Is more Anthony Recker a good thing?

Anthony ReckerAnthony Recker is a big man with a ton of natural power. When he crushes a home run over the left field wall, it can be easy to think a guy like that needs more playing time. Add in that he’s improved himself into a very well-rounded defensive backstop while Travis d’Arnaud has struggled both at and behind the plate this year, and the case for Recker getting more playing time seems an easy one to make.

Let’s delve into the numbers and see if that is really the best option for the Mets. In less than half the playing time as d’Arnaud, Recker has better offensive numbers, and has not let up a passed ball. He has also thrown out two runners, including Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton, and has yet to allow a stolen base. Meanwhile d’Arnaud has thrown out one runner, allowed four stolen bases, has one passed ball, and a shocking nine wild pitches have been thrown while he’s behind home plate. Multiple reports, including Chris McShane’s article over at Amazin’ Avenue, have pointed out that d’Arnaud’s lack of movement when blocking pitches and his penchant for backhanding balls in the dirt most likely account for this high rate. So Recker has been hitting better when given the opportunities, and has proven a solid defensive catcher. Does that mean the case is settled?

Not so fast. Of course everything in April and even May is subject to the small sample size defense, but Recker has some worrying K/BB rates. His mediocre 8.7 BB% and his atrocious 34.8 K% equal just a .25 K/BB ratio, well below the league average. That is just a couple of ticks below his .27 K/BB% that he put up in 50 games last year, so it’s not an aberration. d’Arnaud, for all his troubles at and behind the plate, has a much healthier .67 BB/K ratio. His pinch hitting assignment versus the Braves on Sunday broke a six-game streak where d’Arnaud was on base at least once. That’s nothing to write home about yet, but it’s a step in the right direction for a young hitter who just three weeks ago was mired in a 0-15 slump to start the season.

How about the defense? Recker so far has a .4 dWAR, which is exactly what he put up through all of last year. d’Arnaud on the other hand has a -.1 dWAR, again exactly what he put up last year. It’s a very young season, and since defensive metrics are still catching up to offensive ones, these numbers are not an accurate reflection of what either player might do defensively over the course of the full year. Therefore, there is reason to hope that d’Arnaud’s issues of getting to wild pitches and smothering balls in the dirt may fade away over the course of the long haul. Or perhaps Recker’s defense will continue to improve as well and he will need to play more based on that ability alone. As of right now, though, neither is head and shoulders above the other, despite the wild pitch disparity.

Recker has been starting more often lately, playing four of the last nine games. It’s not that d’Arnaud is presently good enough to warrant forcing Recker back into a backup role, but d’Arnaud’s peripheral numbers suggest that the young prospect will eventually become a .260-.280 type of hitter with some power. Recker has never been given the chance to be the everyday guy, but over the course of 1,084 Triple-A ABs, he has a .278/.360/.478 line, suggesting that he might fare well given more time at the major league level. Recker has more experience on his side, but otherwise it’s a crap shoot at the moment as to who would be the better option on an everyday basis.

Gary Cohen mentioned during Sunday’s game that of Recker’s eight home runs as a Met, seven of those have either tied or put the Mets ahead in a game. Recker’s flair for the dramatic may serve extremely well to endear him to fans, but if that flair goes along with striking out in 1/3 of his ABs, then it is possible Recker will have to make those dramatic homers a specialty while coming off the bench or playing infrequently.

Unfortunately Recker seems to be an all or nothing kind of guy. He swings hard, and he pulls a great deal when he makes contact. He’s also just a very big guy, something that cannot be said of d’Arnaud. That size will serve Recker well while blocking the plate or putting some mammoth strength into those swings he does make contact on. As an everyday player though, Recker still leaves some aspects to be desired. It’s possible that if d’Arnaud doesn’t show improvement over the next few weeks that Recker will be forced to take on more responsibility. He may even prosper for a while. Those peripheral numbers may end up haunting him, though. If Recker wants to be the guy behind the plate four days out of five, he’ll have to exhibit more of the patience he showed down in Triple-A, and back up that power with some more average, which he’s been doing more of lately. If not, d’Arnaud is coming sooner or later. Hopefully this competition will push both to be better, and that’s the best possibly scenario.

16 comments for “Is more Anthony Recker a good thing?

  1. Joe Vasile
    April 22, 2014 at 11:05 am

    How dare you question the Reck-ing Ball!

    But seriously, I don’t understand the people calling for Recker to play every day over d’Arnaud. After the 0-15, .270/.341/.405. A little more power would be nice, but that’ll come.

    • Name
      April 22, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      TDA’s stats are still being weighed down by the overall start. I’m most impressed by the 3/4 K/BB ratio.

      On the other hand, one can argue he’s hitting better because TC is choosing good spots to rest him and play Recker (also we have had a bunch of extra inning games since so the backup catcher has to start after a long one). Since April 8th, our catching corps has combined for a .283/.356/.509 for a .865 OPS. They’ve also split the duties 10-3, which i think is an optimal number.

  2. Jerry Grote
    April 22, 2014 at 11:15 am

    One of the better articles here. Well done Patrick.

    Trade value on Recker, by the end of this year, should be substantial. Catchers that slug .425 don’t come so easily, especially when paired with a plus arm.

    • Patrick Albanesius
      April 23, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Thanks very much Jerry!

  3. Metsense
    April 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Sandy took a calculated risk starting a rookie catcher and not bringing in a veteran catcher as insurance. I agree with that decision. One reason is that Recker is a very capable backup. Recker could be pressed into starting if TDA were hurt and I think he would put up better than average homerun numbers. Recker played some 1B in 2011 and should be taking some reps there only to enhance his value as a late inning pinch hitter that could stay in the game at first and not leave the cupboard bare at catcher. Recker should be getting full backup time (day after night game) because he earned it but TDA needs to be given the full season to see if he is the long term solution.

  4. George
    April 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Not every day. Not many suggesting that. but why not every. 3rd or 4th day until DArnaud gets his feet under himself or Recker comes back down. Makes sense to me.

  5. NormE
    April 22, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I saw somewhere that the Mets have a better winning record in games that Recker starts as compared to TDA or John Buck. I agree with George about every 3rd or 4th day for Recker. TDA, on his days off, should be sitting next to Geren and Warthen and picking their brains.

  6. eraff
    April 22, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Most Prized Players struggle when the debut—Trout was sent down!!! That struggle is a needed step on the path to any future success.

  7. Helloboy
    April 22, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    TDA has been playing much better the last week or so and I am not inclined to take him out as starter. I want to see if he continues to hit. He drove in a run yesterday also. This is really his first run through the league still and is adjusting. He still has plenty of time to keep the average going up. I hope to see some power, especially doubles, as he starts making more contact.

  8. Chris F
    April 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Nice article Patrick. as you know, Ive been quite critical about TdA, or perhaps inverted, quite interested in Recker taking on a bigger role. In my eyes, TdA with a little under 200 PAs, is still an unwritten story and so is Recker with about 250 PAs. At this time Recker is simply a better catcher than TdA, who is 5 years younger. To me d’Arnaud is a few months from a fork in the road as to whether he will be a solid backstop or turn into Josh Thole.

    I love TdAs framing, and Mejia was the recipient of some close strikes that he pulled in last night. But I am very much troubled that his small stature and lazy approach to blocking will put us in peril at very critical times. We need to be able to count on him to call for and catch an intentional 60 footer with runners on base. He does not have the arm of Recker either. If his plate struggles become chronic, and his biggest upside is framing strikes, I’ll take more Recker, and hope Plawecki is making strides to take over.

    • Patrick Albanesius
      April 23, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Thanks Chris. I think Josh Thole is a pretty rough comparison, but I understand where you are coming from. The more I see of TDA, I think 15 homers might be his peak. He definitely has the ability to drive a lot of doubles around the yard. If he improves his blocking, keeps up that pitch framing, and can hit for .280, I think he needs to be the everyday guy. It’s nice to have Recker’s power back there every few days though.

      • Chris F
        April 23, 2014 at 12:05 pm

        At about the same places in their careers

        Thole: .277/.357/.366
        d’Arnaud: .195/.277/.266

        • jcb
          April 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm

          That was a high point for Thole and likely a low point for d’Arnaud

        • Jerry Grote
          April 23, 2014 at 12:22 pm

          The problem with that comp is ISO. Thole, right up to that time had an ISO in the minor leagues around .80 or so. Obviously he replicated that in the major leagues (and for what its worth, he got no better).

          DarNo’s ISO in the minor leagues was around .180 and over his last 40 at bats he’s .250/.318/.375 or an ISO around .125.

          I’m not a huge fan of TDA, I mean, he’s got some talent. But he’s imminently more projectable at this age than Thole ever was going to be.

        • Chris F
          April 23, 2014 at 2:14 pm

          I get that everyone. Lets just say, for the #1 catching prospect label, hes a lot closer to Thole than Posey.

          They hung Grote’s number on TdA. The expectation is he will be a rock on both sides. I understand upside, but lets be honest, right now all the projections right now cant get him an MLB hit.

  9. Chris F
    April 25, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Gimme more Recker!

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