With injuries and poor production, the Mets have seemingly been rotating players at every position this season. One position that has been in a constant state of flux is catcher. Travis d’Arnaud is a victim of injuries and poor production, which has led to an increased role for Rene Rivera.
Both players have received significant playing time in the last month, but should that continue going forward? It’s a complicated situation.
Let’s start with offense, as that is a bit easier to discuss. No one would debate who has more offensive talent. d’Arnaud hit had an OPS+ of 127 last season, while Rivera has a career OPS+ of 66. But d’Arnaud has been awful this season, hitting .255/.302/.346, while Rivera had a handful of big hits early and actually has more RBI (22 to 13) than d’Arnaud in 64 less AB. So through July, you might be able to argue that Rivera was hitting enough to justify playing more.
August has been a different story. In 14 games, d’Arnaud is hitting .296/.333/.407. In eight starts, Rivera is at .185/.207/.296. Yes, Rivera’s slugging percentage is equal to d’Arnaud’s batting average. And while Rivera was hitting well earlier in the season, this fall off cannot be a surprise. Rivera has a long baseball career and enough of a track record to show that he is not a good hitter. But Rivera has started 36.4% percent of the games in August. That’s slightly more than one game per seres where a .185 hitter is in the lineup.
But of course, catchers play defense too, and d’Arnaud isn’t exactly Yadier Molina behind the plate. His throwing woes are well-documented. But is he that much worse than Rivera that he should be sitting in more than one-third of the team’s games?
Here’s a look at stolen bases and caught stealing for both catchers with Mets starters this season:
Colon 6 SB, 3 CS
Matz 11 SB, 0 CS
Syndergaard 12 SB, 1 CS
DeGrom 2 SB, 1 CS
Colon 0 SB, 0 CS
Matz 2 SB, 3 CS
Syndergaard 22 SB, 4 CS
DeGrom 0 SB, 1 CS
Obviously, d’Arnaud is clearly worse, but so much worse that a dramatically better hitter should be on the bench 2-3 times per week? Colon is worse with d’Arnaud catching but nothing egregious. DeGrom is virtually the same. Syndergaard’s issues seem to be regardless of catcher, so playing Rivera really just hurts his run support. Where Rivera should be used is for Matz, as he has the most noticeable impact on stopping the running game when the lefty is on the mound.
When you add it all up, Rivera makes a difference with Matz. So he should catch Matz. For every other pitcher, d’Arnaud’s offense makes up for his throwing problems, and he should be in the lineup as often as possible.