On their own, a pitcher’s won-lost record and ERA are not particularly informative stats. Wins and losses have more to do with the pitcher’s offense and timing than the pitcher’s actual skill on the mound. For example, Yankees starter Domingo Germán is 17-4 this year not because he’s pitched at a Cy Young level but because the Yankees average close to six runs per game. Germán has a 4.21 ERA. Compared to Justin Verlander, who is 18-5 with a 2.52 ERA.
Though cited much less often, ERA exists for catchers as well. We cited it yesterday when we discussed the fact that Mets starter Noah Syndergaard doesn’t like throwing to Wilson Ramos. Syndergaard has a 5.09 ERA across 92 innings throwing to Ramos while he’s posted a 2.45 ERA in 66 innings with Tomás Nido. Catcher ERA is problematic for other reasons, chiefly a small sample size. 92 innings is about half of a full season for a healthy starter; 66 innings is about one-third of a full season. The stat is highly prone to variance, randomness.
What never gets cited is a catcher’s won-lost record. Enter Mets manager Mickey Callaway. Addressing yesterday’s news concerning Syndergaard and Ramos, Callaway said that while Syndergaard indeed has a better ERA with Nido, his won-lost record is better with Ramos, Newsday’s Tim Healey reports. Callaway, in fact, cited a catcher’s winning percentage back in May, Healey reported. When asked if a catcher’s winning percentage is something he values, Callaway said, “I mean, yeah, we want to win, right? You win a lot. That’s how I look at it, absolutely.”
It was pointed out to Callaway, Healey reports, that Jacob deGrom had a personal catcher in Devin Mesoraco last year. Asked why deGrom got a personal catcher last year but Syndergaard doesn’t this year, Callaway said that the Mets were out of the playoff race last year and deGrom was chasing the NL Cy Young Award. It makes sense in an upside-down sort of way, in which you don’t make your star pitcher comfortable in the midst of a playoff race and make your other star pitcher comfortable out of the playoff picture.
This is not Callaway’s only head-scratcher today. The Mets have been riding 3B/OF J.D. Davis pretty hard in his breakout season. He had never played in more than 42 games in a season before and is currently up to 124 in 2019. Per Healey, Callaway acknowledged the team needs to find a way to get him some rest and even went as far as to say that the Mets will have a “competitive advantage” by having him come off the bench as opposed to playing a full game. Which, whew. That is some torturous logic.
That’s not even the most bizarre thing Callaway has said this week. The Mets dropped Sunday’s series finale to the Phillies 10-7. In the seventh inning, the Mets had fallen behind 9-7 after Justin Wilson gave up a two-out two-run home run to Scott Kingery. Callaway brought in Tyler Bashlor, who proceeded to issue a walk and a double to put runners on second and third base with two outs for weak-hitting catcher Andrew Knapp. Callaway decided to intentionally walk Knapp to load the bases and bring up reliever Mike Morin. The Phillies, of course, pinch-hit for their reliever with Bryce Harper, who didn’t start due to a hand injury. Bashlor battled Harper in a nine-pitch at-bat that ultimately ended with a walk, forcing in the Phillies’ 10th run, pushing the lead to three runs.
Callaway defended his decision to walk Knapp after the game, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reported, saying that he wanted to force the Phillies to take Morin out of the game. Morin is a journeyman reliever with a 4.55 career ERA and a 5.14 ERA as a Phillie. He’s averaging fewer than five strikeouts per nine innings. That’s not a guy you want to force out of the game. You want to force out a caliber of reliever like Kirby Yates, Liam Hendriks, Will Harris, Adam Ottovino.
Callaway was on the hot seat near the end of July due to a slumping team that was supposed to be competitive. In June, Callaway cursed out Healey and tried to have him thrown out of the Mets’ clubhouse. Thanks to a soft part of the schedule, the Mets went on a run, going 21-5 between July 25 and August 22. That stretch earned Callaway some extra rope. Since then, though, the Mets have gone 6-10 against tougher competition. They’re still within striking distance of the second Wild Card in the NL, but if the club finishes September poorly, one wonders if Callaway will return to the hot seat, particularly given the, well, retrograde ways of thinking he seems happy to express publicly.