Batter’s Box: Feeling Conforto-able
(Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)
In his first game back from a shoulder injury that was supposed to keep him sidelined until at least May, Michael Conforto hit an opposite-field home run off Stephen Strasburg. It was originally ruled a double though, and they had to check the replay to see whether or not the ball grazed the flower beds at the top of the wall. It was a nice little reminder of why I love baseball so much; it’s the only sport that comes to a complete stop so that the officials can check whether or not the ball touched a flower.
That’s not actually why I love baseball so much, of course. I’m a Mets fan, so I love baseball because… oh god, why do I love baseball? It provides me with nothing but pain. Why do I keep doing this to myself? Oh man, I’m freaking out guys. Oh man. Oh man.
Oh, right, Michael Conforto. I love baseball because Michael Conforto exists, and he plays for my favorite team, and when he’s not hurt he rakes. He finished the day with a line of 1-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, K, 2 BB. The fact that he hit an opposite-field homer off a 97 mph fastball from one of the best pitchers in baseball should give owners a ton of confidence in the health of his shoulder. Conforto’s breakout last season was due in large part to a concerted effort to spray line drives to all fields, as evidenced by the huge drop in his Pull%, which went from 42.7% in 2016 to 32.4% in 2017. His all-fields approach, paired with his 40.8% career hard contact rate, should make him a force hitting towards the top of the Mets lineup this year.
Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals): 3-3, RBI, BB
A nice afternoon for Rendon, who has begun the year on a 7-game hitting streak. He’s making contact, he’s drawing walks–there isn’t anything not to like about Rendon. Except his goatee. Please shave, Anthony. Don’t you want your mother to be able to see your beautiful face?
Jay Bruce (OF, New York Mets): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI
What I’ve learned from watching Jay Bruce is that having a dad bod also grants you dad strength. So you take the good with the bad, I guess. Bruce seems to be settling into the cleanup spot for the Mets this year, which should mean lots of runs and RBI opportunities.
Yoan Moncada (2B, Chicago White Sox): 0-6, 4 K
More like Groan Moncada. Moncada earned himself a golden sombrero, which he decorated with an ornamental groundout and flyout for good measure. Pretty! Except that he’s now struck out in 11 of his first 26 at-bats. Strikeouts are going to be an issue again this season, it seems.
Matt Davidson (3B/DH, Chicago White Sox): 2-3, 4 R, RBI, 2 BB
Davidson has been raising a ruckus over the season’s first week. This is now the second game this season in which he’s scored four runs. He’s also only struck out six times over his first 22 at-bats, which is usually how many times Davidson strikes out in six at-bats, so he must be feeling pretty good right about now.
Victor Martinez (DH, Detroit Tigers): 3-4, 2 RBI, BB
So far this season Martinez’s heart seems to be in perfect working condition, which has been great for both the Tigers and his status as a living being. He’s slashing .333/.350/.444 and, if you can stomach the lack of position flexibility, he might be useful in deeper leagues batting in the heart (no pun intended) of the Detroit lineup.
Dan Vogelbach (1B/DH, Seattle Mariners): 2-3, RBI, BB
I want my Vogelbach, Vogelbach, Vogelbach. I like Dan Vogelbach, and think the swing changes he’s made are for real, but he moves like he’s made of concrete, so it’s hard to see him getting at-bats anywhere but at DH or first base. With Nelson Cruz currently on the DL, Vogelbach should have another week or so to show what he can do and try to wrest some at-bats away from Ryon Healy and his current .056 average.
Charlie Blackmon (OF, Colorado Rockies): 2-5, SB
First he stole Brian Wilson’s beard, then he stole the Rockies’ money, and now he’s coming for our bases. Blackmon’s stolen base output and success rates have been falling for three years now, and at 31 there’s some question of how far his legs can carry him this year. It’s nice to see him get that first one out of the way early though.
Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics): 2-4, R
Joe Schmo alert! Matt Chapman has one of the most unremarkable names ever. I’ll bet there’s an 80% chance that you went to school with or know somebody named Matt Chapman. There are probably millions of them. And if you don’t know a Matt Chapman, it’s probably because you don’t know that many people, and you should feel bad about that, you nerd. After Thursday’s performance Matt check notes Chapman is hitting .400 on the year with a couple of homers. I personally think he strikes out too much and doesn’t have enough power to be worth your time, but, uh… who was I talking about again?
Maikel Franco (3B, Philadelphia Phillies): 3-4, R, HR, 4 RBI
I want Maikel Franco to be good so that I can refer to him as “Maikel Spanko” instead of “Maikel Stanko.” But alas, it’s going to take more than one good day at the plate to undue what he did last year. Sorry, Mr. Stanko. Franco’s last two disappointing seasons seem mostly tied to a lack of hard contact and a penchant for hitting the ball on the ground, which suppressed his BABIP. If things break right this year he could bounce back. If they break wrong, he could bounce off the roster.
Cesar Hernandez (2B, Philadelphia Phillies): 1-2, R, 3 BB, 2 SB
If Cesar Hernandez doesn’t attempt to steal a base each game, his heart stops beating and he dies. No, that’s not a rip-off of the movie Crank, it’s true. Hernandez made three steal attempts yesterday and succeeded twice for his first steals of the year. Drawing walks and swiping bags are supposed to be his thing, so it was nice to see him off and running… for his life.
Lewis Brinson (OF, Miami Marlins): 0-4, 4 K
The nice thing about a golden sombrero is that it’s gold, and there’s always a market for precious metals. Brinson’s been very hot and cold so far this year, but likely has plenty of leash on a Marlins team that literally has a new fan play right field every game.
Hanley Ramirez (1B/DH, Boston Red Sox): 2-6, 2 RBI, 2 K
This is the third multi-hit game in a row for Hanley, who hit a walk-off single against the Rays on Thursday afternoon. He’s looking pretty good so far, and even has two stolen bases already which… what?
Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles): 3-5, 2 RBI, K
Mancini only mustered three hits in his first 20 at-bats of the season, so Thursday’s breakout was refreshing to see, especially against a tough righty like Masahiro Tanaka. He hit leadoff in this game, though it’s not clear if he’s permanently usurped the role from Chris Davis just yet. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.
Chris Owings (SS/2B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks): 3-3, 2 R, BB
Another good night for Owings, who is making the most of the playing time that Steven Souza Jr.’s injury has freed up. He’s hitting .429 on the year after yesterday’s performance, and could steal at-bats from Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed if he’s still hitting like this when Souza’s back.
Ian Happ (2B/OF, Chicago Cubs): 1-6, 4 K
Ian’s first week of the season has been a Happ-y one. And by that I mean he’s struck out like it’s going out of style. He now has 18 strikeouts in just 28 at-bats, and struggled with the whiffs last season as well, though not to this degree. He doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to overcome this lack of contact, and can hopefully turn things around soon.