Nationals Baseball: What will Matt Wieters be? Exactly what he has always been

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What will Matt Wieters be? Exactly what he has always been

If we're lucky, Matt Wieters won't surprise us. I say that because at age 31 the idea that somehow Wieters will suddenly fulfill the expectations that were set nearly a decade ago should not even be considered. No, the surprise that Matt Wieters may have in store would be a precipitous decline, not unheard of from aging catchers. If you look at his most similar batters you can see examples of this. Michael Barrett done at 30.  Jody Davis, Earl Battey done at 32. Charles Johnson, John Buck done at 33.  Rich Gedman, probably should have been out of the game before 30.

That's not to say it will happen to Matt or that we should be worried about it for next year, but I just want you to have the right mindset in place. This isn't about getting a bat to replace Ramos' 2016. This is about getting a bat to replace the potential issues with a Norris/Lobaton platoon in 2017.

What kind of bat is it? Wieters has been surprisingly consistent in his underwhelming performances since his first full year.  He'll hit for a low-ish average, say around .250.  He won't walk very often meaning his OBP will be fairly low, around .310. And he'll pop 15-20 home runs, ~20 doubles*, slugging under .420 or so.  He won't strike out that much (K rate under 20%). He will ground into double plays. A reasonable approximation of this performance might be Kurt Suzuki's short 2012 stint played out over a season, or perhaps a more impatient, contact oriented version of last year's injury recovering Jayson Werth. It's a bat. Won't embarrass, won't impress.

Do fancy stats suggest anything is getting better or could get worse? Nah. BABIP is fairly consistent with other full years, so he's not sneaky bad or good with the average. His power is definitely fading, but not fast enough that you worry he can't get 15+homers in a full year. K-rate is stable, though he is making less contact then at his prime, especially with pitches in the zone. HR/FB rate is stable.

If I'd be worried about one thing it would be the increase in softly hit balls over the past two years.  19.6% last year. 20.2% last year. Since the hard % hasn't dropped I imagine this again speaks to contact issues. He's swinging hard but having issues lining the ball up right. But as long as the K-rate stays where it is some of those squibblers will find their way through the infield for hits. Short of it is I think we're just explaining the deterioration we've seen since his mild peak, where he might have challenged 25 homers and had a few more walks, to what he is now. It happens to all players at some point and Wieters looks to have already started the process. This makes that 2nd year iffy for the Nats, and makes it easily understandable why 4+ years wasn't out there, but as for what we care about today, Wieters in 2017? Average is the best guess.

Behind the plate Wieters is a mixed bag. In things not 100% controlled on him he's ok. He can throw out runners, but is beginning to have plate blocking issues. Outside of Gio none of the Nats strike me as particularly wild, not the relievers either, so if the latter continues I don't think it'll matter that much.  The bigger issue is Wieters is a poor pitch framer and has consistently measured as such. How much does that matter? It's unknown but it can't be dismissed.

Wieters will be better than Lobaton. He will hit better and produce more than Severino. He may not hit better than Norris, who was deviled by some bad luck last year, but then again he might. That's the thing about Norris - you can see him hitting above average and you can see him repeating last year's debacle**. For a contending team that's too much variation to have, especially with no good back-up. Wieters is a good attempt at a solution to a problem where the Nats had a questionable attempt at a solution before. Will it work? Well that's the eternal question now isn't it?

Added - Nats sign Blanton? Looks like it. Smart move. Nats need bullpen depth. Blanton has been very effective in relief for two years now. Price should not be prohibitive. There's no downside here. I said yesterday that Blanton was the only FA I was confused at not being signed and that any team with bullpen issues, including Nats, should be harangued by fans for not signing this guy. More tomorrow





*He's never hit a lot of doubles. Peaked with 29 in 2013. Just doesn't have good speed. 
 ** You don't hit like last year just being unlucky.  Apparently high fastballs might have been an issue for Norris.

19 comments:

NotBobby said...

Thanks Harper. I was against the signing bc i thought Rizzo could better use the money elsewhere, but this wasn't really Rizzo's decision was it...

Also, I prefer Norris bc there is some amount of upside with his bat and pitchframing. As you outlined above there is neither with Wieters.

I will be happy with the signing if Rizzo moves Lobaton and keeps Norris. That leaves the Nats with some upside. But I am not sure if Rizzo wants to have two catchers who have never called a game for any of the SPs.

NotBobby said...

When was the last time a team has complete catcher turnover? Did it go well?

Is familiarity between a C and SP as big a deal as it seems to be talked about? Outside of obvious cases like Lester/Ross bc of throwing issues and catchers of knuckleballers is it really that big a deal?

Ole PBN said...

Good on Rizzo for the Blanton signing. Helps our BP quite a bit IMO. Depth, depth, depth. This is the first time I've seen management make an investment in the depth of this team in a while. Only thin spot is the rotation...

NotBobby said...

Yep very happy with Blanton signing. Think it was a consession by Lerner to appease Rizzo after the Wieters signing above his head?

Josh Higham said...

I think Rizzo would be very loathe to let Lobaton go for three reasons:

He is very, very cheap.
He is, by all accounts, beloved in the clubhouse.
He knows the pitching staff well, which maybe includes making Gio better?

Robot said...

@NotBobby - IIRC, the team went through about 50-100 catchers in the 2012 season. Ramos, Suzuki, Solano, Leon, Flores, and Maldonado immediately come to mind. I guess they hung on to the Buffalo and maybe another, so it wasn't a complete turnover.

Josh Higham said...

Which reminds me: Harper, do you know if Gio actually pitches better with Lobaton behind the plate or if "Gio's personal catcher" happened because of confirmation bias?

NotBobby said...

@Robot that is true but all those catchers were not completely foreign to the team. Here both catchers are new to team and have never caught any of the SPs. Normally that is a catcher who can fill in a new catcher on tendencies, gameplan, etc for new catchers. Here if Lobaton goes no one would have institutional history.

blovy8 said...

So is Gio getting traded to make room for the last two contracts?

Harper said...

notB - now I have a task for this evening.

JoshH - There was definitely a difference in 2015 and last year but they were equal in 2014 and Ramos was "better" than Suzuki in 2013. My guess is it just got into Gio's head and he's the type of guy where those things happen.

blovy8 - not necessary when they are paying for these guys sometime in the next decade

Anonymous said...

Opening Day Roster should look like this:

Starters (8): Eaton(CF), Turner(SS), Harper(RF), Murphy(2B), Rendon(3B), Werth(LF), Wieters(C), Zimmerman(1B)

Bench (5): Drew(L), Lind(L), Taylor(R), Heisey(R), Norris(R) -- 2 LHB/2 RHP, some pop, speed, defense

Rotation (5): Scherzer(R), Strasburg(R), Roark(R), Gonzalez(L), Ross(R)

Bullpen: Kelley(R), Treinen(R), Blanton(R), Solis(L), Perez(L)

That's 23 guys and 2 spots in the 'pen up for grabs. One of them being a long-man, so I'd think Cole or Worley gets that. That leaves one spot for either Nathan(R), Romero(L), Glover(R), or Gott(R). I'd think they give it to Nathan since others have options left, assuming he doesn't suck this spring. I think Glover deserves it. Albers(R), Martin(R), or Grace(L) could be factors but I doubt it. I think they dump Lobaton for a mid-round pick or a minor league reliever. Robinson starts in the minors and is dealt at the deadline for a minor league reliever. Goodwin could get a shot if Taylor stumbles again. Any injury to the rotation is risky. Voth is ready for a shot in my opinion. Cole could get a spot start, or Worley, but not much intrigue after those guys.

Can't wait for Opening Day.

Fries said...

Harper, what're your thoughts on Pagan? After the Blanton signing I don't really see it happening money-wise, but I'd love to replace Heisey with Pagan on the bench personally. Granted there may be confirmation bias there since the better half is a Giants fan and I've been watching them lose whenever he's not in the lineup despite meh production

sirc said...

If Pagan signs here it won't be as a Heisey replacement, it'll be as the MAT or Goodwin 4th outfielder/final bench replacement.

Heisey, Drew, Lind and backup catcher are locks.

Love the Blanton signing.

blovy8 said...

Love that they're only paying him 1 million...

PhthePhillies said...

@Blovy8. MLB.com is reporting $4 million with $1 million more in performance bonuses. (Assuming you're talking about Blanton.)
Still, I like this deal. I think the 3 stalwarts in the pen (Treinen, Kelley, and Solis) will be much more effective and dependable with another reliable guy helping out. Nothing kills relief pitching like over use.

Kubla said...

If Norris and Wieters are both good (somehow), while Z'n, Drew, and Lind all suck (more likely), could one of the catchers play 1B with Lobaton/Severino serving as backup C? Has either ever played 1B?

NotBobby said...

Norris has played some 1b. I do not think Wieters really has.

blovy8 said...

Deferrals, Ph, always deferrals. Svrluga has the deal as 1m (with a possible 1m more incentives) this year, 1 in 2018, 2 in 2019.

I like the Nats amassing depth in their current situation more than dumping everything into Robertson and losing depth elsewhere. It's probably better to be able to match up, and keep players healthier. We know that Dusty will run a good option into the ground, so giving him lots of somewhat equally good options is the best plan. The star power is in the rotation, which he seems to be more aware of monitoring. They have enough guys now that it's even possible that options will come back into play, which was hard to imagine there for a bit.

If we don't see a catcher trade, who's getting waived? Martin or Robinson?



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