How Does Caleb Joseph’s Defense Compare To Matt Wieters’ In 2012?

26 games.

That’s all the Orioles got from their All-Star, Gold Glove catcher, Matt Wieters, before his season came to an abrupt end due to an elbow injury. Wieters was one of the O’s most dangerous hitters when he went down, slashing .308/.339/.500, well above his career marks in all three categories.

His offensive outburst was unexpected, but seemed to be replaced by production from guys like Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce and the occasional off the bench pop from Delmon Young. The bigger concern was replacing Wieters’ defense. Let’s not forget, this is a guy who won Gold Gloves in 2011 and 2012 and had handled the Orioles pitching staff the previous four full seasons.

Then, along came Caleb Joseph, a 28-year-old rookie who changed everything. In August, the Orioles staff has pitched to a 3.76 ERA. Their bullpen has been even more dominant, 3.08.

It turns out that Joseph has been pretty good defender as well. He’s cut down 44 percent of runners attempting to steal on him in 508.1 innings behind the plate. Here’s how Joseph compares to 2013 AL Gold Glove winner Salvador Perez and Wieters in 2012.

Innings Errors E/Inning SB CS CS% PB WP FP
Caleb Joseph (2014) 508.1 3 169.1 28 19 44% 5 14 .993
Salvador Perez (2013) 1115.1 7 159.1 46 25 35% 3 49 .993
Matt Wieters (2012) 1188.2 10 118.2 51 32 39% 5 27 .991

As you can see in the table above, in his smaller sample size, C-Jo has committed less errors per inning than Perez and Wieters and has had more success against runners attempting to steal on him.

How about the advanced metrics? Let’s take a look.

rSB dRS dWAR (B-R)
Caleb Joseph (2014) 5 10 1.6
Salvador Perez (2013) 4 11 2.2
Matt Wieters (2012) 6 5 1.3

According to FanGraphs.com’s glossary, Stolen Base Runs Saved (rSB) “measures how many “runs” a catcher contributes to their team by throwing out runners and preventing runners from attempting steals in the first place.” Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) captures a player’s total defensive value by rating them as above or below average. At +10, Joseph falls into the “great” category according to FanGraphs. +15 is Gold Glove caliber. Neither Perez nor Wieters hit that threshold in their award winning seasons.

Perhaps the most important and often overlooked category is pitch framing. The information in the chart below comes from StatCorner.com’s data.

zBall% oStr% +Calls PerGame RAA
Caleb Joseph (2014) 12 8.7 57 1.03 7.5
Salvador Perez (2013) 14.5 6.6 -46 -0.38 -6.2
Matt Wieters (2012) 14.5 6.7 -31 -0.24

Here’s a quick glossary for you:
zBall: The percentage of pitches, caught within the strike zone, called a ball
oStr%: The percentage of pitches, caught outside the strike zone, called a strike

Joseph appears to be the only catcher of the three that is positively impacting his pitching staff by converting pitches outside of the strike zone into strikes. He also has a lower percentage of pitches inside the zone called balls.

So is Caleb Joseph playing Gold Glove caliber defense? You could certainly make an argument for that case. The data shows that compared to the last two Gold Glove winners, he’s had more success throwing out runners, has been an all around better defender than Wieters in 2012 and is stronger at framing pitches.

Joseph leads the AL in DRS (10) among catchers with at least 500 innings behind the plate this season. He’s also first in caught stealing percentage. His 508.1 innings rank just 16th in the American League, which will likely hurt his chances, as will his offensive numbers (we all know those factor in).

All stats recorded prior to August 28 vs. Rays

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