Look, I advocated for the Mets to acquire Kelly Shoppach last winter. The idea, then and for much of the 2012 season, was a simple one: Josh Thole hit righties well, but not lefties. Give him a platoon partner who could hit lefties, and the Mets suddenly had an above-average bat, collectively, at catcher.
Shoppach has been everything the Mets could have hoped. His 173 OPS+ is Piazza-like, and over a full season, that would make him the best-hitting catcher in the major leagues. Accordingly, the Mets have begun to play him against righties as well.
Here’s the problem: that’s 28 plate appearances, mostly against lefties. And we have a whole career to determine Shoppach’s future performance that says he won’t be Mike Piazza. He’ll be great against lefties, with a career .890 OPS. And he’ll be subpar against righties, with a .667 OPS. He’s also played more than 89 games once in his career, and not since 2008. So he’ll need a platoon partner, ideally, one who hits righties.
Unfortunately, it increasingly looks like that won’t be Josh Thole. That the Mets are auditioning Shoppach as regular catcher, not Thole platoon partner, indicates a lack of confidence in Thole that is, sadly, justified. Since returning from a concussion, and not his first, Thole is hitting .218/.271/.257. Even with his hot start, Thole’s 64 OPS+ is 31st of 34 catchers with at least 200 plate appearances in 2012. And 76 percent of his plate appearances have come against righties; he’s put up a .608 OPS against them this year.
The problem is, a productive Thole made it easy for the Mets to have a productive catching position; catchers who can hit lefties are easy to come by. Complementing Shoppach is harder; catchers who can hit righties are much rarer.
Still, Shoppach as the plan to catch regularly in 2013, and often against righties, is no more of an answer to the Mets than Thole and Mike Nickeas was in 2012. It is, once again, half an answer.