Mickey Callaway, new to the Mets and new to managing altogether, arrived to expectations that he would be less inclined towards following the "old-school" guidelines than his predecessor. He is living up to those expectations in a number of ways, most notably in regards to his lineup construction, which he has varied with each of the six games so far.
The most striking way in which he has rejected traditional managerial dogma is in batting the pitcher eighth. This was something Terry Collins dabbled with briefly, but Callaway made a splash early by debuting this construction in his first game, and seems to have a clear strategy for exactly when and how to utilize it.
Callaway has a very clear goal in batting the pitcher eighth and that is to use the young Amed Rosario to his greatest potential. Rosario has the speed of a classic leadoff hitter but his low on base percentage makes him a liability high in the order. Pushing him down to ninth ensures that he sees good pitches ahead of Brandon Nimmo or whoever else is in the leadoff spot and also gives the Mets' potent top of the lineup more opportunities to drive in runs when Rosario does get on.
Having a "second leadoff hitter" in Rosario benefits Yoenis Cespedes more than anyone by giving him more RBI chances out of the second spot in the order. More and more teams across the league are experimenting with batting their best all-around hitter second instead of the classic third -- a change well-supported by advanced analytics since it gives him more at bats over the course of the season and also more baserunners for the middle of the order.
What will be interesting to see is how Michael Conforto -- who led off on Thursday -- fits into this arrangement, since he has the potential to be the Mets' best offensive player this season. As he settles in, watch how Callaway handles the placement of those two. It will say a lot about what he wants out of each.
Callaway has also shown commitment to an aim he laid out early in Spring Training: all position players on the roster are going to see starting opportunities. Just six games in, only Phillip Evans, essentially a placeholder for Conforto, did not have a start. And he has since been demoted. This tactic has drawn some skepticism, probably warranted, in regards to the declining Jose Reyes getting the nod over young Rosario on multiple occasions early, so it will be interesting to see how long he sticks to it so strictly.
A more egalitarian approach to playing time is more logical when it comes to the catching position, for which the team is carrying two starting-caliber players rather than a clear backup. Though both bat right-handed, Callaway is making use of their different styles to select which is the best bet against a given opposing pitcher.
Travis d'Arnaud has the better power swing, while Kevin Plawecki has the potential for a higher average, and each has a certain repertoire of pitches they thrive against. Callaway is making the most of a prime opportunity to revolutionize how baseball treats platoons, as well as how they handle rest for catchers. Wilmer Flores is the other beneficiary of this approach -- his lone start this season has come against a righty.
Callaway is uniquely situated as a manager to build his own set of rules as he goes -- a newcomer to this side of the game and working with an unusual but talented roster. He will not keep his .833 winning percentage forever, though, and the inevitable losing streaks will be a challenge of his commitment to a promising though untested system.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring