If Francisco Lindor registers a 30/30 season, and nobody really celebrated it, did it actually happen? The answer is: Obviously, yes it did. However, it really does feel like Lindor may have just enjoyed the quietest possible 30/30 season.
Lindor became the first Met since David Wright (2007) to accomplish the feat and only the fourth different Met to do so, joining Wright, Darryl Strawberry (1987) and Howard Johnson, who did it on three occasions. He did so by slugging 31 dingers—the most ever by a Mets shortstop, shattering his mark of 26 set in 2022—and stealing a career-best 31 bases. By all measures, he had an MVP-caliber season, contributing at the plate while playing stellar defense at a premium position. However, with the club languishing closer to the bottom of the league than the top from June onward, it will go down as a forgotten great season in a lost year for the Amazins.
One of the big criticisms of Lindor’s MVP-caliber season is that much of it came after the team’s fate was all but decided. After a tremendous 2022 campaign in which he finished ninth in NL MVP voting while hitting .270/.339/.449 with 26 homers, 107 runs batted in, 98 runs scored, a 125 wRC+, and a 6.6 fWAR in 161 games, he got off to a sluggish start. Through April, Lindor was hitting .218/.316/.446 with a 110 wRC+. He was also striking out at a 25.6% clip—his highest in any single month in 2023. His May was equally alarming, as he slashed .227/.273/.412 with an 87 wRC+—his lowest in any given month this year—while he walked only 5.5% of the time.
Things turned around in June—mid-June, to be exact, right around the time his second daughter, Amapola Chloe was born. The joyous news came on June 18, one day before Father’s Day. Mr. Smile homered in his first two games following the birth of his daughter. From that moment onward, he played in 90 games and hit .288/.370./.516 with a 143 wRC+ with 19 home runs, 54 runs batted in, and 70 runs scored while swiping 25 of the 31 bases he stole in 2023. Is there any correlation between Amapola Chloe’s birth and Lindor’s resurgence? Maybe. Maybe not. But it was clear that Lindor played a better game all around from that moment, and he became an offensive force. He was at his best in July, posting a 153 wRC+ with five home runs during the calendar month.
Lindor finished the year with a 6.0 fWAR while hitting .254/.336/.470. In addition to his 31 homers and 31 stolen bases, he had 33 doubles, his most since hitting 40 doubles with Cleveland in 2019. He also scored 108 runs, the second-most of his career behind his 129 runs with Cleveland in 2018. Because of his slow start, he missed out on the chance to represent the Mets in the All Star game, but make no mistake, he had an All Star caliber season all around.
He finished the year with the fifth-highest fWAR among National League position players, trailing just Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Matt Olson, who are likely to nab the top four spots in the NL MVP race. On top of that, he led all qualified NL shortstops in home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, stolen bases, wRC+, and fWAR. He did all this while playing elite defense, finishing with the fourth-best UZR/150 (7.3) of all qualified NL position players and concluding the season with 7 DRS, the fifth-best among qualified NL shortstops. And he remained a leader on and off the field, positioning himself as a potential future captain for the club should they decide to go that route.
Critics will say that Lindor’s failings early in the season helped doom the Mets, and he played his best when the stakes were lowest. It’s a fair critique, but also ignores that the rest of the team was struggling. Would the team have been in a better position had Lindor had a more well-rounded year? Perhaps. But he’s hardly the sole reason for the Mets digging themselves an early grave.
In the end, Lindor put together a second strong season in a row after a rough first year in Flushing. He continues to prove that he is worth the contract the club dished out to him after acquiring him from Cleveland prior to the 2021 regular season, and every Mets fan should feel lucky to be able to watch him play every day. And to add to that, it was revealed on October 11 that he played the entire 2023 campaign with bone spurs in his right elbow, an injury which first cropped up during spring training and caused discomfort until the end. Lindor ended up undergoing surgery for the injury, and is expected to be fully healthy by the time spring rolls around. There are few players in the game today who bring the skillset and level of passion and professionalism that Lindor brings, and he will be a Met for eight more years. That enough is reason to smile.