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Should Francisco Lindor's Struggles Be Giving the Mets Buyer's Remorse?

Ryan Phillips
New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies
New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies / Rich Schultz/Getty Images
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When the New York Mets traded for Francisco Lindor this offseason they thought they were getting a franchise cornerstone for the next decade. That was emphasized by the 10-year, $341 million contract they handed the shortstop on the eve of the 2021 season. But a month into his time with the franchise Lindor has been terrible -- especially at the plate -- which has prompted many to wonder if the deal was a mistake.

Lindor is currently mired in an 1-for-27 streak at the plate after finally getting a hit on Thursday afternoon. He was one out away from the worst hitless stretch of his career. Through 25 games in New York, he's batting .163, with an on-base percentage of .297 and he's slugging .207. That's an OPS of .504, which is 367 points off his career-best from 2018 (.871). If you're not a stathead, let me just state unequivocally that those numbers are indeed bad.

The 27-year-old four-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner has two -- count em -- two extra base hits this season (a home run and a double) and a measly three RBIs. One of MLB's best shortstops, Lindor already has two errors this season after only having one in all of 2020.

Worse still, this isn't the case of a guy hammering the ball right at people, or some form of bad luck. Lindor is earning these struggles. Entering Tuesday, just 2.8 percent of his batted balls qualify as "barrels" -- or have the right combination of exit velocity and launch angle off the bat. He ranks in the 40th percentile across baseball for average exit velocity. His groundball rate is far higher than his career levels. His expected batting average ranks in the 32nd percentile while his expecting slugging percentage is in the 19th percentile. And his percentage of batted balls classified as "weak" is 8.3 percent, or double the league average.

None of the numbers are on his side.

While his struggles are shocking, Lindor wasn't himself last year during MLB's 60-game sprint of season. He only hit .258, with a .335 on-base percentage and an OPS of .750. That was 100 points lower than his 2019 OPS of .854. For some reason, his bat just wasn't the same. After hitting 33 home runs in 2017, 38 in 2018 and 32 in 2019, Lindor had only eight in 2020. Yes, it was a shortened season, so to extrapolate stats for a 162-game campaign everything would need to be multiplied by 2.7. If you do that, Lindor would have hit 21.6 home runs, so 22 if we round up. He was definitely off.

Those struggles have returned but it's been far worse since the move to the Mets. He's been hard to watch.

Maybe Lindor is just adjusting to his new surroundings, or the new contract is weighing on him. There could be any number of reasons for his struggles, but they are real and can't simply be explained away as a "small sample size" at this point. He's played in 25 games and had 92 at-bats. That's a significant chunk of time.

Should the Mets be regretting the Lindor's big contract? No, not yet. It's far too early to panic. But this is certainly concerning and cause for alarm early in the life of the deal. Lindor needs to turn things around quickly or the momentum of this slump could carry for a while. He's under the spotlight in New York and the negative press could bury him.

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