With his first All-Star selection and a nice-looking season (already more than 3 WAR) heading into September, it might be safe to say Matt Wieters has Arrived as a Major Leaguer. While he may never match the incredible hype that surrounded him ahead of his rookie campaign, he is certainly a more-than-adequate big league catcher.
Looking more closely at his numbers, we see the bulk of his value comes from strong defense behind the plate and the ability to play nearly every day. His offense is just barely above average (106 wRC+) but his splits tell a different story. Huge months of April and August offset (and obscure) three marginally ugly months in the middle.
The arbitrary endpoints game is fun to play as it makes shaping a “Matt Wieters only hits when it doesn’t count” narrative. His 2011 wOBA by month does leave much to desire: .360, .300, .292, .300, .417. For the season he owns a .333 mark – the highest of his three-year career.
Rather than using months to evaluate Wieters, let’s use my 10 day rolling wOBA trick to get a better sense of his season. Do the peaks bring up true lows or does he maintain a steady number?
One important thing to note: this wOBA is not consistent with his 2011 wOBA as it uses last year’s linear weights. The relative peaks and valleys are the same so don’t worry your little head too much about it.
Call me crazy but I think 250 plate appearances is more than 150 plate appearances. As such, I’m more inclined to think the very much league average Wieters is a better representation of Real Matt Wieters.
The other side of that coin is pedigree – Matt Wieters positively destroyed minor league pitching at every level, there is no reason to suggest he can’t continue doing so at the big league level, even if it took more than 1000 plate appearances to figure it out.
Of course, there is more than one way to “figure it out”. This season, Wieters shows very pronounced platoon splits for the first time in his career. The Orioles catcher added nearly 100 points of wOBA versus lefties in 2011 due, in no small part, to a drastic increase in walk rate paired with very high BABIP rates. The number that jumps off the page at me: 20% HR/FB rate as a right handed batter. Compared to his previous HR/FB from that side of the plate (5.4%, 7.3%), I might hazard a guess that something is up.
Providing the excellent defense and durability it really all we can ask of Matt Wieters. Watching such a large man fold his immense frame into the catcher’s crouch makes me appreciate his ability to hit even at a league-average rate. Does the recent hot streak of Wieters suggest he can be more than that in the future? Or it is just that – a streak. A tidy confluence of events painting a more hopefully picture of the star the Orioles thought they had?
Considering hope is in extremely short supply in Baltimore for the last, I don’t know, 15 years, I think it’s okay if they hang on to this one until Wieters proves he hasn’t actually turned the corner toward his fated super-stardom. Orioles fans have earned it, to say the least.