• Apr

    Is Matt Wieters really worse than Cesar Izturis when behind in count?

    Hangout poster nadecir posted some interesting stats about how poor Matt Wieters has been over his career when behind in the count. In fact, I would say they are pretty shocking!

    Here are some of his thoughts:

    "The key here is to figure out why Wieters is not hitting major league pitching close to what he did in the minors. Saying that major league pitching is better is NOT the answer to this question. There have been plenty of players with minor league numbers a lot worse than Wieters' who have been more successful sooner in their major league career.

    One thing that really stands out if you look at Wieters' stats is that he really doesn't do well at all if the pitcher gets ahead in the count. Take a look at these stats from Baseball Reference:

    When Wieters is ahead in the count, he has a career OPS of 1.051.
    When Wieters is even in the count, he has a career OPS of .677.
    When Wieters is behind in the count, he has a career OPS of .373

    Let's compare this to Brian Roberts:

    When Roberts is ahead in the count, he has a career OPS of 1.026.
    When Roberts is even in the count, he has a career OPS of .668.
    When Roberts is behind in the count, he has a career OPS of .593

    The only time Brian Roberts hits better than Matt Wieters is when they are behind in the count. In terms of percentages faced in their careers in each situation it's remarkably close between Wieters and Roberts. Both hit ahead in the count about 37% of the time, even in the count about 35% of the time, and behind in the count about 28% of the time.

    Here are the career OPS of some other Orioles regulars when they are behind in the count:
    Adam Jones - .587
    Vladimar Guerrero - .700
    Luke Scott - .491
    Nick Markakis - .626
    Mark Reynolds - .496
    Derrek Lee - .556
    JJ Hardy - .605

    A couple more young non-Orioles players OPS' when they are behind:

    Buster Posey - .616
    Jason Heyward - .580

    Wieters is a much worse hitter behind in the count than most major leaguers. It is safe to say that so far in his career, Matt Wieters is a poor major league hitter behind in the count.

    Going one step further - look at this stat. Swinging on the first pitch he sees in a plate appearance, Wieters has an OPS of .864 in his career. In comparison, Brian Roberts has a career OPS of .737 when he swings at the first pitch. Wieters has 6 of his 20 career homeruns on the first pitch.

    It's plain to see that so far Wieters just doesn't hit well when the pitcher has an advantage in the count. We don't know why. Perhaps Wieters is a good guess hitter, or he chases pitches too much behind in the count. In any event, I'd rather see Wieters be more aggressive earlier in the count going forward, so there is less of a chance of him falling behind in the count where he hits so poorly.

    It's amazing. Wieters turns into a poor man's Cesar Izturis when he gets behind in the count.

    at 0-1, Wieters has a .476 OPS
    at 0-2, Wieters has a .378 OPS
    at 1-2, Wieters has a .319 OPS

    You can get a good clue about Wieters at-bats from the first pitch. If the first pitch is a strike, Wieters has a career OPS of .513 for those at-bats. If the first pitch is a ball, Wieters has a career .902 OPS for those at-bats.

    By the way when I say Wieters turns into a "poor-man's Cesar Izturis" when he's behind in the count, that's not exactly true. Izturis' OPS behind in the count is .499 compared to Wieters .373. Izturis hits better than Wieters so far in their careers when the pitcher is ahead.

    I don't know for sure, but I guess that Wieters sees more first pitch strikes in the majors, and gets behind in the count more in the majors, versus what he saw in the minors. And Wieters seems to be a very good hitter when he can look for his pitch to hit, and a bad hitter when he doesn't have that luxury."

    First off this is the kind of quality post that makes me love the Hangout message board. Secondly, it might highlight the fact that Wieters may need to be more aggressive early in the count. When you add in the fact that he has a career .623 OPS from the right side of the plate, there has to be some major concerns at this point as to whether Wieters will ever become an impact bat.

    People have talked about Wieters' slow bat, but for me it's more of a long swing that's hurting him and it seems the book is getting out on him. In his rookie year he saw 59.2% fastballs and he put up an impressive 6.6 wFB against them. He struggled however against off speed pitches putting up a -4.6 against sliders, -1.4 against curveballs and -2.4 against changeups. Last year he saw 57.8% fastballs and dropped to a -1.1 which is probably why people started to suggest his bat was slow. He still struggled however on offspeed pitches (-1.4 SL, -2.2 CB, -1. Ch).

    This season, pitchers are throwing Wieters a steady diet of off speed pitches and he's seen only 44.7% fastballs but 22.4% curveballs and 24.7% changeups. This tells me the book on Wieters is not to try and throw fastballs by him, but to get him out with offspeed stuff.

    It's early and the numbers won't be as skewed by year's end, but one thing is certain is that Wieters has been a terrible hitter when down in the count throughout his career and that pitchers are throwing him more and more offspeed pitches, perhaps because they've found a weakness.

    Is the weakness a slow bat? Perhaps. Batters with slow bat speed have to guess and cheat more and that leaves them susceptible to off-speed pitches which is exactly what Wieters looks like he is right now.

    Either way there’s a lot of data now that suggests Wieters is trending in the wrong direction offensively and although his defense and game calling have become his hallmark, there should be some major concern that his bat is never going to much more than mediocre.


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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.