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:
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:
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:
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?