Thole: If I don’t catch well over the course of this year, it will be a matter of who’s next.

2011 was a rough year defensively for New York Mets catcher Josh Thole; allowing a National League high 16 passed balls.  Because of this, Thole spent the off season working intensively with Mets catching coordinator Bob Natal doing whatever he can to prevent a recurrence of the defensive issues that plagued him, according to David Lennon of Newsday:

A big part of that process were those January tutorials with Natal, who watched countless hours of video with Thole during his first trip to Dallas. It was not exactly a highlight reel. Those digital loops contained each of Thole’s 16 passed balls — the most in the National League and second only to Boston’s JarrodSaltalamacchia’s 26 — and every other miscue from last season that may not have appeared in the boxscores. Eleven of his passed balls occurred in games started by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey

Photo taken by Michael Baron

The video sessions went as late as midnight, and after such close examination, the reason for Thole’s struggles soon became obvious. Just as a pitcher’s delivery can get out of whack if the same mechanics are not repeated each time, Thole’s stance behind the plate frequently varied. In turn, that often left him off-balance or unprepared to successfully receive or block balls, a fatal flaw at that position.”

I like Thole, but like most Mets fans I was extremely frustrated with everyone of his 16 past balls. Earlier in the offseason the Mets had been linked to catchers such as Jason Varitek and Pudge Rodriguez, but made a decision to handle the position from within. And so, with the club putting it’s faith in Josh, it is nice to hear he has put in the extra effort to improve. In order for Thole to become a successful everyday catcher, the bottom line is, he needs to become a much better defender behind the plate and he knows it:

I’m getting to a point where we’re not in a trial-and-error period anymore. It is what it is. If I don’t catch well over the course of this year, it will be a matter of who’s next, they’ll keep the line moving, and I can’t have that.

If things aren’t going well, they’re not just going to keep waiting on you. You have to take the bull by the horns and do it yourself. There’s going to be no ‘he’s young — give him time.’ Those days are over. It’s time to get it done now. I’ve got to keep going forward.”

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