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d’Arnaud Could’ve Done This With The Mets

Last night, Travis d’Arnaud had the best game of his career. As noted by Mathew Brownstein of MMO, d’Arnaud became the fourth catcher since 1970 to homer three times and reach base safely five times in a game. His three home run game would culminate with a three run game winning homer off of Aroldis Chapman to give the Rays a 5-4 win over the New York Yankees:

Like anytime we see a former Met excel in a new place, we see people say any number of things. One of the prevailing things we see is this would never have happened with the Mets. It’s what we heard with Justin Turner even though he fixed his launch angle and had a big finish to the 2013 season before the Mets non-tendered him. We hear it with Hansel Robles despite his having flashes of brilliance with the Mets only to see him wilt under being over and inconsistently worked.

The basis for applying that narrative to d’Arnaud was how terrible he was with the Mets this year. Yes, he was absolutely terrible. In his 10 games with the Mets, he was 2-for-23 (.087), and in his last game with the team, he had just about as bad a game as you will ever see from a catcher. It was mortifying to watch, and the Mets responded to it by designating him for assignment.

Of course, the reasons for his struggles needs closer examination. First and foremost, d’Arnaud was a year removed from Tommy John surgery. As we have seen with position players, there is no real book for when a player can actually return from it. Those we have seen return in less than a year have struggled.

T.J. Rivera couldn’t get it back together after surgery in September 2017. He would be released, and he is now attempting his comeback with the Long Island Ducks. Didi Gregorius has struggled since returning from his own surgery hitting just .252/.274/.388 with the Yankees.

With respect to d’Arnaud, he had two rehab games after getting a late start to Spring Training. That’s right. After a major surgery on his elbow, the Mets gave him just two rehab games. They then rushed him up to the majors despite the Mets starting the season 5-2 and only needing their back-up catcher twice in that span.

After d’Arnaud was rushed back, he would start just five times in over a three week span. In that time frame, the Mets would play 18 games. There is absolutely no reason why d’Arnaud was rushed back to be a back-up when Tomas Nido could have handled those duties well. There is even less of a reason when you consider d’Arnaud NEEDED those games to rehab from his surgery and get back up to game speed after playing all of four games since the start of the 2018 season.

What d’Arnaud needed from the Mets, or really any team, was a legitimate opportunity to get sufficient playing time to get back up to speed. After a P.J. Conlon like stop in Los Angeles, d’Arnaud has gotten that in Tampa Bay. In 39 games for the Rays, he is hitting .282/.342/.542 with seven doubles, nine homers, and 26 RBI. For all those hysterically focused on his throwing arm, he has thrown out 33 percent of base stealers, which is above league average.

Before people start with the he could have never done this with the Mets talk, focus back on his career. In 2015, he played 67 games hitting .268/.340/.485 with 14 doubles, a triple, 12 homers, and 41 RBI. From 2015 to 2017, he was the 10th best catcher in all of baseball with a 6.3 fWAR, and he ranked 11th with a 98 wRC+. His 68.3 dWAR (as rated by Fangraphs) ranked ninth over that timeframe.

So, with the Mets, d’Arnaud was a top 10 catcher in the game. That gets lost because he was never quite what he was advertised to be. He also didn’t build off of that 2015 season like we all hoped. He was also injury prone. Overall, he was as frustrating a player as you could have experienced. However, that does not mean he was bad and never was going to succeed with the Mets. In fact, we did see him succeed with the Mets.

Like many before him, d’Arnaud’s success isn’t because he needed a change of scenery. No, this is because his rehab was mishandled, the Mets overreacted to one bad game, and because the team did not sufficiently self scout their players. If given an opportunity, and with Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard no longer wanting to throw to Wilson Ramos there was one coming, d’Arnaud absolutely would have performed well for the Mets. If you want any proof of that just consider the fact he had already performed well in his Mets career.

7 thoughts on “d’Arnaud Could’ve Done This With The Mets”

  1. Pal88 says:

    Because he at one time performed well for the Mets does not guarantee he would do so again in his Mets career. You can also say that with the exact opposite i.e, “because at times he didn’t perform well”.
    I’m of the group of fans that says some players just cannot do well n NYC.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Travis d’Arnaud performed well as a Met, so I’m not sure how anyone could say he can’t do well in NYC.

  2. Pal88 says:

    While he has done well (occasionally) he never could do it on a consistent basis.
    He’s always been an accident waiting to happen. No thanks

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Cumulatively, he’s been top 10. With there being at minimum 60 catchers in the majors, I’m not sure how anyone in their right mind doesn’t want any part of that.

  3. Blair M. Schirmer says:

    “Like anytime we see a former Met excel in a new place, we see people say any number of things. One of the prevailing things we see is this would never have happened with the Mets.”

    —What i read and hear is that the Mets handle these kinds of players in such a way that recovery and good play is unlikely to happen, in addition to the FO’s ongoing inability to recognize significant talent right under their noses.

    To give one example of many they played Bruce into the ground last year (and were again doing so in the stretch after his long DL stint). It was only the season’s ending that kept them from destroying his production after his return). Result? They thought he was finished, and dealt him as a pure salary dump.

    D’Arnaud is a little different. He was an often-injured catcher with the body of a part-timer who, year after year, the Mets forced into a starting role. He was able to survive this nonsense, somewhat, as a pre-prime player, a younger player, but even in 2015 the wear was showing. The Mets overplayed him onto the DL twice for long stretches, and their frequent playing of him down the stretch reduced his OPS from Sept 6 – Oct 4 to .568. But of course they learned nothing. In 2017, in the heat of August, and despite having Rivera and Plawecki, both reasonably productive that year, they played TDA in 25 games.

    After 7 seasons with the Mets they had gotten a lousy 2.0 WAR from D’Arnaud. That’s a bungling of talent that’s inexcusable.

    It also led them to believe he was done, so rather than give him ample time to recover in 2019 they forced him into service, saw the results of *their* disastrous decision (closing with 5 terrible games in 8 days), blamed the player, and dumped him.

    Nice to see him find a home, in any case, even though the Rays are pushing him a little. They’re playing him a little more than every other day. Maybe they figure they can get away with it given the ASB, but it’s a real risk with a player with an injury history like TDA’s. Still, they’re not being incautious, and they’re much smarter than the Mets when it comes to pacing guys. It will be interesting to see how they pace D’Arnaud for the rest of the year.

  4. Blair M. Schirmer says:

    === Excellent point wrt Turner, and one I’ve only very rarely heard mentioned elsewhere. Turner’s Sept 2013 line was .357/.357/571 for a stellar OPS of .929. The inability or refusal to take a walk in 14 games is odd, but he only k’ed 5 times, so Turner wasn’t being overwhelmed when he wasn’t making contact.

    The Mets were also able to use him all over the infield, and it was only in 2011 that his defense was other than average.

    Even his August 2013 was fine for an IFer: .264/.328/.377/.705 as was his seasonal OPS+ of 100, although the last half of August was quite poor–which it’s possible to attribute to bad luck on balls in play.

    So it’s more than a little strange, that the Mets didn’t bring him back for 2014. Their IF had Murphy’s brutal defense and modest bat at 2B, Ruben Tejada’s sub-replacement 2013 season, Wilmer Flores’ sub-replacement 2013 season, and Omar Quintanilla and 20 yo Dilson Herrera to throw into the breach. Somehow, iirc, because of no more than a quibble w the FO, the Mets missed on this AS talent who made next to no money, while having almost nothing in his stead.

    Turner himself has highlighted the summer of 2013 as the time when it clicked for him, when he was still w the Mets, and not the offseason when he moved to the Dodgers, or the 2014 season, when he was with them. This makes the Mets look even worse, of course. Not only did they fail to cultivate this hundred million dollar talent in their midst, they failed to notice that he was already breaking out:

    “For Turner, the light went on in the summer of 2013, as he traveled through the Major Leagues as a reserve infielder on a 74-win Mets team. Byrd, released by the Red Sox, had signed a Minor League deal with the Mets after a prolific winter in Mexico.”

    https://www.mlb.com/news/secret-behind-justin-turners-big-breakout/c-132701636

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Exactly. Turner made a significant change in his game while with your organization, and you were incapable of even seeing it. There’s no justifying that.

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