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July 5, 2011

The BP Broadside

Leave My Mind Alone!

by Steven Goldman

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Thou Dost Protest Too Much, Wieters Apologist
Started off my Independence Day holiday with this in my in box:

You REALLY nailed that Wieters is an all-time bust! Bottom Line is that he is the best fielding catching with no passed balls / best arm /calls a great game. While no one will confuse Matt with Joe Mauer—in terms of hitting, keep in mind his hitting production is about 3rd or 4th best for all catchers in the AL. Russell Martin—now there's a piece of sh*t!—W

Let’s try this one more time: I’m very happy for Wieters’s many defenders that they found a great defensive catcher under their Christmas tree, but that’s not what they were looking for. If it were, the Orioles could have saved their bonus money four years ago and signed Henry Blanco for the major league minimum. This was a first-round draft-pick, rated the best amateur position player in the country at the time of his selection, who hit .343/.438/.576 in the minor leagues. That the Orioles wound up with a potential Gold Glover who is also an average-at-best hitter is the consolation prize, not something to crow about. The man was supposed to be a switch-hitting Yogi Berra and you got Jim Sundberg instead. Congratu-bleepin’-lations.

On the theory that something is better than nothing we’ll score that a win, but let’s face it, W, the player did not live up to advanced billing. Retroactively ratcheting down expectations is dishonest. If you could go back to 2009 and ask people if they would be disappointed if Wieters turned out to be a good fielder with an average-to-below-average bat, you know what they would have said. They would have wept openly and then soiled your shoes.

Regarding Wieters’s lack of passed balls, aren’t you the least bit suspicious of that? Orioles pitchers have had 61 wild pitches with our tarnished golden boy behind the plate, while he has been credited with just five passed balls, none this year. I don’t know if the same Official Scorer who decided in 1990 that Cal Ripken would just NOT make an error short of swallowing the ball is still at work in Baltimore, but this smells like his handiwork.

Just a couple of factual corrections before we leave this behind forever, along with the possibility that Wieters will ever be a star: going by True Average, the lad is not third- or fourth-best among American League catchers, but tenth, and let’s face it, in the group of catchers the AL has going this year, even fourth would be a sorry thing to brag on.

Russell Martin ranks ahead of Wieters thanks to his great April (.293/.376/.587, a bout of hitting that the Yankees will be paying for all year long—Martin has hit an incredible .184/.301/.291 since then, not including last night’s 0-for-3). He isn’t a starting catcher anymore, but among his souvenirs are three offensive seasons (2006-2008) that Wieters has yet to equal, not to mention his own Gold Glove citation. Wieters may ultimately prove to have a longer and better career than Martin’s, but it hasn’t happened yet, so please show Mr. Martin the appropriate respect.

I assume that Sundberg isn’t well-remembered today, but right now he seems like a good comp for Wieters. At one time the career leader in games caught, “Sunny” was a six-time Gold Glove-winner and three-time All-Star who hit .274/.351/.379 over a six-year peak that lasted from 1977 to 1982. That doesn’t sound like much, but in today’s terms that would work out to be something like .295/.360/.400 with 10 or 12 home runs. Overall, he hit .248/.327/.348, which seems to be about the same ballpark as Wieters’s career-to-date .265/.325/.394 when you adjust for time and place. Sundberg was a good, useful player, and so is Wieters, but neither deserves to be called a star. A star is what Wieters gave signs of being. I accurately labeled him a disappointment, and a disappointment he shall remain.

There Is a Sucker Born Every Minute, But Might as Well Go With the One You Have
Bob Klapisch tweets:

Yankees says Mets have made K-Rod available—“door is wide open”—but are only marginally interested. Prefer to wait on R. Soriano.

Of course the Mets would offer Francisco Rodriguez to the Yankees. If they bit on one overpriced closer—I refer, of course, to the Yankees’ dirty secret, the pitcher Brian Cashman was forced to swallow sideways, Rafael Soriano—they’ll likely bite on another. No doubt the Mariners will be calling to offer them Brandon League for Manny Banuelos next. “Hey, he’s leading the league in savess so he must be good, and Ron Washington thinks he’s an All-Star.”  

The Yankees don’t need Francisco Rodriguez, of course. By most measures, their bullpen is among the most effective in baseball, particularly with Joe Girardi having gotten over his April reluctance to use David Robertson—the pitcher pitched infrequently and in low-leverage situations in the season’s first month. Luis Ayala has been shockingly good, Boone Logan has recently turned around his career with a new, almost sidearm approach, and Corey Wade has filled in very nicely—or did until Monday night, when he allowed a two-run home run to Carlos Santana. To that point he had not allowed a run in eight pinstriped innings.

Wade is nothing special and his reversion is to be expected, but he’s also the point: relievers are hard to judge because they work in small samples, and there is little reason to pick one up on name-recognition value alone. Rodriguez has had some terrific seasons in his career, but in two of the last three years, including this one, he hasn’t done much to distinguish himself from the great Reliever Cloud (a product soon to be offered by Baseball Prospectus—up- and download your interchangeable relievers to our servers at no additional cost with the purchase of a subscription, use them in any stadium you want).

When it comes to swapping relievers, it’s not hard to name at least 10 bullpen-dwellers on non-contenders who would be more valuable pickups despite being more obscure. The Cubs have three, the Padres have, well, everybody. If the Orioles want to pick up the phone on Koji Uehara, no one is going to hang up. It would be both penny- and pound-wise to bid on the Nats’ Tyler Clippard before looking at K-Rod.

Unfortunately, like the magpie, some people are just attracted to shiny stuff.

You Know You Like Him Anyway
Reviewing traffic figures over the weekend, I noticed that BP’s most-clicked player card belongs to Eric Hosmer. Way down at #6, we have Chone Figgins, who you readers apparently have anointed as BP’s Schadenfreude Player of the Year. Anyway, since Hosmer is apparently more popular among our readers than Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, and Jose Bautista, I thought I would give you more of what you like. Here we go: Hosmer! Hosmer! Hosmer!

You’re welcome.

A Final Passing Thought
As good as he has been this year—and at .286/.324/.454 we have him ranking 12th among center fielders—is any team going to be burnt worse than the one that picks up Melky Cabrera at the trading deadline? He’s still impatient and still a switch-hitter who isn’t—his .248/.286/.333 line against southpaws fits right in with his career .250/.318/.347 against them. Still, kudos for him for being the best, um, Melky he can be.

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

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