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The State Of The Met Catcher

Posted By Howard Megdal On August 10, 2011 @ 9:57 am In Line-up,Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

No, I am not talking about someone who hunts New York Mets for sport. It’s the backstop position, and I thought it would be worth checking in again on the state of the team’s offensive production from behind the plate.

As I suggested a few weeks ago [1], the advantage Ronny Paulino held over Josh Thole offensively was likely to be ephemeral, and didn’t support using Paulino regularly against righties instead of a strict platoon. Indeed, that reality has become clearer. At the time I wrote that piece, Paulino held an overall .790 to .660 OPS advantage over Thole. A month later, Paulino barely leads Thole, .707 to .680.

That isn’t, however, because Paulino is useless offensively, or that Thole is suddenly the new Mike Piazza. It is simply a reinforcement of something we know, based on career norms- that Ronny Paulino mashes lefties, struggles against righties- and something we suspect- that while Josh Thole can hit righties well, he struggles against lefties.

In other words, the perfect platoon.

Paulino’s .707 OPS is right in line with his career mark of .710. If anything, he is underachieving against lefties, with a .776 OPS this season, and a career mark of .868 against them.And his struggles over the past few weeks shouldn’t come as any great surprise- Paulino has been increasingly deployed against righties. And he doesn’t hit righties well- a .638 OPS career mark against them. Yet 60 percent of his plate appearances in 2011 have come against them.

Thole, meanwhile, is at .707 against righties, .491 against lefties this year. I still maintain that Thole hasn’t played enough against lefties for anyone to form conclusions about his abilities against them-72 plate appearances over three years against left-handed pitching simply isn’t determinative. But we do have enough evidence that he can hit righties in the major leagues- a .746 OPS in 483 career plate appearances.

As a whole this year, the Mets have received a .706 OPS from their catchers- essentially, right at the .705 National League average OPS for catcher. That is okay, considering the total cost of less than $2 million this year for Thole/Paulino.

But a more optimal use of both would improve that number significantly. Though it is functionally impossible to do this, if Thole only faced righties, and Paulino only faced lefties, Thole would receive about 75 percent of the playing time. The production would average out to, therefore, around a .724 OPS based on the pair’s 2011 numbers, and a .777 OPS based on career numbers, which is probably more accurate. And while 100 percent isn’t possible, it certainly is possible to come much closer to that than the Mets have in 2011.

The point is, the Mets are pretty set at catcher, especially if Paulino can be re-signed for similar dollars to his 2011 deal. All the Mets need to do is properly deploy the platoon they’d planned on all along.

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[1] As I suggested a few weeks ago: http://mets.lohudblogs.com/2011/07/06/your-starting-catcher-ronny-paulino/

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