How Badly Are the New York Mets Missing Francisco Álvarez?

Ever since Francisco Álvarez went down with a wrist injury, the Mets have really struggled as a team. Is he the straw that stirs the drink?

JUPITER, FLORIDA - MARCH 08: Francisco Alvarez #4 of the New York Mets looks on prior to a spring training game between the Miami Marlins and the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium on March 08, 2024 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)

Just how badly are the New York Mets missing Francisco Álvarez, who hasn’t played in a month with a left thumb injury? On paper, the drop-off is clear. Going from having Álvarez behind the plate every day to having a Tomás Nido-Omar Narváez platoon for several months is not ideal.

It makes an underperforming Mets lineup that much shakier and a boom-or-bust rotation that much more likely to bust.

Was Francisco Álvarez’s impact on the Mets that strong?

It’s not like he was lighting the world on fire at the plate before his injury (one home run, .652 OPS in 55 at-bats), and his main metrics behind the plate weren’t eye-opening either. How he impacted the game goes much deeper than what immediately meets the eye, and it’s worth taking a look at.

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All stats were taken prior to play on March 21st.

Mets Miss Alvarez Behind the Plate

First of all, the Mets’ win-loss record by catcher is pretty eye-opening. The Mets are 11-5 in games that Francisco Álvarez plays in. The team is 10-12 in games that Omar Narváez has played in and a measly 6-14 in games that Tomás Nido has played in.

The Mets started this season 0-5, then went on a 15-game stretch in which they went 12-3 and won five-consecutive series. When Alvarez got hurt, the Mets were in the middle of their series against the Dodgers on April 19th. They won the game, and later the series, but lost Alvarez.

In the 28 games since Alvarez got hurt, the Mets are 10-18 and have lost six out of the eight series that they have played, dropping to the same place they were at the start of the season, five games under .500. What could be the reason for that?

As I already mentioned, Álvarez didn’t have great metrics behind the dish other than being an above-average framing catcher. His blocks-above-average was poor before his injury, and he wasn’t doing a particularly great job of handling baserunners.

It could be that Álvarez has a better feel for his pitching staff and does a better job managing the game, things that won’t necessarily show up on a stat sheet. If a catcher is good at his job beyond just what’s measurable on Baseball Savant, it can have far-reaching effects on a pitching staff that aren’t immediately noticeable.

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One way this impact can be seen in a statistic is through catcher ERA, which, in other words, is the ERA pitchers have when throwing to a specific catcher. Álvarez has been behind the plate catching the same pitchers as Narváez and Nido, but the difference between them in this metric is shocking.

Álvarez has allowed just a 2.15 ERA this year, while Narváez has allowed a 4.53 ERA and Nido has allowed a 4.82 ERA. The contrast is stark, and it proves a higher level of comfortability from pitchers with Álvarez catching.

While the sample size is not very large, last year we saw more of the same, as Álvarez had a 4.23 catcher’s ERA, compared to Omar Narváez at 4.54.

Last year, Álvarez ranked in the 95th percentile when it came to his pitch framing, where he was worth nine framing runs, the fourth-best mark in baseball. This year, he was worth one framing run, a mark that still has him ranking among the top 15 catchers in framing despite being sidelined for the past month.

Narváez on the other hand ranks in the 21st percentile this year for pitch framing, while Nido has been just slightly better than league average. Before Álvarez went down, the Mets had the worst walk-per-nine in baseball at 4.06. Since he has gone down though, that walk rate has gotten even worse as it sits at a 4.67 BB/9.

Getting Next to Nothing Offensively Without Álvarez

Not having Álvarez on the diamond is also noticeable at the plate. I’ve already mentioned that Álvarez’s stats before his injury were middling at best, but what about Nido and Narváez?

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Since they’ve had to take over, their offensive numbers have been extremely poor in comparable sample sizes to Álvarez.

Between the three catchers, Álvarez and his .652 OPS leads the pack in 55 at-bats, while Nido trails with a .629 OPS in 58 at-bats after homering on Monday. Meanwhile Narváez greatly lags behind with a .393 OPS in 55 at-bats. So even though Álvarez’s numbers at the plate weren’t great, he was still a much better option than either of his backups.

Álvarez is also coming off a season in which he hit 25 home runs, a number Nido still has yet to reach across his entire career. Despite his struggles at times offensively, Álvarez is viewed as a threat in the box in a way that the Mets other catchers are not.

The common theme here seems to be that Álvarez is simply an all-around better player than those who have been tasked to replace him. While his offensive production to start the season left much to be desired, it was still way more than what Nido and Narváez offer.

The same can be said for their work behind the plate, where Álvarez did a much better job with the pitching staff than his replacements, despite underwhelming pop time and blocks-above-average numbers.

That is the area which the Mets will benefit the most upon Álvarez’s return, even if he does turn it on at the plate. The lineup could certainly use it, but there are too many other proven veteran players slumping at the moment to where it might not matter.

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But if Álvarez can help the pitching staff, including guys who started the season strong but have since struggled (i.e., Jose Quintana, and especially Edwin Díaz), maybe the Mets go on another winning streak to put them back in Wild Card contention.

Right now, Francisco Álvarez is the Mets’ biggest x-factor and the team misses him greatly. If he can aid the pitching staff and mash baseballs at the plate, maybe he can save the Mets’ season. Until then? The Mets will have to wait it out with two much less capable options.