Ross D. Franklin
Flu-like symptoms and poor production from the cleanup spot have frustrated Wright so far. If the Mets dream of contention, that has to change.
Perhaps the most pressing issue that faced the Mets in the offseason was the lack of protection in the lineup for David Wright, the team’s All-Star third baseman.
Despite the team adding power hitters like Granderson and Young, once again the cleanup hitter is producing at an embarrassingly low rate.
In 2013, Mets' cleanup hitters ranked 21st with a combined .751 OPS. They also were just eight RBI away from ranking dead last in the statistic last year, accumulating just 80 RBI from the No. 4 spot.
One year later, though, not much has changed.
The Mets rank close to the bottom in almost every offensive category, with cleanup hitters batting just .148/.270/.278 so far. That .548 OPS ranks 27th in the majors. With 17 strikeouts, the No. 4 hitters are also just three whiffs away from leading the majors.
While the poor production is worrisome enough, an equally important issue is that Wright is not getting the protection he needs.
Without a threat at the cleanup spot, pitchers can afford to pitch around Wright, who is far and away the strongest hitter in the lineup. In turn, this means the Mets are unable to maximize his offensive production.
A perfect example of this dynamic is the most recent World Baseball Classic.
Surrounded by star players (who, to be fair, cannot realistically all be on the same MLB team together), Wright was unstoppable. Although he only played four games, he hit an incredible .438/.526/.750 and even led the tournament with 10 RBI.
If the Mets have any chance of competing this year, they must force opposing pitchers to pitch to their best hitter.
Stats from ESPN.com and MLB.com as of Tuesday, April 15.