On-Base Perception

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Sandy Alderson hammers Mets' catchers in 2012

Josh Thole throws out pitcher Kris Medlen of

Josh Thole throws out pitcher Kris Medlen of the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. (Aug. 11, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

During a Thursday afternoon appearance with WFAN's Mike Francesa, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said it's "much more likely there will be significant change in those areas versus subtle changes" when it comes to upgrading the team's outfielders and catchers this offseason.

Later, Alderson expanded on the team's woeful production from its backstops, which composed of the quartet of Rob Johnson, Kelly Shoppach, Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole.

They combined to hit .219/.282/.285, ranking at or near the bottom of the National League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. But even that brutal slash line fails to fully illustrate how unproductive they were for the Mets.

Consider this: By one advanced metric, Mets catchers in 2012 turned in one of the least productive offensive seasons in the last decade at their position. When compared to the production that the average team would expect from its catchers, the Mets managed barely half of that production offensively. In fact, since 2002, only 11 teams squeezed less offense out of their catchers than the Mets.

It's apparently not a fact lost upon on Alderson, who repeated on WFAN his desire to upgrade.

"There's not a lot of capacity for progress there," Alderson said. "We kind of know what we've got, we've seen what we have, and it's not championship caliber."

By another statistical measure, what the Mets saw actually failed to meet the much lower standard of big-league caliber.

According to FanGraphs, Mets catchers combined to a post a -0.3 wins above replacement, a catch-all stat that attempts to measure production on offense and defense.

Translation: The number suggests that the Mets might have been better off simply plucking any old catcher off the scrap heap.

Of course, the Mets might be forced to do that anyway.

Good catching around the game is already scarce. And the Mets won't have many tools at their disposal to procure it. The team's budget constraints will keep Alderson from making a major investment at catcher through free agency.

The trade market gives the Mets another alternative to upgrade. But they have limited chips in that department as well. Even though starting pitching is a team strength, Alderson is wary of cutting into his depth, which might become important if injuries strike the starting rotation. His two best young arms -- Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler -- appear to be untouchable.

"I can't imagine trading Harvey or Wheeler for example," Alderson said. "Those two players have come to signify the future I think for the Mets organization and we'd really have to think long and hard before we did anything with pitching of that caliber."

Indeed, the team's catching problem is easy to spot. But what's difficult to see is exactly how the Mets intend to make what Alderson called "significant change."

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