Orioles manager Buck Showalter has often said that when it comes to his Gold Glove catcher, Matt Wieters, what Wieters does with the bat in his hands is secondary to the fine work he does behind the plate -- playing strong defense, throwing out would-be thieves of bases and helping the pitching staff navigate outings.
But this month, the struggles of Wieters in the batter’s box have been harder to ignore.
Wieters is batting .209 this month with just four extra base hits (two doubles and two home runs), five RBIs and an underwhelming .209/.243/.328 slash line. His season average of .229 is dipping toward the Flaherty line.
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It is an understatement to say the Orioles, who are second in the majors in runs, have gotten by with that lack of production from the No. 6 spot, where Wieters is often penciled in.
They are still scoring in bunches, but the lineup might be better off in the short-term if Wieters is moved back in the lineup.
Chris Davis, the hottest hitter in baseball right now, has been aided by the fact that Manny Machado, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones have been getting on base before he comes to the plate at the No. 5 spot in the order. Wieters hasn’t been providing much protection behind him.
Take Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Blue Jays for example.
In the first inning, before the Blue Jays blew the game open with nine runs in the first three innings, the Blue Jays intentionally walked Davis -- I would have done it, too -- to load the bases for Wieters with two outs. Wieters popped out to the catcher in foul ground to end the inning.
Maybe the outcome would have been similar if, say, hot-hitting J.J. Hardy had been batting sixth on Sunday. Maybe not.
When things aren't going well for Wieters at the plate, it can be frustrating to watch, especially with runners in scoring position, situations he is batting .259 in this season. But he also is a man who hit 22 homers in 2011 and 23 in 2012. (Heck, he is still close to a 20-homer pace this year.) You have to think he is going to turn things around, plus he is still good defensively.
But for now, maybe Showalter and the Orioles should tweak their lineup and move Wieters down for the time being. Like I said, it would be better for the Orioles, but it also might take a little pressure off of Wieters and help him find his swing again.
Update: About 20 minutes after I hit publish, the Orioles tweeted tonight's lineup, which had Hardy hitting sixth and Wieters seventh. We'll see if it stays that way beyond tonight.