Prior to the start of the 2019 season, my opinion was that signing Wilson Ramos was the best move of the offseason for Brodie Van Wagenen. It seemed much better than paying the freight for J.T. Realmuto in trade or for Yasmani Grandal in cash. By mid May, I was seriously questioning my judgment. But Ramos rebounded and by the end of the year he seemed like a solid enough signing.

By the end of the year, the spin doctors began weaving the narrative that Ramos, stung by the knowledge that the team’s top two pitchers preferred to throw to a different catcher, worked harder on his defense in the second half of the season. In a November article for MetsBlog, John Harper quoted an unnamed scout who opined, “It just looked like he made more of an effort in general defensively. If he does that he’s adequate back there, which is good enough because of what he gives you offensively.”

Whenever you’re reading an article that quotes an unnamed scout – always, always, always take it with a huge grain of salt. Because scouts never go on the record with a reporter, there’s always the chance, however slight, that it’s completely made up out of thin air. Now, my opinion is that Harper actually did talk to a scout. But what’s this scout’s track record in objectively evaluating catcher defense? He’s trotted out as an expert witness but we have no way of discerning if this scout knows what he’s talking about in this area.

What we can do is look at the actual performance of the pitchers with Ramos behind the plate, to see if these subjective opinions of the unnamed scout can be supported by actual outcomes. Let’s look at the starting pitchers, as they were mostly good. It wouldn’t be fair to knock Ramos because the Mets utilized relievers who were terrible.

Here are the 113 games that Ramos started behind the plate for the Mets last season and the results of the starting pitchers:

Date Opp. W-L IP ER H HR
3/28 0-0 6 0 5 0
3/30 0-1 6 4 7 1
4/1 2-2 5.1 1 6 1
4/2 2-3 5 2 8 1
4/4 2-3 6 2 1 1
4/6 3-3 5 0 2 0
4/7 3-4 4.2 7 4 0
4/10 6-3 7 4 5 0
4/11 7-4 6 2 4 1
4/12 7-5 6 2 6 0
4/14 8-6 5 3 5 2
4/15 9-5 5 5 9 1
4/16 9-6 0 6 4 2
4/19 10-8 4 1 3 1
4/20 10-9 4.1 5 7 0
4/22 12-9 6 1 3 1
4/23 12-10 7 0 5 0
4/24 12-11 4.2 1 3 0
4/26 13-13 4 5 5 0
4/28 15-13 7 2 5 1
4/29 11-16 6 4 7 0
4/30 12-16 5.1 1 3 1
5/2 13-17 9 0 4 0
5/3 17-16 5.2 3 9 2
5/4 18-16 7 2 6 0
5/6 19-16 7 2 4 1
5/7 20-16 6 4 9 2
5/10 10-27 7 2 9 0
5/14 16-24 8 2 4 1
5/15 16-25 2.1 5 6 1
5/17 10-31 5 6 9 1
5/18 11-31 3.2 2 5 1
5/20 19-27 4 2 3 1
5/21 19-28 7 3 4 2
5/23 19-30 6 1 10 0
5/24 18-30 5.1 6 10 2
5/25 19-30 5 1 5 0
5/26 19-31 7.1 3 5 1
5/28 36-18 6 2 4 1
5/29 36-19 6 3 7 0
5/31 28-29 7 4 7 2
6/2 29-30 6 5 8 2
6/4 24-34 6.2 3 5 0
6/5 25-34 9 0 5 0
6/7 32-29 6 2 6 0
6/8 33-29 6 2 6 0
6/11 41-24 6 3 7 0
6/13 33-33 7 2 6 1
6/14 34-33 6 3 3 1
6/15 35-33 6 4 6 1
6/17 42-30 6 4 10 1
6/19 43-31 5 5 6 2
6/20 40-33 2.1 6 5 0
6/22 41-34 7 1 5 0
6/24 39-38 4.1 7 10 3
6/25 40-38 5.1 4 5 2
6/27 42-38 6 1 2 1
6/29 49-34 2 2 3 0
7/2 54-28 6.1 2 5 0
7/3 54-29 5.1 3 7 1
7/5 45-42 7 2 3 1
7/7 46-43 5 6 8 1
7/12 33-55 5 6 5 2
7/14 34-56 5 1 6 0
7/16 58-34 4 2 5 1
7/17 58-35 6 3 5 2
7/19 48-49 7 0 3 0
7/20 49-49 5 1 5 0
7/21 49-50 6 2 6 0
7/23 47-52 6 0 1 0
7/25 48-53 7 0 4 0
7/26 46-56 5.1 3 5 1
7/27 46-57 9 0 5 0
7/28 46-58 5.2 3 6 1
7/31 46-58 7 1 5 0
8/1 46-59 7 0 4 0
8/2 47-61 3.2 5 6 0
8/3 48-61 4.1 3 7 0
8/5 42-68 4.2 4 8 1
8/6 42-69 8 0 8 0
8/7 42-70 6.2 2 7 1
8/9 61-53 6 4 9 1
8/10 61-54 7 2 7 1
8/11 61-55 5 0 4 0
8/13 70-50 5 5 12 1
8/14 71-50 6 1 2 0
8/15 72-50 5.1 2 4 2
8/17 44-79 7 1 3 0
8/20 74-51 6.1 1 5 1
8/21 74-52 4 1 5 0
8/22 74-53 6 0 2 0
8/24 78-52 6 5 6 2
8/27 69-61 6 4 6 2
8/28 70-61 3 9 9 3
8/29 71-61 7 4 5 2
8/31 69-64 5 2 7 1
9/1 69-65 6 2 7 1
9/3 77-59 7 4 8 1
9/4 78-59 5 1 7 0
9/6 72-67 5.2 2 6 0
9/8 73-68 5 4 6 1
9/9 75-68 7 1 3 1
9/10 75-69 7 1 7 0
9/11 75-70 6 0 4 0
9/13 95-53 5 4 5 1
9/14 96-53 7 0 3 0
9/15 96-54 7 1 6 0
9/17 66-85 7 0 4 0
9/20 72-81 7 0 4 0
9/21 72-82 7 1 7 0
9/22 73-82 4.2 2 3 1
9/23 54-101 5 6 9 2
9/25 55-102 7 0 2 0

And here are the SP ERA for Ramos by month:

4.53 – April
4.17 – May
5.03 – June
3.09 – July
4.16 – August
2.48 – September

This certainly seems to back up the scout’s opinion, as these numbers are better in the second half of the year. But is it because Ramos was doing a better job or was it because of something else? You’re probably aware of how the Mets played better after the All-Star break, in part because the schedule featured more teams below .500 than it did earlier in the year. Here’s the games against teams .500 or above versus teams below .500 by month, represented like a W-L record, with the good teams coming first:

16-6 – April
6-13 – May
14-3 – June
7-10 – July
12-9 – August
11-6 – September

Were the numbers bad in June because Ramos was lazy or were they bad because 14 of the 17 games that month that Ramos started came against the better teams in the league? And we might want to split the July numbers into pre and post AS break. The four games that Ramos started in July before the break were all against teams with a .500 or better record. And the starters had a 4.94 ERA in those games. After the break, the record was 3-10 and the starters had a 2.54 ERA.

When Ramos started at catcher in the first half of the season, the opposing team was .500 or better in 40 of the 62 games. After the break those numbers were 26 and 52, respectively.

The Mets played better against the good teams in September. Yet Ramos is still getting a bounce from the poor teams, as the starters posted a 2.15 ERA that month with Ramos catching versus the sub .500 squads.

Perhaps once you account for the level of competition there’s a tiny bit of evidence that the starting pitchers performed better with Ramos in the second half of the year. But you would still have to account for other factors. Perhaps the Mets did a better job of matching Tomas Nido with pitchers after the All-Star game. Maybe those teams with winning records the Mets played in the second half were fading. It could be that pitchers were battling injuries in the first half that they didn’t have later in the year. Plus, most of the starts from the depth guys, which were just as bad as you feared/remembered, came in the first half of the season.

After looking at all of these numbers, my opinion is that it’s hard to attribute better performance by the club’s starters primarily towards a better defensive performance by Ramos.

*****

Here are the starts by Ramos broken down by individual pitcher, ignoring the depth guys. You may see discrepancies between what’s here and what you would find if you looked at the pitchers’ splits pages on B-R. Here, the only thing that mattered were the starts by Ramos. It’s possible that he caught some of the starting pitchers when he came on as a pinch-hitter and stayed in the game defensively. Anyway, these are presented without comment.

Jacob deGrom

Date Opp. W-L IP ER H HR
3/28 0-0 6 0 5 0
4/14 8-6 5 3 5 2
4/26 13-13 4 5 5 0
5/6 19-16 7 2 4 1
5/17 10-31 5 6 9 1
6/7 32-29 6 2 6 0
6/13 33-33 7 2 6 1
7/5 45-42 7 2 3 1
7/14 34-56 5 1 6 0
7/19 48-49 7 0 3 0
7/25 48-53 7 0 4 0
7/31 46-58 7 1 5 0
8/11 61-55 5 0 4 0
8/17 44-79 7 1 3 0
8/29 71-61 7 4 5 2
9/3 77-59 7 4 8 1
9/9 75-68 7 1 3 1
9/14 96-53 7 0 3 0
9/20 72-81 7 0 4 0
9/25 55-102 7 0 2 0

Noah Syndergaard

Date Opp. W-L IP ER H HR
3/30 0-1 6 4 7 1
4/4 2-3 6 2 1 1
4/10 6-3 7 4 5 0
4/15 9-5 5 5 9 1
5/2 13-17 9 0 4 0
5/7 20-16 6 4 9 2
5/14 16-24 8 2 4 1
5/24 18-30 5.1 6 10 2
5/29 36-19 6 3 7 0
6/4 24-34 6.2 3 5 0
6/15 35-33 6 4 6 1
8/10 61-54 7 2 7 1
8/22 74-53 6 0 2 0
8/28 70-61 3 9 9 3
9/8 73-68 5 4 6 1
9/13 95-53 5 4 5 1

Zack Wheeler

Date Opp. W-L IP ER H HR
4/7 3-4 4.2 7 4 0
4/12 7-5 6 2 6 0
4/23 12-10 7 0 5 0
4/29 11-16 6 4 7 0
5/4 18-16 7 2 6 0
5/10 10-27 7 2 9 0
5/21 19-28 7 3 4 2
5/26 19-31 7.1 3 5 1
5/31 28-29 7 4 7 2
6/17 42-30 6 4 10 1
6/22 41-34 7 1 5 0
6/27 42-38 6 1 2 1
7/2 54-28 6.1 2 5 0
7/7 46-43 5 6 8 1
7/26 46-56 5.1 3 5 1
8/1 46-59 7 0 4 0
8/6 42-69 8 0 8 0
8/13 70-50 5 5 12 1
8/24 78-52 6 5 6 2
9/4 78-59 5 1 7 0
9/10 75-69 7 1 7 0
9/15 96-54 7 1 6 0
9/21 72-82 7 1 7 0

Steven Matz

Date Opp. W-L IP ER H HR
4/1 2-2 5.1 1 6 1
4/6 3-3 5 0 2 0
4/11 7-4 6 2 4 1
4/16 9-6 0 6 4 2
4/22 12-9 6 1 3 1
4/28 15-13 7 2 5 1
5/3 17-16 5.2 3 9 2
5/18 11-31 3.2 2 5 1
5/23 19-30 6 1 10 0
5/28 36-18 6 2 4 1
6/2 29-30 6 5 8 2
6/8 33-29 6 2 6 0
6/14 34-33 6 3 3 1
6/19 43-31 5 5 6 2
6/24 39-38 4.1 7 10 3
6/29 49-34 2 2 3 0
7/16 58-34 4 2 5 1
7/21 49-50 6 2 6 0
7/27 46-57 9 0 5 0
8/2 47-61 3.2 5 6 0
8/7 42-70 6.2 2 7 1
8/14 71-50 6 1 2 0
8/20 74-51 6.1 1 5 1
8/31 69-64 5 2 7 1
9/6 72-67 5.2 2 6 0
9/11 75-70 6 0 4 0
9/23 54-101 5 6 9 2

Jason Vargas

Date Opp. W-L IP ER H HR
4/2 2-3 5 2 8 1
4/19 10-8 4 1 3 1
4/24 12-11 4.2 1 3 0
4/30 12-16 5.1 1 3 1
5/25 19-30 5 1 5 0
6/5 25-34 9 0 5 0
6/11 41-24 6 3 7 0
7/3 54-29 5.1 3 7 1
7/12 33-55 5 6 5 2
7/17 58-35 6 3 5 2
7/23 47-52 6 0 1 0
7/28 46-58 5.2 3 6 1

Marcus Stroman

Date Opp. W-L IP ER H HR
8/3 48-61 4.1 3 7 0
8/9 61-53 6 4 9 1
8/15 72-50 5.1 2 4 2
8/21 74-52 4 1 5 0
8/27 69-61 6 4 6 2
9/1 69-65 6 2 7 1
9/17 66-85 7 0 4 0
9/22 73-82 4.2 2 3 1

3 comments on “Checking to see if Wilson Ramos improved defensively in the second half

  • Pete from NJ

    I loved your Exhibit A(Ramos’ total starts). What caught my eye was the many 0-3 runs allowed per starter when the buffalo was behind the plate. It looks pretty consistent to me that the man caught quality pitchers working on their trade. So if I’m reading right, it was the catcher who caused the starters to have success-it was the guy on the mound performing to whatever glove was behind the plate.

    The variables you listed, such as the quality of the opponent does factor if the team was an offensive or pitching strong team.

  • Terry

    My math shows Syndergaard, Flexen, Font and Lockett combining for a 5.94 ERA in 89.1 IP in the first half and a 6.06 ERA in 35.2 IP in the second half with Ramos as their catcher. Quality is the same but 53 fewer innings in the second half. That’s got to help his second half numbers.

  • TexasGusCC

    Interesting take Brian. While I don’t know why Syndergaard didn’t perform well with Ramos, many a pitcher just didn’t click with the #1 catcher, no matter how good. I remember Steve Carlton insisting on Tim McCarver catching him and McCarver was kept on by the Phils for Carlton’s satisfaction. Also, Jon Lester insisted on David Ross. Hopefully, Ramos can work on his defense like Harper wrote on MetsBlog.

    Ramos’ problems are mostly in his framing – especially the low strike because he’s quite muscular and doesn’t extend very well. Likewise, he doesn’t shift quickly leading to passed balls. I would love to see Ramos be an all-star for the third even numbered year in a row.

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