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ST. LOUIS — Francisco Lindor’s slump to start his Mets career has become the most analyzed in baseball this season.
Is it mechanical? Mental? The jolt of switching leagues and becoming entrenched in a new environment?
Just over a month since signing a 10-year extension with the club worth $341 million, Lindor took a dreadful .171/.289/.220 slash line with one homer and three RBIs into Monday night’s game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, as he remained tethered to the No. 2 hole in the lineup.
A deeper look into the numbers shows that Lindor’s biggest issue isn’t chasing pitches or strikeouts, but his inability to barrel the ball. Entering play he had barreled 2.8 percent of pitches, which ranked in the 12th percentile among MLB players, according to Statcast. Lindor’s barrel rate the previous three seasons were 9.5, 7.5 and 5.6, respectively.
“He seems tentative at the plate, caught in-between,” a major league scout said, adding that Lindor’s low barrel rate is probably a timing issue, connected to lack of aggressiveness and not seeing the ball well.
“Bad trifecta,” the scout added. “Keep swinging.”
A second scout said Lindor has become too pull-happy, and that is evident even in batting practice.
“He’s trying to go yard all the time instead of trying to use the field more, making hard contact,” the second scout said. “He’s always had home-run power. He’s trying to yank the ball too much.”
The Post presented that hypothesis to manager Luis Rojas before Monday night’s game. Rojas said it was a plausible notion.
“I have been seeing him try to pull sometimes, forcing to pull the ball instead of naturally pulling,” Rojas said. “There’s been some pitches middle/away to away that he’s tried to pull and he just can’t get there and it turned into weak grounders, because he has to throw his hands, he can’t reach out there.
“I don’t know if he’s going for the [home run] result, but he wants to pull the ball in the air or he’s tried to pull the ball in the air. Right now I think he’s focusing more on the middle of the field.”
Lindor, entering play, had struck out only 12.2 percent of the time. He had also walked 12.2 percent of the time. Both figures were better than Lindor’s career percentages, telling Rojas that pitch selection or chasing hasn’t been as much the issue as the quality of contact.
“I just think his body has been out of the position where he can hit the ball a certain way,” Rojas said. “He’s gotten pitches that he’s able to pull and he pulls a little bit too early and those go foul, well-hit foul. The pitch selection has been good as far as pitches being strikes. It’s just body control that has been out of whack.”
Lindor’s most notable hit came 2 ½ weeks ago, when he delivered a go-ahead RBI single that allowed Jacob deGrom to win a game in Colorado. On that same road trip, Lindor blasted his first Mets homer, against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. But he was hitless in his last 20 plate appearances, entering play.
Rojas isn’t ready yet to hit the panic button and place Lindor on the bench for a game or two or even drop him in the lineup. The fact the offense showed life in Philadelphia, where the Mets won two of three games over the weekend, might have lessened the pressure on the manager to consider such a move.
The second scout said it would be foolish for the Mets to panic just a month into the season.
“He has so much fun playing and he’s very positive,” the second scout said. “I don’t see a mental aspect to it where he’s going to start really pressing. I think if we’re talking a month from now, all of a sudden he will be fine.”
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