If you ask most Mets fans which player is struggling the most here recently the two most popular answers would be Andres Torres and Ike Davis. Both are hitting .128 since May 8th, so it’s hard to find fault with either of those answers. However, Mike Nickeas has been performing even worse. Since May 8th, Nickeas has a .080/.207/.120 slash line for a .327 OPS. Torres has a .527 OPS in this stretch while Davis checks in at .530 over the same time period.
May 8th is significant since that is the first day the Mets played without Josh Thole. The team is 6-9 with Thole sidelined and just 4-7 in games started by Nickeas. Most fans expected a drop-off offensively going from Thole to Nickeas, but there were hopes that at least some of that would be made up defensively.
Nickeas was chosen for his defense and no one has ever accused Thole of being a Gold Glove performer behind the plate.
There have been 45 catchers to play at least 100 innings this year and Nickeas has 132 innings behind the plate. Yet he ranks tied for 41st in Defensive Runs Saves with a (-4) ranking, despite DRS being a counting stat depending on playing time. Meanwhile, the alleged defensively-challenged Thole has a +5 DRS, the second-best mark in the league.
Thole will always rank among the leaders in most passed balls and wild pitches, in part due to being the primary catcher for R.A. Dickey. But we have at least one measure that views his early defensive play in 2012 as a positive. Plus, if you saw Nickeas behind the plate for Dickey’s last start, you saw the catcher taking several deep breaths trying to control himself out there while battling the knuckleball. It did not look like a fun time for Nickeas.
But even if we want to say the two catchers have been comparable defensively, there’s no denying that Thole is miles ahead on offense. Thole has a .726 OPS while Nickeas checks in with a .460 mark.
Many fans wanted Sandy Alderson to acquire a backup catcher in the offseason but the Mets’ GM sunk nearly all of his available cash into the bullpen. The relievers have been sub-par while the backup catcher has been atrocious. And Kelly Shoppach, who was a free agent ripe for the picking, sits with a .799 OPS.
The good news is that Thole has departed for Port St. Lucie, where he will begin baseball activities. The latest update had him appearing in a minor league rehab game next week. So we will have 10 days to two weeks more of fun with the backup catchers. You know it’s bad when you’re rooting for Rob Johnson, he of the lifetime .578 OPS, to be healthy enough to play.
Hurry back, Thole, the Mets need you.