New Mets manager Mickey Callaway is not a believer in playing the "hot hand," though he is open to using a platoon in certain situations, he said last week on The 7 Line's Orange & Blue Thing podcast.
"Hot handedness is something that is probably just an illusion," the 42-year-old Callaway explained. "It's such a small sample size that it might not make much sense to do because a guy is going to get cold at some point. You want to keep them all as hot as possible."
According to Callaway, instead of defaulting to putting a hitter in the lineup simply because he is hitting well, he intends to use analytics to be sure hitters are facing pitchers they're best set up to face. Otherwise, a hitter risks ending a hot streak when inevitably ending up in a bad matchup.
"You don't want to take a hot player, say Wilmer Flores for example, and play him against Corey Kluber, who is going to come in and spin him three breaking balls to strike him out in front of the world and put him in a slump after Wilmer was going good," he concluded.
Aug 27, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets third baseman Wilmer Flores (4) waits on deck against the Washington Nationals in the fifth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
That said, he's down for using a platoon, as long as it creates an advantage for the Mets.
"A platoon advantage is always a pretty good idea," he added. But, he continued, "We have to make intelligent decisions about when guys play and use those platoon advantages to the max."
This is the best thing I have read from a Mets manager since Bobby Valentine. I grew so tired of hearing from Terry Collins, Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph about 'playing the hot hand,' only to see them set their lineups in a seemingly random or -- at best -- traditional way. It was so traditional that regardless of the player or matchup, second basemen often only hit second, as if that is some sort of written rule based in anything other than having the same word in each role.
Finally, the Mets will have a manager and coaching staff making out the lineup based on evidence, the result of which comes from statistics, research, trends, and scouting.
I realize this is easier said than done because status, ego, and the justification of a big contract can often clutter the manager's thinking. However, Callaway is entering a new clubhouse with Right Guy, Right Matchup as a mantra. He also has a mostly young clubhouse, which should make utilizing this approach a bit easier because they're not yet fully entitled.
Callaway talked to O&BT a bit about this larger point when asked specifically how being a player's manager works in this day and age. According to Callaway, it's about caring and information...
"Times have changed, mainly because players have changed," he explained. "Billy Martin was an effective player's manager back in the day because that's what those players responded to. You could get in their face if you wanted to. Today's player has so much information at their finger tips, they're going to test and challenge you on everything you give them. They're going to go look it up after the game, so you have to make sure you're prepared going in with whatever it is you're talking to them about."
Callaway also said that to make selling information work, it's important for a manager to care about the player as a man and as a business and not just as a player...
"Now, that doesn't mean we don't have high expectations. We have very high expectations for all of these guys and we're going to hold them accountable for all of the work that they do," he added." "When you care about someone, it doesn't mean you just let them do whatever they want. That's not caring. I'm not gonna be the guy that tries to please everybody, I'm going to hold them accountable. But, I'm gonna care about them in a way that makes them better. And they might not realize that at the time, but maybe 10 years down the road they'll realize I was trying to help them."
I'm really looking forward to seeing Mickey in action during Spring Training. He talks in a very modern, easy-to-understand, seemingly-obvious way, and I see him being a perfect fit for this specific roster at this specific time in baseball history. It's going to be fun and refreshing... and hopefully successful.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...