What Is Wrong With Francisco Lindor?
The Cleveland Indians made headlines this last offseason, most of which were of the negative variety when they traded franchise shortstop Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets. New York soon after then handed the 27-year old Lindor a 10-year deal, paying him a total of $341 million.
But while Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, two of the four total players Cleveland received in parting with Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco, have had their ups and downs, Lindor has struggled mightily in his first two months in the Big Apple. In fact, some fans in New York are already worried about his performance and if this is just a small slump or the start of something troublesome.
Let’s examine Lindor’s 2021, both the good and the bad, and see if there’s a reason for optimism or panic for the former Indians shortstop.
Lindor’s 2021 Season
For the man nicknamed “Mr. Smile,” Lindor’s 2021 season has been mostly frown-inducing. Through the first two months of the season, Lindor has not only failed to reach his previous All-Star numbers but has actually been a well-below-average hitter across the whole league.
Entering June 1, Lindor is hitting just .198. He has been hitting below .200 for nearly an entire month, and at one point, saw his average dip to .157 after a game on May 5. Lindor also has just four home runs and 11 RBI, with just one of those homers coming in April.
Beyond the basic box score numbers, Lindor is slashing .198/.295/.299, giving him a paltry .595 OPS that ranks as the 10th-worst in baseball among qualified players. His OPS+, where the league average is 100, is currently at 69. If that’s not bad enough, Lindor is also making an out on 76 percent of his balls put in play, the fifth-worst among qualified batters and roughly the same out rate as league pitchers.
A Troubling Trend
Lindor’s 2021 campaign is definitely the worst of his career, but it’s not because of strikeouts. Despite the poor offensive numbers, Lindor has 31 strikeouts this year and 22 walks, showing that his approach at the plate is still fine.
The issue with Lindor has to do with his hard-hit rate, and more specifically, his lack of it. The shortstop has a five percent barrel rate, the lowest of his career since 2016. After peaking in 2018 with a 9.5 percent clip, Lindor has gone the last three years from 9.5 to 7.5 in 2019, to 5.6 last year, to now five in 2021.
Basically, the issue is that when Lindor does make contact, it’s in the form of weakly-hit balls that turn into easy outs. And what’s worse is that, at 27, this should be the prime of his career, and yet his decline in hard-hit rate over the last few years is reminiscent of players in the downswing of their careers.
Can Lindor Bounce Back?
History says that Lindor is not going to hit below .200 for an entire season; however, his hard-hit rate continues to spiral. So which Lindor are the Mets going to get for the remainder of the season?
Regardless of what the answer is, one thing is clear. The former Indian’s days of 30+ homers, 100+ runs, and 90+ RBI seem like a distant memory.
And for that, Cleveland’s decision to trade their star a year ahead of free agency doesn’t seem all that bad of a move after all.
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