WASHINGTON — The statistical evidence that Mickey Callaway used to defend his struggling catcher Wilson Ramos before Tuesday night’s game — let’s call it Mickeyball — didn’t really measure up from an analytical standpoint.
Catcher Winning Percentage? That was a head-scratcher.
But after the Mets’ 6-2 victory over the Nationals, one powered by Ramos’ first-inning grand slam, how could we argue with the manager’s pretzel logic. Ramos was behind the plate, the Mets won. No fancy algorithms required.
“Power is a bonus,” Callaway said postgame. “He’s not going to hit 30 homers. He’s never been that guy. But you want him to pop one every now and again, and have a good approach and drive in runs. It’d be nice for him to be a power threat in there — not just for the homer that you get, but for the intimidation factor.”
That’s been lacking with Ramos since he signed the two-year, $19-million contract during the winter, as his soft .314 slugging percentage can attest. Tuesday night’s slam, the fourth of his career and first since 2017, was just his fifth extra-base hit through 40 games. Combine that with his unimposing arm behind the plate — he’s thrown out only 14 percent of base-stealers (4-for-29) — and Ramos wasn’t the solution he was supposed to be in the catcher’s spot.
As a result, Ramos’ early struggles came up Tuesday night as a pregame topic of conversation, during Callaway’s media session, which prompted the manager to get creative in offering his unconditional support.
“When Ramos catches, we’re 17-11, right?” Callaway said. “That’s six games above .500. I don’t know that you can ask for much more than that. I would be interested to see if any starting catcher in baseball has a better winning percentage than that.”
Even so, catcher Winning Percentage is not a stat that you’d find, well, in any significant analytical breakdown. But when Newsday’s Tim Healey pressed Callaway on it, asking if that was something he thought was useful in evaluating a catcher, the manager doubled-down on it.
“I mean, yeah, we want to win, right?” Callaway replied. “You’re a pretty good team when he’s out there. You win a lot. That’s how I look at it, absolutely.”
We admit, at the time, Callaway’s line of reasoning felt a little off. Not that his numbers weren’t correct. Just the weighted meaning behind them. But a few hours later, Ramos did his manager a solid, pulling an 80-mph changeup from Jeremy Hellickson over the leftfield wall for a grand slam, instantly giving the Mets a 4-0 lead in the first inning. It was only his second homer, and first since April 16.
“That made me feel very happy,” said Ramos, who is hitting .314 (16-for-51) with two doubles, three homers and 14 RBIs vs. the Nationals since leaving them. “It feels great to play in this ballpark. I have great memories here.”
The timing was great for the Mets, as they try to roll through this soft underbelly of their schedule, but also a nice PR boost for Brodie Van Wagenen, whose winter free-agent signings, so far, are trending toward being busts.
But at least Ramos can still salvage his season. As for another of Brodie’s free agents, fellow Stanford alum Jed Lowrie, we’re not so sure. The Mets signed Lowrie to a two-year, $20-million contract as an upgrade for Todd Frazier at third base, and also a hedge for Jeff McNeil, just in case his rookie second-half turned out to be a fluke.
Instead, McNeil has played like an All-Star, but mostly in leftfield, and Frazier has wound up an ineffective bench piece, hitting .143 since returning from a spring-training oblique injury. On the day Lowrie figured to return, the Mets announced he was headed back to Port St. Lucie after suffering a Grade 1 hamstring strain during his weekend rehab assignment with Triple-A Syracuse.
The rehab was for his left knee, remember, which he sprained shortly after putting on a Mets uniform for the first time in spring training. The initial prognosis is for Lowrie to be shut down for two weeks, so now he’s probably another three weeks away from joining the Mets, minimum.
So much for those difficult roster decisions. Thanks to Ramos, the Mets could shrug off another Lowrie setback, and take solace in returning to .500 as both the Phillies and Braves lost. Now if Ramos can be the catcher he was supposed to be, and start putting up meaningful stats, Callaway won’t have to try so hard to find some.