Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Who is Matt Wieters?
These were all phrases (however sarcastic or serious they may or may not have been) used to describe the potential of Matt Wieters. With such high expectations, some O's fans have been disappointed with the production coming from their young backstop. Let's take a look at exactly who Matt Wieters is, and whether or not O's fans have a right to be disappointed in their catcher.
Let's start with the area Wieters excels in. Gold Glove? Check. Fielding Bible Award? Check. Defense is where Wieters is head and shoulders above other peers his age. Wieters threw out 36% of baserunners in 2011 and, according to Bill James, saved 14 runs over the course of the season solely through his defense.
Let's compare some of Wieters' stats to his contemporaries. Wieters' slash line of .262/.328/.450 compares favorably to the ML average of .245/.314/.390. Ironically, Wieters had only a .276 BABIP which was .007 points lower than the average catcher suggesting Wieters was more unlucky than his peers.
This may be a quick and dirty analysis of Wieters' 2011 season but there's not much more to it. Wieters accumulated 4.3 WAR over the course of the season, second only to Alex Avila among qualified catchers. As such, Wieters was among the best catchers in baseball last year.
Mauer with Power?
Wieters' first pro season came in 2008, the year Mauer hit .328 and posted a WAR over 6. Fans continued to get excited as Wieters put up Mauer-like numbers in the minors hitting over .300 at every level of the minors between 2008 and 2009. Mauer was even more absurd in 2009 hitting .365 and getting on base over 44% of the time. Is it fair to compare Wieters to Mauer during these years when Mauer hit better for average than any catcher ever? No, it's not. Joe Mauer has a career average of .323, something Wieters doesn't seem to be approaching just yet. So if you want Wieters to hit .320 with better power than Mauer, good luck. However, Bill James projects Wieters to hit .281 next year, including improving on his OBP and SLG numbers from 2011. Wieters is elite defensively, and continues to grow offensively with each year he spends in the major leagues.
What is becoming more realistic is a guy who hits .290, gets on base 35% of the time and hits 20-30 HRs in the prime of his career. Remember, Wieters is only 25 years old and is still learning a lot. If those numbers come along with being one of if not the best defensive catchers in baseball, he'll be in the same neighborhood as Joe Mauer. O's fan should rejoice, they have a star-caliber player anchoring their team for (hopefully) many years to come.