It seems like just two years ago, a 53 at bat appearance from an apparent non-prospect catcher Josh Thole showed the Mets their backsto of the future, hitting .321 with nine RBI and a 4/5 BB/K ratio. He had plate discipline, a short swing and was not named Brian Schneider. 2009 saw the Mets go out and sign two backstops while seemingly forgetting about Josh Thole. Despite this, after the trade of Rod Barajas, Josh Thole received the majority of the starts and turned in a .277 line with 3 home runs and 17 RBI, with a 24/25 BB/K. The patience was still there, and the three home runs showed that maybe Josh Thole wouldn’t be a light-hitting catcher. And behind the plate? He was apparently making great advances and calling good games, everything you’d expect from a catcher.
What a difference a year makes.
So far this season, Josh Thole is hitting .225 with 17 RBI, a 15/24 K/BB ratio and only six extra-base hits, all doubles. Josh has looked overmatched at the plate, consistently grounding out to the 2B/1B or seemingly forgetting his line-drive swing and trying to smash the ball out of the yard when that isn’t his game. He has grounded into five double plays, and some in key situations in Mets rallies. His 66 OPS+ puts him well below league average and says we could be trotting about any out there, and they would be playing better then Mr. Thole.
It isn’t the offense where Josh is struggling. Defensively, Josh has looked bad as well, coughing up seven passed balls and only throwing out 19% of runners. Teams are using this to there advantage, and it has been working. Thole has yet to find consistency in catching, so badly to the point Terry Collins sat Thole for a few games and played Ronny Paulino against both righties and lefties, when he is equally inept at hitting righties. If this doesn’t say how far from grace Josh Thole has fallen, think of it this way – he has ten hits and nine RBI since May 1st, and hasn’t been above .260 since April 19th. Thole was flirting with the Mendoza Line as recently as last week.
What is wrong with Josh? Is it the pressure of being “the man” at catcher, the duties of an everyday catcher taking away from his skillset, or was Josh a marginal player who was getting by on smoke and mirrors until the league finally got the book on him and pitched him accordingly? Whichever is the answer, the main question becomes – even if the farm system has no one better at the moment, how much longer does Terry Collins keep trotting out Josh Thole knowing he is trotting out a liability?