While the New York Mets are off to a 12-2 start, controlling the run game has something their catchers continue to struggle with. Will it play a factor this week against the Washington Nationals?
- New York Mets (12-2)
- Washington Nationals (7-9)
- NL, Monday, April 16, 2018, 7:10 p.m. ET, SNY
- Citi Field, Queens, New York
There are not many weaknesses the New York Mets have shown so far in their 12-2 start, but there is one that could play a factor down the road and that is at the catcher position. It was a problem the team had when Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were healthy. That problem is stopping stolen bases.
So far this season, the Mets have only thrown out one of the 17 runners that have tried to steal a base against them. There are only three teams in baseball that have yet to throw out a runner trying to steal (Red Sox, Cardinals, and Rangers). This is not an old problem for the Mets.
Last season, runners were successful stealing 77.9 percent of the time on the Mets catchers. That was the worst percentage of any team in the National League. So, with Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton as the two catchers for now, can that situation be fixed?
Nido could play a big factor in changing that stat when he gets a chance to play. While he was with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies last year, he threw out 45 percent of runners trying to steal a base (Baseball Reference). Here is what MLB Pipeline had to say about Nido’s arm and how strong it is:
“Nido’s greatest strides have come behind the plate. He’ll flash a plus arm and his release and accuracy have improved, allowing him to throw out 41.6 percent of would-be base-stealers over the last three years. Pitchers in the Arizona Fall League loved throwing to him, with solid game-calling and receiving ability.”
As for Lobaton, his chances of throwing out runners are slightly less than Nido. Last season, when he was with the Washington Nationals, teams were 33-for-41 on their stolen base attempts.
One team that has taken advantage of the lack of keeping runners from advancing bases by the Mets is the Nats. Last weekend, at Nats Park, they were 7-for-8 on stolen base attempts in the three-game series.
While Bryce Harper gets the national attention on the Nats, their speed has the ability to change a game with Trea Turner at the top of the order (6-for-6 on steals) and Michael Taylor near the bottom of the lineup (5-for-5). While they have run into outs early in the season, their aggressiveness on the bases can create runs when the power isnât clicking.
Yes, the Nats are the team in the National League that can best take advantage of the Metsâ flaws behind the plate. However, keep an eye on the rest of the NL East. As of today, the Philadelphia Phillies (11 steals) and Atlanta Braves (nine) are both in the top three in the league in that category.
With that being said, keep an eye on what happens with Steven Matz and Matt Harvey. Matz allowed four of the five steals on April 7 and teams are 35-for-41 in taking bases against him since 2016. As for Harvey, he doesn’t get stolen on a lot (13-for-17 since ’16), but the lack of velocity on his fastball can give runners a chance at a better jump.
So, while you are watching this week’s series at Citi Field between the two leading favorites in the NL East, keep an eye on how the Mets control the run game. If they can do that, they should be able to widen what is now a seven-game lead on the two-time division champions.