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Mets Weekend Roundup (Games 4 and 5) April 11, 2016

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Yoenis Cespedes finally homered in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Phillies. Cespedes’ home run chased starter Jeremy Hellickson in the bottom of the 6th inning, coming on Cespedes’ third plate appearance of the day. In the first four games of the season, Yoenis had 2 hits and 2 walks on 18 plate appearances, so his homer came on his 21st plate appearance of the season. Last year, Cespedes played 10 games in New York before homering, hitting .262 with a .279 OBP. For Detroit, Cespedes homered 18 times in 427 plate appearances for an average of 23.72 plate appearances per homer; his Mets numbers were significantly better, at 17 homers in 249 plate appearances, for one home run every 14.65 plate appearances. His BAbip in Detroit was .333; in New York last year, it was .306. Ces has never been an OBP guy, but his BAbip this year is .222, meaning he may be suffering more than would be expected from good defense by the Phillies and Royals. Still, even assuming last year’s New York stats were accurate, you’d expect a 20-PA homer-free streak with probability (1 – (17/249))20, or about 24.3%. My hunch is that Cespedes won’t reach last year’s numbers, but he’ll probably nail 30 home runs this year.

Over the weekend, Bartolo Colon took a tough loss, in both the common and technical senses, when he pitched a 6-inning, 7-K, 1-run ballgame for a game score of 65. Colon pitched to a game score of 65 or better 11 times in 2015, recording a 7-2 record. The Phillies bullpen did not collapse as predicted, meaning that giving up one run was enough to lose the game. Phillies starter Vincent Velasquez outpitched Colon, and the bullpen just held up enough.

Steven Matz starts tonight’s game against the Marlins’ Jarred Cosart. Matz and Cosart faced off last year in September; Tyler Clippard blew the save. Current Marlins are 4-17 against Matz for a .267/.353/.467 line; current Mets slash .264/.349/.472 against Cosart. Cosart was chased after 4 2/3 last time. The Marlins bullpen has pitched to a respectable 3.89 ERA this season and closer A.J. Ramos has converted his only save, so the Mets need to score early and often to get this one under control.

Don Kelly is currently hitting .286/.500/.286 for AAA New Orleans and is unavailable from the bullpen.

The Phillies’ Bullpen Is Truly Wretched (Mets Game 4 Preview) April 9, 2016

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Yesterday’s Mets home opener was joyous – Jacob deGrom‘s son decided to wait a little while longer, we got another masterful performance from Lazarus I Mean Jim Henderson, and Michael Conforto was firmly in Good Lucas Duda Mode. Besides, the Phillies had to go to their bullpen after 5+.

Despite a solid performance by young Jerad Eickhoff – in which he hit a double and scored one of two runs for Philadelphia – the Phillies starter ended up in trouble in the sixth when Duda doubled, Neil Walker singled him home, and Conforto doubled Walker home. Jim Henderson pitched a perfect seventh, and the Mets bullpen allowed only one run (unearned) after Peter Bourjos reached on an E5. Hansel Robles got a K, allowed Bourjos on, and then allowed a hit to Cesar Hernandez before Jerry Blevins came in to clean up lefty-batting Odubel Herrera and Hernandez on a double play. Antonio Bastardo finished the game with two strikeouts, allowing one single.

Photo: Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA

Bartolo Colon takes the mound today. Photo: Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA

The Phillies bullpen has been awful this year, and this game is a microcosm of why. Eickhoff pitched well, but his bullpen couldn’t get a handle on it. Dalier Hinojosa got two outs and, despite a difficult at-bat, rule 5 draftee Daniel Stumpf finally recorded an out. In the seventh, James Russell got a single out, but allowed two walks and three singles; David Hernandez allowed another run before closing out the inning. This season, the Phillies’ starters have posted a 3.80 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP – both quite respectable, especially considering Charlie Morton‘s rough start. The bullpen, however, has pitched to a 12.66 ERA and a 2.44 WHIP, meaning for every inning pitched they allow almost three men to reach base.

Pete Mackanin has used Hinojosa in three of four games thus far, lefties Stumpf and Russell twice each, and Hinojosa and Hernandez three times. In those, Hinojosa and Russell each have one blown save. Stumpf is unproven but being used in relatively high-leverage situations, while Hector Neris is coming in in low-leverage situations despite having some of the best stats on the team. I recognize that Stumpf is young and being broken in – catcher Cameron Rupp came out and put his arm over Stumpf’s shoulder several times in yesterday’s game – but the Phillies seem to be treating his development as a goal that comes at the expense of the team.

Bartolo Colon starts tonight against the Phillies; current Phillies have hit .267/.301/.371 against Bartolo. Odubel Herrera is 4-13 against Colon, and a handful of Phillies are above the .300 mark. Meanwhile, the only Met starter Vincent Velasquez has faced is Alejandro De Aza, who is 1-2.

Bartolo’s stats against current Phillies:

Ryan Howard 27 24 5 0 0 2 2 2 .208 .259 .458 .718
Darin Ruf 7 7 1 0 0 1 0 1 .143 .143 .571 .714
Carlos Ruiz 18 18 5 1 0 0 0 3 .278 .278 .333 .611
Cesar Hernandez 8 7 3 0 0 0 1 4 .429 .500 .429 .929
Emmanuel Burriss 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Andres Blanco 7 6 3 1 0 0 1 2 .500 .571 .667 1.238
Peter Bourjos 7 6 2 0 0 0 1 3 .333 .429 .333 .762
Odubel Herrera 13 13 4 0 0 0 0 3 .308 .308 .308 .615
Freddy Galvis 15 15 4 1 0 0 0 3 .267 .267 .333 .600
Jerad Eickhoff 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500
Cameron Rupp 10 10 2 0 0 0 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .400
Maikel Franco 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Charlie Morton 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 123 116 31 3 0 3 6 25 .267 .301 .371 .672
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/9/2016.


Bring On The Phils (Mets Game 3 Preview) April 8, 2016

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Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Larry Bowa becomes apoplectic over Hansel Robles. Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This afternoon, the Mets host the Phillies to open their season series. No love lost here: keep in mind, it was Philadelphia’s Cameron Rupp who future closer Hansel Robles was suspended for completely accidentally attempting to quick-bean. Robles was also accused of attempted murder when he executed his quick-pitch on Darin Ruff in August. Since the Phils and the Mets have never quite gotten along, this will probably turn ugly quickly. Rupp played in Wednesday’s game and Ruf has appeared in every game so far; expect Robles to get no end of chatter from the Philly bench this series.

Philadelphia is coming off three losses to Cincinnati. The season opener featured a loss by David Hernandez and a blown save by James Russel, spoiling an excellent start by Jeremy Hellickson (game score of 70). Dalier Hinojosa blew the save and took the loss on Wednesday, flushing an 8-strikeout, 1-run, 7-inning start by Aaron Nola down the drain (game score of 73). Thursday, starter Charlie Morton finally lost his own game, getting bounced after 5 runs in 3 2/3 innings. Hinojosa acquitted himself reasonably, pitching a two-hit 8th but giving up no runs. Rookie Daniel Stumpf walked two and allowed a home run before being hooked, leading him to the rare infinite ERA. Long man Brett Oberholtzer gave up one run in 3 1/3 innings.

The Philly bullpen is beat up. On a day game after a night game, and with Friday the third consecutive game day, it’s difficult to see Hinojosa pitching for the third consecutive day. Hernandez is fresh, but it’s not inconceivable we could see Stumpf in middle relief to try to shake out the yips. Jerad Eickhoff, who cannot spell his own name, will start Friday for Philadelphia. Eickoff pitched 51 innings in 8 games to a 2.65 ERA last year. He had a slightly lucky .257 BAbip with an 8.6 K9 and a 3.77 KBB. His work against the Mets is mixed. Michael Conforto has taken him to school (4-8 with a homer and a walk, despite two Ks); Yoenis Cespedes had a tougher time (1-6, 2 Ks).

The story of the game is that the Mets plan to start Jacob deGrom, who will leave immediately if his wife goes into labor. If that happens before the game, Bartolo Colon and Steven Matz are likely fill-in candidates. deGrom has had a tough time with the Phillies – though he’s 1-0 against them, he’s allowed a 4.41 ERA and a .313/.352/.463 line against them. His numbers against current Phillies are below:

Freddy Galvis 8 8 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 .625 .625 .625 1.250 0 0 0 0 1
Odubel Herrera 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Howard 8 8 3 0 0 1 3 0 2 .375 .375 .750 1.125 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Ruiz 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Cesar Hernandez 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 .500 .750 .500 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Maikel Franco 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Andres Blanco 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Cameron Rupp 2 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 41 38 13 0 0 2 4 3 9 .342 .390 .500 .890 0 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/7/2016.

Could James Loney fit on the roster? April 7, 2016

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The Rays released James Loney a few days ago. That’s a big drop down for the 31-year-old first baseman, who was 6th in Rookie of the Year polling in 2007. Though his bat slowed down in 2015 and he posted his worst lines since 2012, he still hit .280/.322/.357. Since the Rays released him, they’re due to pay him $8 million this year, meaning he could pull a Gary Sheffield and play for the league minimum. He doesn’t hit like a traditional first baseman: his 2015 numbers extrapolate to about 25 doubles and 6 home runs for a 162-game, 603-plate-appearance season. He’s a lifetime .266/.310/.418 pinch hitter, and he’s made three appearances as a pinch runner, with the last one coming in 2012. Loney is known as a solid defensive first baseman, although his defensive wins above replacement have been reliably negative and spiked down to -0.9 in 2014 and -0.7 last year.

By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (James Loney) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Common

By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (James Loney) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Common

There’s an argument to be made that Loney might be more useful in the National League, considering the somewhat greater number of ground balls in the NL compared to fly balls. Loney had solid lateral movement, but the AL averaged .82 ground balls for every fly ball, and the Rays were at .74, in 2015. Meanwhile, the NL averaged .89, and Mets pitchers were right on the button. Closer Jeurys Familia was up at 1.52, with Bartolo Colon the fly-ball-est starter at a .75 GB/FB ratio. Loney might be more comfortable making picks than fielding high throws.

However, look at the marginal Mets player: Eric Campbell. With Wilmer Flores in a utility role and five full-time outfielders, picking up Loney would mean dropping Campbell or a pitcher. Conceivably we could talk trading Lucas Duda, but that’s not a move I can see the front office making (nor is it a move I’d endorse – Loney’s role would be as a lefty pinch hitter, double switch enabler, and defensive replacement). The Mets are carrying 12 pitchers, but that number includes the as-yet unproven Jim Henderson and starter-in-waiting Logan Verrett; one of them will have to go when Zack Wheeler comes back from Tommy John surgery. Temporarily dropping to 11 pitchers would set us up for a much nastier cut when Wheeler returns.

The truth is that Campbell isn’t a long-term solution, but Loney is even less of one. Campbell is expected to serve as a sixth outfielder in emergencies, while Loney hasn’t played the outfield since the Bush administration. Campbell was also called on to run for Travis d’Arnaud in Tuesday’s game, and logically he’s the soundest choice – Alejandro De Aza swiped 7 but got caught 5 times last year, and the 205-pound Flores isn’t exactly tearing up the base paths. Juan Lagares has some speed, but he’ll be starting games against lefties and won’t always be available from the bench. Loney is also a one-position player, and – though Flores’ ability to play anywhere in the infield is valuable – Campbell is there to prevent serious problems like Anthony Recker playing third base. Campbell also squatted a minor league game last year, so while I wouldn’t trust him to catch, he’s willing to do it.

I’d rather Campbell were playing every day – if he’s going to develop, he needs the time. But bringing in Loney and sending Campbell down would be a mistake for the Mets. It’s a shame. I like Loney. But I don’t think he’ll fit here.

Five Mets To Keep Warm, and Run Scoring Into The Postseason October 5, 2015

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Catcher Anthony Recker, infielder Eric Campbell, outfielder Eric Young, Jr., and pitchers Logan Verrett and Bobby Parnell will head to Port St Lucie for the fall instructional league, says ESPN. Kirk Nieuwenhuis will go to LA or to Port St Lucie, depending on whether Juan Uribe is healthy. That spot will likely be solely for pinch hitting, since Nieuwenhuis and Uribe aren’t interchangeable hitters at all.

Bartolo Colon and Jonathon Niese pitched from the bullpen in what appeared to be heavily planned outings.

It’s alarming that the Mets have scored only 2 runs in their last 4 games. However, they also scored 46 in their last 10; which of those figures tells us more about the postseason? Frankly, neither.

Looking at least year’s NLDS and NLCS, the correlations are extremely weak: runs scored over the last 10 games of the season predicted about 8% of runs scored in the NLDS, with the strongest explanatory power coming at 3 games (12.4%), closely followed by 8 games (12.3%). This is only based on last year’s numbers, but the correlations are mostly noise.

Even a simple model based on runs scored doesn’t work for last year – the Giants defeated the Nationals, who outscored them, and the Cardinals, who didn’t.

This year’s Mets have scored 683 runs and allowed 613. The Dodgers scored 667 and allowed 595. In their 7 games this year, the Mets won 4, and outscored them 33-19. The Mets were 2-2 in Citi Field and 2-1 in Dodger Stadium.

Mets Home Field Magic Number is 3, Because Time Is Running Out October 2, 2015

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If you do the math, 163 – Mets Wins – Dodgers Losses, you’ll end up with a magic number of 4 wins by the Mets and losses by the Dodgers to clinch home field for the National League Division Series. Both teams are 89-70, so each team going 3-3 would result in a tie. Since the Mets own the tiebreaker, though, the Mets don’t have to beat the Dodgers, just tie them.

The Mets enter a the last three games of the series tonight with Noah Syndergaard facing off against Gio Gonzalez. Gio has seen a steady rise in his ERA since moving to the Nationals in 2011 and is currently 11-8. Gio also reliably hits one double and home run per year; he’s a career .088 hitter and has checked off the 2B box but not the home run box so far.

The Mets have won their last six games against Washington. Syndergaard has a win and a no decision in a team loss to the Nationals this year; Gonzalez is 2-0 with a losing no decision against the Mets. The Nationals were 2-3, but Gonzalez was 2-1, in September; Gio put up a 2.89 ERA in September.

Yesterday’s bullpen game was ugly, but only offensively. Losing pitcher Sean Gilmartin pitched 5 innings and gave up 2 runs. Tim Stauffer gave up one hit in two innings of relief, in a nice surprise. Dario Alvarez gave up a home run to Andres Blanco, but Jeurys Familia struck out Aaron Altherr to end the game. Kevin Plawecki took the only walk for New York.

Against the Nationals in New York, Terry Collins is likely to start his usuals who sat during yesterday’s noon game. More offense is likely, and with the bullpen’s B team putting together a quality game, Syndergaard supported by Jonathon Niese, Tyler Clippard, and Addison Reed should be able to hold Gio homerless.

Mets’ Home Field Magic Number at 4, Despite Embarrassing Loss October 1, 2015

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e9e65ede57d06aadce758b40b245c159-originalHansel Robles was bounced from last night’s game against the Phillies for “throwing at” Philadelphia catcher Cameron Rupp. That ejection was controversial because the ball clearly just got away from the fireballing right-hander, but he (along with manager Terry Collins) was ejected because both benches had been warned. Yoenis Cespedes had been hit on the hand in the third by Justin De Fratus; Kirk Nieuwenhuis was hit by De Fratus’ replacement, Adam Loewen in the fifth; and Logan Verrett retaliated in the bottom of the fifth by hitting Odubel Herrera. When the ball got away from Robles and sailed past Rupp’s head on a 2-2 count (despite a sign from Travis d’Arnaud for a breaking pitch), Robles was toast.

A total of 17 pitchers (9 Mets and 8 Phillies) were used; that’s not a record, not even for a September 30th game. Way back in 2007 on the same date, the Cardinals used 10 pitchers in a winning effort over the Pirates’ 8.

The Mets could take tonight’s game; Sean Gilmartin will start with Tim Stauffer tapped to relieve him. Though Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard appeared last night, they should be available to relieve today. Philadelphia will start rookie Jerad Eickhoff.

Thanks to a loss by the Dodgers to Mike Leake‘s two-hit complete game for the Giants, the Mets are one game closer to home field advantage. If the Mets win all 4 remaining games, they’ll clinch home field advantage; LA faces Tim Hudson in the last start of Hudson’s career tonight.

Mets’ Magic Number For Home Field: 5 (Game 158 Preview) September 30, 2015

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Photo: slgckgc

Photo: slgckgc

Following a masterful one-hit performance by Clayton Kershaw and a 4-1 loss by the Mets, the Dodgers still remain within a few games of home field advantage. The Mets are 89-68; the Dodgers are 88-69. The Mets could thus clinch home field advantage by winning 5 games.

Bartolo Colon‘s stiff neck and Wilmer Flores‘ “little bit” of strep throat (according to Gary Cohen) kept the game close – Ruben Tejada got the start at shortstop and went 1-3 with a walk. If Wilmer really does have strep, he’ll sit again tonight; if he just has a lingering sore throat from cigar smoke, he may be back in the lineup. I was surprised not to see Kelly Johnson stay in the game at short after pinch-hitting, but Terry Collins will probably try him out there again in this series. This can’t be make or break for Johnson, since he’s valuable as a utilityman, so I can only presume that Ruben Tejada’s status on the bench is in question. That’s also surprising, considering Tejada’s reputation as a strong defender, but Ruben has been below average this year at short (his fielding percentage was high but he made 5 errors in 76 games and his range factor is eh). Flores is also below average, but his bat is consistently better than Tejada’s. Having Johnson as a defensive option would allow Tejada to be pulled off the lineup if necessary.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers will face the Giants again today. Sophomore Mike Bolsinger starts for the Dodgers against Mike Leake for the Giants. Bolsinger has a respectable 3.48 ERA but that jumps to 6.88 since his September callup. Leake has a 4.86 ERA since being traded to the Giants; in 5 games with Buster Posey, it’s only 3.41, but in 9 innings with Trevor Brown behind the plate he’s allowed 7 earned runs. (A bit of that is likely due to a huge BAbip split: .222 with Posey, .343 with Brown.) With the Dodgers 5 games away from home field advantage, Don Mattingly is unlikely to put out a day-after lineup. Expect to see closer (and birthday boy) Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t worked since back-to-back games on the 23rd and 24th. Jansen has 34 saves this year.


Bullpen Bullets for September 30, 2015 September 30, 2015

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With the playoffs approaching, pitchers are making their cases to be included on the shortened roster for the National League Division Series.

  • Jonathon Niese made his first trip out of the bullpen last night, pitching 1 2/3 innings and giving up one earned run and 3 hits. He left Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera on base, and Eric Goeddel let Galvis come home. Niese allowed a hit to leadoff batter Cody Asche and looked to me like he might not have been totally warm. I expect Niese to get more comfortable in the ‘pen as he gets more work; expect Terry Collins to try him out as a situational lefty, although I think he’s more valuable as an ecumenical long relief option.
  • Speaking of ecumenical long relief options, Logan Verrett starts tonight in place of Steven Matz, who will start tomorrow instead after sleeping on a sofa and getting a stiff back. Bartolo Colon was favoring his neck last night, too; it sounds like the boys might have had a bit too much fun over the past few nights.
  • Hansel Robles hasn’t pitched since throwing a third of an inning in relief of Tim Stauffer on the 25th. Bobby Parnell closed the Understudies game on the 27th. The bullpen trio of Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard, and Jeurys Familia have been idle since the 26th. Expect to see them in relief of Verrett for any lead tonight, particularly since Niese will need to rest after throwing almost 2 innings..
  • Sean Gilmartin had been used in a long role; with Niese being tried out, there may not be room for Gilmartin on the playoff roster, particularly since they both tend to be better against righties. Gilmartin allows a .214/.287/.282 line to right-handed batters vs .272/.330/.359 to lefties; Niese’s split is less pronounced at .274/.340/.421 against righthanders vs .293/.331/.495 to left-handers. Niese’s comfort level getting ready quickly may determine whether he’s used in long relief or as a stuational lefty, but frankly neither of them is a strong pitcher against left-handers. By comparison, the right-handed Robles is pitching .169/.217/.251 to left-handed batters.

The Mets’ Home Field Magic Number is 6 (Game 157 Preview) September 28, 2015

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Bartolo Colon starts Tuesday against the Phillies’ David Buchanan. Despite some noise about moving Bart to the bullpen, he is 13-2 in-division and 4-0 against the Phillies this year. Colon has posted a 5.80 KBB ratio and a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings against Philadelphia, so it would be foolish not to start him. (Both Philadelphia and the Mets are idle tonight.)

Colon has the chops to go for a complete game. However, Jonathon Niese is moving to the bullpen effective today, so Terry Collins may be looking for an opportunity to get Niese into the game. With rookies Steven Matz, Logan Verrett, and Noah Syndergaard all trying to go as deep into games as possible, it may make more sense to plan to pitch Bart for 6 innings and bring Niese into a clean 7th. Let him pitch 2, see what he can do, and use Jeurys Familia or Hansel Robles depending on the situation in the 9th.

The Mets can clinch home field advantage for the National League Division Series with any combination of 6 wins by the Mets and losses by the Dodgers. The magic number is defined (in MLB) as (163 – Wins by the Mets – Losses by the Dodgers); currently, the Mets are 89-67 and the Dodgers are 87-68. Since the Dodgers have played 155 of 162 games, they could conceivably finish 94-68 by winning every remaining game. That means the Mets could clinch just by getting to 95 wins (6 more). The Mets could lose all 6 of their remaining games and end up at 89-73, but the Dodgers would have to win three games to finish 90-72 (losing no more than 4). The Mets own the tiebreaker (4-3 season series), so it would be incumbent on the Dodgers to win more games than the Mets.

With all of the Mets’ starters rested, they can head into Philadelphia ready to nail down 2 of 3. Of active, qualified players, the Phillies’ OBP leader is rookie Odubel Herrera with an anemic .333. Three players have slightly better OBP and enough plate appearances, but they are Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Ben Revere – on the 15-day DL, the 60-day DL, and the Blue Jays roster, respectively. Switch-hitting Andres Blanco has too few plate appearances to qualify for rate stats but is rolling a .356 OBP. OPS leader Aaron Altherr has a .513 slugging average, meaning that he averages slightly over half a base per at-bat. (Walks don’t contribute to SLG.)

Expect this series to continue the trend of trying out players at different positions. Kelly Johnson will likely see work at shortstop, and with Juan Uribe out I’d also love to see Daniel Murphy take a few innings at third. Although Anthony Recker played the hot corner in an emergency earlier this year, Recker likely won’t make the postseason roster anyway, and in any situation in which we need to lift David Wright, playing Murphy at third and Kelly Johnson or Wilmer Flores at second would be a net defensive upgrade.