Early returns on Travis d’Arnaud

Travis d'ArnaudSix games, that’s all. That’s how deep we are into the 2017 spring training schedule. So far, it’s been a relatively quiet camp, with some nuggets to glean from this early stage. None of the big four pitchers has faced real, live opposing batters yet. Zack Wheeler has bounced back from his early-camp troubles and has thrown live batting practice off an actual mound. Lucas Duda has had a back problem… no, a hip problem… no, no problem at all, according to Duda. However, he has received a cortisone shot and has yet to make an appearance in an exhibition game. He did swing a bat yesterday, though. And of course, David Wright has had to shut down his double-super-secret throwing program and return to New York to have his shoulder examined. He won’t be able to throw for at least two weeks and now his presence in the lineup on Opening Day is in question. Aaaaah, spring…

One of the big story lines coming into camp, though, was the crucial comeback of Travis d’Arnaud. 2016 was a lost year for d’Arnaud. A rotator cuff injury in late April put him on the shelf for the bulk of the season. Not that he was tearing the cover off the ball before that, though. When placed on the DL on April 26, he was hitting a dismal .196/.288/.261/.549. Not only that, considering his raggy shoulder, opposing base runners were taking full advantage, especially with Noah Syndergaard on the mound. When he returned from minor league rehab in late June, even the untrained eye could tell his batting stance and swing were completely screwed up. Perhaps the Las Vegas atmosphere gave him the false impression that he was doing the right thing – offensive stats skew notoriously high in the thin desert air. Somehow, he managed to put 54 points back onto his batting average, but his power, such a big part of his game in 2015, all but deserted him. You can see how stark it was, compared to 2015:

2015 – 67 games, 268 PA, 239 AB, .268/.340/.485/.825, 12 HR, 41 RBI
2016 – 75 games, 276 PA, 251 AB, .247/.307/.323/.629, 4 HR, 15 RBI

Even with his injury, he had ample opportunity to better his 2015 record. With all the mechanical issues, it’s no wonder he didn’t. It got so that as 2017 camp opened, the contending Mets, a favorite for at least one Wild Card slot, were said to have a gaping hole at catcher. After off-season work with hitting coach Kevin Long and new third base coach/catching guru Glenn Sherlock, d’Arnaud arrived in camp with a far better batting stance at the plate and improved footwork behind it. So far it’s translated to the field. D’Arnaud has played in half the Mets’ exhibition games, slashing .500/.500/.875/1.375 with a homer and 2 RBI. Is he all the way back? Who could tell from this? But the early indications are that his issues have been addressed.

We can only hope so. The last thing the Mets need is a gaping hole at catcher.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

10 comments for “Early returns on Travis d’Arnaud

  1. March 2, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Typically we hear about guys going to Las Vegas and ironing out the kinks in their swings. This may be the first time I’ve heard it suggested that the opposite happened. Not saying you’re wrong – just that this struck me.

  2. Neal
    March 2, 2017 at 10:00 am

    And we should be excited about the fact that he’s hitting 500 against minor league pitchers?

    • March 2, 2017 at 10:52 am

      He’s got hits against four different pitchers, all of them major leaguers. His HR came off 2016 All-Star and Marlins closer AJ Ramos

  3. March 2, 2017 at 11:23 am

    It’s way too early for anything to start counting, but at least there’s signs of life. Let’s keep watching for continued results and dare I say, a positive trend.

  4. Jimmy P
    March 2, 2017 at 11:44 am

    The numbers don’t mean anything, except . . .

    There is a psychological vulnerability to Travis. He tends to lose his way. He’s like a racehorse that needs a vigilant jockey.

    My wish for him this season is to get off to a strong start. I think he needs that much more than, say, Cespedes or Cabrera or Walker, who seem to have a deeper self-knowledge.

    If Travis can experience success early, I think it could propel him through the season.

    Now, defensively: he’s only ever going to be adequate, if the bat plays. What makes it more difficult is that teams with speed will try to beat the Mets with stolen bases, aggressiveness on the paths. I mean, how else do you counter Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jake deGrom? So Travis’s flaw will be exposed from time to time. Teams will try to get into his head.

    But how weird is it that the Mets didn’t have a catching coach last season? A team built around pitching with only a fair defensive catcher? I’m glad they’ve given him more support this year. He’s going to need it.

    I remain a fan and a believer.

  5. March 2, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    d’Arnaud is now 6/11 for the spring. Just sayin’…

    • Jimmy P
      March 2, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      I remember all the “Kirk is on fire!” articles from
      ST in 2015. And he was, started 9-15 or something like that.

      Combination small sample size and the fact that pitchers are still slowly rounding into form. It meant nothing except what it told us about pitching in Florida in early March.

      Rather than result, I am encouraged by process: T’s swing looks shorter, quicker to the ball. The HR was nice, too, coming off the shoulder injury which sapped his power in ’16.

      It’s encouraging, and it’s very early.

  6. Metsense
    March 2, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    Last year TDA had an awful year. In 2015 he had the second best OPS among NL catchers. His health and durability are a major hurdle for him. At this point I hope he can just be average with a 100 OPS+ while starting 130 games.
    I am glad he is off to a positive start with his new batting approach and winter work paying dividends.

    • Jimmy P
      March 3, 2017 at 8:39 am

      I’d be very, very disappointed if he was a 100 OPS+ across 130 games.

      Offensively, he has ability to be a huge positive relative to the position. And defensively, we know he’s below-average (though I think it’s not as bad as some folks contend).

      In 2015, I think his OPS+ was 126. Last year it was like 68. The shoulder.

      If he’s a 100 OPS+ catcher, we’re wasting our time with him, because overall that’s a net negative.

  7. TJ
    March 2, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    2017 is a crucial season for TDA, but by no means is he a bust at this point. Given the available alternatives, I am fine with the Met tandem of TDA and Rivera. So long as TDA doesn’t kill them defensively, any offense they get from him will be gravy. I expect a solid bounce back campaign from him, and I expect him at @ million to outperform Weiters at $10 million.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *