Karpin’s Korner: Jeff is #1, Yank Aaron

There has been some debate about who should bat lead off for the Mets, but it should be Jeff McNeil.

The analytics people love Brandon Nimmo at lead off because he draws a lot of walks. McNeil does not walk as much as Nimmo but is unquestionably a superior hitter overall.

Why McNeil over Nimmo at lead off?

As mentioned, McNeil is the better hitter with the potential to win a batting title or two so why wouldn’t you want to have that kind of dangerous and productive bat as your first hitter of the game. McNeil may not walk a lot but he does not strike out a lot either, a very underrated quality in today’s analytically based game.

McNeil provides more of a speed threat than Nimmo and is an outstanding bunter, so he gives you a few more “options” to get on base. With all due respect to Nimmo who plays hard and with a lot of passion, when the opposing pitchers began throwing him strikes, he was too focused on the walk and got into bad counts early in the season.

I don’t want to hear that the batting order doesn’t matter. The first inning is the only inning in a game where you can plan who the first three hitters will be. A McNeil single (on the first or second pitch which is his specialty) or even an extra base hit can shake up a pitcher even more so than a walk. With McNeil hitting “behind the pitcher” when the lineup turns over, he would provide protection for a pinch-hitter later in the game.

On a side note, let’s say the Mets send up left hand hitting Dom Smith as a pinch hitter for the pitcher, in front of McNeil. If the opposing manager goes to a lefty to face Smith, that pitcher has to face three batters. (depending on the number of outs) McNeil has much better numbers vs. lefties than Nimmo has, so that gives him an edge in the leadoff spot.

The Mets may not have a whole lot of “attractive” names in their lineup, but they have something that many teams lack and that is balance.

A short time ago, the Mets were a predominantly left handed offense. That’s where the loss of Yoenis Cespedes was felt the most.

The arrival of Pete Alonso, coupled with the right handed production from Wilson Ramos and Amed Rosario has helped balance out a lineup that features Michael Conforto,
McNeil and Nimmo from the left side.

Their balance is also on display in the makeup of the lineup. What does that mean? It means, the Mets have the big bats who feast on the fastball, but they also have hitters who are not “suckers” for the breaking stuff and are simply tough outs like McNeil and Ramos.

One thing to remember about Dellin Betances, he has always been a slow starter in the spring and has built up his velocity as he accumulates appearances. Betances is scheduled to make his first spring appearance on Saturday vs. the Nationals at Clover Park. The Mets are hoping to get the Betances that the Yankees had when he was healthy, so there’s no need to rush him.

Now that the Yankees have finally gotten a handle on what has been ailing Aaron Judge, they can start to move forward with the roster that they’ll bring north when the season starts later this month. As mentioned previously in this column, Judge has to prove he can stay on the field and this is another hurdle in his attempt to stay healthy. Reportedly, Judge suffered the injury while diving for a ball in a game in late September. Judge is a highly competitive athlete, so it’s hard to tell him not to dive but the Yankees are always holding their breath when such a big man goes to the ground trying to make a play.

Going into spring camp, the Yankees projected an outfield (from left to right) of Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner and Judge. Due to another stunning spate of injuries, the outfield now looks like Mike Tauchman or Miguel Andujar, Gardner and Clint Frazier.

Andujar played first base for the first time yesterday and did not fare too well. Andujar dropped a “more than catchable” throw from the infield so it appears that he will concentrate on left field and third base. The problem with Andujar in left is that he hasn’t really been tested out there either. His timing was poor on that catchable throw and that can be corrected in a very short time. I wouldn’t give up on the first base experiment just yet.

Yankees have reportedly sent scouts around to look at starting pitchers that could potentially become available in a trade down the road. That doesn’t mean they’re looking to make a deal right now (No, they did not ask the Mets about Steven Matz) because there is no market for starting pitcher at this time of year.

The Yankees are simply doing their due diligence in case something else happens. The way things have gone this spring, who knows what’s next.

The Yankees are fortunate that they play in the AL East instead of the tough NL East.

I’m not big on the idea of mic’-ing players during a regular season game. That’s a gimmick that is perfect for spring training games and the All Star game where it won’t be so intrusive.

Players need to concentrate on the game, not what they’re saying or trying to be entertaining because they’re wearing a microphone.

Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com

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