Judging by the 2011 All-Star voting thus far this spring, not too many baseball fans have heard, or if they have, don’t appreciate catcher Matt Wieters stellar numbers both behind the plate defensively and with the bat in clutch situations. The reason is probably because he plays for the lowly Baltimore Orioles.
The Birds’ catcher is not even within the top five catchers voting-wise in the American League, and his numbers are staggering and his fielding has been outstanding this season. Wieters is batting at a very high .488 clip with runners in scoring position, and he has thrown out a lofty 44% of possible base stealers.
Just because the Orioles have not won a championship, or even had a winning season in the past 10 years shouldn’t hold a player back from the attention he deserves for his success on the year. Wieters has been leading all major-league catchers in many offensive and defensive categories this season, but because he plays for a team struggling to play .500 ball, he’s not noticed.
The Orioles drafted Wieters 5th overall in the 1st round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player’s Draft and he flew through the Birds minor-league system; he only played in 169 games in the minors with 574 career at-bats. Everyone knew he would be the future face behind the plate at Camden Yards, but no one imagined he would spend about a year and a half in the minors.
Wieters’ standout numbers this season represent both his ability to hit with the pressure on and his ability to accurately gun down runners at a very high rate, which shows off both his offensive and defensive capabilities at one of the toughest positions on the field.
At the Plate
Wieters has been leading the world in one of the most important, yet under-rated, statistics for a hitter, which is average with runners in scoring position. As of June 13th, he was batting an amazing .488 with RISP. There are less than twenty games left before the half-way mark in the season, and it’s not a fluke that Wieters is still hitting for a very high average.
Baltimore’s catcher is 21 for 43 with runners in scoring position with five doubles, three homeruns and 26 RBI. Wieters has almost as many hits with runners in scoring position this season as last season already; he finished the 2010 season with 27 hits in 127 at-bats (.213 average).
Not only has Wieters been able to drive home runners in scoring position, but he’s been as clutch as one could hope when runners are in scoring position with two outs. Wieters is tied for 3rd with a .435 average with RISP and two out behind Lance Berkman, Matt Joyce and Brian McCann (tied).
Although Wieters’ other offensive numbers are not as staggering, if he continues at this same pace, this will be his best season as a major-leaguer and it’s only his second full-season behind the dish. Wieters currently has knocked five homeruns out of the park, driven in 28 runners and he’s batting at a .278 clip, with a .335 OBP and a .407 slugging percentage.
Last season on June 13th, Baltimore’s catcher sported a .235 batting average with four homeruns and only 17 RBI with a .300 OBP and a .328 slugging percentage. Wieters finished last year with 11 homeruns and 55 RBI in 130 games behind the plate with a .249 batting average in 446 at-bats.
If Wieters stays on track and continues at the pace he is right now, he will finish 2011 with a .278 average, with 13 homeruns, a huge jump to 72 RBI, in 144 games and almost 500 at-bats for the Birds.
Behind the Dish
Wieters has thrown out 17 would-be base runners this season, and at the same time, he’s been able to gun down almost half (22), an average of 44% of possible base stealers (only player who throws out more than 40% of stealers). Last season, Wieters finished the season with a 31% caught stealing rate and only 24% his first season in 2009.
The MLB average for caught stealing is only 28% of the time, so Wieters is blowing that percentage out of the water and really showing he can excel with the best of them as he has lead in this category most of the season and shows no signs of slowing down.
Historically, Roy Campanella has the highest caught stealing percentage at 57%, which is unheard of in today’s standards. If today’s stats were representative of his career, a 44% caught stealing rate would place him 12th on the all-time caught stealing catcher list behind Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
Yorvit Torrealba of Texas and Alex Avila of the Royals are the second and third catchers in the league, based on caught stealing percentage. Torrealba sports a 38.9% CS percentage and Avila’s percentage is 36.2. Kurt Suzuki of the A’s is fourth on the list and the last person with a percentage higher than 30%.
Wieters is tied for second in number of batters who were caught stealing (17) and he’s tied for second in how many stolen bases a catcher has allowed (22) on the year. Not only is Wieters able to cut down runners on the base paths, he’s been able to minimize his errors behind the plate.
He has only committed one error this season, in 32 attempts and 367 putouts, which is a 99.8% fielding percentage, which places him first among all major-league catchers. In his first full season last year, Wieters recorded five errors in 52 attempts and 775 putouts (.994%).
As of June 7th, Russell Martin of the Yankees was leading the All-Star voting at the catcher position with 1,317,557. Twins’ Joe Mauer ranked second with 829,073, Alex Avila of the Tigers came in third with 722,385, Carlos Santana of the Indians received 588,407 votes for fourth place, and Rangers’ Yorvit Torrealba rounded out the list at number five with 515,274 votes.
Martin has smashed 9 homeruns and driven in 27 RBI, but is only batting at a .232 clip in 168 at-bats over 50 games this season for the Yankees. As for caught stealing, he throws out 26.1% of runners and he’s committed three errors in 31 attempts and 344 putouts.
Wieters has one more RBI, a better batting average, more hits, at-bats, games, a much higher caught stealing percentage and fewer errors in more attempts on the season. Wieters is ranked first among all catchers defensively, while Martin lands 15th on the list, and he’s the AL leader among catchers.
Mauer, who yes has had a couple of great years in the past and lead the Twins to exciting and important playoff games over his time with the team, but this year he has only played in nine games…all year! And, he is second in voting. Right now, Mauer is batting .235 without a homerun and only four runs driven in 34 at-bats (he’s recorded only eight hits).
Now, why would a player who has played in only in 14% of the Twins’ games and has done absolutely nothing on the field thus far into the year, be second in voting and eligible to be an All-Star. I feel as though All-Stars should be the best players at each position, and not a popularity contest. We are not in high school anymore.
Yes, the Yankees are a great team and they will most likely make the playoffs and could possibly repeat as MLB World Series Champions for the second year in a row, but some players do not deserve to be an All-Star because of the team they play for. Statistics should be the sole factor in determining whose worthy of playing in Phoenix during the summer classic.
Wieters might not have the best average, or the most homeruns by a catcher, but he is the leading defensive catcher and has been the most clutch hitter in all of baseball. Those statistics should count for something too, but MLB fans don’t pay attention to small-market teams like the Birds.
Short-stop J.J. Hardy is batting .391 (nine for 23) over his last six games with two homeruns, three RBI and six runs.
Centerfielder Adam Jones is batting .320 (eight for 25) over the last week with two homeruns, four RBI, three runs and two doubles.
Third baseman Mark Reynolds is six for his last 18 with three homeruns, six RBI, two doubles and four runs over his last six games.
Vladimir Guerrero is struggling as he is only five for his last 24 (.208) with one homerun, two RBI and two runs over the last week.
Brian Matusz tossed only 1.1 innings, allowed five hits and surrendered four earned runs against the Rays last time out in his third outing of the season.
First baseman Derrek Lee will return to the lineup on Tuesday as he returns from the bereavement list after his grandfather’s funeral on Saturday afternoon. Brandon Snyder was sent down to Triple A-Norfolk to make room on the roster.
Second baseman Brian Roberts will most likely not be back in the lineup until after the All-Star break.
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About the Author
Written by Alex Van Rees
I am 22 years old and I recently graduated from James Madison University this May with a BA degree and a major in journalism. I live in Reston, VA, about 20 minutes outside of Washington. I am looking for an entry-level position with a sports media company where I can demonstrate my writing, interviewing and technical skills to better the organization.