Mets360’s 2013 Pre-Season Predictions – How’d We Do? Mets’ Catchers Edition

Travis d'ArnaudJohn BuckWelcome to the off-season. Once again, since the Mets are not one of the ten participants in the post-season, it’s time instead for some post-mortem. In this new series, the Mets360 staff will take a look back at our pre-season previews and see how they played out. Just a fun little ongoing exercise to while away the days until mid-March, when the focus turns again to Port St. Lucie, hot rookies, veterans seeking rejuvenation and who’s “in the best shape of his life.”

Today we’ll look at the Mets’ catchers.

In 2012, the Mets’ situation behind the dish was nothing less than a black hole. Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, Kelly Shoppach and Rob Johnson didn’t make anyone forget Gary Carter or Mike Piazza. Offensively, if there’s to be a comparison from Mets’ history, it would be to the Gandhian corps of 1963: Choo-Choo Coleman, Jesse Gonder, Norm Sherry and Sammy Taylor. It’s understandable if you feel the need to avert your eyes here — the 2012 edition put up a composite slash line of .219/.279/.285, a putrid OPS reading .564, accompanied by 114 strikeouts in 621 plate appearances.

Confronting these daunting numbers, Sandy Alderson swung into action, releasing Johnson and Shoppach and jettisoning Thole and Nickeas in the same deal that took away R.A. Dickey.

2012’s loss was 2013’s gain, however. That trade also brought back the two men would do the bulk of the catching, John Buck and Travis d’Arnaud. For a myriad of reasons, d’Arnaud – the number one catching prospect in the land – had already been traded once and had not yet spent a single day in the majors. Buck was the kind of well-traveled veteran who would be the perfect tutor/placeholder until d’Arnaud was deemed “major league ready:” d’Arnaud’s own, personal Crash Davis, if you will.

Splitting between the two, our predictions for 2013 went like this:

JOHN BUCK

PA – 325
AVG – .230
OBP – .310
SLG – .388
HR – 10
RBIs – 41

TRAVIS d’ARNAUD
PA – 265
AVG – .275
OBP – .330
SLG – .433
HR – 9
RBIs – 43

We saw a kind of “baseball lore” scenario: the grizzled vet backstop showing the ropes to the highly touted rookie, getting the bulk of at-bats until the youngster could handle the job on his own. We expected to see him in Queens no later than June 25 or so. Unfortunately, that scenario didn’t get a chance to play out properly: Travis d’Arnaud, seasoning himself up in Las Vegas, took a foul ball off his left foot, fracturing it and putting him on the shelf for the first four months of the season. That Metsian pedigree at work again.

The injury to d’Arnaud thrust John Buck into the everyday role, and boy, did he run with it. Understand, Buck’s biggest home run year was 2010, when cracked 20 in his first go-‘round with Toronto. Upon his arrival on the Mets, he hit 9 for the month of April alone, including a 4-game homer streak from April 8th through the 12th. So, despite two-thirds of his slash line being closer to career norms — .241 AVG and .269 OBP – his SLUG wowed us at .575, good for a gaudy .844 OPS at the end of the month. Given what we knew about Buck’s career, we all knew those numbers were beyond unsustainable, but we enjoyed the production as long as it would last, especially in light of the d’Arnaud injury.

Over the course of the long year, Buck’s stats declined to his career norms and became a shadow of his April production. On August 27, he was packaged along with Marlon Byrd to the playoff-bound Pirates – as this is written, John Buck is enjoying his very first post-season – in exchange for pitcher Vic Black and minor-league second baseman Dilson Herrera.

By that time, of course, Travis d’Arnaud had arrived. The young catcher debuted on August 17, to great fanfare on game broadcasts and huge excitement in the fan base. He looked just as one would expect a first-time, highly-touted major-leaguer to look: scared to death and unable to hit. The faith in d’Arnaud has not been shaken by this small-sample performance – it’s still way too early to label him a bust – but the organization must be on the lookout for any bad habits he may have developed.

Here’s how the catchers actually panned out:

JOHN BUCK

PA – 407
AVG – .215
OBP – .285
SLG – .367
HR – 15
RBIs – 60

TRAVIS d’ARNAUD

PA – 112
AVG – .202
OBP – .286
SLG – .263
HR – 1
RBIs – 5

It’s near impossible to say who got close and who was way off, given the wild fluctuations in both men’s plate appearances. Only two of Mets360’s writers had Buck with 400 PA or more, and only two – one different one – had d’Arnaud as low as 112. The “pros” were way off, as well: d’Arnaud’s injury basically knocked everybody into a cocked hat.

Many hopes are pinned to Travis d’Arnaud. The question is: will they be rewarded?

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley

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1 comment for “Mets360’s 2013 Pre-Season Predictions – How’d We Do? Mets’ Catchers Edition

  1. Metsense
    October 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Buck was a valuable piece in 2013 providing solid defense behind the plate and hitting more homeruns from the catcher position in quite a few years. Sandy made an excellent trade last August to the Pirates and he deserves full credit for it. I hope they don’t bring Buck back, or for that matter any veteran. There is no need to when you already have a backup in Anthony Recker who projects as an average NL catcher.
    2013 NL AVG:17 HR, 307/379/686 and Recker: 6 HR , 280/400/680 in 135 AB’s so if he projectec to 400 AB’s he would hit 18 homeruns. I am not stating Recker should start, just be an inexpensive backup.
    d’Arnaud was offensively underwhelming in his MLB debut but the Mets are hitched to this horse and will need to ride him in 2014. Hopefully he will be at least average offensively. His 2014 season will be a indication of the Met 2014 season. It is a lot of pressure for a rookie, and unfortunate that the Met offense is so poor that it will rely on a rookie. It goes with the turf when you are traded twice for Cy Young winners and are expected to be a #5 or #6 in the big league lineup.

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