Before going down with an elbow injury in May of last season, Matt Wieters was having an amazing season offensively. With a .308/.339/.500 slash line in 112 plate appearances, Wieters was on his way to possibly having his best season as a hitter since coming up from the Minors. One little problem: this is not the real Matt Wieters and sadly, it probably never will be.
With a career slash line of .257/.320/.423 while racking up a -22.5 career offensive WAR, Wieters did not become the power hitting switch hitter many people thought he would be, or did he?
Wieters only has one season where he finished with less than 20 home runs in >100 games. This happened from 2011-2013, a span of which Wieters did not have a batting average over .250 more than once. A batting average >.250 with 20 or more home runs can usually be transcribed as a “power hitter”, to some extent.
We see it from your typical power hitter players; lower batting average, but more home runs because they can’t get the ball in play as easy, i.e. Chris Davis, Adam Dunn and other lefty hitters that have the shift on them when they hit. Being that Matt Wieters is a switch hitter, he usually does not see the opposition shift as dramatic as they do against someone like Chris Davis.
The only standout number is a .418 average to left field as a right handed hitter, but other than that, nothing else stands out. One thing does stand out is that Wieters has a career .209 batting average on ground balls, while having a .262 average on fly balls and a .709 average on line drives. It definitely does not help having that low of an average on ground balls. This can be any combination of hitting a lot of ground ball outs added to being a slow runner and getting thrown out more easily on plays other players could get called safe on. Another possibility is that he is not able to find the holes in the defense on the ground as easy as other hitters. For example, Adam Jones has a career .274 average on ground balls.
This spray chart, from FanGraphs.com, shows the hang time on all of the balls hit by Matt Wieters from 2013-2014. (FanGraphs only has records going back to 2013 of this type of data.) As you can tell, Matt Wieters does hit a lot of ground balls that are spread out a little, but are mostly hit to the right side of the infield. This will usually result in the second baseman or first baseman going to field the ball. Being slow does not help Wieters beat out any type of ground ball to any part of the field, also.
All of this can add up to a lower batting average overall for Matt Wieters, but that does not necessarily mean less home runs and hitting in a park like Camden Yards for 81 games, that can help even more.
With all of this information already known about Wieters, it is clear we know the kind of player he is and probably will be for the rest of his career. The good thing: he is fine this way. What he lacks in hitting, he makes up for in defense. I see this trend continuing into 2015.
Steamer projects Wieters to have a .246/.311/.418 slash line with 18 home runs, 60 RBI’s, 0.2 offensive WAR and a 3.8 WAR overall (18.4 projected dWAR). These numbers are very similar to the kind of numbers Wieters has shown over his career and coming off an injury, this would be very ideal. Nobody knows what Matt Wieters we will get in 2015, especially after recovering from Tommy John Surgery, but my best bet is that his projected line will be very close to what he actually does.