Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wieters' First 50 ABs: A Little Less Alex Gordon, A Little More Ryan Braun Please

Tuesday night, bottom of the 9th, O's down 6-2 to the Mets. Matt Wieters steps to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. He can tie the game with one swing, but I'm looking for him to just put the ball on the ground at least and collect his first RBI or two.

WHIFF city, as K-Rod works the kid. Strikeout. O's lose 6-4.

is the name of the game at the DC Landing Strip, but through his first 47 at-bats Matt Wieters is not exactly living up to the hype. Is this a case of a kid feeling out major league pitching? Or are we looking at a...gulp...bust?

Here's how Wieters stacks up through his first 48 at-bats compared to the debuts of other Top 5 Baseball America prospects over the past 5 seasons (click to enlarge):

There are some perennial All-Stars on this list (Braun, Longoria, Mauer, Bruce, Zimmerman), some guys who have been "solid" and seem to be staying that way (Upton, Weeks, D. Young), some guys who are creeping towards "bust" status (Ian Stewart, Alex Gordon) and two rookies this year for whom it's way too early to tell. Wieters is on the edge between the busts and the solid players here, as far as MLB starts go.

Most troubling, perhaps, is his lack of power and poise. Not a single RBI? Even Alex Gordon mustered two surrounded by a dreadful Royals lineup, and only the "busts" on this list had smaller on-base percentages and only Gordon had a smaller slugging % (granted, it's a relatively arbitrary and small sample). His at-bat against K-Rod Tuesday with the game in his hands was just brutal.

His patience at the plate though, is impressive: 4.44 pitches/plate appearance, which would be 2nd in the MLB if he qualified for the list. And the O's could desperately use some of that, as they've been notorious hackers in previous seasons.

So what do you think? Still adjusting? Nervous? No lineup protection? Will he turn it around?

[Image via]


  1. 50 AB is not statistically relevant unless he hit something like .060 or .750 over those at bats. It's just too small of a sample to be used for anything practical.

    What's more important than his statline at this point is whether he's comfortable at the plate. You said he is looking at 4.4 pitches per PA; this is probably a good thing. Yet at the same time he has only walked twice, with 12 Ks.

    Without looking at any numbers, this feels like a very, very low BB/K per PA (missing quite a few walks), for a 4.4 pitch per PA. Taking a guess, I'd say he is over-thinking his way through at bats, waiting for pitches that he might be used to seeing, but getting something completely different from these big league pitchers. Sometimes it's easy to forget about how much guesswork and braipower is needed at the plate, and the degree to which different players are guessing and thinking.

    To continue speculating, once deep or down in the count, he loses a bit of the passiveness and patience and goes too far the other direction, getting overly agressive and giving up a lot of potential BBs. Yet at the same time, 12ks could easily be a Ryan Howard-esque 20ks considering he's only walked twice. So, he is probably putting the bat on the ball like he should be once he has let his brain take a back seat to his natural ability.

    My guess is a coach will get to him and help him with his thought process at the plate at the MLB level and he'll be fine, or he'll just figure it out on his own. If I were an O's fan I wouldn't be worried in the least. You've got a real talent.

    I've really only seen an at bat or two from Wieters, this is based purely off of his numbers and the type of hitter I've believe him to be.

  2. Love the baseball posts, so here are my two (or twenty) centsL

    48 at bats is a ridiculously small sample size for any player, superstar or othwerwise. Let's not forget that he got off to a slow start at AAA before adjusting to the level by his second month. Let's also not forget that this guy just had arguably the greatest offensive season in the minor leagues over the last 40 years or so when adjusted for context, a season even the best players on this list never experience.

    The verdict has to be: still adjusting. As far as lineup protection goes, it's an issue that's been studied over and over and each time the same conclusion is reached, that no such thing exists or if it does, it has never been supported by anything more than anecdotal evidence. Neither Barry Bonds', nor Babe Ruth's, nor Albert Pujol's (or hall of fame sluggers' in general) teammates have better career numbers hitting in front of these batters than behind them, in the aggregate. One of the busted myths of baseball alongside RBI and Avg. being more important than OBP or Slugging.

    Lastly, your grouping of the prospects is a bit absurd.

    Bruce and Zimmerman are already perennial All-Stars? Zimmerman is yet to make a single all-star game and is the 3rd best in his own division at the moment (Wright and Chipper) and yet to slug .475 in a season or hit 25 home runs. He looks like he'll certainly be solid and has a chance to be a perennial all-star, but he barely outhit Alex Gordon last season (injuries, I know) and lacks the plate discipline to think he'll ever be in the pantheon of middle of the order offensive forces.

    Jay Bruce has a ton of upside and tools and may also develop, but perennial all-star already? He's hitting .215 this year and .241 thus far in his career, with a just as terrible OBP of barely 300 and slugging just 450 or so (slightly worse than average for a corner otufielder). His overall play has been one of the worst offensive lines of any outfielder in the game this year. He has plenty of time to turn it around, but if he's a perennial all-star at this point, than so is Jeff Francoeuer.

    D.Young as solid??? He's now a part-time player who has gone downhill 3 years in a row, swings at everything, and has been one of the OFs worse than Bruce...not sure who would describe that as solid.

    Weeks is already turning 17 this year and is what he is at this point, a guy with repeated wrist issues that lacks the glove for 2B and the offensive prowess for the outfield, an eventual "tweener," albeit a toolsy one.

    Ian Stewart had exactly one great minor league season and it was at low-A ball...he never did hit all that well again until he repeated a level (a bad sign for a prospect) and probably never had the pedigree of most of the rest of this list.

    In the bust department, you'd be better served by looking at guys like Jeremy Hermida or Andy Marte, among hitters, guys many saw as the best of their day.

    Wieters had a pedigree, profile, and track record better than literally every player on this list. He's now a great prospect, but a generational one, as close to a guaranteed offensive star as there has been since this decade began, Justin Upton included. The pitches per plate appearance stat bodes extremely, extremely well...

  3. Weeks turning 27, not 17...

  4. I don't think you'd get much argument saying that Wieters has the highest (or equally as high) ceiling of any prospect in that table, but that only brings greater contrast to his slow start. I'm not sure why you grabbed onto that aspect of this post, it seems to be slightly off topic. The fact is Wieter's numbers are pretty dismal after 50 AB, and we expect a little more from the Jesus of Hitting.

    And yet we agree. As I said in post #1, 50 AB is a miniscule sample, statistically speaking. Whether or not any of the players in that table should or should not be there, or whether they were slightly "mis-described" by DCLS isn't really the issue.

  5. My classifications of players was relatively arbitrary and probably stupid, but I just wanted to provide some context here.

    I agree it's way too early to tell anything, and I'm not in the least bit worried. The P/PA stat is huge in my mind: it's a sign of maturity, a thinking hitter.

  6. From what I've seen Wieters doesn't appear patient at all. In fact, he's been hacking. It still counts as a pitch when you swing and miss, remember?

  7. unless he is setting a world record for foul balls he must be being pretty patient. 4.4 P/PA is no joke.


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