against the Royals line drive rate and speed, the Mets probably aren’t going to lose much in left field with Conforto there.
This alignment offers the best offense in the National League park as well. The Mets could choose to use Michael Cuddyer or Kelly Johnson has their designated hitter in the American League park if they go with this alignment.
Michael Conforto in left field, Yoenis Cespedes in center field, Juan Lagares in right field.
This isn’t an alignment that’s often talked about in the debate in social media, but it might offer the Mets solution in the American League park.
It gives the Mets an outstanding defensive alignment, although again, Cespedes is probably a better left fielder than he is center fielder. But it’s close, as he is very comfortable in center field and hasn’t proven to be much of a subtraction over Lagares out there either.
With Lagares in right field, that would make Granderson the designated hitter, taking his below average arm out of the equation against the Royals speed.
Yes, Lagares’ arm could be problematic given his under-discussed elbow injury, but Lagares’ range is superior to Granderson’s, and even his injured arm might be better than Granderson’s arm as well.
The Mets would be unlikely to employ this in the National League park as it would exclude Granderson’s bat and presence at the top of the order. But certainly, the Mets could have the best of both worlds with this defensive alignment and Granderson serving as a designated hitting leadoff man.
Michael Cuddyer in left field, Juan Lagares in center field and Curtis Granderson in right.
Yeah, that was the outfield solution for Opening Day but now, it’s the World Series, and this seems unlikely under any circumstances.
This alignment would make Yoenis Cespedes the designated hitter in the American League park and seemingly put Michael Conforto on the bench, far from their strongest defensive solution in the outfield, and certainly not their strongest offensive lineup, either.
Unless there are injuries to two people at least, this seems to be a very unlikely solution.