Lindor's Divisional Opponents Have Much Better Pitching Than He Has Grown Accustomed To
Neither walking on air nor being carried away is a desirable means of movement, especially when your setting is a concrete jungle like New York City. Most Mets fans are justifiably pleased with the acquisition of All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, a sign that the club will be the favorite to win the National League East this year.
It is one thing for the Citi Field fanatics to tout Lindor as a savior for a team left out of the postseason for five straight years, but it is unforgivable for a national baseball columnist to express such an unlikely scenario. Yet that sin is exactly what MLB.Com writer Mike Lupica has committed in a recent article, one that beckons the infamous Sports Illustrated cover jinx.
Across several decades of that popular magazine, athletes appearing on the cover have suffered injuries or other setbacks shortly after the issue was released. A classic baseball example involved Lindor's Cleveland Indians who, after the April 1987 SI pictured Cory Snyder and Joe Carter as the “Indian Uprising”, went on to lose over a hundred games in a last place finish.
If Lindor and his new team suffer a similar disappointment, blame could be assigned to sportswriter Lupica instead of Sports Illustrated. After all, he has in a March 7 column declared Lindor the greatest position player to ever wear a Mets uniform.
Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez topped Lupica's list of greatest Mets before Lindor, a group also including stars such as Darryl Strawberry, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Mike Piazza and Jose Reyes. As the omission of Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden might indicate, pitchers were excluded from the list.
Since Lindor has yet to get a plate appearance as a Met, it is certainly premature of Lupica to place him above these others. In all likelihood, based on several factors, Lindor may not even top some of the other Mets left off the list, talents like Tommie Agee, Edgardo Alfonso, Hubie Brooks, Jerry Grote, Cleon Jones, Ed Kranepool, Dave magadan, John Milner, Mookie Wilson, Ron Hunt, and Bud Harrelson.
Lindor has been undoubtedly a great player, but with New York he is going to encounter challenges he avoided during his career in Cleveland. Obviously there is the intense media scrutiny, which has discombobulated even smiling stars like Lindor.
There is also the daunting task of facing better opponents now, especially in terms of pitching. Lindor has acquired his offensive numbers primarily against the perennially weak staffs on the American League Central, whose best teams have usually relied on offensive prowess rather than arms.
No doubt Lindor's numbers will suffer in his new milieu, especially without getting to hit against Kansas City nineteen games. In his career against the Royals Lindor has batted forty points higher than his career average, and his 27 home runs against them account for nearly one tenth of his lifetime total.
Nineteen games yearly against Detroit has also helped pad Lindor's numbers, even though the pitching-friendly Tigers park has limited his home run totals to 17. Still, it is difficult to imagine him duplicating even that mark against the clubs in his new division.
Four of the top ten projected rotations are in the National League East, a stark contrast to the A. L. Central. Lindor will have to face nineteen times each the stellar arms of the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves, ranked the third and fifth best staffs respectively. Even the Miami Marlins boast a staff good enough to rank tenth in all of baseball, indicating that the bulk of Lindor's appearances are going to come against pitching far superior to anything he regularly faced with Cleveland.
Because he has been such a likable player so far in his career, most baseball fans are hoping he continues his offensive prowess in New York. As a fan Lunardi likely harbors the same hope, but as an objective baseball reporter he should avoid brash and unrealistic projections like labeling him as the greatest Mets player ever.