Caleb Joseph an underrated part of Orioles’ success

Since the All-Star break, Chris Davis is batting .336 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, and a 1.208 OPS. For the Baltimore Orioles the explosion of Davis back to his 2013 production levels has been a godsend. Davis, however, is not the only Oriole having an outstanding second half. Adam Jones has eight home runs since the break, and Jonathan Schoop is batting .330 with a .563 slugging percentage. Manny Machado has been his normal spectacular self.

Lost in all of the star power, is the fact that Caleb Joseph is also having himself quite a hot second half of 2015. In 16 games since the All-Star break, the 29-year-old backstop has posted a .302/.351/.679 line with five home runs and 16 knocked in. On the year, Joseph is batting .255 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI’s in 75 games.

Pressed into duty last season when Matt Wieters went down with an elbow injury, Joseph struggled initially with the Orioles. In 82 games, he batted only .207, but did show signs of power, hitting nine home runs. His defense, however, one of the factors that had held him back for years in the minor leagues, was very good. Joseph threw out over 40% of basestealers. This year, Joseph has allowed a slightly higher success rate on steals, but would-be thieves are also less aggressive with him behind the plate and have more respect for his arm. Furthermore, with Joseph behind the plate, Orioles’ pitchers have a sub-3.50 ERA. When Wieters puts on the mask, the same pitchers have a 4.19 ERA. Joseph has a very good grasp on how to handle this patchwork pitching staff.

Joseph’s offensive production began to take a hit in June when Wieters returned from his lengthy recovery from Tommy John surgery. With Wieters still able to catch every other day, Joseph was in-and-out of the lineup, and could not gain consistency. He batted just .196 in June when the change occurred, before rebounding to bat .242 in July with rising power numbers.

In August, Joseph has played in 10 of the Orioles’ 14 games. Wieters has been dealing with hamstring issues, and Buck Showalter has begun using him at first base and designated hitter. With Joseph continuing to swing a hot bat, Showalter may consider continuing to use Wieters exclusively in the DH role when his hamstrings recover. That would keep Joseph in the lineup while also saving Wieters from some of the wear and tear from playing behind the plate.

In 2014, Orioles’ seven through nine batters hit just .243 with little power. The bottom of the order was mostly dragged down by Schoop and Joseph when he was in the lineup. The bottom of the order numbers are even uglier this year, but it’s not due to a lack of offense from Caleb Joseph. Thank the six-headed left field monster for that. The underrated catcher has batted .298 from the nine-hole this year with eight home runs and 28 RBI’s.

With Davis, Jones, Schoop, and Machado firing on all cylinders, Caleb Joseph will always get overlooked in the Orioles’ lineup. That does not mean he is not an integral part of the playoff hopes of the team. When the bottom of the order is hitting, things become that much easier for the stars at the top. To drive that point home, look at how well Joseph hits when the Orioles win — .303. In losses, however, he is batting just .196.

The Orioles do not know what Matt Wieters will give them the rest of the year. Luckily, Caleb Joseph has proved his worth the entire season. Make no mistake, if the Orioles are able to hold onto their tenuous grasp on a playoff berth until the season’s final day, the underrated backup catcher will have played a big role in deciding the outcome.

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