OK, I’ll admit it - I’m a bit of a stat nerd. As much as I’d like to, I don’t have a scout’s eye for the baseball. The numbers help to tell me who’s performing well and who isn’t and my love of statistics is a big part of the reason I’m obsessed with this game.
For instance, Adam Jones’ 31-homer, 102-RBI season tells me he’s one of the game’s best center fielders. No one at his position has more home runs or RBIs by a longshot. Somehow, Jones’ offensive outburst in 2013 has been overshadowed by a guy named Chris Davis who, you may have heard, has 48 home runs and 124 RBIs of his own.
Sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story though. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper. Matt Wieters’ .232 batting average is a career low, but the Orioles catcher is hitting .310 in nine games in September. Wieters also leads American League catchers with 21 home runs and 70 RBIs, something you probably wouldn’t have known by looking at his career-low .707 OPS.
A lot has been written about Wieters’ numbers this season, but I don’t think anyone has examined some of the most important statistics he’s posted in 2013. His .242 BABIP suggests that the O’s catcher has run into some bad luck on balls he’s put into play. He posted a .274 BABIP last season and a .283 over his career.
I watched Wieters’ bat on Friday from my seats at Camden Yards and was impressed with his approach at the plate. The box score reads 1-for-4, with a solo home run, but I was more impressed with a statistic you don’t see in many postgame publications. In his four plate appearances, Wieters saw a team-leading 28 pitches. He battled against starter John Danks, which helped to drive him out of the game after just 5 1/3 innings. It should come as no surprise that Wieters has seen an average of 4.94 pitches per plate appearance in September, 16th-most in Major League Baseball.
Quite possibly the most important number of Wieters’ 2013 season is 1059.2: the league-leading number of innings he’s been behind the plate. Wieters has caught 125 games, started 119 and led the Orioles pitching staff in more innings than Yadier Molina (979), Salvador Perez (971 1/3) and Russell Martin (938 1/3). All three catchers are viewed as some of the league’s best.
Catching is grueling, it’s physically exhausting and requires more preparation than any position on the diamond. In addition to studying lineups, working with each member of the Orioles pitching staff and wearing the armor in 100-degree Baltimore heat, Wieters is expected to put up big numbers in one of the league’s best lineups.
His number of innings caught suggests that Buck Showalter believes that Wieters’ defense is of more importance than his production at the plate. Instead of focusing on his batting average, why not discuss his AL-leading 23 runners caught stealing or .997 fielding percentage? How many foul-tip strikeouts has he caught that have saved innings for the Orioles staff?
The O’s have the fewest errors and highest fielding percentage of any team in Major League Baseball and a big part of that is their defensive captain, Wieters. Sometimes a slash line doesn’t tell the whole story about a guy’s performance over the course of a season.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.