Like many members of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 2017 season was a strange one for shortstop Jordy Mercer.
Pittsburgh Pirates SS Mercer was terrible early, one of the best hitters in baseball during the middle of the season and once again terrible late in the year.
Remind you of someone?
Overall Mercer finished the season with a .255/.326/.406 line with a career-high 14 homers and 58 RBI. He finished the year with a 1.2 WAR.
Not terrible from your eight-hole hitter, but considering that entering the all-star break Mercer looked like he would shatter his career highs in almost every offensive category, the overall line ended up being a bit of a disappointment.
Roller Coaster Ride
Mercer entered play on May 22 sporting a .203 batting average, leaving many Pittsburgh Pirates fans wondering how long it would take the organization to find an upgrade at the position.
But Mercer hit the cover off the ball from then right around to the all-star break. In that span he hit .388, which was tops in the National League. He also has showed some pop, slugging .641, which was the eighth best mark in the NL.
But the second half of the season was terrible for Mercer.
After putting up OPS numbers of .824 in May, .808 in June and .771 in July, Mercer had just a .666 OPS in August and a .681 mark in September, where he hit just .226 to close the season.
Overall, his hot streak proved to be just a mirage as Mercer had just a .238/.296/.383 line the second-half of the season.
For the last few years, Mercer experienced most of his success when facing left-handed pitching.
This season was just the opposite.
Mercer had much better luck against right-handed pitching, outing up a .257/.329/.407 line in 423 plate appearances. He also hit 10 of his 14 homers and drove in 40 runs when facing right-handers.
Against southpaws, Mercer put up a .248/.319/.405 line in 135 plate appearances.
From 2014-2016 Mercer put up a combined .241/.296/.344 slash line against RHP so the improvement in that area was encouraging.
Had he had that success and continued his success against lefties, we could have been talking about a big season from Mercer, especially since he posted a combined .293/.361/.434 line against LHP from 2014-16.
The regress in that area was a bit disappointing.
Another disappointing aspect was the way Mercer hit in clutch and high leverage situations.
With the pressure on, Mercer slashed just .209/.296/.300 in 125 plate appearances that were deemed high leverage at bats.
That’s not good enough.
Mercer walked a bit more, posting a career-high 9.1 percent walk rate, which was a good sign.
He also saw a bump in his strike outs, with a 15.8 percent strike out rate, up from 14.2 in 2016.
There were some other good signs, including a jump in ISO to .151 from .118 last season.
The approach changed a bit for the good and when Mercer was hot it showed.
He pulled the ball less and hit the ball the other way a lot more.
In 2016 Mercer pulled the ball 38.7 percent of the time. That dipped to 33.9 percent this season. He also hit the ball to the opposite field 29.4 percent of the time, which was a nice jump from the 24.4 percent last season.
Mercer is an above-average shortstop. He doesn’t kill the Pirates in the field.
He’s solid enough to make the plays he needs to make.
He finished with 10 errors on the season and a .982 fielding percentage, which is right around his career norm.
An interesting thing though is that Mercer’s RF/9 (Range Factor per 9 innings) dropped to 3.88, the second consecutive year it dropped. It was 4.55 in 2015 and 4.32 in 2016.
With that his RF/G (Range Factor per Game) also saw a decline for the second consecutive year to 3.72, down from 4.34 in 15 and 4.11 in 16.
What that shows isn’t necessarily that Mercer isn’t getting to as many balls, but the Pirates pitching staff as a whole is getting a lot less groundballs per game than in previous years.
Mercer is what he is.
He’s a solid everyday guy who doesn’t hurt the team getting thrown out there every night.
Could the Pirates do better? Yeah.
But they could also do a lot worse than Mercer.
However it wasn’t that great of a season for Mercer. A two-month hot streak made his numbers look right around his career averages, but those two months didn’t overshadow four bad months at the plate.
During his two hot months though Mercer was fun to watch.
Overall Grade- C
Image Credit – Daniel Decker Photography