It is worth pointing out the following about Kirk Nieuwenhuis:
Following his game-winning hit to sweep the Miami Marlins on April 26 to cap a three-hit day, Nieuwenhuis had a season line of .333/.403/.517 in 67 plate appearances. He’d walked just five times and struck out 19 times, meaning that in nearly 30 percent of his appearances, he’d fanned, while his batting eye wasn’t translating into many walks.
In 73 plate appearances since, Nieuwenhuis has a line of .254/.333/.302. The power has completely disappeared, while he’s walked eight times and struck out 22 times. The strikeout rate is up over 30 percent now, the walk rate about the same. And the problem is that such control of the strike zone usually goes with lines closer to his second set of plate appearances than his first.
I point this out, not because Nieuwenhuis is a flash in the pan who should be quickly forgotten, but for a different reason. We conveniently forgot that when the Mets called him up, he’d played less than half a season last year at Triple-A, and that his entire body of work at even Triple-A is just 83 games. The man was rushed. Out of necessity, no doubt, but rushed just the same.
So when Jason Bay comes back, the Mets are supposed to have a roster crunch. But that assumes that Nieuwenhuis is a Met to stay, no matter what.
Might I suggest, as unpalatable as it is for anyone who has watched Bay as a Met, that as long as Jason Bay is going to get more chances to justify his enormous contract-and make no mistake, he almost certainly will-that Nieuwenhuis ought to go back to Triple-A to resume learning how to control the strike zone?
This swinging-and-missing problem isn’t new. His career strikeout rate at Triple-A is just under 28 percent, which is awfully high. He has talent, but not enough power to really justify a full-time career if he can’t get that under control.
So if Jason Bay is going to be given another shot anyway, it is probably for the best to see Nieuwenhuis sent back to Buffalo, rather than spot Bay, Torres and Duda from the New York bench. Hopefully, the move is a temporary one.