I’m Not Ready To Show Barajas or Blanco The Door Yet

An article by posted on July 8, 2010

When the Mets signed catchers Henry Blanco and Rod Barajas in the offseason, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. They both had solid defensive reputations, and Barajas had some pop in his bat. Plus the price was right — together they are only costing the Mets $1.25 million dollars this season. You could make a case that they are probably the biggest values and best bargains on the team right now.

Yesterday while making my daily trek to MetsBlog, I saw a post referring to a post by Ted Berg on Josh Thole. He writes:

No one is accusing Thole of being the next Mike Piazza, but he can hit a bit. After a brutal start to the season in Triple-A, he posted a .410 OBP in May and June before his call-up. Though he lacks home-run power, it’s not unreasonable to suggest Thole is a better hitter than Barajas right now. He’s certainly more likely to get on-base. And he hits left-handed, which could add to the righty-heavy lineup a bit of that balance that Jerry Manuel loves so dearly.

The only things that should prevent Thole from playing more often are difficult ones to measure: Leadership, game-calling, defense behind the plate.

I don’t doubt that they’re important; Mets pitchers have been praising Barajas and Blanco all season for their approaches to opposing hitters. I just wonder how much they’re worth compared to an extra 50 points of OBP. In other words, does Barajas’ superior ability to handle pitchers overwhelm Thole’s superior ability to get on base?

He makes some good points in it, but when it comes to catching, I do believe that leadership, game-calling and defense are very important. I’m not convinced that Josh Thole is more deserving of playing time than Rod Barajas right now

Matt Cerrone, seemed to take a different tact looking at Blanco instead of Barajas as the potential odd man out.

…i wonder if the Mets will soon consider keeping Josh Thole over Henry Blanco… i know they love Blanco, and, right now, i guess he’s the team’s back-up third and first baseman, which is crazy in and of itself…

Again, good points, but I’m not entirely sure I agree.

We talk about team chemistry a lot on this site, and now that it seems we have some, I don’t understand why the sudden urge to change or upend it. I’m proud of what the Mets have accomplished thus far and many of those who doubted this team or had no faith have since changed their tunes. I wonder where the Mets would be  right now if not for the efforts of Henry Blanco and Rod Barajas?

I think it’s remarkable how from the very onset of Spring Training, Blanco and Barajas fit right in with this team. It didn’t take them long to join a Mets inner circle that included David Wright, Jose Reyes and Jeff Francoeur among others.

Reading the quotes after each game or listening to some of the post game comments from our starters, our pitchers have done nothing but rave about both of them, and do I have to point to the team’s 3.83 ERA this season as compared to 4.45 last season, to plainly see what an impact they have made in the staff’s performance?

Last night I believe I heard Gary Cohen say that the Mets now lead the Major Leagues with twelve shutouts… Twelve Shutouts!

Barajas and Santana were an incredible tandem Tuesday night, working together in perfect harmony as they confounded the Reds incredibly formidable lineup which is currently ranked number one in the league?

Berg refers to Thole’s Catchers ERA as being 3.00 this season and aptly cautions the small sample size of just three games, so let me add that is was 4.10 last season in 17 games.

Thole’s caught stealing percentage over his two limited seasons is 25%. Small sample size? I’ll add in this lesser know fact… In 48 games for AAA-Buffalo this season, baserunners stole a whopping 41 bases on Thole and he only caught six runners for a scary 18% CS rate. Can you imagin how he’ll be exploited once word starts spreading around the league? Thole was hardly lighting it up for the Bisons when he was called up batting .267 with 17 RBIs. He had more passed balls, six, than all the other catchers put together.

Sure, Thole has a higher on-base percentage than Rod Barajas, but does OBP have to be the end all in every single comparison between players?

I’m not knocking Thole, and I’m not knocking OBP either, I’m just saying lets look at the whole picture before making a judgment call on player valuation and not just focus solely on on-base percentage.

Do we really want to rely on young Josh Thole and his limited receiving skills to carry this staff through the heat of battle in what is shaping up to be a fierce divisional pennant race?

Look, I like Thole, but most of the scouts see Thole as nothing more than a platoon or backup catcher type… sorry to break all my fellow Mets fans hearts. Thole’s power is Rey Ordonez-esque at best, and just because he’ll have 10-15 more singles or walks over the course of a full season than Barajas or Blanco, it doesn’t make up for his deficiency in the one major area that all catchers should be judged by; his ability to perform defensively as a catcher.

I’ve seen enough of Blanco and Barajas to know that they are now fully meshed into the fabric of this team, and now is not the time to start tearing through that fabric with a machete.

We knew Blanco and Barajas were never going to break the .400 OBP barrier… or .350… or .300… Catchers who hit like that go for $12 million a season, not $500K.

Our catchers are a gift… They have exceeded all expectations… Their impact on Santana, Niese, Dickey and Pelfrey cannot be understated.

Last season when Dan Warthen and Jerry Manuel blamed the catchers that included Josh Thole, Omir Santos and Brian Schneider for the demise of the rotation, I thought they were nuts. You know what? They were right.

Thole was never part of the equation for the 2010 Mets, neither was Omir, that’s why the Mets signed a half dozen catchers to ensure that they would not have to be relied upon this season.

That was good plan, and it turns out that Blanco and Barajas were more than enough.

I know that the internet and blogging has made GM’s of us all. One night on Twitter or Facebook will provide plenty of evidence to support that claim, but lets be astute enough to realize that our ramblings are the stuff of legend and fiction, and not based in the reality of a real GM’s thinking and philosophy.

When the Mets activate Carlos Beltran from the disabled list on July 15, there should be no debate about who gets cut… Minaya will make the right decision on that day, and it won’t be based on emotion, bloggers opinions, or OBP alone. Oh, and afterward, please spare me the tears on poor Josh Thole.

About the Author ()

I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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