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Francisco Lindor saw peaks and valleys in the first half of the 2021 season

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Francisco Lindor’s first half was a tumultuous one, but there’s plenty of reason to be excited.

Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Francisco Lindor’s overall first half performance has been much discussed as we went into, and went through, the All Star break. Overall, he was well below the All Star level he has been at for most of his career: he sits at a .227/.326/.377 line, good for a 99 wRC+, which is not what you would want or expect from a player of Lindor’s caliber — and he would tell you that himself. Despite that, his exceptional defense — 12 Outs Above Average, good for fourth in all of baseball, at any position — has buoyed his overall half, giving him a 1.8 fWAR. Over at Baseball Reference, he has a 97 OPS+ but a 2.1 bWAR. Regardless of whichever website is your website du jour, the story is the same — he was an average hitter and his elite defense buoyed his overall value, and still made him accumulate the most position player WAR on the Mets on both sites. Regardless of that, it was easy to just slap a poor grade on his half because of how poor his offense was and call it a day.

However, doing so significantly lacks context.

Lindor was not just bad offensively for a large portion of the first half, he was horrific. From the beginning from the season until May 27th, he was hitting a riveting .185/.290/.268. The on base percentage was pretty impressive considering the .185 average — it was buoyed by a 11.9% walk rate — but overall it was bad. No other way to slice it.

He was not striking out a ton — 15.1%, which is 0.7% higher than his career percentage — but he was doing absolutely nothing with the contact he was making. He had a .083 IS0, and a .203 BABIP, both of which are wildly low by anyone’s standards, and well below his career .198 ISO and .294 BABIP. It was clear that he was not performing, but he was also getting a tad unlucky.

Then, a flip switched.

From May 27th on — a doubleheader against the Rockies in which he went 1-6 with an infield single over both games — he was electric offensively.

From that day until the end of the first half, he hit .268/.358/.478, good for a 132 wRC+. His walk rate dipped to 10.4%, and his strikeout rate rose to 18.7%, but neither of those numbers are bad, and both are easily dealt with when the bat seems to have figured out what was ailing it. His ISO during that span was .210 and his BABIP was .296 — both of which are well more in line with his career numbers. Over that stretch, his wRC+ is second on the Mets only to James McCann, who sat at a 135 wRC+. He was the best overall player, however, with a 1.7 fWAR.

He was also one of the better offensive shortstops in the league during that time, as well. His 132 wRC+ was seventh and his 1.7 fWAR was sixth over that stretch. It appeared he was finally rounding into the form everyone expected from him.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about those offensive numbers is what he did the last time he had a wRC+ as high as that. The last time he did was 2018, his breakout season, where he hit .277/.352/.519 (132 wRC), en route to a 7.7 fWAR season — fourth best in all of baseball. He has already hit like this for a full season, and at only 27 it is not hard to imagine he can do it again, and when you combine that with his elite defense he is an MVP candidate.

Overall, his average offensive stat line that he will carry into the second half of the season needs to be discussed in the correct context. He was not just bad, he was abysmal, but he turned it on in a big way, and was not just good, but excellent, over the last 45 games of the first half. While the overall picture is not a pretty one — and it is possible the rough first 185 plate appearances put a damper on his overall numbers when the 2021 season is finished — it is clear he put his early woes behind him, and the rumors of his demise as a baseball player were wildly premature. It’s time to get excited about his second half.