Rick Ankiel Making Unexpected Impression In New York Mets Lineup

By Thom Tsang
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t look now, but Rick Ankiel may have found yet another life in the bigs yet.

Yes, the New York Mets outfield may have been just about the only place where a Houston Astros throwaway player like Ankiel can find a regular job, but not only is he holding it down through his first week of work with his new team — he’s actually excelling in it, too.

The Mets, as most you will know, have been brutal over the recent stretch, with an offense that is tied for 25th in the league (23 runs) over the last seven days. Needless to say, things are not going particularly well.

None of that, however, has to do with the team’s latest addition. In fact, Ankiel has been arguably the team’s second-best hitter since arriving just under a week ago (dwarfed only by Daniel Murphy) — with an 1.033 OPS that’s better than David Wright‘s, and better than anyone that the Mets have to offer in outfield, including Lucas Duda.

With a .300/.333/.700 triple-slash that includes two homers in a four-game hitting streak going into play on Sunday, the 33-year-old Ankiel has unexpected provided a breath of small-sample-sized fresh air to a team that is desperate for offense anywhere.

How has he been able to do it? Well, it really comes down to one thing: not whiffing into baseball oblivion.

Since taking his ridiculous 53.8 percent K rate (through 65 PA with the Houston Astros) to the Mets, Ankiel has, at least for now, managed to only strike out 28.6 percent of the time, a dramatic drop that included a nearly 10 percent dip in swinging strikes, from 23 percent to 13.5.

Making more contact with the ball (73.5 percent in his last six games, vs. 58.6 in his first 25) is allowing him to put his power tool into use, and as his seven homers in 86 PA will tell you, it’s one element of his game that’s alive and well.

Now for the bad news: not that it’s a surprising to anyone who has watched Ankiel’s career as a hitter over the years, but its not likely to last. This is a pinch hitter in a regular role right now, and his 7.7 percent line driver rate and 25 percent infield fly rate with the Mets suggest that the average is going to come down pretty hard sooner rather than later.

Then again, it’s not as though the team is exactly flush with options at center field, so … who knows, maybe he’ll be sticking around much longer than one might have guessed.

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