During another losing Orioles season, there have been a few positive developments. The improvement of catcher Matt Wieters might rank at the top of that list.
At a time when some players are wearing down, Wieters seems to be just getting cranked up. His bat is heating up and he is hitting homers at a greater rate than he ever has in the majors.
From July 18-Aug. 14, Wieters went 21 games without a homer. But now he has homered in three straight games. He has hit seven homers over his last 16 games and has 10 in his last 25 contests.
Among all big league catchers, Wieters ranks fifth in homers, sixth in average, seventh in OPS and eighth in RBIs.
MLB homer leaders by catcher:
26 - Mike Napoli, Texas
24 - Brian McCann, Atlanta
23 - J.P. Arencibia, Toronto and Carlos Santana, Cleveland
20 - Matt Wieters, Orioles
Wieters had a combined 20 homers in 800 at-bats over the 2009 and 2010 seasons. This season he has 20 in 461 at-bats.
Buck Showalter said one reason for Wieters' strong finish is that he has maintained his weight all year. Showalter said that last year, Wieters may have worn down as he lost weight later in the season.
Wieters agrees that has helped him late this season.
"I've been able to stay strong throughout the whole year, which I've been able to get some cool days lately and just different breaks that came at good points in the year. It's something you're always constantly trying to tweak the eating habits, the weight-lifting habits to where you're going to get it to where it fits right for you, and this year I definitely did a better job maintaining weight," he said.
In 36 games since Aug. 1, he is batting .280 with 10 doubles, 10 homers and 26 RBIs.
In 128 games on the year, he is batting .262 with 26 doubles, 20 homers and 63 RBIs. His slugging percentage of .449 and OPS of .772 would be career highs.
Wieters continues to flourish as a right-handed batter this year. He is batting .348 with 10 homers, 24 RBIs and an OPS of 1.124 in 115 at bats.
"I definitely have had a good year right-handed," Wieters said. "It's weird. Right-handed, left-handed, it's always where you hit the pitchers at the right time. I think the strange thing is when you see a real career year out of a switch-hitter, they hit the right-handed pitchers when they feel good from the left side and hit the left-handed pitchers when they feel good from the right side."
No one has been able to provide a real reason why Wieters has been hitting so much better against left-handed pitching this year. Showalter has said the Orioles emphasized it more in spring training and had Wieters hit more off lefties in the spring.
After his amazing minor league stats and his status once as the game's top prospect, there was almost no way Wieters could ever reach the fan's lofty expectations. But maybe now they are seeing why Wieters got so much hype.