Exit Interview 2020: Matt Wieters

After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season.  They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post.  Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  This year, of course, was anything but typical.  So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative.  There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable.  As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!

Player: Matt Wieters

Season stats: 19 games, 41 PA, 3 R, 7 H, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 10 K, .200/.300/.229, 22 OPS+, 0.0 bWAR

Postseason stats: DNP

Statcast: .315 xwOBA, 7.7% barrel %, 84.7 exit velocity, 23.1% hard hit %

Best Statcast category: Sprint Speed (3rd percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Sprint Speed (3rd percentile)

Hero/Goat: Goat 3


Overview: I mean, it’s a backup to Yadier Molina so what is there really to say?  We talked last year about how nice it was to have a big, legitimate bat in the backup catcher spot after years of guys that would struggle to hit water if dropped out of a helicopter over the Atlantic Ocean.  However, if you aren’t going to be aggressive with using that bat, does it matter?

For instance, let’s look at Wieters here in 2020.  He had 41 plate appearances.  Twelve of them (29%) came in the week that Molina was on the COVID IL.  Wieters got hurt at the end of that stretch and so went on the regular IL when Molina returned.  When he got healthy, 20 of the other plate appearances (49%) came in doubleheaders.  So he got a total of nine plate appearances when the starting catcher was active in regular games. No wonder he might have struggled with the bat.  He didn’t get many chances to use it.

Mike Shildt was a little more aggressive with Wieters last year–we all remember the big pinch homer against Max Scherzer–but this year, with all the doubleheaders, he didn’t apparently feel like he could use Wieters as a pinch-hitter very often.  Maybe it would have been different early on, with Andrew Knizner also on the roster, if the season hadn’t been shut down temporarily due to the COVID quarantine.  Who knows.  It just feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity.  I said during the season that I would have been fine with the Cardinals releasing Wieters when he got healthy and moving on to Knizner.  With all the doubleheaders, the rookie would have had some significant playing time.  They didn’t, in part because there were no other catchers if Molina or Knizner had gotten hurt.  Still, it felt like a missed opportunity.

Outlook: It’s a bit hazy for Wieters here.  If Molina returns to St. Louis, the Cardinals well may want to go ahead and let Knizner be the backup, especially if there is a question about how the minor leagues are going to work next year.  The Cardinals also just recently signed Tyler Heineman (no relation to Jamie, I assume) to a minor league deal.  While Heineman is most likely just minor league catcher depth, he also might be enough to have them move on from Wieters.  Then again, if Molina goes elsewhere, they could do worse than having Wieters back up Knizner.  Assuming Shildt sets the pecking order in that manner.

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