It was on July 29th that New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores became a household name when he shed tears on the field after learning that he had been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in a three-player trade for Carlos Gomez. Of course, the trade fell apart some time before that and he was never a Brewer, but the tears heard ‘round the world catapulted him to notoriety.
Two nights later, in Flores’ first game since Crygate, he smashed a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning off Felipe Rivero of the Washington Nationals, giving us reason 727,394 why we love sports. Long before that blast came, Flores received standing ovations from the fans on hand at Citi Field.
But then something strange started happening, as the Mets hit the road to take on the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays. Flores received standing ovations from the fans at both Marlins Park and Tropicana Field. The legend of Wilmer Flores had been born, and I for one can’t wait for his 30-for-30.
After the Crygate game, Flores was hitting .249/.281/.387. Not terrific for a guy whose bat is supposed to be his best tool. But when the tears were shed, something changed for Flores: He is hitting .328/.359/.525 in 18 games since. Entering Sunday, Flores was working on a streak of three consecutive multi-hit games.
Clearly when the tears exited Flores’ eyes on July 29th, they exorcised some demons within that have allowed an elite bat to come out. In the event that Flores’ increased offensive output is not the result of something supernatural, let’s see what might have changed for Flores over the past 18 games.
Since Flores only played one game in July after Crygate, the August numbers are the ones we want to focus on here. We see that while the exit velocities on fastballs are largely the same throughout the season, Flores has improved exit velocities on breaking balls and offspeed pitches.
According to FanGraphs batted ball data, Flores has been pulling the ball significantly more as of late as well, with 51% of contact being categorized as "pulled", up 10 percentage points from his previous monthly high.
Let’s track back to the batted ball numbers for a moment. It appears that in the month of July there was a shift in the contact that Flores began making. Flores entered July hitting a putrid .236/.267/.390. Since the calendar turned to July 1st, Flores is hitting .308/.340/.420, adding 44 points to his OPS, which sits at .694. He has done so with a BABIP of .347, which is not outlandish but likely above his true talent level.
Looking at his batted ball trajectories, Flores is hitting significantly more line drives in the past two months. In April, May, and June, Flores’ line drive percentages were 22%, 20.2%, and 21.7%, respectively. In July and August, they have been 27% and 25%, while his GB/FB ratio has flipped from a nadir of 0.91 in June to 1.70 in July and 1.25 in August.
So it looks like the turnaround in his offensive season began long before the tears did, even if he has kicked it into a completely other gear since. The peripherals around Flores’ performance are good, which points that this is likely the result of some adjustment made by hitting coach Kevin Long.
For a Mets team that has sorely lacked offense for a majority of the season, Flores' hitting improvements have had as much impact on the Amazin’s recent surge into first place as any deadline acquisition. As the final month-plus of the season plays out, we’ll see if Flores’ recent string of success is long lasting, and how the Legend of Wilmer Flores continues to grow.
Joe Vasile is the Assistant General Manager and Voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs of the Coastal Plain League. He also broadcasts UNC-Pembroke football and basketball. Follow Joe on Twitter for motivational quotes, puns, Division II football, and Wilmer Flores baseball-related tweets: