Where Does Matt Wieters Rank Among All-Time Great Oriole Catchers?

 

wieters

Now that Matt Wieters has agreed to terms with the Washington Nationals on a two-year contract, Orioles fans can finally move on…and stop thinking of scenarios that would land him back in Baltimore on another one-year contract.

The team moved quickly this offseason to replace Wieters, anticipating that agent Scott Boras would demand an investment far greater than the Orioles were interested in making.  (Interestingly enough, Wieters’ price tag ultimately proved to be much cheaper than many expected.) So on December 16, the Orioles signed Welington Castillo – most recently of the Arizona Diamondbacks – to a one-year contract with a player option for 2018.

Before Castillo takes over as the O’s new backstop, however, let’s take a look back at the 7 ½-year Oriole career of Matt Wieters.

Just how good was Wieters?

Let’s take a quick look at where he among the best Oriole catchers of all time?

Here are some “Matt Wieters Facts” – to borrow a long-lost phrase:

  • Wieters won two Gold Gloves during his time in Baltimore (in 2011 and 2012) – the only Oriole catcher ever to take home that award.
  • Wieters was a four-time All-Star, being named or voted to the team in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
  • In terms of longevity, Matt Wieters’ total of 812 games caught for the Birds ranks third in team history, behind Rick Dempsey’s 1,230 and Chris Hoiles’ 819…and just ahead of Gus Triandos’ total of 784.
  • Only two other catchers in Orioles’ history hit more home runs than Wieters’ 117 round-trippers – Hoiles with 151 and Triandos with 142.
  • Wieters’ total of 437 runs batted in also ranks third among O’s catchers, behind only Triandos’ 517 and Hoiles’ 449.
  • Of course, Wieters did strike out a lot – and his total of 651 whiffs makes him the all-time leader among O’s catchers, just ahead of Hoiles’ total of 616.
  • Wieters also grounded into his share of double plays – he finished with the third-most in Orioles’ history with 79. (Triando grounded into 106 and Rick Dempsey grounded into 88.)
  • In terms of slugging percentage, Wieters finished eighth among all Orioles catchers with a minimum of 200 plate appearances. Wieters’ mark of .421 is well behind team leader Charles Johnson, whose mark of .476 ranks him first, followed by Javy Lopez and Chris Hoiles (.468 and .467).
  • Wieters finished ninth in team history in OPS (On Base Plus Slugging) among catchers with a minimum of 200 plate appearances. Wieters’ total of 739 is nearly 100 points behind team leader Chris Hoiles, who posted a career 833 OPS.
  • As far as overall WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for his career, Wieters ranks third among all Oriole catchers with 16.3. Hoiles is the team leader with 23.4 followed by Dempsey with 21.3.
  • Wieters fares a little better in terms of Defensive WAR, finishing second with 7.0 WAR to Dempsey’s team-best total of 14.1.
  • In terms of great offensive seasons by O’s catchers, Wieters’ best years were 2011 and 2012, when he posted the 8th and 9th best offensive seasons by an O’s catcher, according to OPS+. Chris Hoiles’ 1993 season remains the best ever offensive season by an O’s catcher (.310/.416/.585 with 29 HR and 82 RBI…and an OPS+ of 162.)  By comparison, Wieters’ 2011 season was .262/.328/.450 with 22 HR and 68 RBI…and an OPS+ of 110.

So in looking at where Wieters ranks statistically among the all-time Orioles catching leaders, it’s fair to say that he will clearly go down as an Oriole “Hall of Famer” – and one of the three or four best ever to play the position in Baltimore.

But it’s also fair to say that he ranks behind Hoiles, certainly, and possibly also behind either Dempsey…Triandos…or both.

Personally, Triandos’ career was before my time – so it’s tougher for me to say.  But I’d rank Wieters as the Orioles’ second-best catcher of all-time, a notch below Hoiles but comfortably ahead of Dempsey.

Had Wieters come to the major leagues as, say, a fourth-round draft choice – with little to no hype – his Baltimore career would no doubt be viewed in a much different light.

But Wieters carried the burden of high expectations – thanks to his status as a first-round pick…his “super-prospect” status…and the pressure on him to help turn around the team’s fortunes.

The once-hilarious “Matt Wieters Facts” web site now seems like a distant memory, but I look at Wieters’ 7 ½-year run in Baltimore as a success.  While he struggled to return to form after his 2014 injury, he was one of the team leaders during a stretch – from 2012 to 2016 – where they won more games than any other team in the American League.

Statistics show that Wieters is clearly not the best catcher in O’s history.  And defensive metrics – specifically the relatively new pitch framing metrics – suggest that he might be vastly overrated at present.

But Wieters was highly respected by his Baltimore teammates…and he was greatly valued by manager Buck Showalter.  I place a great deal of emphasis on statistical analysis…but I also find it hard to believe that Showalter was wrong about Wieters’ value as both a defender and a team leader.

While it will be strange to see him wearing the Walgreen’s logo on a red baseball cap this season…I still look forward to the ovation Wieters will receive when he returns to Camden Yards this May.

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