Erica Lay - Turns Out Catching Is Important


So, since this is my first ever post on Mack’s Mets (or anywhere else), I guess I should start with an introduction.

I’m a born and bred Queens girl from Bayside, NY. You know how they say the Force is strong in the Skywalker family? Well, the Mets are strong in my family.

My mom cut school in 1969 to go to the clinching game. She stormed the field after the win and came home with a piece of the Shea turf. My gram eventually threw it out, much to mom’s dismay. My grandpa watched the Mets every night and I watched with him. It was our nightly ritual. My gram likes to recount the time she met Ralph Kiner while riding the elevator at Shea. She still enjoys going to games even though she’s 93 now.

As for me…my birthday is October 15th. My favorite birthday to date took place in 1986 – watching the epic 16-inning NLCS win over the Houston Astros, (although deGrom’s gutty win over the Dodgers in 2015 was pretty great, too). I was hooked on the Mets long before that, though. I’ve been a fan of the Mets, and baseball in general, for what feels like my whole life.

Oh, and I love dogs. Cats, too.

Okay, enough about me. Here’s what I really wanted to talk about – Devin Mesoraco.

I love this pickup.

I know, I know. The injuries. The hitting regression. The losing.  

But…I think there’s more to the story here.

How do we really measure the value of a catcher? Standard defensive metrics don’t really work for catchers. Sure, we can look at their framing ability (zBall% and oStr%), their ability to cut down on the running game (CS%), and how well their pitchers do when they’re behind the plate (CERA). For reference, here’s a primer on each:

zBall% = the percentage of pitches caught within the strike zone that are called balls

oStr% = the percentage of pitches caught outside the strike zone that are called strikes

CS% = the percentage of runners caught stealing

CERA = the earned run average of pitchers when a specific catcher is catching 

Now, when it comes to Mesoraco, we don’t really have much to go on. He started 84 games in 2013 and 105 games in 2014 before succumbing to a myriad number of injuries. Since his All-Star season of 2014, he’s started a total of 61 games, not including 2018. In 6 of those games he was the DH.

If you look at Mesoraco’s numbers for the two years that he was a full time, major league starter, they don’t necessarily tell the story of a game changing catcher. He’s wasn’t a great framer of pitches and he was about league average when it came to throwing out runners. And that was before he had surgery on both hips, tore the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and fractured his foot.

So, why am I optimistic? His CERA in 2013 was 3.40 – 7th in MLB for qualified catchers. In 2014 it was 3.62 – 12th in the league. In those years, the Reds staff ERAs ranked 4th and 9th, respectively. Are these eye-popping numbers? No, they’re not. And I get that.

But…when you consider the catching situation with our present day NY Mets, I think having a professional, major league catcher behind the plate will positively impact this staff.  While I don’t think who’s catching matters quite as much when Jake and Noah are on the mound, I think it matters big-time for Matz and Wheeler.

Mesoraco has only caught two games for us so far – not even enough for us to call it a sample size. But, I’ll say this – I like what I see. I like the way he’s encouraging them when they’re hitting their spots; the way he’s coaxing them through trouble; the way he’s having them be aggressive and climb the ladder.

For the record, d’Arnaud put up a CERA of 1.85 in his limited time and Plawecki’s was 2.95. Since they went down, the pitching has pretty much tanked. Nido’s CERA was 4.27 and Lobaton was sitting at 5.82. I’m not saying CERA is a magic stat that can properly value a catcher’s worth, only that in this case, it supports what I see from Mesoraco (and being a Met fan – what I hope for).

Recently, the offense has constantly been in a hole, most times before they’ve even got to bat. If the back of the rotation can keep us in games and one of the three can legitimately step up, it will take the pressure off our offense and I think a turn around will be in the very near future.

Right now, I’d be very happy if Mesoraco could stabilize this staff and provide some much needed leadership behind the plate. Oh, and if he could not be a black hole in the order, that would be great, too. But…if he’s as healthy as he’s saying and he can actually hit…this would be a great addition.

Lobaton and Nido were batting a combined .149 and slugging a combined .209. The bar isn’t very high. If Mesoraco proves to be a steady, professional bat who can call a good game and get this staff pointed back in the right direction, I think this could turn out to be a turning point for this team.

I should also mention – when it comes to the Mets, I’m an eternal optimist.


Mack Ade said...

Erica -

First of all, welcome to Mack's Mets. Like the Mets, we could use some new blood around here.

IMO, Mesoraco comes to the Mets at the best time in this guys career. He needs to prove to the industry... and himself... that he can produce the kind of numbers he once produced before all his injuries.

As for zBall% and oStr%, I will leave that to you.

Reese Kaplan said...

I met Ralph Kiner as well, Erica -- at a urinal at a Mets Welcome Home dinner. :)

As far as pets go, you're forgiven since you listed cats second. Cats are only happy to see you when they hear the sound of the can opener (says the guy who shares his home with 4 rescue dogs).

Regarding catching, yes, more that even shortstop it should be a defense-first position. A catcher who can instill confidence in his pitchers and keep the game close as a result is worth his weight in gold. It's possible Mesoraco will never approach the lofty offensive numbers that landed him on an All Star team, but look at the starts from Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler since he arrived!

Thomas Brennan said...

Welcome, Erica. Great first article.

Man, it would be great if Mesoraco is really successful and could be our # 1 catcher when Plawecki returns, hopefully very soon since he has been out a full month now
Apparently, before the game he hit the homer in, the Reds and Mets were 0-20 in games Mesoraco played in - hopefully he got all the losing out of the way.

Mike Freire said...

Yes, welcome!

Oh and it is nice to see someone (other then myself) who actually likes

I agree that the Mesoraco pick up has some promise.....especially when you compare his ability to what the Mets have be trotting out onto the field of late.

Erica Lay said...

Thank you guys - I'm very happy to be here!

And I'm excited to see Mesoraco catch Noah. Maybe he can help Noah reclaim the dominance (or at least the consistency) that's been missing for most of this season so far.

Mack, totally agree - he needs to prove himself and he seems motivated. I'm sure it also helps coming to a club that at least has a shot at the postseason.

Eddie Corona said...

Hey Erica, Welcome to the cast.. Looking forward to many of your opinions and insights...
I too felt this was a good move... we just need him to be league avg to be a big winner in the trade for someone who we were discarding

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