Rene Rivera: Opening Day starter?

Rene Rivera: Opening Day starter?

While the Mets are expecting Travis d’Arnaud to be their everyday catcher this season, there isn’t a guarantee that d’Arnaud starts Opening Day for numerous reasons.

As it now stands , Rene Rivera will be the #2 catcher. Rivera has always been known for his defense than his offensive abilities. On paper, d’Arnaud is the opposite, despite developing an impressive pitch-framing skill.

Rivera earned a start against Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card Game. These factors have not necessarily changed.

Foremost, Noah Syndergaard will start Opening Day just as he started the Wild Card Game. Syndergaard struggled to hold runners on last year, causing the Mets to turn to Rivera more often than not. Syndergaard allowed 48 stolen bases last season while Rivera threw out 30 percent of potential base-stealers last season, above the league average of 27 percent. For Rivera’s career he has thrown out 36 percent of potential base-stealers, seven points above the league average. D’Arnaud, on the other hand, threw out just 22 percent of base runners last season and 23 percent for his career.

Other defensive metrics confirm Rivera’s advantage. In 2016, Rivera accounted for four defensive runs saved and now has 12 runs saved in his career. D’arnaud has negative seven defensive runs saved and now stands at -28 in his career, which means that his defensive liabilities have actually cost the Mets almost 30 runs in his 4 seasons.

D’arnaud’s strengths are perhaps less than one would think. The catcher hit .247 with four home runs and 15 RBI in 75 games for the Mets last year. Rivera hit .222 with six home runs and 26 RBI in 65 games. Shockingly, Rivera’s slugging percentage was 20 points higher than d’Arnaud’s last season. It’s safe to say that the shocking disappearance of d’Arnaud’s power should be of concern to the Mets.

All of these factors combined to give Rivera a higher value, as he recorded one half-win above replacement compared to d’Arnaud, who was worth just one-tenth of a win.

Given how similar the offensive production between the two was, and Rivera’s edge defensively when it comes to the running game, the Mets should strongly consider starting Rivera with Syndergaard on Opening Day.