During the offseason there has been a lot of talk about the Mets and Blue Jays making a deal. On the surface it makes sense, as the Mets need outfielders and a catcher while the Blue Jays are looking for a front-end starter. The two teams seem to match up pretty well.

For me the problem comes in the catching department. Toronto has prospect Travis d’Arnaud, who if he can stay healthy – he’s only played 252 games the past three years – is perhaps the best backstop prospect around. But Toronto would likely prefer to keep d’Arnaud and trade J.P. Arencibia, instead. Arencibia does one thing very well. But does that make up for what he doesn’t do?

Let’s take a look at some triple slash lines for some catchers and see which one you like most.

A. .219/.282/.438 (.720 OPS)
B. .233/.275/.435 (.710 OPS)
C. .225/.263/.414 (.674 OPS)
D. .233/.309/.425 (.734 OPS)
E. .279/.359/.366 (.725 OPS)

Do you have a favorite? A and B are Arencibia’s lines from 2011 and 2012, respectively. C is Rod Barajas in his time with the Mets. D is Kelly Shoppach in 2012. And E is Josh Thole from May 3, 2011 to May 7, 2012 when he suffered his concussion.

It’s important to remember that while OPS is an excellent “quick and dirty” calculation to determine a player’s offensive worth, not all OPS is created equally. On-base percentage is more important than slugging and Thole holds a huge advantage in OBP.

A good rule of thumb is that OBP is worth about 1.7 to 1.8 as much as SLG. So let’s compare Line A (Arencibia) to Line E (Thole) with this information and see what we have:

Line A: .282 * 1.75 = .494 + .438 = .932
Line E: .359 * 1.75 = .628 + .366 = .994

It’s basically a wash in raw OPS and then when you give OBP its proper weight, it becomes advantage Thole.

Of course, we have no idea if Thole can get back to this offensive level. When he returned last year from the concussion, he was dreadful. Because of the uncertainty surrounding his ability to bounce back, it is a big risk for the Mets to count on Thole as their primary catcher next year.

But, if you think that Thole is unacceptable from an offensive point of view even if he does recover – well, there’s no way you should advocate replacing him with Arencibia.

Of course, offense is hardly the whole package when talking about a catcher. Neither Arencibia nor Thole is renowned for their defensive work, although both were better in 2012 than they were in 2011. It’s hard to measure catcher defense but let’s look at a few things:

  Innings PB WP CS%
Arencibia 800 9 31 29
Thole 798.1 18 18 23

Unofficially, 13 of Thole’s 18 passed balls came when knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was on the mound. It’s hard to know how many of the 31 WP allowed by Arencibia could have been stopped by a better backstop. In 2011 he had 54 WP in 1,059.2 innings caught, meaning either Toronto pitchers are pretty wild or that Arencibia is not exactly an acrobat behind the plate. Arencibia holds an advantage in throwing out runners. One more runner attempted a steal against Arencibia, who allowed four fewer stolen bases than Thole.

Perhaps Arencibia is a hair better than Thole defensively, but if so it’s not by much. There’s no UZR for catchers but last year Thole had +4 Defensive Runs Saved while Arencibia checked in with a +3. Overall, I would call it a wash.

Arencibia does one thing well and that’s hit home runs. In 825 lifetime ABs in the majors, Arencibia has 43 HR. If you are going to excel in one thing, hitting homers is a pretty good category. But the problem is that if he’s not hitting the ball out of the park, he’s not doing much else to help you. His .275 OBP last year was the sixth-worst mark in the majors among those with at least 300 PA. And last year’s OBP matched his lifetime mark in the category.

If you liked either the Rod Barajas or Kelly Shoppach experience, I am sure you will find Arencibia to your liking, too. While the Mets could certainly use another power RHB in the lineup, it seems a mistake to view Arencibia as any kind of an upgrade over a healthy Thole once you consider their total contributions. While “healthy” is a big qualifier, if the Mets do make a trade to acquire a catcher, I hope it would actually be an actual upgrade and not merely just treading water.

Arencibia appears on the surface to be a better option than Thole because of his power bat. But there’s more to baseball than just home runs and a healthy Thole is just as productive as Arencibia. The only thing is their value takes different shapes. If you want an upgrade from Thole, the Mets should hold out for d’Arnaud or look elsewhere for a catcher.

22 comments on “Comparing J.P. Arencibia and Josh Thole

  • Pete

    For all your analysis and diagnostic tools, you still have to be able to judge not only physical attributes but the ability to play in New York. There is a difference between playing here as opposed to Toronto. Will the player be able to adjust to playing here? What about character. Is he a good influence in the clubhouse and does he call a good game? Some criteria you just cannot measure. Comparing an American League player to a National League player is difficult to quantify. If the Mets wind up with a catcher who hits .230 but plays solid defense and throws out base runners than adjust the line up and lower your expectations. There are only so many Yadier Molinas out there. Besides the Mets couldn’t afford a catcher of that stature anyway.

  • JoeG

    Why can’t they just sign Dickey for 2 years 24mil. Bourn 3 years 33 mil and J.Grill for 2 years 9 mil?

    • Brian Joura

      Hi JoeG thanks for reading and commenting!

      They can’t do that because Dickey wants more money and they don’t have an extra $42 million for the other guys you mentioned.

      • JoeG

        FOR 2013 Dickey=12Mil+Bourn=11Mil+Grill=4Mil=27Mil for 2013

        • Brian Joura

          Divide it any way you like but the Mets are not going to spend that type of money. Plus you’re assuming that Bourn will sign that deal. He’s younger than Pagan, who just got 4 years at essentially the same rate.

          • Chris Walendin

            Bourn is also represented by Scott Boras. And in addition to the contract, he’d cost the Mets the #11 overall pick in the draft along with the millions in draft pool money that go with it. Not gonna happen.

            • JoeG

              Just looking ways to improve this team

              • Chris Walendin

                Sure. Nothing wrong with that at all. I do it all the time, in fact. Was just pointing out that that particular idea isn’t really feasable.

  • Name

    Didn’t realize how bad this guy was having never really looked at his stats. When you mention JP, i mostly remember him being rated the #43 prospect by Baseball America in 2009, but it’s much easier to make sound judgements when you seperate names from stats.
    I thought that Gee wouldn’t be enough for JP yesterday; i now recant that, it is probably a pretty fair trade.

    • Brian Joura

      All the trade talk revolves around Dickey and Niese but I’m curious as to what Gee’s trade value is. I didn’t think much of him coming into 2012 but he had a really strong season before the injury. I guess he has to prove that he’s healthy before he has any value but if the Mets don’t make any deals involving Dickey/Niese — then I expect he’ll be the best #5 SP in the league.

      Edit: Best #5 from a preseason POV

      • Name

        How would you feel with Gee as a #4? Because that’s what he will have to be if they trade a Dickey/Niese.

        Hefner will have to be a #5 too. And you know how much i love Hefner starting.

        • Pete

          If the Mets can be patient and have a wait and see approach to determine if they are going to trade a pitcher,then I would suggest they do it just before the trading deadline. I think they will have a better feel as to where their pitching stands. Too many question marks with pitchers recovering from injuries. Build from within. Why look to trade a number 2 or 3 starter when you have no one to replace them with. You weaken one area to strengthen another. We have the foundation nearly complete. A little more patience and suffering the turnaround is near( I hope)

          • Name

            Exactly my point. While we have overall SP depth(a lot of good minor league SP’s), we simply don’t have enough Major League SP depth. It is our strength, but if you take one piece away, it can quickly become our weakness. My thinking is like yours, i would rather wait until the trading deadline to see if we should deal. We may have to take a few less prospects, but at least we have some hope for this season. At that point, more of our minor league SP will be ready as well.

            • Metsense

              I agree that there isn’t any reason to trade starting pitching yet but Dickey either signs an extension soon or he gets traded. Waiting risks his value depreciating through bad performance or injury and he is not getting younger. Hypothetically, if Dickey was elgible to be a FA in 2013 the Mets would have offered him the qualifying rate. 2 years at the qualifying rate would be a fair extension.

        • Steve from Norfolk

          Don’t forget Mejia and Wheeler are both expected to be ML ready sometime this year.Rotation spots don’t matter that much during the season, it’s just who pitches next that matters.

  • Chris Walendin

    I mentioned these 2 fun facts yesterday on twitter:

    Jeff Francoeur has had a higher OBP in EVERY one of his seasons than Arencibia has had in ANY one of his seasons.

    In both 2010 & 2012, Jon Niese had a higher OBP than JP Arencibia.

    Be nice to have a catcher with some pop, but having one as allergic to the basepaths as Arencibia has been would be a tough pill to swallow. And laughable as the centerpiece of a trade involving Dickey or Niese. In my opinion, the following SAT style analogy is apt, and worth thinking about for fans of bringing Arencibia to the Mets.

    Josh Thole : Hits for power :: JP Arencibia : Gets on base

    Just imagine if Arencibia struggled to find his power stroke in NY early in the season. There’s nothing else there. Yikes.

    • Metsense

      I really thought Arencibia was the answer but you and Brian have convinced be different. The Mets still need a catcher. I liked Shoppach but the Mets don’t. Saltamachia is an option but again the Mets don’t. Olivo is who the Mets like. Not sure why. When comparing wOBA, Salty is the only one trending level. Boston has surplus and looks to be a good partner.
      I like Thole but I worry about his health. The concussion really affected him, as it did Church, Bay and Wright. The Mets would be making a mistake to go into the season with Thole as a starter. I’m all for Thole as a backup.

  • JoeG

    ***** This post deleted by the administrator *****

    Sorry – no solicitations to join leagues are allowed

    • JoeG

      Copy. Sorry.

  • Pete

    Bourn will never sign for 33 million when Angel Pagan just got 40 for 4 from the Giants and Shane Victorino got 3 years for 39 million from Boston. So where do you get your figures? Try closer to 60 million for 4 and maybe he signs.

    • David Groveman

      Pete is correct

  • J.P. Arencibia - Page 2 - NY Sports Day Forums

    […] I don't think Dickey nets you you Gose and JPA…but if he could…I'd do it tomorrow. JP vs. Josh Thole Gose is very much like Carlos Gomez was for the Mets. A great toolsy player with outstanding speed […]

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