Mets are in a dark place with catching

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.

21 comments for “Mets are in a dark place with catching

  1. jennifer c
    September 22, 2018 at 7:49 am

    I just don’t understand a team with elite starting pitching not having a defensive specialist high tier catcher behind the plate. They want to build around pitching has been said a million times, but they don’t work at it w/their horrible options at catcher. Every catcher on this squad has back up written all over him.

    • Chris F
      September 22, 2018 at 11:32 am

      completely agree Jennifer.

    • September 22, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      The question is how much a defensive specialist would help compared to how much he would hurt at the plate.

      Jeff Mathis is probably the best defensive catcher in baseball. But he has a .207/.281/.282 line. That’s 100 points lower than the .666 mark that the Mets currently get from all of their catchers combined and 147 points below what they get from Devin Mesoraco. And that’s assuming Mathis would still hit that much as the full-time guy rather than the 67 games he’s played so far this year.

      It may be that a defensive specialist would be an upgrade. But that’s far from certain. And it’s likely if there was an upgrade to be had – that it would be minimal.

    • Rae
      September 23, 2018 at 12:53 am

      The Mets do have two catchers that may work out for the team Patrick Mazeika who has improved his defense, and has thrown out more then 30% of base stealers this year which is a huge improvement, and they also have Joe Domino who is a good defensive catcher who can throw runners out plus he will more then likely hit around 250. Both these catchers have much better throwing stats then Plawecki, d’arnaud, Mesoraco or Lobaton combined. Mazeika will be headed to AAA Syracuse in 2019, and Domino might make it to Binghamton AA sometime in 2019. Mazeika has hit in the minors but did have a rough time hitting in 2018 which I think was because he was so focused on improving his defense particularly his throwing. Both Domino and Mazeika could be p in 2019. Plus the Mets have a really good defensive catcher in Ali Sanchez who might hit 225 to 230 but he is much more of a defensive specialist then Domino and Mazeika happen to be. Anyway, I think the Mets really need to sign Yasmani Grandal because there is no way they are gonna be able to afford Wilson Ramos,

    • MattyMets
      September 23, 2018 at 8:41 am

      Is that my cousin Jennifer?

  2. Madman
    September 22, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Rene Rivera is the best catcher they’ve had the last 2-3 seasons. Gulp. And CF defensively has been a black hole too.

  3. TexasGusCC
    September 22, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Dalton, many teams have a less than stellar catcher and I would love to have Sanchez. His problems are shifting to block balls, not throwing. Check out this site:

    https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/poptime?year=2017&team=&min2b=15&min3b=0

    However, the catching problem calls to Mets’ development of catchers as a whole. While Sandy was still in control, a little after trading for Mesoraco they called up Nido from AA so Mesoraco can tutor him on preparation. It blows my mind to know that a catcher from a different organization must teach a kid something that none of the levels of development would. Maybe that’s the problem with the Mets: they won’t invest in a catching coach for the minors. Don’t forget that before they got Glen Sherlock, their MLB catching coach was Tim Tuefel. Let that resonate in your mind that they had a second baseman teaching catchers how to shift, proper footwork, throwing, and of course game planning. Maybe that is the problem right there.

    • Chris F
      September 22, 2018 at 11:36 am

      player development is clearly a black hole. We see this as fans every game at all the unforced mental errors, but we even saw whole minor league staffs released, and the FO was disappointed that players making the big league not prepared (but really, who’s fault is that……Sandy? Ricco? Minaya? Collins?)

    • September 22, 2018 at 12:53 pm

      I agree and hopefully one thing that the new GM will do is upgrade the quality of instruction that is offered in the minors.

  4. John Fox
    September 22, 2018 at 10:16 am

    I wouldn’t mind seeing the FO try to re-sign Mesoraco, if he’s healthy. He shouldn’t cost too much for say a 2 year deal. As noted in the article he does have some power, and he seems to work well with the pitchers. Jacob deGrom prefers to have Mesoraco behind the plate when he pitches, and that tells us a lot.

  5. TJ
    September 22, 2018 at 10:32 am

    The Mets clearly need to do something this winter, since Plawecki will be the only MLB capable guy on the roster. The first question the need to address is what they will do with d’Arnaud. What is the expectation with his arm, and the timeline. Not that I am advocating for him, but his tender/non-tender will dictate the next steps. So, if they figure holding TDA is a low cost depth move, and he will return 100% for most of 2019, then the need to add another depth guy. That could even be Mesoraco at a reasonable price. If they decide to upgrade, Realmuto would be great but I wouldn’t drain the system for him. As due diligence, though, they need to check the price. Wilson Ramos and Grandal are the best FA catchers on the market, and if TDA is ruled out, and Realmuto cost too much, they need to prioritize one of those two. Closer and C are absolute must gets this winter as targets 1 and 1a. No cutting corners here for a legit 2019 division contender.

  6. TexasGusCC
    September 22, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Also, keep in mind Mazeika is Rule 5 draftabke this year. Pretty sure you need to protect that bat going into AAA.

    • September 22, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      I think you’re vastly overrating the demand for soon-to-be 25-year-old catchers with poor defensive skills who’ve never played a game above Double-A and who put up a .691 OPS in Binghamton.

      • TexasGusCC
        September 22, 2018 at 2:03 pm

        It wasn’t me that loved Mazeika last year, it was you!! And he was hurt for most of the early part of the year. Until last year, his numbers had always been impressive. His .196/.302/.313/.615 was fueled by a BABIP of .202, totally out of character as was his 12% LD percentage (How Frazier-like). His numbers from August 1 to end of year were an amazing .354/.425/.538/.963 with only a .333 BABIP.

        His caught stealing was 33%, not too terrible for a Mets farmhand, but his passed balls were double the normal for him. So, while he may not light the house on fire, a lefty hitting catcher with a strong history that showed some bounce back in August after playing hurt all summer is a worthy pick if the Mets choose not to protect him.

        • September 22, 2018 at 2:38 pm

          You’re confusing me with David. I’ve been telling him for years that Mazeika was no good.

  7. Eraff
    September 22, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Below are the MLB stats for the Catching Position…team by team.

    The Mets have been getting “average production” from the position— and the Base Stealing woes are not totally attributable to the Catchers.

    Plawecki is a start toward a Replacement Level Platoon…or better.

    http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/batting/split/78/sort/OPS/order/true

  8. MattyMets
    September 23, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Austin Hedges is who we should target. LA won’t let Grandal leave and Ramos is getting older. Hedges is an awesome defensive catcher, a decent hitter, just 26 and still under control. Why would San Diego trade him? They just got the top catching prospect in baseball (Francisco Mejia) in the Brad Hand trade and they have many holes to fill. Let’s make a deal!

    • Metsense
      September 23, 2018 at 9:06 am

      This is a good alternative but might not be the solution for the ailing offense.

  9. Metsense
    September 23, 2018 at 8:53 am

    After having shut out for the thirteenth time his season it appears that the Mets have to upgrade the offense and the catching position is the obvious upgrade.Plawecki is doesn’t bat enough to justify a 12% stolen rate to play. The points of above in comments about development should be address by the Mets because the catchers can’t throw and the pitchers can’t hold. Mesoraca made $13M is year and Spotrac.com projects his salary at $8.1M which I feel is generous. The has been on the DL last three weeks. Do they need this injury gamble? Speaking of injury gambles, that would arbitration eligible Travis d’Arnuad ,as history shown us, he will get a raise of his $3.5M salary. Maybe it’s time fo non tender him and sign Grandal who Spotrac.com projects his salary at $9.3M. (which I believe is underestimated). Will the Mets spend the money on a closer, catcher and set up man? If they want to win division in 2019 they will. At least get a closer and Grandal.
    BTW Clark Kent,another good article!

  10. September 23, 2018 at 9:08 am

    The 2 headed monster of PlawNaud must go away…good pitching and mediocre catching is not a formula for success. Hellooooo Wilson Ramos. He is a bulldog, can manage a staff, good arm, and guess what ???
    Can actually hit the ball ! Ramos’ bat will fall in well after Conforto and Cespedes, before or after Bruce, who will be the 1st baseman next year, just watch. A combination of those 4 sluggers and Rosario, Nimmo, McNeil, setting the table and the Mets offense won’t be the problem next year. The Bullpen will be unless the front office does not solve matters in the off-season. Mets have Lugo and Gsellman. The rest ? Send them all to Siberia, man do they stink in the freezer like old fish ! That’s like 5 BP arms they need to find. Baseball today has become about who has the best pen to shorten the game. Mets have a terrible one, probably cost them 10-15 games this year, and at least 3 to Jacob d’eGrom.
    Get to work !

  11. Nym6986
    September 23, 2018 at 9:11 am

    We always point to Jerry Grote as the Mets gold standard for defensive catching. He posted a .38 caught stealing rate for his career and in 1969 it was .56. His hitting was not much with a career .252 average and only hit 39 HRs and drove in 404 runs in 16 years. The amount of runs he saved behind the plate was enormous and his adept throwing made other teams think twice before running on him. At that time defense up the middle was a key to a good team. The Mets should go out and get the best defensive catcher they can who also calls a good game and is in sync with this awesome pitching staff. I would not part with Jake,Thor or Wheeler for anything as they will, fingers crossed, lead us back into the playoffs. We have come back strong in the last few months and there is much to be excited about for 2019.

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