Josh Thole returns, David Wright produces and R.A. Dickey amazes

The Mets announced yesterday that Josh Thole would be returning to the Mets on Friday. Thole last appeared in the majors on May 7th, when he suffered a concussion after a home plate collision with ex-Met Ty Wigginton. Thole was immediately removed from the game and later placed on the new 7-day DL for concussions. He ended up missing 24 days.

The Mets were 14-8 (.636) when Thole starts a game. Since he’s been on the DL, the Mets are 12-10 (.545). Thole has a .726 OPS this year. In his absence, backups Mike Nickeas (.382 OPS) and Rob Johnson (.715 OPS) have held down the fort with mixed results. Now the question remains which catcher gets sent down to make room for Thole.

Nickeas started the season as Thole’s backup, largely due to his defensive reputation. But the results have been better for most of the starters with Thole behind the plate. Three of the four main SP have a better ERA with Thole behind the plate so far in 2012. They are:

Jonathon Niese – 3.74 ERA w/Thole; 5.08 ERA without
Dillon Gee – 2.70 ERA w/Thole; 5.61 without
Johan Santana – 2.25 ERA w/Thole; 3.09 without

Don’t be surprised if Nickeas is the one shuffling off to Buffalo.

R.A. KEEPS ROLLING ON – With wins in seven of his eight decisions, it looks like R.A. Dickey has really turned things around from last year. But Dickey’s fine start this year is merely a continuation of what he did in most of 2011, only with better luck in the win column. Here are Dickey’s numbers this year compared to his last 18 games a season ago:

Year Games W-L IP ER BB K HR ERA
2011 18 5-6 121.0 37 25 78 9 2.75
2012 10 7-1 64.2 22 17 61 8 3.06
Total 28 12-7 185.2 59 42 139 17 2.86

Dickey currently sports an 8.49 K/9 ratio. A quick glance shows Tim Wakefield’s 2003 season, where he posted a 7.52 K/9, as the highest for a knuckleball pitcher in the past 50 years in which he was predominantly a starter.

WRIGHT ON TOP IN RUNS PRODUCED – After two months of the season, David Wright leads the Mets in both runs (32) and RBIs (30). This is nothing new for Wright, who led the team in both categories in 2010 (87-103) and 2009 (88-72). And it’s nothing unusual for the Mets, either. Here are the others to lead in both categories since 2000:

01 – Mike Piazza – 81 runs, 94 RBIs
03 – Ty Wigginton – 73 runs, 71 RBIs
04 – Mike Cameron – 76 runs, 76 RBIs
06 – Carlos Beltran – 127 runs, 116 RBIs (tied Wright for RBI lead)

40-MAN ROSTER NOTE – As I write this, 35 of the players on the Mets’ 40-man roster have played in the majors this year. The only ones yet to get the call to the show are Wilmer Flores, Reese Havens, Juan Lagares, Cesar Puello, and Josh Satin. Of these, only Flores should feel comfortable about being back on the 40-man roster by the Winter Meetings.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but Havens has been injured this year. Even worse, he’s hitting just .153 when he does get on the field. At age 25 and yet to play a game at Triple-A, the window is closing quickly on his chances to contribute with the Mets.

A tweener who does not walk, hit for power or steal bases, Lagares needs to hit to justify his place on the roster. He’s got a .706 OPS in Double-A after 199 PA. Puello has shown no improvement in his second exposure to Hi-A. Last year we could say he was young for his level but that’s no longer the case. Satin is 27 and has little defensive value. That’s okay if you are a masher but he has just a .732 OPS and looks like a AAAA player.

NUTTY TIMES FOR NIEUWENHUIS – Most fans have been completely won over by the play of rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis. He has been a solid addition to the team and has made Andres Torres an afterthought for most people. Yet, there are a few warning signs around Captain Clutch that we should keep in mind.

His combination of big whiffs and little power is not an attractive one. Nieuwenhuis is sixth in the majors with a 29.8 K%. Everyone with a higher K-rate is producing better power numbers. So far, he checks in with a .094 ISO, more in line with a middle infielder than a big slugger. For comparison, Adam Dunn has a 36.9 K% and a .326 ISO.

The other concern is that Nieuwenhuis has a .425 BABIP, the highest among qualified players in the majors, yet just a .294 AVG. He could lose 100 points off his BABIP and still be above average in the category. But that would make his AVG hover near the Mendoza line, which would certainly make fans think twice about his performance.

For the past few years, I’ve thought Nieuwenhuis could be a .250/.350/.450 player in the majors if things broke right. But that would be an ISO of .200, or more than twice what he’s currently produced. The power will need to increase as the BABIP regresses, or Nieuwenhuis could be in trouble as the season progresses.

THE AMAZING SANTANA – Not nearly enough has been made about the remarkable comeback season of Johan Santana, who has simply pitched great over the first one-third of the season. But with only a 2-2 record, most fans around the country have failed to appreciate how terrific he has been for the Mets this year. Despite his declining velocity, Santana has a 9.15 K/9. Prior to 2012, only 10 times in Mets history has a starter posted a strikeout rate of 9.0 or above in a single season. Seven different pitchers have turned the trick. Can you name them?

3 comments for “Josh Thole returns, David Wright produces and R.A. Dickey amazes

  1. 7train
    June 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Lutz will be off the 40 as well but I would get a full medical done on Havens and combine it with what the scouts think before taking him off the 40 because he could very well be playing hurt for all we know, not wanting to admit it and it would be a real shame to lose him since he does have the skill set to at the least provide competent AAA depth with the chance to be so much more.

    Marte is a guy I want added to the 40 and Centeno has to be considered as he’d be a perfect rule 5 LH hitting 3rd catcher and Pena’s showing some life and would be in AA next year too. Other definite’s not likely to help out in the bigs next year but important to the future are Tovar, Cecilianni, Carson, Gorski, McHugh and possibly Campbell and first wave AAA replacements Armando Rodriguez, Adrian Rosario and Familia. Add in Flores and the 40 is getting pretty full which might make the decision on Bay, Batista, Byrdek, Turner, Torres, Baxter and Hairston much more difficult than simply whether their strengths meet our immediate needs because regardless of the our RH hitting situation one year of Turner isn’t worth 6 potential years of Havens if he has a chance to be healthy and productive or a guy like Tovar and one year of Bay isn’t worth the chance of Lagares being part of a well structured platoon or more than that. One year of Byrdek isn’t worth losing a mid 90’s LHP like Carson and while Centeno doesn’t provide a good match for Thole he’s almost certainly gone if not on the 40 and if Thole were to go down…… Pena could be a very good part of a well conceived catching tandem in a couple of years and at least get us to whoever we can finally get in our system (Trahan?) It is very likely that we would have to go with a less than perfectly conceived 25 man roster next year inorder to avoid shooting ourselves in the foot for the longterm.

    I don’t envy the tough decisions the Met FO have in front of them this off season trying to find matches for so many lefthanded hitting defensively challenged position players and open up roster spots for players not ready to help out next year. Two things that would help immensely would be going with at least four of Mejia, Familia, Ramirez, Rosario, Carson and McHugh on the big league staff in some capacity or perhaps a trade is in order. Even that could be a problem as some of the guys to be taken off or not put on the 40 are RH hitters like Campbell, Puello and Lagares who very soon could be good matches for respectively, Ike, den Dekker and Kirk or Duda which would afford time to get us to the more all around, better defensive and less volatile platoon split types culled from the 7th-13th round since it appears we will no longer be throwing away (or selling) our 1st and 2nd round draft choices on pipe dreams.

    Either way it’s a tough balancing act and the future has to be protected at all costs or we have no chance to be a team that consistently goes to the post season.

  2. June 2, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Little did you know just how accurate your first statement on Johan would be. Dude has been money in almost every start!

    • June 2, 2012 at 9:00 am

      Thanks Mike! Hopefully this will allow people to realize how great Santana has been for the Mets if you just look past the W-L record (which hasn’t been too shabby, either.)

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