By: Brian Mangan
It was an ugly night tonight for Wilmer Flores, but it was an even uglier night for the Mets and their fans, who are losing patience with the 23 year old conversion project. Flores booted an easy double play ball in the fourth inning for his sixth error of the year. The error opened the door for the Nationals to score their first three runs, and they never looked back – adding two more in the sixth and three more after that to seal an easy win. The Mets lost 8-2 to the Nationals, dropping their third game in a row.
Uglier than Flores’s error tonight — which was almost irrelevant given the silent bats and lackluster bullpen — was the reaction that he received from the fans at the stadium and on Twitter. For the first time this year, there were legitimate boos at Citi Field, while on #MetsTwitter, many took the opportunity to snidely declare the Flores experiment over. And, of course, demand their pound of flesh from #MetsTwitter’s resident Wilmer Flores supporter, yours truly.I understand that there is frustration, I do. If I had a magic wand, I would make it so that the Mets had a great defensive shortstop. But as should be apparent by now, I have no such magical abilities, and we can only play the hand we have been dealt. Therefore, before this horse gets further out of the barn, here are some reminders.
1. The options to upgrade at shortstop in free agency were lackluster to say the least.
Jung-ho Kang has been deemed “not a shortstop” and has a 656 OPS. Takashi Toritani stayed in Japan. Stephen Drew is hitting .170, and Jed Lowrie got a $23 million dollar deal coming off a season where he had a 676 OPS. Hanley Ramirez was moved off shortstop.
2. The options to upgrade at shortstop through trades were lackluster to say the least.
Marcus Semien cost Jeff Samardzjia. He is hitting, but is in the negative by Total Zone and Defensive Runs Saved. Didi Gregorious cost Shane Greene. He is hitting .206 with a 499 OPS. Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Desmond were not moved — though for what it’s worth Tulowitzki only has 0.6 WAR and Desmond has been below replacement level.
3. The options to upgrade at shortstop within the organization are lackluster to say the least.
So here we are, with people actually clamoring for Ruben Tejada again. Short memories? The other option inside the organization is Matt Reynolds, who was given the same “not a shortstop” label as Flores and so many others. I liked what I saw from Reynolds in the Spring, but I’m not a scout – I don’t know if he can do it. Even if he can do it, he has only 20 games above Double-A, is he ready? He made two errors in the spring in only 80 innings.
Stick With Wilmer
I never said I thought he would be an average shortstop defensively — but, in looking at his offensive and defensive contributions taken together, I thought that he was a worthwhile experiment for a while. People need to realize that Flores, even after tonight’s poor performance, is hitting better than the league average player. Not the league average shortstop, but the league average player. Flores is hitting .254/.293/.408 with 15% Ks, after an extended slump — I believe he will hit better than this. But even if he does not, the National League overall is batting only .249/.314/.390 with 20% Ks.
It’s too early to boo the kid out of town. It’s also too early to declare his experiment at shortstop a failure. No, nobody ever thought he would be a league average defensive shortstop. But the question was: how bad of a shortstop will be he, and will be hit enough to make up for it? Despite what you’ve been told, the error was not the most important play last night, nor was it the second — it was, in fact, the eighth most important play of the game last night.
The Mets had two on and nobody out in the sixth and couldn’t score. The Mets had two on and nobody out in the first and couldn’t score. deGrom allowed a single, walk and sac fly after the error, and deGrom and the pen allowed five runs over the last four innings without any errors.
Again, nobody wants Wilmer there, but he is what we have. And as of right now, he’s got the second-highest slugging percentage on the team, the third most WAR, and he’s been healthy enough to play through two hit-by-pitch. And he’s still the youngest player on the team, younger than Plawecki, younger than Leathersich, younger than Robles.
I would encourage you, if you are a reasonable Mets fan, to give it a rest with the snark. Give it a rest with trying to give me a come-uppance about this. Just support your team. Until Troy Tulowitzki lands in our laps, or the scouting reports on Matt Reynolds become too strong and too certain to ignore, Wilmer Flores — who is currently 11th among shortstops in WAR — is probably the best chance we’ve got.
I want the Mets to win, you want the Mets to win. It’s a long season, and a lot will happen. Root, root for the home team, will ya?
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Some things I’ve written in the past on Wilmer, if you think I’m running away from any of it: