Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez throws to starting pitcher David Peterson...

Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez throws to starting pitcher David Peterson during the first inning against the San Diego Padres in an MLB baseball game at Citi Field on Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Elite reaction time just might not be enough for catchers anymore.

As baseball adjusts to its new rules — and the glut of stolen bases that have come with it — catchers are scrambling to compensate, but more and more, excellent throws aren’t cutting it, Buck Showalter said.

To wit: Rookie Francisco Alvarez had a pop time of 1.88 and an accurate throw on Victor Robles’ steal of second base in the seventh inning of the Mets loss to the Nationals Tuesday. The base still got swiped. The best average pop time in baseball currently belongs to J.T. Realmuto, who’s at 1.81, and an average of 1.88 would put you in the top five in baseball. And it’s no fluke, Showalter said.

“He’s done it a few times,” Showalter said of Alvarez, who’s defense has been deeply scrutinized as he tries to prove he can play at this level.

Usually, with the quick pop time and an accurate throw, “that’s — you’re out,” Showalter said. “He’s safe because of the new rules. For him and (Tomas) Nido to throw well, (we’ve got to keep) their confidence up. Also, what do you do? You go quicker to the plate …There’s a price to pay for going that quick. You’ve got to rob Peter or rob Paul. That’s a lot of things that branch off this. I’ve seen a lot of good-throwing catchers negated thus far because they just don’t have a chance to throw anybody out.”

This is due to a host of factors: the pitch clock, limited pickoff throws, and bigger bases.

Alvarez has an average pop time of 1.94 to second base while Nido is at 1.98 — both slightly better than average, though Nido’s exchange time is among the best in baseball. Neither has caught a batter stealing, and, going into Tuesday, teams are averaging 0.68 stolen bases per game. If that were to stick, that would be the highest average since the 1999 season, according to CBS Sports.


Verlander will pitch…somewhere

Showalter reiterated that Justin Verlander will make a rehab start Friday but could not provide further details — saying only that he thinks it would be with one of the New York-based affiliates — either Triple-A Syracuse or Double-A Binghamton. Binghamton plays at home Friday, while Syracuse is away in Toledo.

Knicks fever hits Citi

A Knicks branded truck, large statue and basketball hoops made their appearance outside Citi Field Tuesday as part of a campaign to drum up excitement for their playoff run. The Knicks will be providing free giveaways to fans around the city and hosting contests for prizes.

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