LOS ANGELES – Dominic Smith’s underwhelming month might be a product of wear-and-tear more than a mechanical or mental glitch.
The Mets outfielder entered Friday with a .222/.224/.254 slash line for August and hadn’t homered since July 21. From hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum’s perspective, injuries not big enough to remove Smith from the lineup, but significant nonetheless, have been a key culprit.
“Some of them have added up and some of them are in key areas for a hitter, whether it’s the wrist or a groin, but he’s never asked out,” Quattlebaum told The Post. “He’s posting up every day, he is grinding through it. He still gives us a better chance than a lot of people in the lineup, so he is grinding it out.”
Smith’s left wrist recently flared up enough that he could barely swing in the batting cage, according to Quattlebaum, but he felt better by the end of the day. Quattlebaum didn’t offer specifics, but Smith was mysteriously on the bench Tuesday in San Francisco with right-hander Logan Webb on the mound. The 26-year-old later delivered a pinch-hit single.
Smith entered play in a 3-for-28 slide that largely coincided with the Mets losing six of seven games against the Dodgers and Giants. He went 0-for-4 on Thursday, dropping his season’s slash line to .247/.307/.369 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs.
If Smith is frustrated, it hasn’t been evident to the hitting coach.
“He doesn’t show that,” Quattlebaum said. “I know he feels like it has been a real tough year. He’s very aware. Last year you couldn’t get him out and he knows how good a hitter he is. He’s been like that since high school. It’s definitely wearing on him a little bit.”
These physical ailments come as Smith is playing the outfield extensively for the first time in his career. Though his metrics don’t show it – Smith ranks in the first percentile for left fielders with minus-eight outs above average, according to Baseball Savant – the Mets have largely been pleased with his play at the position, as glaring miscues have been kept to a minimum. Smith’s career high for games played in the outfield before this year was 33 in 2019. This season he has played 104 games in the outfield.
Smith’s encouraging numbers include a .327/.382/.436 slash line against left-handed pitching this season.
“It just seems like he has faced a lot of them and he’s done pretty well there,” Quattlebaum said. “His groundball rate is a little bit higher against righties than typical in the past, in the bottom of the zone and that can be affecting a lot of things. He could be compensating by using less legs because he feels something down there [in the groin].
“He is giving everything he’s got. He seems like one of those guys that hit the refresh button and he’ll be right back to normal, but he’s going to have to grind it through right now.”
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