Three weeks into the season, it’s obvious that Curtis Granderson is not working out as the New York Mets’ cleanup hitter, which is why Terry Collins removed him from that spot for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves. But Collins made the mistake of making Daniel Murphy the team’s cleanup hitter when he should have chosen Lucas Duda.
Duda leads the team with three home runs, and is one of the team’s leaders in slugging percentage behind backup catcher Anthony Recker, reserve outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and the injured Juan Lagares. Opposing teams also know about his immense power, which makes him the best option to serve as protection for David Wright.
More importantly, now that the team has traded Ike Davis, Duda is going to receive a majority of the playing time at first base, so the Mets can put him in the cleanup spot and maintain stability in their lineup once he gets settled in there.
Not only is Duda the best fit for the cleanup spot, but Collins also can’t continue to put Murphy there. Murphy has grown quite comfortable in the No. 2 spot in the lineup and shouldn’t be taken out of his comfort zone, as evidenced by his 1-for-6 performance against the Braves on Sunday. Even though he’s not the ideal No. 2 hitter, he’s far better off there than at the cleanup spot, and he’s certainly a better option to hit second than Granderson.
Granderson strikes out too often to bat second, especially with leadoff hitter Eric Young Jr. striking out so frequently this season. Also, it’s important for Granderson to remain in a part of the order where he’ll get frequent RBI opportunities, leaving the door open to move him back to the cleanup spot later in the season once he gets going.
Until that happens, Collins needs to put Granderson sixth in the lineup and put Duda in the cleanup spot. That will give the Mets power in the cleanup spot and continuity everywhere else, while preventing Granderson from ruining potential rallies until he can break his slump and get on track.