Full-time players will surpass 500 PA in a season. A typical backup catcher will amass somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 PA. So, what does that make the guys who get in the vicinity of 300 PA in a season? Well, it could be a starter who gets hurt or benched. It could be a rookie who didn’t start the year with the team. It could be a guy either acquired by a trade or traded away. There are several different ways someone winds up with a PA total in the 300s.
The 2022 Mets had one player in this category – Tomas Nido. Expected to be the backup catcher, Nido got more playing time due to the starter being both injured and lousy when healthy. Nido was solid defensively but the less said about his offense, .600 OPS, the better.
The 2023 Mets have five players with a PA total in the 300s, although one will move out of that group soon, likely the next game he plays. But let’s look at all five and see how they’ve done. Are they like Nido a year ago or better or worse?
Player A: .218/.293/.444
Player B: .212/.282/.314
Player C: .245/.343/.381
Player D: .248/.301/.324
Player E: .234/.340/.405
None of these players have really distinguished themselves. There’s Player A’s SLG and the OBP for Players C&E. Those players were at least giving the team something. But Players B&D were just killing the team and they received far too many chances. Player D barely exceeded what Nido did last year and Player B was slightly worse.
It’s easy to be critical and wonder how on earth anyone could be so dumb as to give Players B&D a combined 689 PA. But we know that all players have peaks and valleys during the year and you need to give guys a chance to work thru things. Part of the manager’s job – assuming the manager has the final say on these things – is to have a feel for when that time is up.
Baty is the rookie who got off to a quick start and who played the same position that a guy on the final year of his contact, and one who got off to a poor start, too. It’s easy to see why he got the initial chance. And Baty hit very well his first two weeks in the majors this year, too.
The question is: How much rope did that quick start earn him? And replacing him didn’t get easier when they traded Eduardo Escobar, Luis Guillorme got hurt and follow rookie Mark Vientos wasn’t showing anything, either. So, the Mets gave him many more chances than he deserved before finally pulling the plug and sending him back to the minors. Baty came back when rosters expanded but he hasn’t been magically cured and now he’s nursing an injury.
Now everyone is wondering if with the way they handled this year, if the Mets killed Baty’s confidence. I used to be a big proponent of this type of thinking. Now, it’s my opinion, if that a player can’t handle a setback at the MLB level, that something was going to get him eventually. ChrisF has a somewhat different opinion but one that isn’t too far from my current take. Chris wants a player to experience difficulty in the minors and overcome that before getting promoted.
Baty has a whole offseason to reflect on what happened and to work with coaches to help correct any flaws and attack any weaknesses. It’s my opinion that with the proper work in the offseason that Baty can come back and be the player we all expected he would be at the beginning of the year, despite his colossal failures this season. Ultimately, my opinion is that it isn’t a death sentence to have your first taste of major disappointment happen at the MLB level.
Marte is a veteran, one with a history of success in the majors. But his failure was nearly as big as Baty’s. Conventional wisdom is that Marte’s poor year is a result of offseason surgeries. And there’s no doubt that those played into things. Still, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Marte could still steal bases and look ok in the outfield if his injuries were the primary reason for his struggles.
My opinion is that Marte’s swing decisions were atrocious.
Perhaps you could argue that because he knew he wasn’t healthy that Marte had to guess more on pitches beforehand. But if you were guessing on pitches, you would expect more strikeouts looking and more power when you guess right. Neither of those happened. Instead, it just seemed like Marte made up his mind to swing, regardless of the type of pitch or the location. If he was guessing to compensate, he was a really, really lousy guesser. Someone should have given him guidance on how to guess.
From my office chair, the decision to give Baty so much playing time was more understandable than the decision with Marte. Perhaps both amounted to nothing more than wishful thinking. Yet the Mets painted themselves into a corner with Baty while they shot themselves in the foot with Marte. Neither is ideal; the latter is worse.
It will be curious to see which direction David Stearns takes the club with both 3B and RF. A team willing to spend money would import someone new for both positions. A team looking to contend in 2025 would give both players first crack at their old jobs.
Now let’s identify the other players with 300-something PA:
Player A is Francisco Alvarez, who has 396 PA. He had a swoon in the latter part of the season but seems to be fighting out of it now. His PA look good, even if the results haven’t been there. Should be the unquestioned starter next year.
Player C is Mark Canha, who was traded. Canha was losing playing time to Tommy Pham, who should have taken that time away from Marte, instead. Canha has done great with the Brewers, with an .875 OPS in 160 PA. Canha has a club option and if the Brewers decline it, you would have to believe that the Mets would at least be curious about a one-year reunion.
Player E is Daniel Vogelbach, who has the highest OPS of the five players. Yet he’s the one who has received the most vitriol from the fan base. Makes zero sense to anyone who tries to view things objectively. Vogelbach earned that derision the first two-plus months of the season, even if Marte was worse and seemingly got a free pass.
In his last 56 games – his terrible stretch to start the season was 47 games – Vogelbach has an .824 OPS. In a weird way, Vogelbach’s production here since mid-June is why managers give extended shots to guys underperforming. You never know when the worm is going to turn. But Baty didn’t do it, Marte didn’t do it – Vogelbach is the one who turned things around.
But people long ago made up their mind on Vogelbach and nothing he does could change those minds. He could date Taylor Swift, find a cure for cancer and homer in every game the rest of the year and those people would still complain about what he didn’t do.
And people will now fill the comments section, talking exclusively about Vogelbach. Let me save you the time. Everything you say about why he’s bad is true. He is a platoon player, he has no defensive versatility and he can’t run to save his life.
But instead of focusing on what he can’t do, let’s look at what he does. In this season where he was terrible for nearly half of his PA, Vogelbach has a .745 OPS. What if he isn’t terrible for two-plus months of the year? What if he put up an .824 OPS in 400-plus PAs in 2024? Pham had an .820 OPS this year with the Mets and that was a 124 OPS+.
Two questions leap to mind:
1. Who would you wager on having an OPS north of .800 next year if healthy all season – Baty, Marte or Vogelbach?
2. Why doesn’t Vogelbach get more credit for the adjustments he made in-season while the other two are given passes for stinking all year?
In a perfect world, Shohei Ohtani would be the Mets’ DH next year. If not Ohtani, the next choice would have someone who didn’t need to be platooned, which would free up a roster spot. But if those two preferred situations do not come to pass, then a platoon with two low-cost solutions is the next-best option. Now, you can argue that DJ Stewart has more upside and that what he’s done this year is more than a six-week hot streak. That’s a reasonable opinion.
But Stewart can’t play RF and DH at the same time.