Is Matt Wieters the best catcher in Orioles history?

Is Matt Wieters the best catcher in Orioles history?
January 21, 2014, 9:45 am
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Tampa Bay Rays Yunel Escobar, right, is safe at the plate on a single by Desmond Jennings as Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters tries to make the tag in the fifth inning.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Earlier in the offseason, I made the case that Matt Wieters was the best catcher in the team’s 60-year history. I mentioned it again on Monday, and a number of readers have disputed it.

Some readers believe that Chris Hoiles was better than Wieters. Others are just frustrated by Wieters’ lack of offense. Others are just frustrated, period.

Wieters has twice been an All-Star and twice won the Gold Glove. Hoiles was never an All-Star and didn’t win a Gold Glove.

In Wieters’ five seasons, he’s thrown out 33 percent of runners attempting to steal. In Hoiles’ 10 seasons, he threw out 28 percent of base stealers.

In 140 games caught last year, just 68 runners tried to steal on Wieters, less than one in every two days. He threw out 35 percent of them, 24 in all.

In his last three seasons, fewer and fewer runners have tried to steal on Wieters, and that’s a measurement to be pleased with.

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Hoiles’ best year was 1993 when he threw out 41 percent of baserunners, but 113 runners tried to steal on him in 124 games caught.

Offensively, Hoiles has the edge. In 1993, Hoiles hit 29 home runs, drove in 82 runs and hit .310, drawing enough walks for a .416 on-base percentage. His OPS of 1.001 was unusually high for a catcher, but he never came close to those numbers again.

Wieters’ career OPS is .739, well below Hoiles’ .833. He’s struck out more than 100 times the last two seasons, something that Hoiles never did.

Hoiles’ defensive skills were rarely lauded. Wieters are, and that’s where the case for best catcher is made.

Wieters doesn’t hit enough to play first base regularly, and his lack of speed wouldn’t make him a good outfielder.

While the Orioles drafted several young catchers last June, they’re years away from playing in the majors. If the Orioles don’t have Matt Wieters two years from now, they’ll face a major adjustment.

His offense isn’t what it should be and not what the Orioles hoped it would be. His handling of pitchers and enabling Chris Tillman to finally blossom should be lauded.

Wieters arrives early, stays late, consumes hours of tape on opposing batters. Fans don’t see that. The Orioles do.

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