Chili Was A Victim of Analytics

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

“MLB is making the game too confusing for the players. Too much to have to think about it. It has changed the game big time.”

Perhaps that comment from a longtime baseball insider explains why the Mets, Monday night, relieved hitting coach Chili Davis and his assistant Tom Slater. Need I say it again, you can put the blame on analytics and baseball going in another direction.

The Mets are not hitting, that is, until their past three games against the Phillies and Cardinals. After 23 games they are sitting 29th in scoring , averaging 3.2 runs per game.

So put the blame on a roster that has underachieved. Or put the blame on the $340 million man Francisco Lindor and those 21 hitless at bats which is difficult to comprehend. In due time, though, Lindor will live up to expectations.

Hitting with consistency, hitting with runners in scoring position and scoring runs will eventually be contagious with this Mets lineup. And it won’t matter if Lindor is batting second or at the bottom of the order.

Though, Hugh Quattlebaum and Kevin Howard are supposed to make a difference. They now have the responsibility of doing something that was supposedly not happening with the experience and respect that Davis gave the past three years.

I can say, and after talking last year and now with a few Mets players on ZOOM calls, there was respect for Davis and that constant work ethic to get better.

The team’s answer to the change? Acting GM Zack Scott said the Mets are advancing more in that analytic direction when it comes to game preparation and perhaps a reason why Quattlebaum and Howard were put in place.

The switch-hitting Davis was a career .274 hitter and .360 OB, so he did not need analytics. Neither did so many other former players, who are now successful coaches around the league.

Yet, we know 29 other MLB teams are in that analytic mode and the game has changed from what was good with old fashioned coaching. The Mets, no secret, have beefed up their need for analytics and put a lot of money into the department.

Mets players are not alone when they say analytics has changed their approach to the game preparation. I also spoke with many out of town players who are not advocates of analytics and coaching working together in tandem.

Analytics has changed the game plan, and as I said last week, players are creatures of habit. Numbers put in a machine will not perfect an approach at the plate. It works differently with pitchers as to a fastball, curve, slider, or whatever.

Yet, Davis is old school and his approach worked with that good old fashioned coaching. Michael Conforto has seen better at bats. Jeff McNeil has looked better the past few games. Dominic Smith is getting close. Pete Alonso will eventually hit the home run ball with more consistency.

Baseball is once again a long 162-game season in 2021. There was limited time for adjustments last year with 60 games which leaves more room this year with 10 percent of the season in the books.

You can’t fire the manager this early in the season. Luis Rojas is also managing with numbers and a lineup that is put on his desk. So, I do feel for Davis and other coaches that have become victims of analytics.

The Mets could also be showing signs of being aggressive in making the team better or was this change a sign of panic? The insider also questioned what Davis was told by the Mets’ analytic staff as it pertained to game preparations.

When a team is losing, the pitchers are bad, or the hitters are not hitting. That has been the Mets the first five weeks of this season.

But as the insider said, “It has always been the knee jerk reaction to fire the manager or coach. You can’t fire the team and they will never fire themselves in the front office. The bottom line is the players have to execute and right now they are not.”

He got that right. The players need to execute. The Mets, a talented and capable lineup, have not executed and they are pressing at the plate. Analytics will not change their swings and misses. Francisco Lindor will adjust without the numbers telling him what to do.

Coaches have always been an instrumental part of the game, but the analytic departments are changing strategy and here in line is the issue.

So in turn Chili Davis got a bad deal. And he lost his job because analytics got in the way.

Comment: Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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