Francisco Lindor’s Hot Summer Has Put Him Back on Track

Francisco Lindor
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Since the beginning of 2021, when Francisco Lindor joined the Mets, he ranks fifth in position player WAR (16.2) behind Aaron Judge (20.4), Freddie Freeman (17.9), Mookie Betts (16.8), and José Ramírez (16.5). While others at his position have seen their production tail off for one reason or another, he has remained excellent thanks to his all-around game.

In recent seasons, though, Lindor has struggled at the plate for prolonged periods. But this year and last, he has made up for slow starts with excellent second halves. From an overall production standpoint, he is an extremely similar hitter from both sides, but since the most advantageous platoon split comes as a left-handed hitter, his bouncebacks have often been driven by adjustments on that side of the plate. That story tracks this season, too, as Lindor is on one of the best stretches of his career as a lefty. Here are the differences between his left-handed production before and after the start of July:

Lindor Left Handed Production

Split wRC+ xwOBA xwOBACON K% BB% SwSp% SwSp EV
Apr-Jun 93 .344 .399 22.8 10.2 43.2 94.8
July-Aug 182 .380 .422 20.0 13.1 41.0 95.6

Lindor’s SweetSpot% from this side is top notch; that wasn’t — and never has been — an issue for him. His adjustable bat path and swing decisions propel him to launch the ball consistently at an ideal angle. Oddly enough, despite this consistency in his spread of launch angles, his performance was still down in the first few months of the year, and even despite a couple of percentage points decrease in SweetSpot%, his performance and expected outcomes on balls in play still ticked up from July on because of a rate that is still high relative to his peers. To understand why that resulted in more success recently than at the beginning of the year, we have to do some digging into those sweet spot batted balls.

Here is a quick snapshot of the change in performance in Lindor’s sweet spot batted balls within the same two time frames:

Sweet Spot Performance Splits

Split SwSp Pull% wOBA/xwOBA
Apr-Jun 35.7 .647/.655
July-Aug 37.1 .935/.732
Apr-Jun 45.7 .623/.752
July-Aug 45.7 .811/.747

This is where it gets a little confusing. There is no obvious shift in the directional rates of Lindor’s sweet spot batted balls, but the actual performance jumped significantly on both the pull side and straight away. The same goes for oppo, which I didn’t include in the table. You might be thinking that this could be noise, but here’s where I’ll stress the importance of spray angle.

Looking at oppo, straight, and pull might not be enough to understand exactly what is happening here — usually it should, but in this case, Lindor’s distribution of batted balls within these given buckets has changed. That’s seen most easily through spray charts. The first chart below is of his sweet spot batted balls from the beginning of the season through June; the second is of his sweet spot batted balls from July onwards.

When a hitter produces a lot of pull-side batted balls down the lines like you see in the first chart, there is likely a swing path and contact point issue. Those batted balls are often hit with a bunch of top spin; the bat is making contact at a point where its path is not hitting the ball square and is instead on a steep upward trajectory. That results in contact through the front side of the ball instead of directly through the center.

Similar to how a pitch enters the zone at two different angles (horizontal and vertical approach angle), a hitter makes contact at a spot on the ball at a particular upward and horizontal angle in their swing. If a hitter’s upswing is too steep and only catches the front part of the ball, they will likely create a lot of top spin to the pull side when contact happens far out in front of the plate. That might cause batted balls hit at an ideal launch angle to travel sub-optimally. This is what a lot of hitting coaches will refer to as cutting off your swing; you’re essentially decreasing the amount of room for error you have to make optimal, flush contact. This can also affect the fly balls you hit toward the middle of the field. In tennis, you’ll often see sliced backhands where the player intentionally does not make square contact. Baseball players can do the same, except it results in fly balls that don’t carry.

Here are a few examples from when Lindor was struggling:

Each of these swings is a good example of how, when you cut off your swing at a pitch in the middle of the plate, you can still hit the ball at an ideal launch angle, but it might not carry as well as it could have with flush contact. In particular, the swing against Trevor Richards’ changeup perfectly encapsulates how to get a hitter out who isn’t staying on the ball through the entirety of the swing. Even in the best case — 101.8 mph exit velocity and a 32-degree launch angle — it’s still just a deep fly out.

Now, here’s an example of Lindor staying on a changeup away from Kyle Hendricks earlier this month:

It’s not a high-flying extra base hit, but it’s a better process than what we saw against Richards. It’s a perfectly located pitch, but Lindor maintains strong posture and doesn’t pull his front hip off too early. There is a stark difference between the torso bend he’s able to create in this swing versus the deep fly out, and that’s the result of his front hip and shoulders staying closed longer, improving his rotational direction. In simpler terms, it’s a perfect sign that he is no longer cutting off his bat path.

If you need more evidence, here is a swing on a high-and-away heater where Lindor made flush contact through the ball to the pull-side gap:

You can’t make swings like this when you’re pulling your barrel; it would have been another fly ball dying on the warning track instead of a liner sailing over the wall. For hitters like Lindor who are so consistent for so long, it’s small differences like this that can play a key role in the bounceback he has had during the summer.

Great players like Lindor always find a way to get back to their baseline of performance once a full season is all said and done. After his two-month hot streak, he is now up to a 124 wRC+ on the season — five points above his career mark of 119. He has the highest WAR and wRC+ of any qualified shortstop in the National League and has once again proved that he is the standard for consistent excellence at the position.

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