Finding the best Mets pitcher and catcher combinations in 2018

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 11: Catcher Devin Mesoraco #29 and pitcher Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets talk at the end of the fifth inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on July 11, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Phillies 3-0 in 10 innings. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 11: Catcher Devin Mesoraco #29 and pitcher Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets talk at the end of the fifth inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on July 11, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Phillies 3-0 in 10 innings. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Using Pitcher Game Scores to approximate effect of catchers on starting pitcher performance, let’s see which New York Mets batterymates were the best.

The New York Mets got plenty of help from their starting pitchers in 2018. At least on offense, the catchers didn’t do very much.

There is no ideal way to measure the effect of catchers game-calling on pitchers’ performance. There are some workarounds, such as Catcher’s ERA (CERA), which measures a pitcher’s ERA while that player is catching a particular pitcher.

I tried to come up with a better system, using Pitcher Game Scores, which are listed in box scores on the FanGraphs app. Of course, this includes all aspects of catcher defense, not just game-calling, but it gives a good idea of how well a catcher works with a particular pitcher and the starting staff in general.

In this article, I calculated the average Pitcher Game Score for each of the Mets top five starters with each of the top five catchers. I removed Travis d’Arnaud because he only caught two games started by the top five starters, along with two Harvey starts.

Jacob deGrom (32 starts, 31 caught by the top four catchers)

In Jacob deGrom’s 31 starts with these four catchers, his average GS was 65.4.

Equalized by catcher (Average GS with each catcher, divided by four) it was 64.2.

Noah Syndergaard (25 starts, 25 caught by top four catchers)

  • Nido
    • Caught 10 of Syndergaard’s starts
    • Average GS 62.4
  • Lobaton
    • Caught 2 of Syndergaard’s starts
    • Average GS 59.0
  •  Mesoraco
    • Caught 5 of Syndergaard’s starts
    • Average GS 53.6
  •  Plawecki
    • Caught 8 of Syndergaard’s starts
    • Average GS 53.1

In Syndergaard’s 25 starts with these four catchers, his average GS was 57.4.

Equalized by catcher (Average GS with each catcher, divided by four) it was 57.0.

Zack Wheeler (started 29 games, 29 caught by top four catchers)

  • Plawecki
    • Caught 10 of Wheeler’s games
    • Average GS 65.4
  • Mesoraco
    • Caught 10 of Wheeler’s games
    • Average GS 59.4
  • Nido
    • Caught 7 of Wheeler’s games
    • Average GS 54.9
  • Lobaton
    • Caught 2 of Wheeler’s games
    • Average GS 17.0

In Wheeler’s 25 starts with these four catchers, his average GS was 57.4.

Equalized by catcher (Average GS with each catcher, divided by four) it was 49.2.

Steven Matz (started 30 games, 29 caught by top four catchers)

  • Nido
    • Caught 3 of Matz’s games
    • Average GS 69.3
  •  Plawecki
    • Caught 16 of Matz’s games
    • Average GS 46.9
  • Mesoraco
    • Caught 7 of Matz’s games
    • Average GS 44.0
  • Lobaton
    • Caught 3 of Matz’s games
    • Average GS 37.3

In Matz’s 25 starts with these four catchers, his average GS was 47.5.

Equalized by catcher (Average GS with each catcher, divided by four) it was 49.4.

Jason Vargas (started 20 games, 20 caught by top four catchers)

  • Plawecki
    • Caught 13 of Vargas’ games
    • Average GS 48.0
  • Mesoraco
    • Caught 3 of Vargas’ games
    • Average GS 43.7
  • Nido
    • Caught 3 of Vargas’ games
    • Average GS 33.7
  • Lobaton
    • Caught 1 of Vargas’ games
    • Average GS 2.0

In Vargas’ 25 starts with these four catchers, his average GS was 42.9.

Equalized by catcher (Average GS with each catcher, divided by four) it was 31.8.

Looking at these numbers from the catchers’ perspective

Tomas Nido (equalized average GS 56.9)

  • Used deGrom’s equalized average GS of 64.2 to make up for Nido not catching him
  • Matz
    • Caught 3 games
    • Average GS 69.3
  • Syndergaard
    • Caught 10 games
    • Average GS 62.4
  • Wheeler
    • Caught 7 games
    • Average GS 54.9
  • Vargas
    • Caught 3 games
    • Average GS 33.7
  • deGrom
    • Nido did not catch deGrom in 2018

Kevin Plawecki (equalized average GS 55.6)

  • Zack Wheeler
    • Caught 10 games
    • Average GS 65.4
  • Jacob deGrom
    • Caught 7 games
    • Average GS 64.7
  • Noah Syndergaard
    • Caught 8 games
    • Average GS 53.1
  • Jason Vargas
    • Caught 13 games
    • Average GS 48.0
  • Steven Matz
    • Caught 16 games
    • Average GS 46.9

Devin Mesoraco (equalized average GS 50.2)

  • deGrom
    • Caught 20 games
    • Average GS 64.6
  • Wheeler
    • Caught 10 games
    • Average GS 59.4
  • Syndergaard
    • Caught 5 games
    • Average GS 53.6
  • Matz
    • Caught 7 games
    • Average GS 44.0
  • Vargas
    • Caught 3 games
    • Average GS 43.7

Jose Lobaton (equalized average GS 37.1)

  • deGrom
    • Caught 4 games
    • Average GS 70.3
  • Syndergaard
    • Caught 2 games
    • Average GS 59.0
  • Matz
    • Caught 3 games
    • Average GS 37.3
  • Wheeler
    • Caught 2 games
    • Average GS 17.0
  • Vargas
    • Caught 1 game
    • Average GS 2.0

Best pairs

  • deGrom-Lobaton 70.3
  • Matz-Nido 69.3
  • Wheeler-Plawecki 65.4
  • deGrom-Plawecki 64.9
  • deGrom-Mesoraco 64.6
  • Syndergaard-Nido 62.4
  • Wheeler-Mesoraco 59.4
  • Syndergaard-Lobaton 59.0

Worst Pairs

  • Vargas-Lobaton 2.0
  • Wheeler-Lobaton 17.0
  • Vargas-Nido 33.7
  • Matz-Lobaton 37.3
  • Vargas-Mesoraco 43.7
  • Matz-Mesoraco 44.0 

Conclusions

Tomas Nido works the best with the top starters and I look forward to seeing him work with deGrom in 2019. Nido did extremely well with Matz, way better than any of the other catchers.

Plawecki/Wheeler and Plawecki/Vargas were surprisingly good together, with Plawecki/Wheeler better than either Plawecki/deGrom or Plawecki/Syndergaard.

Plawecki/Vargas was better than Plawecki/Matz.

Overall, Plawecki did better than Mesoraco by a large margin, and it’s possible that Plawecki’s familiarity with the starters was the main reason.

Mesoraco and Lobaton are free agents, and I don’t think there is any reason to re-sign them, except for minor league depth.

Next. Grading the 2018 Mets starting pitchers

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Meanwhile, Nido and Plawecki should battle it out for the Mets’ backup catcher job, behind one of the top free agent catchers.