The Mets’ catching situation in 2011 is potentially a team strength, but that fact has been all but lost given all of the hoopla around the ownership situation plus speculation how the big guns will do. Before we look at what the Mets might get from Josh Thole and Ronny Paulino this year, let’s look at what all teams got from the catching spot in 2010.

Rk PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
1 ATL 689 579 81 158 37 2 22 98 5 3 93 122 .273 .380 .458 .838 265
2 PHI 631 545 71 154 36 2 15 76 0 1 76 93 .283 .377 .439 .815 239
3 CIN 649 567 65 168 34 1 13 91 12 5 63 84 .296 .375 .429 .804 243
4 MIN 678 602 86 179 46 2 10 76 1 3 59 80 .297 .364 .430 .795 259
5 BOS 692 630 82 172 39 0 27 95 1 0 55 100 .273 .330 .463 .793 292
6 CHC 628 548 70 141 36 1 19 75 1 1 74 148 .257 .343 .431 .774 236
7 NYY 648 545 66 144 32 4 13 80 4 2 78 104 .264 .364 .409 .773 223
8 SFG 672 609 79 167 28 2 21 76 0 2 47 93 .274 .333 .430 .764 262
9 TOR 621 579 71 154 29 0 27 80 1 0 23 146 .266 .304 .456 .760 264
10 ARI 655 574 66 141 35 2 20 80 1 1 73 157 .246 .332 .418 .750 240
11 CHW 652 603 65 165 33 0 18 79 5 4 30 72 .274 .314 .418 .732 252
12 COL 661 594 77 146 23 7 21 81 8 4 56 173 .246 .314 .414 .728 246
13 SDP 658 588 63 153 31 2 14 75 7 10 56 131 .260 .325 .391 .716 230
14 LAD 648 559 64 144 23 0 10 56 6 2 72 107 .258 .348 .352 .701 197
15 BAL 639 571 51 144 27 2 10 65 1 1 59 114 .252 .321 .359 .680 205
16 STL 656 586 45 154 22 0 10 80 7 4 49 72 .263 .327 .352 .679 206
17 MIL 658 586 59 139 28 1 15 66 5 2 61 99 .237 .311 .365 .676 214
18 LAA 592 542 59 120 27 3 20 68 6 1 34 162 .221 .274 .393 .667 213
19 NYM 627 572 56 136 23 1 17 56 2 0 41 91 .238 .294 .371 .665 212
20 CLE 612 525 67 114 36 0 11 59 10 1 72 113 .217 .315 .349 .663 183
21 PIT 634 564 48 123 22 1 17 62 1 0 59 118 .218 .300 .351 .651 198
22 OAK 678 615 68 142 22 2 16 82 4 2 47 90 .231 .295 .351 .646 216
23 TBR 653 559 74 122 25 2 10 54 3 1 75 115 .218 .319 .324 .643 181
24 WSN 642 605 46 154 30 1 9 71 2 3 25 99 .255 .285 .352 .637 213
25 FLA 647 585 52 132 33 3 9 58 2 0 52 137 .226 .289 .338 .628 198
26 KCR 675 605 52 157 29 0 1 61 14 8 46 74 .260 .316 .312 .628 189
27 DET 622 557 51 124 24 0 12 55 5 3 52 119 .223 .294 .330 .624 184
28 TEX 631 546 52 116 16 1 13 59 1 2 52 113 .212 .288 .317 .605 173
29 HOU 593 551 47 121 22 1 9 39 3 4 35 122 .220 .269 .312 .582 172
30 SEA 599 541 50 109 25 0 10 42 1 2 43 146 .201 .263 .303 .566 164
TOT 19340 17232 1883 4293 873 43 439 2095 119 72 1657 3394 .249 .319 .381 .701 6569
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/13/2011.

The average works out to 645 PA with a .249/.319/.381 slash line. Last year the Mets were below average across the board with the production from their catchers. Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco combined for 407 PA of lousy performance. The only silver lining was that Barajas combined all of his positive production in the first five weeks of the season.

Barajas was sold to the Dodgers last season and the Mets cut ties with Henry Blanco after the year was over. Thole performed well in his first extended shot in the majors last year and the club brought on Paulino as a free agent. Allegedly, it is an open competition between the two for the starting job. However, the two seemed destined for a platoon situation and their splits suggest it could be an ideal match. Here are their career numbers:

Thole versus RHP – .309/.382/.401
Paulino vs. LHP — .338/.390/.491

All enthusiasm should be tempered by the fact that Thole has just 246 PA in the majors versus righties while Paulino has but 531 versus lefties. But for the sake of argument, let’s say the above numbers are accurate representations of their true talent and are also what they will deliver in 2011. What could the Mets get from the catching position this season?

Let’s assume that the Mets get last year’s MLB average of 645 PA from their catchers and that Thole gets 2/3 of those and Paulino gets the remainder. That works out to 430 PA for Thole and 215 for Paulino. Since Thole has 246 lifetime PA versus RHP, let’s multiply his numbers by 1.7 to get him up to 430 PA. Likewise, since Paulino has lifetime PA versus LHP, let’s multiply his numbers by 0.4 to get him down to 215 PA. Here’s what their respective lines would look like:

PA Hits 2B 3B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG
Thole 430 114 12 3 5 44 43 .309 .382 .401
Blanco 215 66 10 0 6 16 27 .338 .390 .491
Total 645 180 22 3 11 60 70 .311 .383 .417

An .800 OPS would have been the fourth-best mark for any team in MLB last year, trailing just the Braves, Phillies and the Reds. The Mets will be paying roughly $1.75 million for their catchers this season, with Paulino getting $1.35 and Thole getting somewhere around minimum wage. By contrast, the Braves will pay over $8 million to McCann and Ross; the Phillies will pay $4.25 million to Ruiz and Schneider and the Reds will pay roughly $3.5 million for Hernandez and Hanigan.

Obviously, other catchers besides Thole and Paulino will get PAs this year for the Mets. Paulino opens the year on the suspended list so Mike Nickeas is likely to catch at least one game in that span. But it is not out of the question for the team’s catchers to have an OPS near .800 this season, compared to the .665 they received from the position in 2010. How many teams have the realistic potential for an increase of 135 points of OPS from any position?

Among full-time catchers last year, John Buck had the closes OPS to what we might expect from the Mets’ duo, with an .802 mark. According to FanGraphs, Buck had a 2.9 WAR. The three primary catchers for the Mets last year combined for a 2.1 WAR. The Mets could be looking at an additional win just from their catchers this season if all goes according to plan.

So, while a lot of things this season for the Mets revolve around players staying healthy and getting back to former elite levels, all the Mets need is for their two catchers to hit their career averages. If they do that, the club will receive terrific production at a cut-rate cost. It is possible that the Mets will receive top-5 production from their catchers while paying bottom-5 dollars for the position.

One comment on “Mets’ Thole and Paulino could be elite catching duo

  • […] Josh Thole for the last six weeks. Before the season started, I suggested that the duo would make an ideal platoon team, with Thole getting the majority of the ABs due to being a lefty hitter. But Collins seems to be […]

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