New York Daily News
Not thrown off by past trouble
PORT ST. LUCIE — From a big-picture perspective, Travis d’Arnaud in 2015 took another step toward proving he can be an All-Star catcher — if he can ever avoid significant injury over 162 games. His offense continues to be that promising.
However, there is no getting around the glaring problem that was his throwing in the postseason. Opposing basestealers went 11-for-11 against d’Arnaud, and as the steals piled up, his throws were ugly at times as he rushed his mechanics out of wanting desperately to nail a runner.
Mets pitchers were partly to blame, with slower-than-average deliveries to the plate at times, but for d’Arnaud there was no hiding from the goose egg.
Nor does he try to. In fact, on Monday he was admirably candid in admitting that he was affected by the magnitude of playing in the postseason for the first time.
“I wasn’t able to slow the game down,’’ d’Arnaud said at his locker after the Mets’ workout. “The game sped up on me. I didn’t do what I did all year. Instead of just making a good throw, I was trying to do more than I should.’’
And with every throw that was off-line or bounced to second base, the frustration built. Terry Collins could see it.
“For a young guy back there, it can be embarrassing,’’ Collins said on Monday. “Our pitchers didn’t give him enough help, and we have to get better at that, but Travis takes a lot of pride in what he does. So it bothered him.’’
D’Arnaud agreed, saying, “I was in my own head. I was frustrated because I wasn’t doing what I’m supposed to do — relaxing, staying with myself and making a clean throw.’’
It was especially frustrating because d’Arnaud improved his throwing significantly during the season. Limited to 67 games because of injuries, he threw out 14 of 43 base-stealers, a 33% clip that was higher than the league average of 28%.
That was much improved from the 19% (14 of 72) he threw out in 2014. And when you consider that he had only one passed ball last season, compared to a league-high 12 in ’14, in part because he was a bit more conservative with his pitch-framing techniques, d’Arnaud’s defense was better all-around last season.
So as far as he and the Mets are concerned, his throwing in the postseason is a problem only if he doesn’t get back to his improved mechanics from the regular season.
Which is why Collins made a point of taking part in the first throwing drills for Mets’ catchers on Sunday, working mostly on d’Arnaud’s footwork to keep him from rushing and overstriding.
“When he stays back and he’s short and quick with his feet, he’s more consistent,’’ Collins said. “He’s got plenty of arm.’’
D ’ Arnaud agreed, saying he got into trouble in the postseason by being in too much of a hurry coming out of his crouch, causing him to overstride.
“I was coming out to get the ball, and my body would speed up,’’ d’Arnaud said. “My arm tries to catch up, but I have no legs or anything underneath me so it’s all arm, which causes inconsistency. It’s just practice, practice, practice. I know I can throw.’’
He doesn’t have to be Yadier Molina to be valuable to the Mets, as he continues to blossom into one of the better hitting catchers in the big leagues.
Of course, d’Arnaud needs to avoid the injuries that have plagued him for years. In 2015 he was limited to 67 games because of a broken finger and then a sprained elbow, but during that time he hit .268 with 12 home runs and 14 doubles, posting an .825 OPS that would have been second in the majors to Buster Posey had d’Arnaud qualified for the official stats.
“He’s a very dangerous hitter,’’ hitting coach Kevin Long said. “There were times last year I thought he carried our offense. The sky’s the limit if he can stay healthy.’’
D’Arnaud’s history of injuries is one reason the Mets are considering trying him at other positions — backup catcher Kevin Plawecki’s potential is a factor as well. On Monday d’Arnaud said he’s willing to “try anything’’ that will help the team get back to the World F Series. or this season at least, however, the Mets need d’Arnaud behind the plate, where his bat makes him very valuable. As for his arm, he needs to prove that last October was merely something of a jittery aberration, and not an ongoing concern.