I recall a few weeks ago that I told my father that I wasn't even concerned about the potential of Matt Wieters leaving via free agency during this upcoming off-season. That's because, at the time, Caleb Joseph, was hitting out of his mind. However, he has recently begun to struggle at the plate and it brings into question whether he is capable of being the everyday catcher on a competitive Major League Baseball team for an entire 162-game season going forward.
It makes the most sense to compare Joseph to Wieters as we know the 6-foot-5 switch-hitter is an All-Star and, when healthy, is widely considered one of the top backstops in the league.
In the field
Both Wieters and Joseph are superb defenders. They both have a career fielding percentage of .994. However, Wieters is the only one with a Gold Glove, and he actually has two of them.
But when it comes to throwing runners out, CaJo has the edge, albeit with a small sample size. Over the last two seasons, Joseph has thrown out 29 of 74 potential base-stealers; 39.2 percent. Wieters has tossed out 136 of 418 base-stealers; a rate of 32.5 percent, over his longer career.
Joseph does seem to have a propensity for allowing passed balls and wild pitches a bit more often than Wieters. Joseph allows one passed ball every 11.89 games and one wild pitch every 3.82 games. Wieters allows one passed ball every 40 games and one wild pitch every 4.92 games. I will be honest, I have no clue if any of those numbers means they are good or bad, but there they are for you.
Baseball Reference gives out a statistic called dWAR (defensive wins above replacement). Last year, Joseph's dWAR was 1.5 over 82 games. From 2009 through 2014, Wieters dWARS were 0.7, 1.6, 2.7, 1.3, -0.3 and -0.1.
Handling the pitching staff
Catcher's ERA is a pretty flawed statistic as it likely more reflects the skill of a pitching staff and the fielders around it rather than the catcher. Nonetheless, it's another way to compare the two catchers.
Last year, Joseph had a CERA of 3.03, which would have been the best in baseball had he caught enough innings to qualify as a league leader. This year, his CERA is 3.80, putting him at 11th in the league among league leaders.
The best season of CERA from Wieters was back in 2012 when he recorded a 3.80 as well. Throughout his career, his other CERAs are 3.93 (2014), 4.32 (2013 - second-worst among qualifiers), 4.57 (2011 - worst among qualifiers), 4.58 (2010 - second-worst among qualifiers) and 5.05 (2009 - rookie season).
More recently, the art of pitch framing has become more and more analyzed. The following Chart is based off of statistics from StatCorner. zBall% is the percentage of pitches caught within the strike zone that are called balls. oStr% is the percentage of pitches caught outside the strike zone that are called strikes. +Calls are the number of calls a catchers gets or loses for his pitcher.
With these numbers, you want oStr% and +Calls as high as possible and zBall% as low as possible. From that, we can say that Joseph is a touch better in every category. Wieters' performance has started to drop off in terms of +Calls.
At the plate
OK, this is pretty obviously going to be in favor of Wieters, but we will discuss it anyway.
Over his first two seasons, Joseph is slashing .221/.287/.372 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI over 111 games. This includes both his torrid April this year where he hit .327, but also his depressing May in which he has batted .182.
It's not to say that Joseph can't put together some solid numbers. His 162-game averages are 18 HR. 58 RBI and 19 doubles. It's certainly an improvement over who is the first-string catcher for many other teams in the Bigs.
Conversely, Wieters has slashed .257/.320/.423 over his first six seasons in the MLB and has averaged 22 home runs per 162 games played. At the start 2014, Wieters was on pace for career highs in just about every offensive category.
Baseball Reference also has an oWAR (offensive wins above replacement) to measure production with the bat. Joseph has oWARs of 0.2 in 2014 and 0.7 thus far in 2015. Throughout his career, Wieters has oWARs of 1.2, 1.8, 3.2, 3.1, 1.7 and 0.9.
Wieters is likely still thought of as one of the premiere catchers in the league with both the bat and the glove. However, Joseph seems to have eclipsed the Gold Glover it terms of throwing out runners, framing pitches and dealing with the staff.
It is clear that Wieters is the one with the pop in his bat, who will consistently slug more home runs and be more of a run producer as the two 28-year-old's careers continue on.
But it is important to take into account the position played. At 6-for-5, it was always expected that Wieters would break down if he remained behind the plate. It's doubtful that many expected the "breakdown" would occur in the catcher's elbow, but nonetheless, it did happen. Besides DH, the only other position that would make sense for Wieters is first-base, and his numbers simply don't put him in the same elite company at a corner infield position.
Meanwhile, Joseph is a solid contributor with the stick as a catcher, and he appears to be turning into a heck of a defender.
I willingly admit that Wieters is the better player overall. But a lighter-hitting catcher who plays stand-out defense is easy to put somewhere lower in the order every day and help a team become a perennial playoff contender.
-Is Joesph the long-term answer behind the plate?
-Who should be the starter when Wieters returns next month?
-Should they re-sign Wieters or make a play for someone outside of the organization?
-Do the O's need Chance Sisco to hurry the heck up and get to the MLB?
Let me know your opinions in the comments down below.