When something gets to a desperate level of atrocity, people will go to lengths to find ways to celebrate even the smallest victories. This was the case when Kevin Plawecki threw out not one, but two Nationals in Thursday night’s 5-4, 12 inning victory over the Washington Nationals. Plawecki threw out Michael Taylor and Bryce Harper, registering his 11th and 12th caught stealing for the season. Plawecki has an abysmal caught stealing percentage of 12%. Compare that to Mannny Pina of the Brewers, who has thrown out 40.8% of runners trying to steal on him. While the Mets don’t have the problem of ineptitude at the plate in terms of defense like the New York Yankees do with Gary Sanchez, they certainly have room to improve.
On the season, the Mets are dead last in terms of allowing stolen bases per game, which should come as no surprise if you have watched Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz pitch this season. They allow .85 stolen bases per game, which .21 higher than the next NL team, the Philadelphia Phillies. The mark of 59 stolen bases between Syndergaard and Matz is more than the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, and Boston Red Sox have allowed as a team. While Syndergaard and Matz have notoriously slow deliveries to the plate, you can’t help but believe that some of those bases would be wiped off the board if the Mets had a catcher with a competent arm.
As much as the defensive metrics of the catchers make you want to pull your hair out in frustration, the offensive numbers aren’t very pretty either. As a collective unit, Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki, Devin Mesoraco, Jose Lobaton, and Tomas Nido have combined to hit a weak .209 on the season, lowest of all the position player batting averages. This is down from last year’s mark of .251. To say that the Mets catchers as a whole have regressed would be an understatement. A lower batting average might be allowable if they were producing power from the plate, but that isn’t the case either. They have hit 16 home runs between 5 players, with Mesoraco producing the brunt of the numbers with nine home runs.
To change the culture behind the plate, their best option might be to clean house at the position. It goes without saying that this would be easier said than done. Assuming Mesoraco and Lobaton walk, that leaves the Mets with three catchers for 2019. Out of Plawecki, d’Arnaud, and Nido, the player that would make the most sense to keep around would be Plawecki. After putting up a career high 112 games in 2017, d’Arnaud made it through just four this season before needing Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL. This injury will make a weak throwing arm weaker than ever, assuming he is able to throw a ball by the beginning of next season.
Leaving Nido and Plawecki, you’d be more inclined to take Plawecki just based on experience. While everyone wants to go out of the organization to acquire a catcher, the market isn’t exactly flooded with high quality catchers. This makes sense, because once a team finds an elite catcher, a rare commodity in the major leagues, they want to hold onto him for as long as possible. That is why the cream of the crop in terms of catching free agents this coming winter is Yasmani Grandal.
The go-to option for most Mets followers when talking about catchers is trading for J.T Realmuto. He is a player that everyone would love to see on the team, but would be extremely hard to acquire. The Marlins would ask for a lot for him considering he is a top tier catcher that is about to hit the prime of his career, and that he has two years of contract control left.
A good catcher is usually the foundation of a good team. The Mets have an elite starting rotation of Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler, as well as a few young position players that are starting to find their way. What they don’t have is a catcher that will bring them to the next level, and until that changes, the Mets may find themselves stuck.