One thing that I have noticed about a lot of Orioles fans (including myself) is that we almost view our catcher Matt Weiters as a God that really can’t do any wrong. I should probably preface this post by saying that Matt Weiters is my favorite player and I love his demeanor and the way he approaches the game so I am definitely part of this Weiters contingent. However it just seems to me that no matter how poorly Weiters might be playing a particular stretch or even season, he is always given the benefit of the doubt and maybe it is deserving, but maybe not.
Matt was one of the most hyped minor league prospects in the history of baseball. He absolutely killed the ball in the minors, hitting the ball for average and power while scouts deemed him with terms such as “Joe Maurer with power” or “Switch-hitting Jesus” while he was also noted as being of a great defensive catcher with a gun for an arm. Through his first couple of years in the majors he really struggled with the bat and certainly failed to live up to the hype that was set for him (as ridiculously high as it was). Behind the plate however he definitely lived up to the hype as he was pretty much automatically one of the best defensive catchers in the game and was arguably the best defensive catcher in the game last year. He rarely made errors, called great games (at least that’s what the experts say, I don’t have near the baseball knowledge to be able to determine such things), and put fear in baserunners as he gunned them down at one of the top clips in the league.
Unfortunately like I said his bat has never really come around. After focusing on perfecting his defense the first couple of years, this was supposed to be the season where his bat really came around and he developed into a good hitter for the team. I say good hitter because it’s tough to say at this point that anybody really expected him to live up to his original expectations, but he certainly could have developed into a true, quality #4 or 5 hitter. Instead he is hitting for a .240 average with 12 home runs which rank 9th and 12th in the league among Catchers respectively. 9th and 12th isn’t anything sneeze at but given the fact that the catching position is easily the weakest hitting position in the league, it’s really not very impressive at all. I don’t even expect him to be the top hitting catcher hitting at a .330 pace with 35 home runs a year like was expected of him coming out of the minors but I do think he should be in the top 3 or 5 and be hitting closer to .300 with more power. The fact that Weiters is 9th in all the majors in average when he comes in at .240 is really a pretty big indictment on how few good hitters are currently at the catching position right now.
While his hitting stats aren’t exactly gaudy, whenever questioned about Weiters’ bat, Orioles fans almost always immediately refer to his defensive capabilities. In the past couple years he was pretty amazing defensively whether it involved blocking pass balls and wild pitches, making plays at the plate, gunning down potential base runners; he was one of the best in the game. This year however his stats and really his overall defensive play have seemed to drop. He has 8 errors this year which ranks 14th among catchers when he previously has not had more than 5 in an entire year. He’s also ranked 14th in fielding percentage while he comes in at 8th in the caught stealing percentage column. While all of the rankings are obviously relative, it shows that in a time even when there aren’t a look of great catchers, he’s not ranked in the top 7 in any defensive category which is really supposed to be his specialty. Another point that O’s fans love to make his how Weiters ”handles the staff really well and calls a very good game”. Like I said I don’t have near the baseball acumen to determine if these statements are actually true (not even particularly sure how you go about judging that) but I do know that the O’s are ranked 18th in team ERA. Obviously that is slightly below average. Is it all Weiters fault? Certainly not, not that 18th is really bad or anything but it’s not good either but the majority of the blame for that falls on the pitcher because no matter how good of a game the catcher calls, if the pitcher is no good (we specialize in those) then the ERA will be high. With the type of starting pitching we have, 18th isn’t a horrible spot and maybe we would be ranked like 26th with an average game-caller behind the plate but I guess my point is that it’s not like he is making such a huge difference that he has turned a very bad overall staff (bullpen included) into a good one because of his great game calling. I’m sure he is good and is helping the staff be better than they would be otherwise but I don’t think he makes a big enough impact behind the plate to completely make up for his lack of a bat.
Like I said I am a big of a Weiters fans as anybody just do to the fact that he seems to work hard and is a solid player and seems like a decent guy. I just tend to believe that we as a fan base seem to give him a pass too many times for his play because he does so many things for the team, particularly defensively. Even though he isn’t hitting well people always seem to say “well catchers aren’t usually great hitters and he is great behind the plate”, and while he still may be solid behind the plate, at least this year he hasn’t been great and in my opinion he needs to be great in order to make up for his lack of a bat. Maybe he is just having a bad year defensively and he certainly doesn’t have a great staff to work with but I just expect better play from him and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for. I’ve heard people say “just wait till he goes on a streak at the plate and then you won’t have as many problems with him”. These things are directed at me, just really people who are starting to doubt Weiters but my answer to that would be so he would be hitting what, .260 after the streak? So then we would have a good defensive catcher who is hitting .260? I mean it’s still better than a good defensive who is batting .240 but I still expect more from him and I think he can give me more (the only reason why I expect it). I am not foolish enough to try to hold Matt to the ridiculous expectations that were set from him coming out of the minors, but I think it is pretty fair to expect and hope for better production in the future.