After tearing it up as a college hitter and then being named the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters had a strong rookie year in 2009.
He seemed poise for a possible breakout, all-star-type season in 2010. Instead, Wieters took a step back offensively.
While some just felt Wieters was over-hyped and not as good as advertised, it's just too soon to make that call. But I think there was a reason - call it an excuse if you want - for Wieters' statistical dropoff in 2010.
He may have been used too much early in the year.
First, here are Wieters' stats for 2009 and 2010.
Wieters in 2009:
.288, 9 homers, 43 RBIs
.340 on-base percentage
.412 slugging percentage
Wieters in 2010:
.249, 11homers, 55 RBIs
.319 on-base percentage
I also think Wieters showed the possible impact of the heavy amount of games played load early in 2010 and not late, as you might expect.
Wieters played in 47 of 51 O's games in April and May, or 92 percent. He played in 44 of 58 in August and September, or 76 percent.
On May 22, Wieters was batting .262. But he was also playing just about every day. By June 19, his average was down to .222.
Also, he went a career-high 30 games without a homer from May 6 to June 13.
There could be many reasons for that, but I think we have to consider that he was just playing too often at a position that is both mentally and physically demanding and draining.
Some fans will say, "He's only 24, how did he tire by Memorial Day?" Maybe some of that falls on Wieters to handle the strain better. But he's a big guy with a lot of pressure on him and all catchers need regular rest, even in the season's opening months.
Later in the year, Wieters got some rest, but not by just being rested. He was on the disabled list from July 10-25. Perhaps somewhat freshened up by that DL stint, he hit .282 in September.
Moving into the 2011 season, I just feel Buck Showalter has to consider more rest earlier in the year for Wieters. Maybe even more games as a designated hitter. Did you know Wieters had just seven at bats as a DH in 2010?
The hype and expectations Wieters has had to deal with have been unreal. Some fans wanted the next Joe Mauer from his first big league game. That was a little unfair.
Also, it seemed to me that Wieters played more relaxed and with more confidence after Buck Showalter took over. Clearly, Showalter made Wieters someone to handle with care and was quick to often praise the young catcher with the media. (It should be pointed out that Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel were also very supportive and praised Wieters often).
Project "Fill Wieters With Confidence" was under way late last summer. That was a good plan, if you ask me.
After two seasons and 800 at-bats, Wieters should be expected to deliver more this year. Maybe now, with a better lineup around him and Showalter's support, he will be ready to take a big step forward.
Maybe Wieters will deliver the goods in 2011.