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Wieters On Fire

By on April 22

The beginning of things to come, or just a hot streak?

Wieters has been mashing the last two series. He’s displaying power, patience and a flair for coming up with the big hit.  Over his last seven games he’s hit .368 with 7H, 2HR, 2B, and 7RBIs.   If you saw Wednesday night’s game of the Twins series, you probably saw him destroy a pitch to right-CF (411 ft). I remind you, this is April weather where batted balls tend to die on the warning track. Needless to say, watching all of this transpire has been thrilling.

But is it real? Is it sustainable? The only reason we’re all asking this question, after a singly brief hot streak, is because of his pedigree and the reputation that preceeds him. Don’t lie, I know you were thinking the same thing. Certainly other lesser hitters have done more in a short time span (see Wigginton, Ty).  So what are we to make of all of this?

I think we Oriole fans need to be cautious with our beliefs and emotions. Let’s reserve judgement until later in the year…when Wieters wins MVP. Indeed, so far Wieters has more of a track record for a .275/.325/.400 line (see what I did there?).  Not exactly lighting the world on fire.  But let’s look closer at his current numbers. His 2011 slash line sits at .269/.345/.519. Granted, this is a small sample  (we’re not even through April!), but it will be fun to look back later to see if this was the beginning of a trend.

In the few PAs (54) he’s accumulated so far, we’re seeing his BB-rate stay where it was in 2010 at a solid 9.3-9.4%. But, his K-rate has drop to 16.7% from around 23% the previous two years, which is astounding. Is he swinging at fewer bad pitches? Is he merely hitting those pitches now? Maybe this is not sustainable long term, but we should take a closer look to understand what’s different.

O-Swing% Z-swing% Swing%
2011 26.0% 59.8% 42.6%
Total 28.1% 65.1% 45.1%
Delta -2.1% -5.3% -2.5%

The “Total” represents his cumulative plate dicipline numbers from 2009-2011. This bit of information tells us that Wieters has been more patient than his career average when in comes to swinging at pitches out of the zone (O-swing%) and in the strike zone (Z-swing%). This is important in regard to K% because it means that if Wieters swings at fewer pitches, he potentially will strike out swinging less. But let’s consider his contact rates.

O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone%
2011 72.0% 81.8% 78.8% 48.9%
Total 67.7% 86.3% 80.1% 46.0%
Delta 4.3% -4.5% -1.3% 2.9%

Interestingly, Wieters is making less contact over all, noticably on pitches in the zone. However, he’s actually seeing a slightly greater percentage of pitches in the strike zone from the start (Zone%). Wieters is also making sightly better contact on pitches out of the zone.  Compared to his career discipline numbers, it’s encouraging to see that he’s swinging at fewer overall pitches from the start. Perhaps the slight increase in strikes that he’s seeing can be attributed to this? Or maybe this is all a minor fluctuation in the small sample size. There could be any number of explanations, so probably can’t draw much from this yet.  But you saw it here first if I’m right, and I’ll banish this post to the depths of the internet if this post ever proves me wrong.

However, the biggest difference that we’ve seen is he’s driving the ball with authority.  His SLG is over .500 (a power hitter’s benchmark) with an isolated slugging (ISO) of .250. In case you aren’t familiar, ISO is a measure of all extra base hits while isolating BB, IBB, HBP and singles.  Again, small sample size.  But, wow what a difference.  Admittedly, I was getting used to Wieters hitting long singles.  But if we look at his hit chart, he’s spraying the ball all over the field, including the outfield stands.  Basically,  Wieters looks great at the plate right.  The scary part of all this, is his batting-average-on-balls-in-play (BABIP) is at .275.  League average tends to float around .290-.300.  Wieters’ career BABIP is .314.  If his BABIP regresses back to–at least–league average which it will likely do, he’s going to actually get better.  If it regresses to his career number, then he’s going to get noticeably better.

Could this be the year that Wieters breaks out in the majors like he broke out in the minors in 2008?  He’s already an exciting player to watch behind the plate. When considering his workmanship, consistency, and aptitude, I would dare to call him the most important member of the O’s young pitching staff.  If he emerges in 2011 like everyone hoped back in 2009, then the Orioles will have something serious to behold.

2 Responses to “Wieters On Fire”

  1. Adam
    Adam says:

    Nice post, Casadilla. I’m going to be honest, I had no idea half of those statistics even existed. I had noticed Wieters starting to get hot at the plate (especially with runners in scoring position) but it’s interesting to have some context around those numbers and to make some sense of why we might be seeing them all of a sudden, and what we might expect to happen next. Nice job.

  2. Mark
    Mark says:

    I definitely feel slightly more optimistic about Wieters than I did before reading this post. Palmer and the other broadcasters keep talking about how he’s gone to more of an upright stance, which gets more leverage in his swing, but does probably hurt his ability to get to balls lower or away in the zone, which is sort of confirmed by the data here I think. Regardless, if he keeps batting 1.000 with RISP, I’ll take it.

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