The Mets rely heavily on advance scouting reports to position their outfielders. Which is why in the seventh inning on Friday night, with the Marlins' Justin Ruggiano at the plate, centerfielder Jordany Valdespin shaded toward the gap in rightcenter.
From that position, the Mets were willing to concede the gap in leftcenter, knowing that leftfielder Lucas Duda most likely couldn't cover that ground on his own. But it's an example of the tradeoff that the Mets insist they are willing to make to keep Duda's bat in the lineup.
In this case, leaving Duda to cover the gap on his own proved costly. Ruggiano went against the book, driving a liner toward the gap in leftcenter, where Duda made a head first dive in an attempt to make the catch. He missed. The ball rolled to the wall, giving Ruggiano an RBI double in what became a five-run inning for the Marlins.
"Every so often, you've got to realize that left fielder, he's going to have to fend for himself a little bit," manager Terry Collins said during his media briefing on Saturday morning. "And if they hit it over there, maybe we didn't make the pitch we wanted to make. Once again, once in awhile you have to tip your hat to the team on the other side."
First base coach Tom Goodwin, who also helps position the Mets' outfielders, took the blame for leaving Duda exposed on the play.
"The one that went in that he dove for was more my fault," Goodwin said. "I should have moved [Lucas] a little more into the leftcenter field gap anyway."
Nevertheless, he hesitated to move Duda based on the data gleaned from advanced scouting reports on Ruggiano, who the Mets figured would go to the opposite field. Later in the season, when data is fresher and there is much more of it, Goodwin said he might be more likely to move Duda even if it didn't fall in line with the scouting report.
However, early in the season, Goodwin said he tends to follow scouting reports more closely. In this case, the Mets paid the price for playing the percentages.
Said Collins:" Really, it's tough to go against what those numbers say."