In the prequel to this article, I wrote about Travis d’Arnaud’s demotion from the New York Mets to the Las Vegas 51s. He had been hitting like a butterfly in the majors, while Taylor Teagarden had been mashing the ball in the minors. I speculated that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but then Taylor Teagarden made me look foolish by poking an opposite field grand slam in his first start with the Mets.
d’Arnaud went on to murder the ball in Las Vegas, hitting 6 home runs, 8 doubles, and 10 singles in just 59 plate appearances. That’s 24 hits in 15 games. To put that in perspective, d’Arnaud has 24 hits in 40 games with the Mets this season. And he hit with much more power in Vegas than he’s shown at the major league level. Much more power. All told, his stint in the minors produced a ridiculous 1.384 OPS.
So Teagarden mashed in Vegas, then hit a home run in his first game in New York. Travis d’Arnaud mashed in Vegas, then returned to the majors last night, and guess what? He hit a home run! This wasn’t a little opposite-field poke like Teagarden’s home run. This ball was pulled and crushed. So maybe what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas after all. Maybe these guys stop off at the airport gift shop and grab a bag of that dry Vegas air to take with them. Then again, maybe not.
After that big moment in his first game with the Mets, Teagarden cooled off. He became more of an iced-Teagarden. Through 9 games and 30 plate appearances, Teagarden posted an OPS of .450. Yes, it’s a hilariously small sample. It’s also a hilariously bad stretch. OPS is on-base percentage plus slugging. d’Arnaud had a higher on-base percentage than Teagarden’s on-base plus slugging. Whatever.
The question we’re naturally left with is, “What does all of this mean?” Well, pretty much nothing. Nothing conclusive, anyway. These guys can hit home runs in Vegas, and they can hit them in New York. But they’re not going to hit as many in New York because the competition is tougher and the stadiums are bigger. There’s really no way to know whether the stint in Vegas “fixed” Travis d’Arnaud, or whether it simply gave him enough confidence to swing the bat well until his next 0-for-10 stretch. Time will tell. Or it won’t.
If d’Arnaud goes on to have a successful major league career, we won’t know whether it’s because he had a stint in Vegas at the right time, despite his stint in Vegas, or whether the whole thing was completely irrelevant. Cause and effect is a tricky thing to suss out. The good news is that it sounds like Travis made some actual adjustments while he was down there.
Per Wally Backman: “[We] moved his back foot closer to the plate. He was having a hard time hitting the pitch away, but now he can cover the whole plate. If it was that simple all the time, it’d be great. That’s one of the things he wasn’t doing in the big leagues. He needed to clear his head a little bit, come down here, have some success and get some confidence built back up.”
Per Travis: “It was all mental. [I’m] just focusing in on every at-bat like it’s my last at-bat. Not thinking about a hundred different things. Just focusing on one thing and keeping a solid approach on each and every pitch. I kind of went away from that [in the majors]. I feel like my concentration is up and I’m able to focus in easier. I feel good. I’m in a good place.”
A week ago, that place was Vegas. Now it’s New York. They’re two places with a lot in common at night, but a lot of differences on the baseball field. Hopefully for the Mets and d’Arnaud, what happened in Vegas stays with Travis.