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For the first two months of the 2021 season, the Francisco Lindor who stepped to the plate looked nothing like the Francisco Lindor the Mets had traded for in a blockbuster deal before signing him to an extension worth $341 million.
Lindor looked hesitant, made lots of weak contact, and was strangely bunting in some situations where he should've been trying to punish the baseball. Whether it was caused by Lindor adjusting to a new team, a new league, pressure he was putting on himself, just a terrible slump at a terrible time, or some combination of those things didn't really matter to the fans.
And the above meant that on the morning of June 2, Lindor was hitting a paltry .194/.292/.303 with just four home runs in his first 47 games as a Met. Boos were raining down on him at Citi Field, and those who love being overly reactionary were wondering whether the Mets had made a mistake by extending him. Then things changed.
From the Mets' game on June 2 through the rest of the season, Lindor slashed .253/.342/.480 with 16 homers and 51 RBI and 50 runs scored in 78 games.
If you extrapolate the above over a full season, it comes out to about 30 homers (a number Lindor has eclipsed three times in his career), 100 RBI (which would be a career-high for him), and 100 runs scored.
But one thing that is continuing to color the opinions of some Mets fans who think Lindor's 2021 performance at the plate was a season-long disaster is the fact that -- even with his strong four-month stretch to end the year -- he wound up with an overall line of just .230/.322/.412.
And it's understandable that some fans would look at a .230/.322/.412 slash line (all career-worsts for Lindor) for the Mets' $341 million star and think his 2021 was a total mess. They'd be wrong, because his stats from June 2 on prove otherwise, but that isn't stopping people from continuing to mislabel what Lindor's 2021 was in totality while fearing for the worst going forward.
But it is more than fair to point out that Lindor's strong four-month stretch does not eliminate the stench of what he did at the plate during the first two months of the season. And he'll need to pick up right where he left off beginning on Opening Day of 2022 in order to fully put it behind him.
With Lindor entering his age-28 season, all signs point to him being an elite offensive performer going forward.
A look at Lindor's advanced stats from 2021 shows lots of red (that's a good thing). He was well above average when it came to max exit velocity, average exit velocity, and walk rate while being above average in hard hit percentage, xwOBA, xSLG, strikeout rate, whiff percentage, and chase rate.
And keep in mind that the above factors in Lindor's entire season, including the two-month mess at the beginning. So while his overall "regular" numbers didn't catch up to his career averages, that doesn't tell the whole story.
I'll now take a minute to point out that for all the attention on Lindor's offense (and there should be lots of attention on it), he is a two-way player. Not just any two-way player, but someone who was in the 100th percentile in 2021 when it came to OAA (outs above average) at shortstop. You literally cannot be better than that.
So Lindor, while being an elite offensive player, is also among the best defensive players in baseball at one of the most premium positions on the diamond. And he generates tons of value with his glove and arm. Don't forget that when discussing his worth.
Now, back to the offense...
When examining Lindor and looking at what he did over the last four months of 2021, his slash line resembled the career slash line he had entering the season.
That career line was .285/.346/.488, compared to the .253/.342/.480 he hit from June 2 through the remainder of the season.
For lots of fans, their eyes will automatically go to batting average when the much more important numbers are Lindor's on-base percentage and slugging percentage (which were very close to what he's done historically).
And even though batting average doesn't matter nearly as much as some other offensive numbers, you should still expect Lindor to hit better than .250 next season.
The ZiPS projections via FanGraphs, which can be a bit conservative, have Lindor hitting 263/.337/.467 with 25 homers in 2022 while being worth 4.7 WAR.
While the above numbers combined with elite defense would make Lindor an All-Star level player, I'm willing to bet he'll be better than that and more closely resemble the player he was before 2021 -- with a slugging percentage closer to .500 than .465.
But what's good enough? What will be deemed acceptable for the player who is being paid $341 million?
Lindor has never been a huge on-base guy (his career-high OBP is .358), but what he lacks in elite on-base ability he's often made up for with power, especially when he hit 30-plus homers every year from 2017 to 2019. And Lindor's June 2 through end of season pace in 2021 was a 30-homer one.
Even if Lindor hits .270/.340/.490 with 30 homers and 90 or so RBI in 2022, it won't be enough for some fans because of how much he's getting paid. And it's not crazy for fans to expect more because of the dollar figure attached to Lindor.
But the fact of the matter is that if Lindor does in 2022 for a full season what he did in 2021 after his acclimation to the Mets was out of the way, he will be an electric, fun, elite performer on both sides of the ball. And he will be the player the Mets traded for and extended, even though some will always want him to be more than that.