WASHINGTON, D.C.: At the plate, Matt Wieters’ production has been somewhat disappointing, and down a bit even from what was viewed as a down year last season in Baltimore, in his eighth year with the Orioles, who drafted him with the 5th overall pick in 2007, but allowed the veteran catcher to walk last winter.
Through 101 games before Sunday afternoon’s matchup with the New York Mets in the first game of a doubleheader in D.C., Wieters, 31, had a .230/.289/.358 line, 18 doubles, nine home runs, and 66 wRC+ in 387 plate appearances, over which he was worth 0.1 fWAR.
That’s down from a .243/.302/.409 line, 17 doubles, 17 home runs, 88 wRC+ and 1.7 fWAR in 2016.
Behind the plate?
Wieters has matched a career-high in passed balls (5), after allowing just one passed ball last season. His fielding percentage (.992) is in line with his career average (.993), and his caught stealing percentage (29%) is down slightly from last season (35%) and his career average (32%), though he’s learning to work new staff of pitchers, and new baserunners in his first season in the NL.
Wieters’ 2 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) are tied for second-lowest among qualified NL catchers, and in terms of DEF (Fangraphs.com’s Defensive Runs Above Average, which, “... measures a player’s defensive value relative to league average.”), Wieters’ 8.1 DEF is the second-lowest as well, and he’s in the middle of the pack with five errors, and second among qualified catchers in fld%.
To hear Dusty Baker talk about the veteran backstop’s contributions, however, you would not get any sense that the skipper is disappointed in the production from a catcher who signed late in the Spring, agreeing to a 1-year/$10.5M deal that has a player option for $10.5M in 2018.
Baker was asked if thought that the impact he’s made and contributions from Wieters have been underrated.
“Underrated by whom?” Baker asked. “It’s not underrated by those of us that manage or those of us that pitch. I’ve been fortunate enough to have two catchers the last couple years, I had [Wilson] Ramos last year, who was a heck of a catcher and getting better, and now Wieters, who was more probably a college player, and a little more advanced.
“You can’t make it without a good catcher. I had Ryan Hanigan [with the Cincinnati Reds], and he was one of the best.
“And I had Kirt Manwaring [with the San Francisco Giants], also one of the best. I’ve had some good catchers along the way, and that’s where you start.
“The catcher is my field general, you know, so not only framing, game-calling, he has to recognize when to take the air out of the ball as much as anything.”
Baker said he also called upon his catchers to set the pace and calm his starters down with a few simple tricks.
“Sometimes I ask them not to throw the ball back to them,” he explained, “because all the action happens in a matter of seconds. So sometimes you just hold the ball and if he holds the ball and doesn’t throw it back to him, then he can’t get all flustered or frustrated, so a good catcher is worth his weight in gold.”
Will Wieters be back in D.C. in 2018?
With the relative lack of interest this offseason, taking $10.5M to return to the Nats and what should be a competitive team seems like a no-brainer.
Will the Nationals start to transition to their in-house options, like Pedro Severino, who has struggled offensively at Triple-A this season, but was labeled the Nats’ “catcher of the future” by GM Mike Rizzo this winter, even as the Nationals pursued other options?