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Baltimore Orioles: Why Matt Wieters Will Sustain Torrid Start

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 16:   Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on April 16, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Brian Kersey/Getty Images
Josh SadlockCorrespondent IIIApril 25, 2012

When the Baltimore Orioles drafted Matt Wieters fifth overall in 2007, he was projected as "Mauer with Power."  And for three seasons in the majors, he has been solid. He was even an All-Star last season, although probably only due to MLB's one-per-team rule. 

But Orioles fans expect more.  They wanted a bona fide superstar, and so far, Wieters has not lived up to his draft day hype.

Until this season, that is.

With six home runs in his first 15 games, Wieters is starting to look like the offensive force the Orioles hoped he would be.  Can Orioles fans count on him to maintain this pace and finally become Major League Baseball's best offensive backstop?

To make this kind of prediction, advanced metrics must be considered.  Luckily, the good people of Fangraphs are here to help.

One could very easily get lost when poring through the numbers on Wieters' Fangraphs page.  This early in the season, though, most are meaningless.  The sample size is too small and statistics like isolated power (ISO) and batting average on balls in play (BABIP) will level off with time. 

The most valuable statistics to look at when trying to determine just how likely Wieters is to keep up his production are plate discipline and his batted ball percentages.

This season, Wieters has chased fewer pitches out of the strike zone than in any of his Major League career.  His chase rate (OSwing%) is 23.4 percent, compared to 32.3 percent last season.  This year, Wieters has swung at only 41.4 percent of pitches thrown (Swing%).  His walk rate is the highest it has ever been. 

Wieters has clearly refined his approach at the plate.  He is swinging at his pitch, not the pitcher's.  The result has been more solid contact.

A hitter's line drive rate may be the best way to determine the amount of solid contact he has been making.  Wieters' line drive rate (LD%) this season is 27.5, 10 percentage points higher than his career average.  When coupled with his declining ground ball rate (GB%), it is clear that Wieters is hitting the ball on the nose more often this season.

While it is highly unlikely that Matt Wieters will continue hitting home runs at his current pace (he is currently on pace for 57), it is not unlikely that he will continue producing at an elite level.  To do so, he must continue his disciplined approach at the plate.  Plate discipline has allowed him to square up more pitches. 

He is not hitting weak ground balls—he is hitting line drives. 

As long as Matt Wieters refuses to give in to pitchers, he will be the offensive force the Orioles thought they were getting when they drafted him.  For long-suffering Orioles fans, Matt Wieters' development could not have come at a better time.

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