Omar opening competitions left and right

Apparently the first-base competition isn’t the only open one in Mets’ camp this year. According to Brian Costa at the Star-Ledger (with hat-tip to Matt Cerrone), Omar Minaya has deemed the Opening Day catcher’s job up for grabs between Omir Santos and Josh Thole.

Again, I don’t want to read too much into anything, since Spring Training hasn’t even actually started yet. But if I can hope that the first-base stuff isn’t true, I’ll hope that this catcher stuff is.

I know the conventional wisdom says Thole needs at least a half season more to learn the job in Triple-A. But I wonder why, if Thole is going to learn how to catch somewhere in 2010, he can’t do it at the big-league level.

After all, Cerrone has been reporting all offseason how he hears that Mets pitchers don’t much care for pitching to Extra-Base Omir. And while I don’t love getting into the buzz game nor put too much stock in the nebulous “game-calling abilities” so often credited to veteran catchers,  I’ve heard the same thing (quite likely from the same people).

So if they’ve got one guy the pitchers don’t like throwing to after a full season behind the plate with little offensive upside, and another guy the pitchers haven’t yet thrown to with a little bit of offensive upside, why not opt for the latter and hope he can learn on the job?

A midseason call-up for Thole, while it would provide him with some time for Minor League seasoning, would also mean he’d have to get accustomed to the whims of all the Major League pitchers on the fly. And the Mets’ pitchers have a whole lot of whims.

Obviously that’s not all there is to catching, of course. Santos actually scored pretty well in Driveline Mechanics’ attempt to rate catcher defense earlier this offseason. In a small sample, Thole wasn’t as great, though he didn’t entirely embarrass himself either.

Joe Janish — a guy who knows a whole lot more about the position than I ever will — has maintained all offseason that Thole is nowhere near ready for prime time.

Still, I imagine Joe was holding Thole up in comparison to potential free-agent options and not just to Omir Santos. And since luminaries like Bengie Molina, Yorvit Torrealba and Rod Barajas are not walking through that door, it strikes me that Thole might now appear the Mets’ best option to start the season.

Moreover, Thole hits left-handed — something Jerry Manuel himself identified as important earlier this offseason. The addition of Jason Bay to a lineup that already included David Wright and Jeff Francoeur made the team’s batting order pretty heavily right-handed, especially if it will include Santos. Thole gives Manuel another option to break up the righties in the lineup, and, more importantly, another hitter who might not represent an automatic out.

That’s no guarantee, of course. Thole hit well in his brief audition with the big club in 2009 and can boast a .379 Minor League on-base percentage, but his 59 plate appearances in the Majors were his first above Double-A.

Still, it probably won’t be hard for Thole to offensively outperform Santos. Not only did the latter post a brutal .260/.296/.391 line last year, but since he actually bettered his career Minor League OPS, there’s reason to believe he was playing a bit over his head.

So it boils down to whether Thole will be able to hit enough to make up for the defensive difference with Santos. I don’t know that he can, but I’m sure it’s worth considering.

We shall see, I suppose.

[poll id=”4″]

20 thoughts on “Omar opening competitions left and right

  1. Even if it’s not likely he’ll be worse than our other options, and I truthfully think at this point he probably wouldn’t be, there’s no real reason to start his clock early if he’s 1. not really ready and 2. the team is struggling anyway.

  2. Why would you be against a competition with the best man winning? None of these 4 guys seem deserving of a ML starting job. And the meager “competition” is a bit of a joke. But if Jacobs outplays Murphy why shouldn’t he get the call? Likewise if Thole shows he won’t be too much of a detriment defensively and keeps hitting why shouldn’t he start? Methinks Murphy has a special power over many Mets fans. If Jacobs would beat out Murphy and play well I’m sure there would be a call for him to start at 2B.

    • Because Jacobs is a mediocre player with no upside, even if he beats out Murphy he’s likely to be a minimal upgrade at best with almost no chance to outperform what people expect from him. Where as even if Murphy/Carter aren’t much better there’s at least some reason to believe they can get better.

      • Gina, Jacobs has 30-HR potential. He’s not some schlub who’s never produced in the majors, he’s been an above-average first baseman for three of his four years in the bigs, and he had the awesome stretch in 2005. I don’t understand people like you who refuse to imagine that Mike Jacobs, at 29 years old, could break out. I’m not saying it’s probably, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him have a .270/.330/.520 type season, especially since he’d be in the best lineup of his career. That’s better than what Murphy can do right now, unequivocably. Competition makes everybody better, your stubbornness does not. I’m thrilled that Murphy isn’t simply getting handed the job.

      • He’s never been an anywhere near an above average first basemen. Even if you only count offense.

        Last year the average NL first basemen opsed .858, the year before it was .838 the year before it was .847. Jacobs has only broken an .800 ops once in his career, and that was .812, and that’s using a stat that’s not properly balanced and overrates slugging which is the only thing Jacobs is good for, and definitely never gotten anywhere near the .330/.520 you’re suggesting. When you add on that on top of that he’s consistently been among the leagues worst defensive first basemen I don’t see how you could think he’s been anywhere near above average, he hasn’t even gotten near average.

      • Whatever runs we may get out of Jacobs, we might as well give back with his atrocious defense. Check out Patrick Flood’s blog, he did a nice job of examining Jacobs’ D vs. Murphy’s. I think the consensus seems to be a platoon of Tatis/Murphy.

      • This is a first basemen’s defense, not a shortstop or centerfielder. I’m sorry, but you can’t convince me that first base defense is that important.

      • How about the fact his offense has never even been close to average, let alone above average? And defense at every position is important, the difference between short stop and 1b is how much harder short stop is to play. Defensive metrics rate players vs their own position, so while first base defense may not be as important, Jacobs is still WAY WAY WAY behind his peers. And since your argument was that he’s been above average, wouldn’t the fact he’s been well below average offensively and defensively compared to other first basemen kind of matter?

      • You’re right. Let’s hand the job to Dan Murphy and his awesome 95 OPS+ last year. Never mind that’s worse than Jacobs had put up in 4 of his 5 years. Dan Murphy has done nothing to prove he’s worthy of starting everyday. You’re proving yourself to be remarkably stubborn on a point where you’re clearly overmatched.

      • The difference is Jacobs has pretty much no chance of being anything better than below average, Murphy at worst will be just as below average as Jacobs but he at least has a chance to improve. Jacobs has proven over 3-4 seasons he shouldn’t be a starting first basemen. Murphy, and Carter, should at least be given a chance to fail before giving the job to someone we already know is terrible.

      • Also overmatched by what? You’re only argument, that Jacobs has been above average, is clearly not true, seeing as he’s been below average defensively and offensively every year in his career by a pretty wide margin. What possible argument is there for Jacobs, and by the way he put up an impressive 83 OPS+ last year, so even their he was worse than Murphy. There’s a reason why at 29, and with no major injury history, the best he can do is a minor league deal, on an AAA team he probably won’t even start for, because no team wants him because he’s proven he’s not an ML starting first basemen. Maybe Murphy won’t be any better, and I don’t expect Murphy to be more than a stop gap either, but at least at this point in his career there isn’t already 3+ years of data saying he’s not good enough.

      • I agree with Devon. Gina, there is no reason to believe Murphy will get better juse because he is younger. Jason Phillips had a very similar season to Murphy in 2003 and he never got any better. In fact, Phillips’ season was better then Murphy last year. And you are making it seem like Murphy is a gold glove caliber 1B. The jury is still out on him at first. Jacobs has potential to hit 30 homers and keep in mind his numbers are lower because for a lot of his career he was in the lineup vs lefties. On the Mets, he would never start vs a lefty.

  3. Ted, just got your twitter update about how odd it is nobody voted for Omir as the future.

    I quickly navigated to your page to vote for Omir (having absolutely no reason, except to be the only vote). I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I Fail.

  4. This: “Traded, Omir Santos is the future” made me laugh. I wanna know the two people who voted for Omir. The only way I could understand that vote is if he promises a line of those electric shirts.

      • Yeah, one of them was the great Brendon Desrochers of SNY.tv’s college hoops blog and BaselineStats.com. He’s a Red Sox fan, and I’m certain he was kidding, perhaps because he’s still miffed about the Papelbon thing.

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