Oct 30, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets catcher Travis d
Travis d’Arnaud has to be shaking his head after the 2015 World Series. Even as he and the Mets tip their caps to the Royals, they must be feeling as though they lost the World Series as much as the Royals won it. There are many bad plays that stand out and numerous Mets players who underperformed. Travis d’Arnaud simply disappeared.
No one is saying that Travis d’Arnaud is the reason that the Mets lost the World Series, far from it, but you have to be concerned with the way that he disappeared against Kansas City, even regressed in many ways. He did not whiff on a key ground ball like Daniel Murphy or throw the ball away like Lucas Duda, nor did he get the attention that Yoenis Cespedes did for not delivering at the plate, but he did play in a way that has to be troubling to the Mets.
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Travis d’Arnaud hit .143 for the World Series, and he did not hit a home run or even manage a walk. He did ground into two double plays in key moments. The first came in Game 2 when the Mets had their one threat against Johnny Cueto. The second came in the second inning of Game 5 when Edinson Volquez was on the ropes. The Game 4 double play did not seem as bad in the moment because the Mets were already on the board, but it would certainly come back to haunt them.
Interestingly enough, d’Arnaud only swung and missed at three pitches all series. The problem wasn’t making contact, it was the type of contact he was making. By consistently jamming himself on fastballs up and in and rolling over breaking balls away, d’Arnaud got himself out more than Royals pitchers beat him. He never made a single adjustment from game to game and the pattern was never broken. He seemed to take his at-bats like a rookie seeing his first big league action.
Behind the plate, d’Arnaud continued to help his pitchers by getting strike calls on borderline pitches. However, after giving up one passed ball all year, he gave up another one in the World Series. It came on a pitch that never hit the dirt. It was a mental error as much as anything, and suggested a player thinking too much or possibly overwhelmed by the moment.
d’Arnaud had shown some progress over the course of 2015 with his throwing. Through August his caught stealing rate stood at 28%, but in September he improved to 45%. In the World Series the Royals were seven-for-seven stealing bases against him, and too many of those base runners would turn into runs for the Royals.
The Mets vacuum behind the plate and in the middle of their lineup stood in stark contrast to the production Kansas City received from Salvador Perez. Perez hit .364 in the World Series, and recall he hit .333 against the Giants in the 2014 World Series. The two catchers may have looked even on paper after the 2015 regular season, but Perez clearly elevates his game when it matters most.
Perez is a stout defender and unbelievably durable. Can you name the Royals’ backup catcher? Me neither. Despite being a hair younger than d’Arnaud, has caught 545 regular season MLB games to d’Arnaud’s 199. This disparity may help explain d’Arnaud’s World Series performance. He played like a young player without the experience to slow the game down, which he is.
One can only hope that with experience, d’Arnaud will make the adjustments necessary to become the star catcher that he has the potential to be. d’Arnaud has many of the same talents as Perez, possibly less on defense, but more with the bat, but Perez’s game is much tighter from a mental standpoint.
Travis d’Arnaud is a key to the Mets’ lineup in the coming years. The Mets will need him to improve his throwing, and to be a consistent plus bat as a catcher. There are not many positions, if any, the Mets can point to where they always have a clear advantage offensively over opponents. Catcher can be that position if d’Arnaud can use the World Series as motivation to come back an improved player.
No doubt the Mets expect him to progress with more playing time under his belt and with improved health. Personally, I would also bet on him. He has plenty of ability and a solid support system in the Mets clubhouse to help him overcome his poor showing and to use the World Series as a spring-board for better times ahead.