ATLANTA -- Each afternoon, before most players and coaches arrive to the park, catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas camp in front of a laptop to begin scouting the opposition. The two run down that day's opposing lineup, scanning game film for tendencies, weaknesses and potential advantages.
Those sessions "never took place last year," according to manager Terry Collins, and the results have been startling. Through two turns of the rotation, Mets starters rank second in baseball with a 2.39 ERA. By contrast, they finished 17th last year with a 4.12 mark, despite using mostly the same rotation -- Chris Capuano over Johan Santana the only difference -- for almost the entire season.
The credit, Collins says, should go to the backstops.
"The catchers are doing a tremendous job on the game-calling side," the manager said. "The fact that they are personally involved in the game-planning, how we're going to pitch guys in any situations, I think the pitchers have bought into that. I don't see a lot of shakes going on, which is a salute to the job that those guys are doing back there."
Thole, in particular, leads the Majors with a 1.66 catcher's ERA through nine games, more than a half-run better than anyone else in the league. That is a significant departure from last season, when Thole ranked 21st in baseball in catcher's ERA.
"I believe that you learn instincts by practicing the right things, and right now he's doing a tremendous job behind the plate," Collins said. "I like where he's at. ... I don't want to change anything with the way Josh has played, because he's caught very well."