Matt Klaassen over at Beyond the Box Score released his updated catcher defense ratings for this season today. The good news is that Josh Thole has finally moved out of the basement. The bad news is that he’s still ranked as the fourth worst defensive catcher in baseball this season, and Ronny Paulino is making a quick trip to join him near the bottom. Click over there to see the full list.
These rankings take into account fielding errors, throwing errors, stolen bases/caught stealing, and passed balls/wild pitches. As you can see above, SB/CS and passed balls/wild pitches are the two categories killing Thole — he leads the major leagues in passed balls, and has thrown out just 17% of would be base stealers this season (8 of 46). He’s been relatively surehanded, but not enough to make up for his other struggles.
Part of the passed balls problem is that Thole catches R.A. Dickey, and if you have to stop knuckleballs all day, some are going to turn into passed balls. That said, opposing teams have generally been running wild on the Mets, and a lot of that is Thole. The Mets have allowed 70 steals, the fifth most in the NL, and they throw out just 20% of opposing base stealers (only the Astros have a worse percentage). Some of that is on the pitchers, particularly the Mets’ bullpen, but a lot of that is on the catchers.
It’s not a pressing issue for the team — five, six, seven runs isn’t even a full game in the standings — but it is something to keep an eye on in the second half. And if Thole (.253/.343/.318) doesn’t hit a little better, his defense brings him dangerously close to replacement level.