Mets need Eric Young back at leadoff

Eric Young Jr.
Eric Young Jr. has sparked the Mets offense, and they need to keep him in the lineup.

After a promising start, the New York Mets have spent early May losing low-scoring games and leaving runners on base. This is correlated directly with the removal from Eric Young Jr., their resident Energizer Bunny, from the lineup. I’m well aware the correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, but in this case, the causal arrows seem clear. In 10 games without EY in the lineup, the Mets are 2-8; they score 3.2 runs per game, hit .222 and are 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts. In 25 games with EY in the lineup, the Mets are 14-11; they score 4.2 runs per game, hit .226 and are 25-for-32 in stolen base attempts. When Eric Young is in the lineup, the Mets’ batting average doesn’t improve dramatically, but they score a run per game more and they’re more aggressive on the bases. Juan Lagares has hit well this season, as have Daniel Murphy and David Wright; the problem has been leaving runners on base. Young’s speed and ability to manufacture runs can make up for their poor hitting with runners in scoring position, because Young is more likely to score on any kind of hit, whichever base he’s on.

The question of which outfielder EY would replace also seems obvious. Lagares, with his outstanding defense and improved hitting, appears to have finally cemented his role as the everyday center fielder. Curtis Granderson, despite having a lousy year at the plate so far, is an everyday caliber player on offense and defense and his position must be regarded as safe. This leaves Chris Young, acquired in the off season as a reclamation project, to become the fourth outfielder while Eric Young takes over in left. This should be an obvious solution, as Chris Young’s hitting has been atrocious and he shows an alarming tendency to strike out in situations where a productive out would make a big difference. (Grandy strikes out too much to bat cleanup, as well, but I’ve already addressed that matter.) Chris Young has speed and power, can play all three outfield positions and is probably mostly fit to hit middle relievers and hanging pitches; that, to me, sounds like a fourth outfielder. Ideally, EY might be a fourth outfielder, as well, but his middling defense is much less of a problem with Lagares next to him — and despite his detractors’ insistence, he’s far from atrocious. Meanwhile, he provides a spark to an offense that badly needs one. Eric Young replacing Chris Young in left field should be, at this point, an obvious choice.

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