This is probably going to be an unpopular opinion, but …
Wilmer Flores hasn't actually played that badly at shortstop this season.
Flores' three-run homer was the key in the New York Mets' 6-3 win over the Phillies on Monday. But over the past couple days, he has looked -- dare we say it -- like a guy who is improving.
The sample is still pretty small, but the advanced defensive metrics have Flores rated better than you probably think.
“I'm doing what I'm supposed to do,” Flores said. “Everyone knows what I can do. I know what I can do. Just got to execute, and just got to do it.”
Flores entered Monday with minus-1 defensive runs saved this season and a 1.2 Ultimate Zone Rating. Those equate to being a hair below and a hair above average this season. That's not great, but it's certainly not as bad as it could be.
We checked in with the folks at Baseball Info Solutions, which devised the defensive runs saved stat (a measure of how effective a player is at turning batted balls into outs and performance at other position-related skills, such as turning double plays), for a comprehensive explanation of how Flores could rate so well, despite his many early season miscues.
Scott Spratt, one of the Baseball Info Solutions research analysts, made three points on Flores' play.
1. “We noticed that Flores looks like he's doing a good job of shading himself to account for the batter's tendencies and bat side. I think that may be helping him get to some balls that not every player makes.”
2. “It looks like many of Flores' best plays have been the result of great throws. It looks like he's maybe making up for some of his errors by making those unexpected plays with good throws.”
3. "Almost all of [Flores'] misplays and errors result in one lost base, which is relatively minor in terms of run value, compared to something like a failed conversion of a deep fly ball by an outfielder or a groundball down the line that becomes a double. If he is plus in terms of range or throwing, he can more easily offset a high volume of mistakes by converting extra balls.”
That said, Flores is not perfect. One of the Phillies' infield hits on Monday came on a play he tried to make, but his throw was a hair too late.
But he is also far from a finished product. Monday's game showed the importance of his bat in the lineup at a time when the team is struggling.
"I've talked to him a couple times," manager Terry Collins said. "I know Tim [Teufel] is here with him all the time. I think he gets great support from some other guys who say, 'Look, it's all part of the game.' To learn how to be a great major leaguer, you've got to get through it.
"Wilmer's a very sharp guy, so he gets it. He understands what they're saying. He goes out there with the ability to have yesterday be yesterday and to be ready for today. He made an error one night early in the game and took some abuse, and then the next eight ground balls were hit to him, [and] he fielded them perfectly. He didn't let it get to him, and I think that's why, as we get deep into this season, he's going to be a pretty impressive kid."
Ian Begley also contributed to this story