Die hard Orioles fans knew what they were getting when the Birds drafted catcher Matt Wieters in the first round (5th overall) of the 2007 Amateur Draft: a great defender behind the dish and a powerful switch-hitter. After a year and a half in the majors, this season he’s finally proven that he can do it at the Major League level.
Last season, Wieters finished with 11 HR and to date, he sits with 20 long-shots in 2011. Wieters has appeared in 130 games entering Sunday’s game against the Angels, which is coincidentally the same number of games he finished with last year. This makes direct comparison much more equitable between 2010 and 2011.
Over his 467 at-bats in 2011 - which is the first of many new career-highs - Wieters is batting at a .261 clip with 20 HR and 63 RBI. He’s collected 122 base hits, including 27 doubles, 42 walks and struck out just 81 times on the year. Marked improvement.
Last season, Wieters finished the year with nine fewer HR and just 55 RBI while batting at a .249 clip. He recorded 111 base hits, including 22 doubles and one triple in 446 at bats. One sign of huge improvement is that he’s cut down on his strikeouts fanning 13 fewer times (94) than 2010. Wieters has been issued five fewer walks in 2011.
Wieters sports a better on-base percentage (.324.) The important number that really has stood out for Wieters is his slugging percentage (.448). Last year, he finished with a .377 slugging and proof of improvement this season comes as Wieters drilled a HR in each game against the Rays this past week.
One of the main reasons why he was selected as the Orioles all-star representative this year was his comparison to others at his position. Throughout the first half of the season, Wieters was unstoppable with runners in scoring position as he was hitting well above .400.
Although his RISP average has dropped off, it still sits at a lofty .330 clip. In 100 at-bats, he’s compiled 33 base hits with 4 HR, nine doubles and 42 RBI. With two outs and RISP, he’s collected 14 base hits in 55 at-bats (.255 average) with 2 HR and 21 RBI.
Last season, Wieters couldn’t buy a hit with RISP. In 127 at-bats, he recorded six fewer hits (27) than this year, including 4 HR, four doubles, 44 RBI and hit just .213.
Under pressure with two outs last season, Wieters batted even worse. In 65 at-bats, Wieters recorded only 10 base hits (.154 average), including 3 HR, one double and 16 RBI.
If Wieters continues on his current pace, he’ll end the season with 22 HR, 68 RBI and 132 base hits. All of those would be new career-highs for the young backstop. Not to mention, he would finish with a respectable .261 average in 140 games.
In 2009, Wieters hit .288 with 102 hits through 96 games, but he only jolted 8 HR and drove in 43 RBI. He hit .253 with RISP and .229 with two outs and RISP. This is an area that his improvement will be gradual over the course of his career.
This season, Wieters has only committed four errors, which is one less than last year. His fielding percentage is one point higher at .995 than it was in 2010.
Although Wieters has allowed three more stolen bases on the year, his caught stealing percentage is better (36%). He’s gunned down 32 of 84 possible base stealers compared to last year’s 31% (24 of 77).
So, the Birds organization knew that they were getting a strong defensive catcher, but he hadn’t produced the way he did in the minors. In 130 games with Frederick and Bowie in ’08, he jolted 27 HR and drove in 91 RBI in 130 games.
Even if Wieters doesn’t hit another HR the rest of the season, all of his power numbers have increased. As he continues to learn and adjust at the major league level, he’ll produce even better numbers next season in his third full season as the Birds’ backstop.
Stats were calculated before Sunday’s game vs. the Angels
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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.