With all the depth acquired by Sandy Alderson at the trade deadline, Terry Collins has been given plenty of options to pencil into his lineup card depending on whether a right-handed or left-handed pitcher takes the hill for the Mets' opponent. Left-handed hitters Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, and Michael Conforto are all enjoying productive offensive seasons yet frequently find themselves on the bench against lefties in favor of complementary players such as Juan Lagares, Juan Uribe, and Michael Cuddyer.
Conforto has been one of baseball's hottest rookies since being called up to the majors on July 24, but with just 12 major league plate appearances against southpaws it remains to be seen whether continuing platooning him is the right move. As for Granderson, Murphy, and Duda, the veteran trio's uneven splits give Collins a much easier decision to make in the lineup against lefties.
Granderson is putting together a renaissance season at age 34, but he's sporting a paltry .172/.266/.254 batting line in 139 plate appearances against lefties. All but one of his 23 home runs this season have come against right-handed pitching. Meanwhile, Lagares is hitting a much healthier .274/.331./.444 in 127 plate appearances against lefties. When also considering the defensive upgrade Lagares brings to the field, the center fielder certainly deserves a spot in the lineup in place of Granderson whenever the team faces a lefty—which to Collins's credit was the case in last Sunday's 11-2 loss to CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees.
Murphy also sat on the bench against Sabathia, which makes complete sense when looking at his .237 batting average and .592 OPS against lefties this season. Uribe hits a far more effective .272/.350/.543 against lefties in 103 plate appearances including seven homers, the same number as he's hit against righties in far fewer trips to the plate. Collins's willingness to experiment with Uribe at second base is all the more reason to applaud the manager, as the two hitters are basically a wash defensively while substituting a much more potent threat in the batter's box.
Things get a bit murkier when deciding who the Mets best first base option is against left-handed pitchers. Duda mashed against lefties to start 2015 but so far in the second half he's hitting .219 against them with a .344 slugging percentage in 34 at-bats. Given Duda's struggles against lefties for his career, his first-half success may not be something he's able to replicate going forward. Cuddyer has smashed southpaws since his return from the disabled list and should keep the part-time role the rest of the season. Cuddyer is playing though a banged-up left knee, which is all the more reason why the 36-year-old should really only see time at first base and not in the outfield. Allowing Conforto to take his spot in left field against lefties while Cuddyer mans first in place of Duda seems like a logical move worth experimenting with, but Collins remains opposed to giving the rookie an everyday job.
For reasons unknown, Collins voiced to Mike Vorkunov of NJ.com yesterday that he will opt to stop mixing and matching his lineup in the playoffs and go with regulars such as Granderson, Murphy, and Duda against lefties. What's working in the regular season shouldn't change come October, though, and as Vorkunov wisely points out this scenario could end up especially destructive for the Mets when foreseeing their likely NLDS showdown with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lefties Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Brett Anderson are three pitchers featured in L.A.'s starting rotation who would seemingly benefit from the Mets' fielding a left-handed heavy lineup.
Hopefully the Matrix experienced a fixable glitch while Collins was telling Vorkunov of his lineup plans come the postseason, or else the manager might end up hindering his team's chances of advancing past the first round.