Through the first four games of the season, Josh Thole went 5-for-9 with two doubles and two walks. In the forty games since, Thole is hitting .244/.293/.290 with four extra-base hits — three doubles and a home run — and nine walks. Yesterday we talked about Mike Nickeas, who is hitting .160/.232/.227 this season, and I strongly suggested that the Mets should start considering other options at backup catcher. Well, it turns out that their starting catcher isn't doing much of consequence either.
I was a fan of Josh Thole's minor league exploits even before he was considered a decent prospect; his walk rate as a catcher was his most noteworthy offensive characteristic. As you know, most catchers aren't especially proficient at the plate, so if you can get above-average performance out of a backstop you're off to a pretty good start. Thole never showed a lot of power in the minors, but his plate discipline was encouraging, particularly as I watched the likes of Paul Lo Duca, Omir Santos, and others struggle to do much offensively with the big club.
But now I'm not sure what to make of Thole, who is still just 25 years old. There's usually some expected drop in offense when a player makes the jump from Triple-A to the majors, but Thole's got a couple of years under his belt and is still struggling to make himself into a useful everyday catcher. He has only been catching full-time since 2008, and, anecdotally at least, his work behind the plate seems to have improved in the time we've seen him here. He missed some time with a concussion this season, but his struggles both preceded and followed his injury, and he's been especially abysmal against left-handed pitching in 2012, albeit in a nearly meaningless 33 trips to the plate.
All of this is to say that while I sit here banging on about how bad Mike Nickeas has been, it's worth acknowledging that the catching headliner has been likewise unspectacular, and the Mets should continue to be concerned about throwing away so many outs, even at a position where it's customary to do so.