Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On Matt Wieters: A Quick Rebuttal

I was reading a post by blog-buddy frostking over at Camden Crazies about Matt Wieters and how he has underwhelmed thus far, especially with the bat. It's worth reading and he makes some good observations about the cause of some of these trouble.

However, he misses on a couple things that I will point out here. First, on Wieter's patience at the plate:

I don’t know if he’s just over-anxious or has some issues with pitch recognition...but until he takes a more patient approach at the plate I don’t think we’ll see quite the hitter we expected.

Well, the walks aren't there and (as frostking's data seems to indicate) Wieters is chasing ball outside of the zone. But he's not impatient.

Pitches per Plate Appearance for Baltimore Orioles:

Wieters 4.1
Reimold 4.0
ZAUN 4.0
Roberts 4.0
Salazar 3.9

Wieters is being as patient as Oriole at the plate, he's just having issues with pitch recognition. And why is that? I have a theory.

Matt Wieters Left/Right Splits:

Wieters vs RHP 80 .316 .350 .461 .821
Wieters vs LHP 69 .222 .290 .302 .611

Wieters is struggling against lefties in the majors and has been done no favors as Baltimore has been facing an unprecedented number of LHP's since Wieters arrival. A whopping 46% of Wieters' plate appearances have been against lefthanded pitching. By comparison, Brian Roberts has only faced lefties 34% of the time. Facing this much lefthanded pitching just doesn't happen over the course of a season.

So Wieters has had to make the toughest transition in sports against the best lefthanded pitchers in the world and only faced lefties 28% of the time during his entire (albeit brief) minor league career. Is it any wonder he has struggled? He's barely seen any professional lefthanded hurlers before May.

Besides, I've already told you that Christ in a Catcher's Mask needs to wander in the wilderness for 40 games before he comes to town and starts dropping the miracles. Last night was game 39 (he went 4-5) and the last 6 games he is OPSing .933.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Baltimore to be born?


FrostKing said...

Excellent points - and generally speaking, I always enjoy hearing your opinions on things even if they differ from mine (perhaps even especially when they do). By patience I really did mean taking more pitches (ie, not swinging at so many balls) and not so much a propensity to put the ball in play on the first pitch every time. His pitches/PA would likely be lower if his contact rate was better - since he's swinging more than I would like - but he's going deeper into counts a little more as a byproduct of swinging and missing as opposed to working the count. I call not chasing pitches outside the zone (and swinging at more pitches in the zone) impatient - you have a different way of defining that. I'd say it's all pitch recognition if he was just chasing a lot (can't tell a fastball down the middle from a slider in the dirt), but he's been swinging a lot in general and that's what my issue was.

The lefties thing is a legitimite point that I didn't think about. It may very well help explain the potential pitch recognition part of the problem, as cutters and change-ups - pitches I think he'd be more likely to see from lefties - are some of the main ones he's having issues with.

Last night he grounded out on a first pitch, and singled on a 1-1 pitch (called strike), a 2-1 pitch (called strike), a 2-0 pitch, and a 2-2 pitch (a called strike and a couple foul balls). That's the kind of patience I was talking about, and the results were good.

DempseysArmy said...

I don't know man. Guys with high P/PA don't tend to be guys with no plate discipline. Youklis, Mauer, Branyan, Cust, Longoria, Ortiz...all with P/PA of 4.1 or 4.2. I'm going to split with you on that one.

The cutter and changeups being directly related to lefties...great point, hadn't thought of that.

Yeah, don't take it personally if I disagree with you, not singling you out. I just like to argue!

FrostKing said...

Yeah, but other guys in Wieters' range include Alex Cora, Adam Lind, Franklin Gutierrez, and Mark Reynolds. Not "no" plate discipline guys, but not near in the class of Mauer and the like and a fair deal below what you might expect from Wieters. There are different ways to get to 4 pitches / PA, but if you're swinging a lot a chasing balls then that's more generally not good. Not that Wieters has been awful about it, just worse than I would like - and clearly he should tailor his game to what I want.

And I don't take it personally at all - this kind of discussion was sort of the point of the BORT, though unfortunately it didn't keep up.

DempseysArmy said...

Well, I'd disagree that guys like Cora, Lind and Reynolds are not "patient". They may chase pitches out of the zone but that's pitch recognition/zone control. They are not the greatest of hitters when they make contact but that's not the same skill. Alex Cora, for example, has a pretty decent OBP in relation to his batting average. I'm not saying that Cora is a good hitter but his patience a the plate (and his glove) make his a marginal major league player instead of a washout.

I expect (hope) that Wieters is a better "hitter" than Cora or Reynolds and that his "zone control" inproves and the "patience" he demonstrates now pays off in better OBP at that point. These are all different skills and, for the most part, guys with higher P/PA tend to be good hitters or at least more valuable than they appear on the surface.

FrostKing said...

It's not just the chasing out of the zone - that I will certainly agree is more pitch recognition/zone control. It's that he was also swinging at pitches in the zone as well.

Cora chases a little more than one would like, but he doesn't swing at balls in the zone more than average. Therefore I'd say he has more of a zone control issue than a patience issue, though I'd hope Wieters has more patient than Cora.

It's the combonation of the two parts of the swing rate that led me to say Wieters should be more patient - not just the one part. If he starts swinging less in general than his swings at balls should go down and he'd probably walk more. More patience + same zone control should lead to more walks. So would better zone control + same patience, though I think that the former situation is easier to implement (don't swing so much) than the latter (tell balls and strikes apart better).

(for me)

Patience: don't swing so much (obviously there are caveats, such as if you have a good contact rate or you're getting a lot of good pitches to hit - but those don't apply here)

Zone Control: don't chase so many balls

We can't easily tell if Wieters has a zone control issue until he cuts down the general swing rate some. At that point, if he's still chasing balls at around the same rate, we could say that he does. Until then, I'd say he needs to be more patient.

I agree that higher P/PA is generally better than lower P/PA. Amongst guys with similar P/PA though, some are more patient than others.

FrostKing said...

I know I wasn't as precise with my language originally as I would have liked - I'm sorry about that. Patience, Pitch Recognition, and Zone Control are three different, though related, things, and I've used to first one more as a catch-all than I should have. I think my last point is still what I really think though, that Wieters has been less patient because he's swinging at everything (balls & strikes) and that it's still unclear if he has a zone control issue. If he was taking a few more strikes (which I realize sounds stupid) and still swinging at the same number of balls, then I'd be more inclined to say it was zone control.

These aren't huge margins from the average and the sample size is still pretty small, so it's not a very definitive statement anyway.