Because People Forgot: Travis d’Arnaud Was A Good Mets Catcher
Seeing Travis d’Arnaud play great since leaving the Mets has generally seen Mets fans have one of two reactions:
- Typical Mets
- Can’t criticize the Mets for this one
The second reaction is driven by the premise d’Arnaud wasn’t good with the Mets. Essentially, the Mets gave him every possible chance, and he still didn’t succeed. Ipso facto, he was never going to be good with the Mets.
This is the standard defense when a player the Mets gave up on too soon thrived elsewhere. The most famous recent example was Justin Turner. Of course, that was predicated on a false premise.
Turner worked on his launch angle with Marlon Byrd, and he was getting results late in the season. Rather than pay Turner an absurdly low arbitration salary to permit him to be a useful utility player who could grow to be more, the Mets instead chose to non-tender and slander him.
Mets fans having amnesia from all the other times the Wilpon led Mets front office do this only for the decision to blow up in their face, somehow take the organization’s side. It happens time and time again, and we’re seeing it with d’Arnaud.
The biggest fallacy with d’Arnaud was he wasn’t good with the Mets. Sadly, this emanates from a poor understanding of the catching position wherein people equate the ability to catch with the ability to throw.
Now, there are some truths with d’Arnaud. First and foremost, he was injury prone. Second, his throwing arm wasn’t great. Third, his bat wasn’t as advertised when he was obtained as a prospect.
Still, that should not be conflated to mean he wasn’t good with the Mets. In fact, d’Arnaud was a good Met.
From 2014 (his first full season) until 2017 (his last full season), d’Arnaud amassed an 8.5 fWAR*. Over that stretch, d’Arnaud was the 11th best catcher in the game. His 99 wRC+ made him the 14th best catcher in the game.
Certainly, his bat wasn’t as good as hoped, but it was league average. It was also above average for his position. We also knew there was a chance for more.
In 2015, we got a glimpse of what d’Arnaud would be in his post Mets career. In that season, he hit .268/.340/.485 with 12 homers and 41 RBI. That was good for a 130 wRC+. That made him one of the best catchers in the game, and with his hitting three homers that postseason, he seemed poised for stardom.
Really, d’Arnaud looked like the complete catcher. He could hit. He blocked balls and framed at an elite level. There was no one in baseball better at fielding throws and getting down tags. He just led a young pitching staff to the World Series.
Admittedly, it didn’t happen. Injuries were a big reason why.
In 2016, he dealt with a rotator cuff strain. In 2017, he dealt with wrist injuries. Finally, in 2018, it was discovered he had a torn UCL costing him that season.
These are all injuries which impact your hitting, and they’re reasons why d’Arnaud wasn’t able to build off of his 2015 campaign. Still, he remained a strong defensive catcher and pitch framer.
Put another way, d’Arnaud was actually a good catcher who helped his team win. As noted, he was the 11th best in the game.
After his UCL injury, there was legitimate hole he’d return to his 2015 form. Instead, the Mets under Jeff Wilpon’s direction did what they always do. They unnecessarily rushed a player back from injury.
At a time when d’Arnaud should’ve been on a rehab assignment, or even rehabbing to get ready to play in rehab games, d’Arnaud was catching a Major League game, and he had just about the worst game a catcher has ever had. Instead of realizing it was the Mets who screwed up by forcing a player to return before he was ready, they got rid of him.
This led to d’Arnaud getting the time he needed to get back into playing shape. Now, away from the arm and elbow injuries and away from the Mets medical decision makers, we see d’Arnaud return to his 2015 form.
Again, what d’Arnaud is doing now is something we’ve seen him do in a Mets uniform.
Just because you were frustrated with his inability to throw out base stealers should dealing with a starting staff incapable of holding on runners doesn’t change that. Just because we saw the Mets use SNY and their influence with some media personalities or the fact there are just plain ignorant fans doesn’t change that.
So yes, there’s every reason to believe Travis d’Arnaud would have been this good if he stayed with the Mets. First and foremost, he was healthy. Second and just as important, he had already been this good in a Mets uniform.
And regardless of what he would or would not have done if he stayed with the Mets, d’Arnaud was good with the Mets. Being 11th best at his his position proves that.
Editor’s Note: Typically, this site uses bWAR. Catchers are the one exception as fWAR incorporates framing.