Mets360 2014 projections: Travis d’Arnaud

Last year Mets catchers put up a combined .654 OPS, 33 points below the average mark for National League backstops. Of the four catchers to see action for the club last year, Travis d’Arnaud had the lowest OPS with a .542 mark in 111 PA. Yet because of his minor league pedigree, many fans expect d’Arnaud to have a big year at the plate. Some even point to the rookie as one of the keys to the Mets’ season.

It’s a lot of pressure to put on a young catcher. But d’Arnaud has put up big numbers in the minors and is generally considered one of the top catching prospects in the game. Additionally, anyone down on him due to his poor performance in the majors last year should realize that he had a .244 BABIP. It’s tough for anyone to look good with that poor of a number on balls in play.

While d’Arnaud struggled at the plate, he did a great job behind the dish and made a good first impression handling MLB pitchers. We don’t have great tools for measuring catcher defense but recently ESPN’s Adam Rubin came up with this nugget:

According to Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information, d’Arnaud got a strike call on 84.5 percent of the pitches that were taken by batters and deemed to actually be in the strike zone. Buck got strike calls on only 77.7 percent of such pitches. The MLB average is 80.7 percent.

Remind me again why people wanted to bring back John Buck to tutor d’Arnaud defensively?

Because it’s easily available, many people focus on SB/CS ratios as the main area of catcher defense. It’s why many people downgrade Mike Piazza. However, if research like Simon did was available during Piazza’s time, his defensive reputation would be markedly different.

Regardless, since defense is a big part of a catcher’s job, how do we take something that’s readily available and easily understood and apply it in a projection? With eyes rolled and noses held, we are going to use catcher’s ERA.

No stat is perfect. The key is to understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of the metric before you use it. Unfortunately, perhaps the only strength of CERA is that it’s available and easy to understand. CERA measures the ERA of all the pitchers on the mound when a specific catcher was behind the plate. It should be pretty clear that the catcher of the 1966 Dodgers is going to have a better CERA than the backstop for the 1962 Mets.

It’s more useful for comparing catchers on the same team but even then you run into trouble. First, the backup catcher likely has a much smaller sample size and secondly, the pitchers caught are never equal. Last year Buck had a strong CERA primarily due to the large number of games he was behind the plate when Matt Harvey pitched. Certainly, Buck should get at least some credit for Harvey’s year but most of us feel that Harvey would be great regardless of which MLB catcher was behind the plate.

Buck had a 2.25 CERA with Harvey on the mound last year and a 4.29 mark with the rest of the staff.

The Mets will not have the Harvey “problem” this year, which may make the CERA comparisons more useful. Last year, d’Arnaud caught one Harvey start and his overall CERA was 4.11 in 258.1 innings.

So, how will d’Arnaud do both offensively and defensively this year? Here’s what we think:

PA AVG OBP SLG HR RBIs CERA
Albanesius 460 .270 .340 .490 14 75 3.40
Ferguson 540 .250 .333 .414 18 65 3.90
Flattery 465 .267 .359 .440 14 55 3.81
Guilbert 492 .265 .320 .460 19 82 3.49
Hangley 515 .272 .320 .425 23 86 3.25
Joura 520 .265 .335 .435 12 61 3.63
Koehler 350 .285 .340 .460 12 55 3.70
Kolton 533 .213 .245 .308 5 43 5.62
O’Malley 468 .267 .355 .448 13 63 3.55
Rogan 545 .265 .365 .450 17 75 3.85
Stack 555 .281 .333 .420 14 66 3.76
Vasile 450 .268 .342 .439 16 62 3.91
Walendin 501 .282 .355 .482 16 73 3.54

With the exception of our resident contrarian Dan Kolton, all of us see him putting up an OPS of .745 or greater. Chris Walendin, usually noted for his level-headed forecasts, has the most optimistic one out there, as he calls for an .837 OPS. Perhaps the most interesting forecasts are the ones for homers. Most people see him producing numbers in the teens yet Charlie Hangley thinks he’ll bang out 23, nearly twice the number that Mike Koehler and I project. Meanwhile, all of us, with one exception, see d’Arnaud improving in his CERA, too.

Here’s what the group as a whole projects for d’Arnaud in 2014:

d'ArnaudStats2014

These would be extremely optimistic offensive numbers for anyone who only saw him play in the majors and knew nothing of his minor league track record. Even knowing his pedigree, they are probably optimistic for a rookie catcher. If d’Arnaud meets this projection, Mets fans should be very happy. It would be the best rookie season for a Mets catcher in franchise history and put him in the discussion for Rookie of the Year honors.

Let’s see how our forecast stacks up against the others available on FanGraphs for d’Arnaud in 2014:

System PA AVG OBP SLG HR RBIs
Mets360 492 .267 .340 .440 15 66
Steamer 428 .254 .320 .418 13 49
Oliver 600 .241 .312 .397 16 70
ZiPS 336 .245 .307 .392 9 39

It’s not a big surprise that ours is the most optimistic forecast. The ZiPS projection of a .699 OPS and little more than half a season’s worth of playing time seems a touch surprising. The Steamer projection of a .738 OPS seems on track to me but hopefully d’Arnaud will get more playing time than it projects.

Check back Monday for our next entry in the projection series.

6 comments for “Mets360 2014 projections: Travis d’Arnaud

  1. Name
    February 21, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Anyone else see him getting the #2 spot by the end of the year?
    I think those numbers are too high, as if they pan out, he’ll have had a better year than Murphy last season, which i don’t see happening. I actually like Murphy’s triple slash line from 2011 for TDA’s projection in 2014: .266/.313/.427 to produce a .741 OPS which looks like is also pretty close to Steamer’s projection.

    • Sean Flattery
      February 21, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      Yes, I think the #2 spot would be ideal if he reaches the collective projections laid out here. I’m pleasantly surprised everyone sees him drawing a lot of walks, I thought there would be a divide in that respect. I think Murph will hit for a higher average and drive in more runs this year, so along with DW, Grandy, and d’Arnaud it could be a more formidable middle of the lineup than years past. Let’s hope!

  2. eraff
    February 21, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Between “settling in” and dealing with “Catcher dings”, I believe an ops of 700-725, with 30+ xbh and 125+ games [played is the beginning of something very good.

    If he gets around 750 ops or better and 35/40+ xbh, he becomes a really nice player. Big expectations, but some patience needed to be fair. The 800+ ops projections may happen, but I believe they are a bit unfair….. not many full timers on this list:

    http://rotogrinders.com/pages/2013_MLB_Player_Stats_Catchers-123229

  3. Jim OMalley
    February 21, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Rookie of the Year!!!!! I’d be delighted!

  4. Metsense
    February 21, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    d’Arnaud should become a better than average NL catcher and someday bat in the 5 hole for the Mets. I believe the staff consensus is way to high. I would trend to Oliver. I also think that for every OPS point above that prediction, the Mets as a team will have a better record. I think he is a game changer but I will temper my enthusiasm and expectations and allow him time to grow.

  5. February 24, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Just to be on record, I included the NL Rookie of the Year award with my 2014 d’Arnaud projections. I’m wildly bullish on him.

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