WASHINGTON — Read any review of Matt Wieters this MLB offseason, and you’ll see a list of positives: switch-hitter, average power, locker room leadership. But there is always a caveat: he doesn’t frame pitches well.
It’s a fuzzy metric and one that is thrown around probably more than it is understood. Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo shared his two cents on the matter to the media today.
“I think pitch framing is one of the things we look at,” Rizzo said. “I saw a pitch framer in Matt that improved in 2016. I think it’s one of the skills that can be improved. Pitch framing also has a lot to do with the pitching staff that you’re catching.”
In Baltimore, Wieters worked with a starting rotation with a much lower pedigree than that of the Nats. But it’s also a catch-22: does he struggle to frame pitches because his pitchers don’t throw strikes, or do his pitchers throw strikes that he doesn’t frame well?
After signing with the Nats earlier this week, D.C. sports fans and couch umpires across the region will soon find out. Fortunately, Rizzo believes that Wieters can compensate for any deficiencies in his receiving game.
“It’s one component of it. It’s just one of the total picture,” he explained. “You’ve got a guy in Matt that throws out an above-average number of base stealers; he was 35 percent last year, 33 percent for his career.
Earlier in Wieters’ career, percentage of base stealers gunned down was a stat that stood out, suggesting that he was an above average defensive catcher. It’s worth noting that his 32.74 career percentage is good for 13th among active catchers, five spots behind Wilson Ramos (33.66 percent).
“You’ve got a guy that led the league in least amount of passed balls,” Rizzo continued. “Only one passed ball all last year. We had 17.”
Rizzo has a point there. Last year, Ramos alone had 10 passed balls, which tied him for the National League lead with Yasmani Grandal and Welington Castillo, who will be replacing Wieters in Baltimore.
Now several years removed from Tommy John’s surgery, Wieters is primed for a full season that shows what kind of player he really is. There aren’t many catchers who are good at everything, so what trade-offs can the Nats endure?
He may not have lived up to his potential in Baltimore, and he may not be the best receiver, but Wieters deserves a fresh start in Washington.