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Francisco Lindor Is Off to a Historically Bad Start For the Mets

Ryan Phillips
Jun 1, 2021, 3:54 PM EDT
Atlanta Braves v New York Mets
Atlanta Braves v New York Mets / Sarah Stier/Getty Images
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When the New York Mets traded for and subsequently locked up Francisco Lindor to a huge contract this offseason, they thought they were getting an elite, franchise cornerstone at shortstop. Two months into his 10-year, $341 million deal, Lindor has been really bad. While a two-month slump isn't necessarily cause for long-term concern, the 27-year-old has been historically terrible.

Entering Tuesday, Lindor is slashing .198/.295/.299 with four home runs and 11 RBIs. His OPS of .595 is woeful. There are no silver linings in those numbers. In fact, a deep dive into players in similar situations tells a dire tale.

ESPN's Paul Hembekides compared Lindor's first two months to other position players who signed contracts of $150 million or more. There are 31 people who fit that bill. Heading into Monday's game Lindor ranked 31st out of those players in batting average (.191), tied for 24th in home runs (four), 30th in RBIs (11), 30th in wRC+ (72) and 29th in WAR (0.3).

Yikes.

Things don't get any better when you look at some advanced metrics. Lindor's average exit velocity of 89.6 is in the 55th percentile across MLB. His barrel percentage is in the bottom 20 percent, his xBA is in the bottom 22 percent, his xwOBA is in the bottom 27 percent and his xSLG is in the bottom 16 percent. None of that is good news. To sum it up, Lindor isn't hitting the ball hard enough to expect good outcomes.

The big concern for the Mets is that they bought high on a depreciating asset. And it's not like we weren't given reason for pause. While hard conclusions are difficult to draw from the weird 60-game season from 2020, Lindor was not good. His final season with the Cleveland Indians was his worst with the franchise. I wrote about his big drop-off in 2020 earlier in the season:

"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."

I'm fully willing to give Lindor a break on the 60-game season that saw a ton of reliably excellent players struggle. The stresses of playing during a pandemic, starting spring training, stopping then starting the season months later could have just had guys out of their comfort zones. And I'm also willing to admit moving to New York, playing for the Mets and having the expectations of a $341 million contract heaped on him is a wildly different situation than starring in Cleveland.

All that said, there has to be some legitimate concern here. Something isn't right and Lindor isn't performing. That has to change. The Mets committed a ton of money to him and they need a return on that investment. While the rest of the team is doing great -- New York leads the NL East and has won five in a row -- it needs its best player to show up.

The Mets paid for a four-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glover and two-time Silver Slugger. Lindor has to start proving he's still that guy.

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