2011 Season in Review: Josh Thole

The New York Mets as a whole went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an on-going series, will analysis every single Mets player that picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at catcher Josh Thole.

After Josh Thole posted a .277/.357/.366 in 227 plate appearances in 2010, Mets fans thought the 23 year-old would become the next great (or good) homegrown catcher since Todd Hundley. However, in 2011, most of those hopeful fans turned on the young catcher. Thole stumbled out of the gate, posting a .237/.298/.276 line in April and a .212/.306/.269 line in May. He started losing at-bats to Ronny Paulino, but also lost the respect of fans.

The latter is a shame considering Thole was a completely different hitter the rest of the way–but couldn’t seem to shake his early season label. The 24 year-old owned a .292/.372/.387 line with 3 homeruns, 23 RBI, 15 runs, and a 1.04 K/BB from June 1 to September 27 (240 plate appearances), marking a complete overhaul from his earlier season struggles (.227/.301/.272 line from April 1 to May 31). On the season, Thole garnered a .268/.345/.344 line with 3 homeruns, 40 RBI, and 22 runs. His 9.8% BB% and 12.2% K% ranked sixth and fourth in the National League among catchers, respectively. Granted, while his .076 ISO illustrates his true lack of pop (and his .069 ISO away vs. .085 ISO home shows Citi Field has nothing to do with it), he never exhibited much power in the Minor Leagues either (career high of 5 homeruns, and .381 career SLG).

Even though Thole possesses good on-base skills and a great eye, one of his biggest hurdles for becoming a legitimate starting catcher is fixing his subpar defense. Among all Major League catchers, Thole ranked thirtieth in runners caught stealing (just 17), and ranked second in pass-balls (16). Mets broadcasters also often noted how Thole positioned his glove incorrectly while trying to block balls–which is a common fundamental young catchers lack (and hopefully learn to correct). In addition, Mets pitchers sported a combined 4.25 ERA with Thole, whereas they posted a superior 3.01 ERA with backup Mike Nickeas.

There is no doubt Josh Thole has his shortcomings, but at age 24, Mets fans should give him a little more rope. Going into 2012, Thole projects to be the starting catcher, but there’s a good chance Sandy Alderson will sign a backup like Kelly Shoppach or Ryan Doumit–both of whom have plenty of starting experience, and swing a meatier bat. Thole might never be the next Todd Hundley, but considering the list of other homegrown Mets catchers, the New York Mets could do a lot worse than Josh Thole behind the dish.

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