Catcher Josh Thole had a big game Saturday night, with three hits, seven total bases, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. He also threw out a runner who tried to steal. The story for Thole is that he finally has a big game. Instead, the story should be Thole continues his strong play.
The first seven weeks of the season, Thole was lost. After 128 PA, Thole had a dismal .205/.281/.241 line and he had just four extra-base hits (all doubles) in 112 ABs. Additionally, Thole had 22 Ks in that span, an uncharacteristic number for him.
But it’s been a different story here now for over twice as long. While Thole has been swinging a much better bat, he does not have the same rate of PA as he did in the beginning of the season as manager Terry Collins has given Ronny Paulino significant time behind the plate.
In the last 15 weeks, Thole has 140 PA. But in that span, he has a .308/.407/.425 line, numbers closer to what we expected from him coming into the season. Part of that has been Paulino getting the vast majority of PA versus LHP, but part of it has been Thole stabilizing with his BABIP.
Last year Thole had a .305 BABIP for the Mets, a pretty normal rate. In the first seven weeks of the season, he had just a .244 BABIP. Since then, he has a .330 mark in the category. Perhaps that’s slightly elevated, but from a guy who generally trades power for contact, not a number that should be a huge surprise.
The underrated thing about Thole’s stretch is not only is he hitting the ball with more authority, he’s also making much better contact. In the beginning of the year he fanned 22 times in 112 ABs. Since then he has 12 whiffs in 120 ABs.
Thole’s OPS is now up to .683, the highest it’s been since the seventh game of the season. That ranks just 26th out of 42 catchers with at least 150 PA this season. However, his .832 OPS over his last 15 weeks would rank 5th.
For whatever reason, fans seem slow to warm to Thole. At first they didn’t want to give him a shot in the majors because of alleged defensive weaknesses. But then he comes up and became the personal catcher for R.A. Dickey, a knuckleball pitcher – traditionally the toughest pitcher on the staff to catch.
Then he starts off slow this year and everyone wants to give more playing time to Paulino. Thole gets criticized for his batting style and his lack of power. But even though Paulino is having a fine year at the plate with a .304 AVG, he has just a .083 ISO. Compare that to Thole, who has a .077 ISO. Not much to choose from in 2011 power-wise between the two backstops.
Paulino also was credited with helping Mike Pelfrey, as he supposedly took charge more efficiently when he caught the enigmatic pitcher. But whatever benefit Paulino brought to Pelfrey seems to have evaporated. In his last eight games, Pelfrey is 2-4 with a 4.07 ERA, with 19 BB, 24 Ks and 6 HR in 48.2 IP.
I really like the Thole-Paulino catching duo, although I still believe that Thole should get the majority of ABs. For the remainder of the season, I hope Collins will move more towards a strict platoon, one that will get Thole somewhere around 70 percent of the remaining starts.