Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez. Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site. My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast. It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug. So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!
Player: Matt Wieters
Season stats: 67 G, 183 PA, 15 R, 36 H, 4 2B, 11 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB, 1 CS, 12 BB, 47 K, .214/.268/.435, 80 OPS+, 0.5 bWAR
Statcast: 7.3% barrel %, 88.8 exit velocity, 34.1% hard hit %, .289 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 3, Goat 2
Overall grade: B
Positives: Hit seven home runs while getting regular playing time during Yadier Molina‘s injury….hit seven homers against righties but had a higher OPS (.779) against lefties….hit .343 for the first two months of the season….had a 1.110 OPS in May….put up a 1.205 OPS batting sixth….posted a .462/.462/.846 line on the first pitch….did damage with one out, hitting .354 with a 1.081 OPS….had an .840 OPS in medium leverage situations….hit five of his home runs in the middle innings….was 1-2 with a homer in extra innings….slugged .789 in the sixth inning, the inning he hit more homers than any other….put up a .316/.350/.632 line in interleague play….hit .375 against the Brewers….hit .259 in day games.
Negatives: While filling in for Molina, hit .238….went 0-3 in the postseason….hit .209 in the second half, though six of his homers came then….slashed .091/.143/.212 in June….hit .143 at a pinch-hitter with one homer….had a .308 OPS when behind in the count….hit .214 with runners in scoring position….eight of his homers were solo shots….with two outs and RISP, had a .037/.071/.037 line….had a .536 OPS in high leverage situations….hit .191 against starting pitchers….hit .133 against the Cubs, the team he had the most AB against.
Overview: After years of people like Tony Cruz, Jason LaRue, and Gerald Laird backing up Molina, Matt Wieters felt like an All-Star. His power potential was much greater than anyone that had been Yadi’s understudy and, in fact, he actually out-homered Molina in 2019 with many fewer at bats. However, after May, there was a lot of boom or bust in his game. From June 1 on he hit .180 and struck out 39 times in 145 plate appearances. As seen above, his pinch-hitting wasn’t really strong, though Mike Shildt was a bit more aggressive in using his backup catcher than he had been in years past. (I still wouldn’t say he was aggressive, just more so.)
Overall, it was good to at least have that threat on the bench and have someone that you felt OK filling in for Molina. His average wasn’t great during the time that Yadi was out, but his production over that time would have been miles better than anyone else could have produced. Now, you could say that if the club had managed playing time right, Carson Kelly would have been there to give you even more or perhaps Andrew Knizner could have done as well, but those are ifs and, as we know, unlikely to happen when someone with the force of Molina’s personality is around.
Outlook: Wieters became a free agent after the season but there’s apparently interest in bringing him back, which is probably not what Knizner wants to hear. Kyle Reis, in a recent Prospects After Dark, suggested that with the 26-man roster they could carry three catchers and let Knizner hit a bit more as a pinch-hitter, but I figure if Wieters comes back they have Knizner catching at Memphis, where the word is he could still use a little polishing on his defense. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Wieters is announced soon as making a return trip.