An interesting, under-the-radar change for the Mets has been Ronny Paulino’s assumption of primary catcher duties. The general consensus was that Josh Thole would face righties, Paulino lefties, which would mean Thole would receive a greater proportion of the at-bats. But entering Wednesday night’s game, Paulino had started 12 of 17 games, including a number of starts against righties.
The question is: should this continue?
At first blush, Paulino looks like the far better offensive player, if 2011 numbers are taken as definitive. Paulino checks in with a .790 OPS, Thole at .660. With Paulino holding at least a perceived edge in defense (largely due to Thole’s passed ball slump from a few weeks back), using Paulino regularly seems like the wise play.
But there are several other factors to consider. While Paulino’s production against lefties is both strong and in line with his career numbers-.878 OPS this year, .880 career-his righty numbers, needless to say, aren’t. (That’s how the Mets got him, cheap.) For his career, he’s a .640 OPS hitter against righties, and even this season, he’s a batting average-driven .722.
Contrast those righty-facing numbers with those of Josh Thole. Even with his slow start in 2011, Thole checks in at .686 against them this season. For his career, he’s a .741 OPS hitter against righties. And considering that he’s put those numbers up through age 24, it is reasonable to think that production can improve as he goes forward.
That is assuming he gets regular work to do so, however. Thole’s development, in other words, should also be considered when deciding how much each catcher should play. Paulino, 30, and in New York on a one-year deal, isn’t likely to be the future at the position, though keeping him around for a few years if Thole doesn’t graduate from the platoon isn’t a bad idea. Jesus Montero isn’t walking through that door.
If only the future were being considered, Thole should play against some lefties, too, in order to find out just how limited he is against them. (His 66 career plate appearances against lefties is an inconclusive sample.)
But even simply considering 2011 imperatives, Thole and Paulino still ought to platoon. It is the best bet to maximize production at the position.