The last Mets game that Josh Thole played in was May 7th at Philadelphia. Since then, the Mets have gone 8-7, using the tandem of Mike Nickeas and Rob Johnson. The Amazins were 16-13 when Thole was on the roster, so it’s not as if there has been a tremendous win-loss difference, but the impact of Thole’s absence is noticeable.
In 92 plate appearances this season, Thole is hitting .284/.356/.370 with a homer and seven runs batted in. In typical Josh Thole fashion, he’s drawing walks (walking at a 9.8% rate), not striking out (fanning at just a 13.0% rate) while contributing positively on offense (he owns a wRC+ of 105 and a .321 wOBA). Defensively, he’s committed four errors, allowed three passed balls and two wild pitches and thrown out six of twenty-three base runners (26.1%) while saving four runs. Overall, he’s accumulated an fWAR of 0.5.
Then there are the guys who have been filling in for Thole: Nickeas and Johnson. In 59 PA, Nickeas is batting .160/.263/.200 with no homers and six RBI. He’s walked in 8.5% of his plate appearances while striking out in 25.4% of them. On defense, Nickeas has gunned
down three of fifteen runners (20%), allowed three passed balls, five wild pitches and cost the team three runs on defense. Johnson, his counterpart, is hitting .333/.400/.389 with zero homers and one RBI in 20 PA, walking twice and fanning four times, 10.0% and 20.0% of the time, respectively (for his career, Johnson is a .201/.279/.300 hitter who strikes out 23.1% of the time). He’s allowed four stolen bases without throwing out a runner in addition to two wild pitches and costing the team one defensive run. Nickeas has an fWAR of -0.2 and Johnson an fWAR of 0.1, both in very small sample sizes.
Thole is by no means an offensive machine, but there are a few things he does well, such as draw walks, not strike out and put the ball in play. Both Nickeas and Johnson have demonstrated a propensity to strikeout during their careers, and despite his defensive reputation, Nickeas has allowed as many passed balls this season as Thole in fewer innings caught. Thole has also done a better job throwing out runners this season than last (21%).
He isn’t an offensive machine, but Nickeas has been a black hole in the lineup and Johnson’s offensive reputation suggests he might be better served as a pitcher. While in the lineup, Thole can at least draw walks, put the ball in the play and make something happen. Hopefully he will return behind the dish soon.