Stats & Info: Matt Wieters

Kernels: A week of unusual occurences

May, 4, 2014
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Sometimes our weekly look at the interesting and unusual happenings in Major League Baseball lends itself to a theme. Some weeks it's just better to shake the whole pile of games and see what falls out.

• The Oakland Athletics' Sonny Gray spun the first shutout of his brief career on Monday, holding the Texas Rangers to just three singles. That's fitting, because in his previous start, the Rangers' Martin Perez threw a three-hit shutout against Gray.

It's the first time in 18-plus years that two teams have traded individual shutouts, on three or fewer hits, within six days of each other. On July 13, 1995, the Marlins' Chris Hammond blanked the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the following night, Ramon Martinez responded with his lone career no-hitter.

Since the 2009 All-Star break, the Rangers have been shut out at home on three or fewer hits just four times. Three of those are by Oakland.

• Friday's Detroit Tigers boxscore featured four doubles by "Martinez". That's not one player with four doubles by himself. It's teammates Victor and J.D. with two each.

The last time two teammates with the same surname each had two (or more) two-baggers was on August 9, 2002, when the Atlanta Braves' Chipper and Andruw Jones both had two. That same pair did it earlier in the '02 season, and Todd and Larry Walker did it for the Rockies in 2001.

By the way, the player who had the last solo four-double game? It's Victor Martinez, then with the Red Sox, on June 1, 2010.

• The Cincinnati Reds gave the Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo one chance to burn them on Wednesday. He did, opening the scoring with a two-run homer in the first inning. After that Rizzo drew walks in all four of his subsequent plate appearances, although only one was officially intentional.

The last player to homer in his first at-bat and then draw four or more walks (with no other outcomes mixed in)? Your first guess is probably right: Barry Bonds, July 27, 2007, against the Marlins.

It had been a quarter-century since a player did it and scored at least three runs as Rizzo did. Another San Francisco Giants star, Will Clark, pulled that off against the Houston Astros in September 1988.

• Matt Wieters brought an end to Thursday's Baltimore Orioles/Pittsburgh Pirates doubleheader at 12:53 am with a solo home run in the bottom of the 10th. Including two rain delays and the break between games, the twinbill lasted a total of 8 hours 45 minutes.

It was the first extra-inning homer to end a doubleheader since June 5, 2008, when Elijah Dukes' two-run shot gave the Washington Nationals a 10-9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals (who had scored twice in the ninth to tie and once in the 10th).

The Orioles hadn't ended a doubleheader with an extra-inning homer since July 4, 1973, when Elrod Hendricks took Milwaukee's Bill Champion deep. That game was the resumption of a doubleheader which started on the 3rd, but was suspended after seven innings because of a midnight curfew.

The Orioles' only other DH-ending homer since their move to Baltimore was on September 2, 1968, by Frank Robinson against the Yankees.

•  No, we didn't forget Friday's game between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees... you know, the one where all of this happened:
-- The Rays hung a five-spot in the top of the 14th, their most runs ever scored, and the Yankees' most ever allowed, in an inning numbered 14 or higher.
-- There was a 3-9 forceout due to Wil Myers coming in to form a five-man shifted infield. It's believed to be the first 3-9 play in MLB history. Our friends at Retrosheet do have a 4-3-9 play in 1917 where the batter didn't run to first and the defense had all day to record the out.
-- There was a rundown double play that was scored (4-3)-6-3-4-3-4-5-2.
-- There was a replay review in the 13th and another in the 14th, the first game (under either system) with two reviews in extra innings.
--Derek Jeter posted the first 0-for-7 game of his 20-year career.

Top stats to know: Baltimore Orioles

February, 27, 2013
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Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsMatt Wieters has made consecutive All-Star teams and won back-to-back Gold Gloves.
With Baseball Tonight visiting Baltimore Orioles spring training camp today, here’s a look at notable “Stats to Know” about the team that was among baseball’s biggest surprises last season.

No Star Power
The Orioles won last year without a superstar everyday player. Their Wins Above Replacement leader among position players was Adam Jones (3.4).

Three other teams had no position players record a 3.5 WAR or higher and they (Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, and Seattle Mariners) combined for a .399 winning percentage.

The Orioles WAR leader among pitchers was Jason Hammel (2.9), making Baltimore one of 10 teams that had no pitchers with a WAR of 3.0 or better. Of those, only the Orioles and Brewers (83-79) had winning records.

Tough to replicate this
The Orioles will be challenged to replicate their success in close games last season.

They went 29-9 (.763) in one-run games, the best winning percentage in baseball history among teams to play at least 30 one-run games. They also went 16-2 in extra-inning games, had 24 last at-bat wins (most in the majors), only five last at-bat losses (fewest in the majors), and went 74-0 in games in which they led after seven innings.

What a relief!
The Orioles got the most out of their bullpen last season. Baltimore was the only team in baseball that ranked in the top five in both innings pitched and lowest ERA by relievers in 2012.

The Wieters effect
Matt Wieters has been very valuable to the Orioles, not just for his offense, but for his work behind the plate.

Wieters has made consecutive All-Star teams and won back-to-back Gold Gloves. His 31 Defensive Runs Saved since 2009 are second-most in the majors among catchers behind Yadier Molina.

Over the last two seasons, Orioles pitchers have a 4.15 ERA with Wieters catching and a 5.33 ERA with others behind the plate.

Player to watch: Manny Machado
Expectations are high for third baseman Manny Machado, who was valued at 1.5 Wins Above Replacement for his 51-game stint late last season.

Perhaps most impressive was the power he displayed at age 19. Since 1920, only three third basemen had a higher slugging percentage than Machado (.445) during their age-20 season or younger and among them are Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx and Eddie Mathews.

Pitcher to watch: Miguel Gonzalez
Miguel Gonzalez, who didn’t make his debut with the Orioles until late May, was one of the team’s best starting pitchers down the stretch.

Gonzalez was 4-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his last seven starts of the season (including his playoff start against the Yankees).

Gonzalez significantly improved the areas in which he had the most control, as noted in the chart on the right.

Orioles return to Gold Glove glory

October, 30, 2012
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Getty ImagesMatt Wieters, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones were rewarded for their defensive prowess this season.

The Baltimore Orioles returned to winning in 2012 and they returned to their successful past in putting a trio of players on the Gold Glove winners list.

The Orioles had three victors in 2012- catcher Matt Wieters, shortstop J.J. Hardy and centerfielder Adam Jones.

Wieters and Jones each won for the second time in their careers.

Hardy won his first award and became the first Orioles shortstop to win the award since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1992. Of the three, he put up the best defensive numbers-- he finished second to Brendan Ryan of the Seattle Mariners among AL shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved and was finished first in fielding percentage.

Wieters threw out 36 percent of baserunners attempting to steal, second-best in the AL.

Jones didn’t fare well in the advanced defensive metrics, but led all outfielders in putouts by a wide margin. His 439 were 56 more than the man with second-most, Michael Bourn.

The Orioles of the 1960s and 1970s, with the likes of Brooks Robinson and Paul Blair, used to regularly put three or more players on the Gold Glove squad.

Last year's team had two (Wieters and Nick Markakis), but this marked the first time Baltimore had three winners in the same season since 1998, when Mike Mussina, Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar won.

All-Yankees right side of the infield
For the third straight year, the AL winners on the right side of the infield came from the same team. For the second time, that combo was New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and second baseman Robinson Cano.

For Teixeira, who led major-league first basemen with 17 Defensive Runs Saved, it was his fifth Gold Glove Award. He previously won in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. Teixeira is the eighth player to win at least five Gold Glove Awards at first base.

Cano joined Bobby Richardson, who won five times, as the only Yankees second basemen to win multiple Gold Glove Awards (the Gold Gloves have been awarded since 1957).

Other Winners
Notes and nuggets on the other Gold Glove winners …

The vote for pitcher finished tied for the first time. Both Jake Peavy and Jeremy Hellickson won their first career Gold Glove Awards.

Peavy’s win extended a streak of four straight years that a Chicago White Sox pitcher won. Mark Buehrle won it the previous three years. Hellickson became the first pitcher in Rays history to win one.

Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre won his fourth Gold Glove and second straight. He and Buddy Bell are the only Rangers third basemen to win the award.

Both of the corner outfielder selections led their respective positions in Defensive Runs Saved.

Kansas City Royals leftfielder Alex Gordon did so by a wide margin with 24, which helped him win for the second straight season. Gordon’s stats were helped by his 17 assists, most by an AL leftfielder.

Oakland Athletics rightfielder Josh Reddick led those at his position with 22 Defensive Runs Saved and tied for second with 14 outfield assists. He’s the first Athletics outfielder to win a Gold Glove since Dwayne Murphy in 1985.

Sabathia goes the distance in clincher

October, 12, 2012
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The New York Yankees turned to their ace on Friday, and CC Sabathia delivered.

Sabathia fanned nine and allowed one run in a complete game, as the Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 to advance to the ALCS.

Sabathia is just the third Yankees pitcher – and the first in 50 years – to throw a complete game in a winner-take-all postseason game. Ralph Terry (1962) and Johnny Kucks (1956) pitched shutouts in World Series Game 7s.

No Yankees pitcher had thrown a postseason complete game since Roger Clemens in the 2000 ALCS, and no southpaw had done so since Whitey Ford in the 1961 World Series.

During the regular season, no one recorded more strikeouts with his slider than Sabathia’s 136. It was more of the same on Friday. The Orioles were 0-12 with seven strikeouts on at-bats ending in his slider. Six of Sabathia’s nine strikeouts were on pitches outside the zone.

Sabathia is now undefeated in his last 8 postseason starts, the fifth-longest streak in Yankee history. Since joining the Yankees, he is 7-1 with a 3.09 in the postseason.

With nine strikeouts Friday, Sabathia moved past Whitey Ford and now has the fifth-most postseason strikeouts for a southpaw.

Though Sabathia stood at 111 pitches entering the 9th, manager Joe Girardi opted to let him finish the game. The Yankees are now 93-0 when leading after 8 innings at home in the postseason.

The Yankees advance despite hitting just .211 in the series. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, you’d have to go back to the 1962 World Series to find a series in which the Yankees had a lower batting average and still won.

Of course, the Orioles’ offense was even worse. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters combined to hit .116 with 0 RBI in the ALDS.

Including a 4-30 effort on Friday, Baltimore hit .187, which is the lowest in an ALDS since the 2009 Red Sox hit .158.

Orioles have been all about perfect timing

September, 13, 2012
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U.S. Presswire/Greg CooperChris Davis' relief win will be among the many treasured moments for the Orioles this season.

It was another day of Baltimore Orioles magic, one that kept the AL East race even-steven heading into the weekend.

The Orioles have now won 13 straight extra-inning games, tied for the second-longest single-season streak in major-league history (Elias tells us: the 1949 Indians won 17 straight and the 1995 Indians won 13 straight). There’s all sorts of intrigue in mining the notes from Thursday’s win.

The Orioles are now 27-7 in one-run games this season. If their .794 winning percentage holds up, it would be the best all-time

The key to the win, once again, was the Baltimore bullpen.

Orioles relievers allowed one earned run in 15 innings in the series, striking out 17 and walking five. They won all three games in the series.

Manny Machado, who won Wednesday’s game with his glove, won Thursday’s with his bat, knocking in the winning run in the 14th inning. He got a hit on a pitch that jammed him up-and-in.

Machado had only one hit in 10 previous major league at-bats that ended with a pitch in the upper-third of the strike zone or higher, that was also on the inner-third of the plate or closer to him.

His second came at the perfect time. And this streak has been all about perfect timing.

Here are the highlights from this amazing run.

April 16: The streak begins with a 10-4 10-inning win over the White Sox.

Elias stat of the day: Matt Wieters hits a grand slam in the 10th inning, the first Orioles player with a grand slam in extra innings since Harold Baines in 1999.

May 6: The Orioles win a wacky one, 9-6 in 17 innings over the Boston Red Sox. Adam Jones hits the go-ahead home run in the 17th inning and first baseman/designated hitter Chris Davis gets the win with two innings of scoreless relief, including a strikeout of Adrian Gonzalez.

Elias stat of the day: Davis is the 1st player to go 0-for-8 and be the winning pitcher since Hall of Famer Rube Waddell in 1905.

June 9: The Orioles win the first of consecutive games in extra-inning walk-off fashion, taking this one on Adam Jones’ game-ending home run in the 12th inning.

Elias stat of the day: Jones tied the Orioles record for extra-inning homers in one season, established by Frank Robinson in 1969 and tied by Eddie Murray in 1978 and Rafael Palmeiro in 1998, with that one.

July 14: The Orioles rally from a deficit in the 11th inning and another in the 13th inning, winning on a walk-off home run by Taylor Teagarden.

Elias stat of the day: Teagarden is the first player in franchise history to hit a walkoff homer in his first game with the club. Before Saturday, no one had done that in his first game for any major-league team since April 4, 2005, when Joe Randa did it in his debut with the Reds.

August 7: The Orioles rally from a 5-0 deficit to win in 14 innings, beating the Mariners on a game-ending hit by Jones.

Elias stat of the day: Jones is the first player with three go-ahead hits in the 14th inning or later in the same season in the expansion era (since 1961).

Thursday: The Orioles complete a three-game sweep with a 14-inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays, winning on Manny Machado’s walk-off hit.

Elias stat of the day: The Twenty-year-old Machado is the youngest player with a walk-off hit in the 14th inning or later since 19-year old rookie pitcher Don Gullett of the Reds singled home the winning run against the Braves on May 17, 1970.
The Baltimore Orioles hit six home runs against the New York Yankees on Thursday for the first time in franchise history (according to the Elias Sports Bureau) to pull into a tie atop the American League East.

Three of those homers came in the eighth inning, breaking a 6-all tie entering the frame. It’s the first time Baltimore hit three home runs in a single inning in the eighth inning or later since June 2008. Baltimore improves to 61-0 this season when leading after seven innings.

The Orioles are 8-3 in their past 11 meetings with the Yankees after losing the first four meetings this season and have totally outplayed the Bombers head to head this season despite the 8-7 record.

Mark Reynolds hit two home runs Thursday, his third multi-HR game against the Yankees this season. Elias tells us that Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, who did it for the Detroit Tigers in 1938, is the only other player with three multi-HR games against the Yankees in the same season.

Reynolds has six home runs against the Yankees the season, matching Mark Trumbo for the most against the Bronx Bombers. Reynolds also had six against them last season, matched then only by Jacoby Ellsbury.

He has eight homers in just the past seven days, the most in the major leagues, and the same number he had in his previous 63 games combined.

Matt Wieters got things started with his first-inning home run, giving him a 15-game hitting streak against the Yankees this season. That's the longest single-season hitting streak against the Yankees in Orioles history.

According to Elias, the last player in franchise history with a single-season streak as long as Wieters' was the Browns' Red Kress in 1931 (15 games).

Wieters is hitting .404 with a home run every 14.3 at-bats against the Yankees this season and just .217 with a home run every 26.1 at-bats against the rest of the league.

ORANGE CLUTCH
Lost in Reynolds' joining David Ortiz and George Brett in baseball lore as official Yankees-killers was the clutch hitting from Adam Jones.

Jones' blast in the eighth inning was his fifth go-ahead HR in the eighth inning or later this season and his 14th tiebreaking homer -- both numbers lead the majors.

His homer came on a pitch that Inside Edge labels “middle-third/inner-third.” Jones misses that pitch only 9 percent of the time, and when an at-bat ends with a middle-third/inner-third pitch, Jones is hitting .360 (84 points better than the MLB average) with seven home runs (tied for fourth most in MLB) in 75 at-bats.

DIVISION LEAD ON THE LINE
The outright division lead is now on the line Friday night at Camden Yards as Phil Hughes goes to the mound, and that could be a bad sign for the visitors. The Yankees are 1-2 against Baltimore when Hughes has started this season. And there's the high probability for more fireworks as no one in baseball has allowed more home runs than Hughes (32) this season.

Marlins 'steal' of approval up from 2011

June, 2, 2012
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Through the month of May, there have been 996 stolen bases, coming out to roughly 1.3 per game. More than 37 percent of those stolen bases have resulted in runs (when the base runner comes around to score after stealing a base). The Los Angeles Dodgers have scored after 17-of-28 (60.7 percent) steals, that’s the highest score percentage this season and they are 10-4 when scoring after a stolen base.

Base runners have been successful on 79.5 percent of stolen base attempts when the opposing pitcher does not throw over before their attempt, but that percentage drops to 62.2 if the pitcher throws over at least once.

Here are some other stolen base statistics entering the month of June.

Overall Steals Leader (Through May):
Emilio Bonifacio has been caught stealing once in 21 attempts. However, Bonifacio has yet to attempt stealing a base other than second.
Emilio Bonifacio
Bonifacio
The Marlins have stolen 60 bases, 15 more than any other team. They also have the third-highest stolen base percentage in the league (80 percent). At this time last season, the Marlins had only 24 stolen bases, and the third-worst stolen base percentage (58.5 percent).

Newcomer Jose Reyes has scored five go-ahead runs after stealing a base this season, most in the majors.

Late-Inning Culprit:
In one-run games this season, the Chicago Cubs' Tony Campana is 7-for-7 stealing in the seventh inning or later, and has scored after four of those swipes. No other player has more than four steals in such late-game situations. Campana also is 4-for-4 stealing on pitchouts this season. No other player has more than one steal on a pitchout.

Stealing Third:
Toronto's Rajai Davis is 5-for-5 stealing third base, and 22-of-23 over the last two seasons. That’s the most steals of third base over the last two seasons.

Catcher Oddity:
Baltimore's Matt Wieters has thrown out 11-of-30 base stealers this season, the sixth-highest percentage (minimum 15 attempts). Despite his success, Wieters has committed a throwing error on 4-of-30 (13.3 percent) attempts, that’s the highest percentage in the league (minimum 10 attempts). Last season, Wieters committed a throwing error on 2-of-91 attempts.

Slow to the Plate:
Base runners have stolen 11 bases, and been caught just once, against Mat Latos this season. Seven of those 11 have scored. Both totals are the highest among pitchers.

Rally Killer:
Will Venable has been caught four times this season to end an inning, the most in the majors. Venable was caught stealing three times on 29 attempts last season, and none ended an inning.

Throwing Over Matters:
David Wright has been successful on all five stolen base attempts when the pitcher does not attempt a pickoff throw before his stolen base attempt. However, Wright has been caught all five times when the pitcher throws over at least.

Price changes speed to down Angels

April, 25, 2012
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Kim Klement/US PresswireDavid Price tossed his second career shutout against the Angels on Tuesday.
David Price tossed his second career shutout as the Tampa Bay Rays downed the Los Angeles Angels 5-0 on Tuesday. It was his first complete game since July 2, 2010, a stretch of 52 starts without completing a game.

Facing an Angels’ lineup that did not feature a left-handed hitter, Price relied on his changeup. He recorded a career-high 10 outs on at-bats ending with the pitch. After throwing only 39 changeups among 296 pitches in his first three starts, 29 of his 119 pitches on Tuesday were changeups.

Success with the changeup also helped Price with his fastball. Angels’ hitters were 1-for-15 in at-bats ending with a fastball. In his first three starts this season, batters hit .225 with one home run against Price’s heat.

In his previous starts this season, Price had trouble retiring hitters after getting to two strike counts. Entering Tuesday’s game, opponents were 9-for-36 with two strikes against Price. On Tuesday, the Angels were 0-for-13 with two strikes.

Around the Diamond – Home Run Edition
• Chipper Jones turned 40 today, and hit a home run on his birthday for the fifth time in his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that ties Alex Rodriguez and Todd Helton for the most homers on a player’s birthday among active players.

• Two of the three shortest home runs of the season were hit Tuesday night. B.J. Upton hit the left-field foul pole for a round-tripper that traveled 323 feet. That’s the shortest ball to clear the fence so far this season. Matt Wieters hit a home run that shouldn’t even have cleared the fence – it flew 345 feet before bouncing off Eric Thames' glove and into the stands.

• One player who hasn’t been hitting home runs this season is Albert Pujols. Pujols went 0-for-4 for the Angels in their loss at the Rays. Dating back to last season, he has gone 23 games without a homer. That’s the second longest drought of his career, behind only a 26-game streak last season.

He has gone 69 at-bats this season without going deep, the fifth-longest run of at-bats without a home run in a single season in his career. Among players who changed teams after hitting 400 or more home runs with one team, only Willie McCovey went longer before hitting a homer for his new team.

Dan Braunstein contributed to this post.
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireBarry Zito tossed his first shutout since 2003 as the San Francisco Giants picked up their first win of the season.
The San Francisco Giants won for the first time in four games this season behind the arm of Barry Zito, who threw a shutout against the Colorado Rockies. He was just the second visiting left-handed pitcher to throw a shutout at Coors Field, joining Tom Glavine who did it twice.

Zito hadn’t thrown a shutout since April 18, 2003. He made 274 starts between shutouts, the longest streak between shutouts in major-league history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the third-longest streak of consecutive streaks without a shutout, but Tim Wakefield and Kirk Reuter both ended their careers without breaking the streak.

Darvish overcomes shaky start
Yu Darvish struggled early in his debut for the Texas Rangers, allowing four runs and seven runners to reach base (four hits, three walks) in the first inning. He settled down after that, allowing a single run on four hits and a walk in his final 4⅔ innings. With the Rangers scoring 11 runs, Darvish was able to pick up the win.

It’s the second straight season that Darvish had some trouble shaking off the rust in the opener. In his first start with the Nippon Ham Fighters last year, he allowed seven runs in seven innings. In his other 28 starts, he didn’t allow more than three runs in a game.

Quick hits
• The Atlanta Braves fell to 0-4 for the first time since 1988, when they lost their first 10 games. Dating to last season, the Braves have lost nine straight games.

• Daniel Murphy recorded his second career walk-off hit as the New York Mets improved to 4-0 for the fourth time in franchise history.

• Homer Bailey allowed three home runs to the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning. It was the second time in his career that he allowed three homers in a game. The last time the Cardinals hit three home runs in the opening frame was a loss to the Chicago Cubs on July 24, 2005.

• Derek Jeter and Matt Wieters each recorded four hits in the New York Yankees win over the Baltimore Orioles. It was the 41st time that Jeter recorded at least four hits in a game but just the second time for Wieters.

• The Boston Red Sox scored three runs in the ninth inning to avoid starting back-to-back seasons at 0-4 for the first time in franchise history.

• Starlin Castro went 0-for-5, snapping his streak of reaching base safely at 43 games. That was one short of the most for the Cubs in the Live Ball Era (since 1920). Riggs Stephenson reach base safely in 44 straight games in 1928.

Matt Wieters getting it 'right' at the plate

March, 29, 2012
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Matt Wieters' ability to hit from the right side of the plate improved dramaticaly from 2010 to 2011.

After a 2008 season in which Matt Wieters hit .355/.454/.600 in high-A ball and AA, many were ready to anoint him as baseball’s next great catcher.

Baseball Prospectus' system PECOTA projected him for a .311/.395/.544 line for the Baltimore Orioles in 2009, a line that would have been historic for a 23-year-old catcher in his first major-league season.
Matt Wieters
Wieters

Wieters didn’t perform to that level early in his career, with a Baseball Prospectus article at the beginning of 2011 naming him one of the 50 most disappointing prospects of all time, despite not even being 25 years old.

He broke out in 2011, and now is 69th in ESPN.com’s ranking of the top 500 players.

Wieters earned his first All-Star appearance and won his first Gold Glove in 2011. He also won Baseball Info Solutions’ Fielding Bible Award as the game’s top defensive catcher. BIS credited Wieters with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, five more than any other catcher. He also led the American League by throwing out 37 percent of base runners attempting to steal.

At the plate, Wieters started slow but hit 12 home runs in the final two months of 2011, and finished with 22. He was the second catcher, 25 years of age or younger, to hit more than 20 home runs and throw out base runners at a rate higher than the league average in the last 25 seasons. According to Fangraphs, Wieters was worth 5.0 Wins Above Replacement in 2011, the most for a catcher who played at least 65 games.

Wieters, a switch-hitter, took a massive step forward from the right side of the plate last season. His OPS from that side jumped from .561 in 2010 to 1.120 in 2011. He hit half of his home runs last season from the right side of the plate in just over a quarter of his plate appearances.

Against left-handed pitching, in which all but four of his plate appearances from the right side came, Wieters’ OPS ranked third among 226 players who had at least 100 appearances against lefties, with his slugging percentage ranking second.

Of note is Wieters’ .459 difference in OPS against lefties and righties; that’s by far the largest by any hitter who accumulated at least 400 plate appearances last season.

Much of Wieters’ improvement as a right-handed hitter can be attributed to more success against off-speed pitches. His .786 slugging percentage against off-speed pitches from left-handed pitchers was by the far the best among the 119 hitters who saw at least 200 such pitches. Troy Tulowitzki ranked second at .695.
Ichiro
Today’s Trivia: The Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki is in the midst of his 10th straight season leading the American League in singles. Only two other AL players have had at least four consecutive seasons leading the league in singles. Can you name them?

Quick Hits: Are the New York Yankees a sure thing for the playoffs? Coolstandings.com gives them a 97.3 percent chance of making the postseason. A half game out of first place in the American League East and with a six-game lead in the Wild Card, that seems about right with 16 games left. Six of those games are against the Boston Red Sox, and the Yankees have lost eight of 10 heading into their three-game series with one of the hottest teams in baseball –- the Baltimore Orioles. Yes, the 58-88 Orioles, who host the Yankees for three games then travel to Boston for three. Let’s take a quick look at what the Orioles have done since manager Buck Showalter took over.

• 26-15 since Aug. 3, which is when Showalter took over. Only the Minnesota Twins (29-11) and Philadelphia Phillies (29-13) boast better records over that span. If the season started on that date, the Orioles would have a 3½-game lead over the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, while the Yankees would trail by four games.

• Showalter’s first game followed Baltimore’s 73rd loss. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1997 Phillies hold the MLB record for most wins in history following a team’s 73rd loss. In Terry Francona’s first season as manager, the 1997 Phillies went 34-21 to finish the season after starting 36-73. With 16 games to go, the Orioles need to go 9-7 to top that win total.

• Another gem from the Elias Sports Bureau: By winning his first four games, Showalter became the first manager in MLB history to do that after taking over at team that was at least 30 games under .500.

• While Showalter certainly deserves huge accolades, another major factor was the return of Brian Roberts, who had played only 11 games prior to Aug. 3. He’s hitting .303 in 38 games since his return.

• Since Showalter took over, two of the top seven in the AL in ERA are Orioles starters: Brad Bergesen is 4-1 with a 2.37 ERA, while Jeremy Guthrie is 6-2 with a 2.64 ERA.

• In fact, prior to Showalter, Orioles’ starters were 17-55 with a 5.61 ERA. Since Aug. 3, they are 19-11 with a 2.92 ERA. So in just 41 games, their starters have eclipsed their combined win total from the first 105 games.


Friday’s Leaderboard: At .880, the Colorado Rockies easily have the highest OPS at home this season (the Yankees are next at .835). However, on the road, Colorado’s .657 OPS in the fourth worst in the majors, and its .228 batting average ranks dead last. The Rockies, who are 2.5 games back in both the NL West and Wild Card, begin a six-game road trip on Friday.

• Friday against the Texas Rangers, the Mariners' Felix Hernandez has a chance for a statement start on his quest for the American League Cy Young. However, like the rest of the AL West, King Felix has struggled against Texas this season. In four starts, he is 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA. Take a look at how much better his credentials look without those starts: 11-8, 1.92 ERA. So who has been the problem? No one has more hits off him this season than Elvis Andrus, who is 7-for-13 (.538) with five RBI.

• Is the Yankees' A.J. Burnett pitching for a spot in the postseason rotation? If so, take his performance Friday against the Orioles with a grain of salt. Burnett has a 2.48 ERA in 29 innings this season against Baltimore. Against everyone else, his ERA stands at 5.68. Non-Orioles are hitting .295 against him. The Oriole most confounded by Burnett is Matt Wieters, who is 0-for-9 this season, and 0-for-14 in his career.

Trivia Answer: From 1979-1982, Willie Wilson led the American League in singles, becoming the second AL player to do it for four straight seasons. The other was Nellie Fox, who did it for seven straight seasons from 1954-1960. No Ty Cobb? He never had more than two straight seasons.
Matt Garza is the lead story on Monday because he threw a no-hitter, the first in Tampa Bay Rays history and the 5th in MLB this season. In the live-ball era -- which is since 1920 -- and including Don Larsen's perfect game in the World Series, there have been 177 no-hitters.

There was something more rare and maybe more impressive on Monday. Joe Mauer had a 5-hit, 7-RBI game in the Minnesota Twins 19-1 blowout. In that same time period, his game was just the 44th time where a player had at least 5 hits and 7 RBI in a single game.

OK, so the 7-RBI qualifier sounds pretty arbitrary. Fair point, that's true. But what if you lower it to games where a player had at least 5 hits and 5 RBI and give Mauer more credit for having done it on the road? Since 1920, there have been a total of 132 games where a player on the road had at least 5 hits and 5 RBI. Even just taking this season into account, Mauer is the 3rd player to accomplish the feat on the road, joining Dustin Pedroia on June 24 and Garrett Jones on May 14. That would be fewer than the 5 no-hitters in 2010 and 177 since 1920.

So Garza's performance is still worthy of being the top news story. But with 2010 being called the "Year of the Pitcher", it's possible that Mauer's performance was a more memorable one.

HITTERS OF THE NIGHT:

The Minnesota Twins: 20-for-44 (.455), 2 HR, 7 2B, 2 3B, 19 R

Behind Joe Mauer's 5-for-5 with 7 RBI, and Danny Valencia's perfect 4-for-4 with a grand slam, the Twins handed the Kansas City Royals their worst loss in franchise history, and were one out away from the biggest shutout in their own (Minnesota) history.

Seventeen of the Twins' 20 hits, including all of Mauer's, came on fastballs, against which they hit .630 as a team on Monday. Nearly two-thirds of the fastballs they saw were over the middle or upper third of the strike zone, and they sat on those. Out of 23 total balls in play in those zones, 15 went for hits (.652), including eight of their 11 XBH. Before today, the Twins were a very average .284 on high pitches.

Falling behind was dangerous for Royals pitchers. Their first-pitch strike percentage was only 49.0, causing them to fall behind 32 of 52 batters at some point during the count. That led to a lot of fastballs (70.3% when Twins were ahead), and 9-for-14 hitting (.643, OPS 2.057) in that situation. Starter Zack Greinke managed to locate his fastball for strikes only 40% of the time on the first pitch and 50% of the time on the second pitch.

Minnesota also went 9-for-17 with runners in scoring position, a season high for the number of hits in that situation (though not the number of at-bats). All nine of those came on fastballs also.

Matt Wieters, BAL: 2-for-2, 2 HR (8), 2 BB

Wieters had his first career multi-homer game, and a career-high eight total bases, against the Blue Jays, going deep on a sixth-inning changeup and an eighth-inning fastball. That followed a four-pitch walk and a seven-pitch walk.

Wieters has been more patient of late, swinging at just 37.4% of fastballs and 47.4% of changeups in the month of July. Those numbers are down from 41.1 and 49.1 during the first three months of this season, and 46.7 and 54.8 during 2009. That's contributed to a combined batting average of .364 (8-22) against those two pitches this month, more than 100 points above his April-through-June numbers.

On Monday Wieters also saw 4.8 pitches per PA (19 total), considerably above his career average of 4.02.

Matt Joyce, TB: 1-for-4, GS (3), broke up no-hit bid in 6th

In his first AB, Joyce saw three different pitches (slider, fastball, change) before grounding out. The second time around, it was three straight fastballs. Joyce swung at two of them and struck out.

It was a nice strategy to stick with the fastball on the third AB, but it was a matter of time until Joyce got hold of one. After a first-pitch changeup missed, Joyce saw FIVE straight fastballs, all at identical speeds of 93 mph. It was the 3-2 pitch, middle/down, that went off the foul pole.

For his career, Joyce has batted only 5-for-42 (.119) in full counts, with 18 strikeouts. Only 0-2 counts, at .115, have proven worse for him-- as evidenced by his fifth-inning strikeout.

That "middle/down" sector has also been a tale of two pitches for Joyce. If he gets a ball in the strike zone, he's 17-for-34 (.500) over his career, bumping up to .520 if that pitch is a fastball. On the other hand, he's also prone to chasing pitches that are TOO low (32.6% in that zone), and hits only .071 (1-for-14) if he puts them in play.

Trembley the least of O's problems

June, 4, 2010
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In a move that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, the Baltimore Orioles have fired manager Dave Trembley. Considering the O's are something like 8-109 since last year's All-Star break -- actually 39-88, which is still brutal -- it's hard to make a case that the guy deserves to stay. But as in most cases in which a manager is axed, this team's problems go far beyond the guy filling out the lineup card, and that's the case in Baltimore, where the O's current rebuilding project is already on the verge of going off the rails. And the crazy thing about their 15-39 record is that a lot of things have actually gone right for them.

For example, Ty Wigginton is hitting .282/.365/.548 with 13 homers, and Luke Scott is hitting .272/.344/.524. If you had told me on April 1 that those would be their lines on June 3, I'd have guessed the Orioles were in the midst of a promising year, with the likes of Wigginton and Scott fortifying the emergence of Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Instead, the latter trio, the supposed building block of the franchise, hasn't held up its end of the bargain and is the reason Baltimore has scored the fewest runs in the AL. To wit:

Jones: .249/.271/.376, five walks, 45 strikeouts
Wieters: .240/.314/.347, nine extra-base hits
Markakis: .305/.400/.430

Obviously, one of these things is not like the other, and Markakis has actually been pretty good. But he's now 26 years old and his slugging has dropped in each of the past two seasons. He's dangerously close to being a singles-hitting right fielder. But he was supposed to be a superstar, and it's hard to say he hasn't been a little bit of a disappointment because of his lack of pop.

As for Jones, it's hard to know exactly what's happened to him since his fast start of a year ago, but he's simply been one of the worst players in baseball thus far. Last season, he swung at 35.2 percent of pitches outside the zone and 73.3 percent in it. This year, those numbers are 39 and 66.2, respectively. He's basically swinging at the same percentage of pitches, but more of them are outside the zone. And while he's increased his contact rate on balls out of the zone (57.3 to 64.9), that's not exactly a recipe for driving the ball.

Wieters' problem is that he can't seem to stop hitting the ball on the ground. He hit grounders 41.9 percent of the time last year, and this year he's hitting them 49.3 percent of the time, which is among the league leaders, most of whom are speedy top-of-order types. It's hard to be a power hitter, which is what Wieters is supposed to be, when you're hitting the ball on the ground. Those tend not to leave the park. There was no way Wieters was going to live up to the colossal expectations for him last year, and his .280/.344/.412 line was good, but not great. His failure to even approach those numbers this year is obviously concerning.

Is that Trembley's fault? It's hard to know for sure, but both Markakis (2008) and Jones (last year) had the best stretches of their career under Trembley, so it's hard to say it's all on him. The bottom line is that the guys who were supposed to be the cornerstones of the next great Orioles team simply aren't showing any signs of growth. Jones and Wieters are still just 24, so it's too early to give up on them, but if the next manager can't get these guys to live up to their potential, then the O's may have to start looking toward their next rebuilding project.

Matt Meyers is an associate editor for ESPN The Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter here.

FanGraphs: Best underhyped catchers

May, 28, 2010
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Raise your hand if you know who Matt Wieters is. I hope a lot of you out there have your virtual hand up. Now raise your hand if you know who John Jaso is. Ryan Hanigan? Carlos Ruiz? Now, there is probably a lot fewer of you with hands up.

Minor League hype is a fickle beast. For every Jason Heyward, there are five Brandon Woods. Many regarded Wieters as the savior of the Baltimore Orioles on his way through the minors. His numbers certainly supported that belief, but they have yet to show up where it counts. This isn’t writing Matt Wieters off as a future Major League star. He just turned 24 so he has plenty of time to adjust to the bigs and begin posting the numbers people dreamed out of him. While we wait to see if that will occur, some catchers that got nowhere near the hype of Wieters have nonetheless turned in some valuable seasons for their big league clubs.

Ryan Hanigan isn’t a sexy prospect but he does one thing particularly well and that’s draw walks. His 31 walks in just 293 plate appearances helped him to a .361 OBP with the Reds. Hanigan, whom the Reds signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2002, has had an even bigger success story this year with a .338/.449/.486 triple slash line while splitting time with Ramon Hernandez. It is a small sample, but Hanigan’s .409 wOBA has made him the seventh most valuable hitting catcher in the majors, despite being a part-time player. Hanigan is almost certainly not going to maintain numbers that lofty, but ZiPS projects him to post a .334 wOBA going forward, which almost exactly matches ZiPS’ .336 wOBA projection for Wieters. Maybe someone should start a Ryan Hanigan Facts website.

John Jaso also flew under the hype radar when he failed to show much power in the minors. What he did show though was good plate discipline and low strikeout rates, which helped to maintain a high average and impressive OBP. Getting an extended look in Tampa due to an injury to Dioner Navarro, Jaso has made his case for keeping the starting job with a .324/.449/.493 line.Jaso’s 8.5 percent strikeout rate is just behind Hanigan’s 8.1 percent and, among catchers with at least 50 trips to plate this year, they rank second and third respectively, with only A.J. Pierzynski bettering the unheralded pair.

Hype of minor league players is generally well founded. It comes from quality scouting reports and/or fabulous numbers. Hype doesn’t always equate to Major League results though, and certainly does not guarantee instant success. Sometimes it takes awhile and sometimes, solid Major League catchers appear out of seemingly nowhere.

Matthew Carruth is a writer for FanGraphs.

TMI Power Poll: top 10 catchers

April, 12, 2010
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Week 2 of the baseball season means poll number 2 for the TMI panel. This week we ranked which bearers of the “tools of ignorance” are hardest to ignore.

Catcher is the most demanding position in baseball. Taking hits from balls, bats, players - these human backstops have to also manage the game, keep their pitcher sane and at the same time be competent with a bat in their hands.

Who does it best? If you’ve watched any baseball the last few years you know it’s not really close. Joe Mauer hit .365 last season and through Sunday was hitting .381 this season. Oh, and he’s the 2-time reigning AL Gold Glover. He received all 8 first-place votes from our panel.

Here’s the rest of our top 10:

Others receiving votes: Miguel Olivo, Gerald Laird, Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Iannetta, Ivan Rodriguez

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