One of the underlooked factors in the struggles of the starting rotation last season was the back-and-forth rotation at the catcher position. Caleb Joseph started 93 games at catcher and Matt Wieters started 55. With Joseph catching, the pitching staff had a 3.65 ERA. That figure ballooned all the way up to 4.38 with Wieters. While it is difficult to put a number on the impact of one catcher’s merits handling a pitching staff over another, that spike in ERA is pretty glaring. Joseph just has a better handle on the pitching staff.
Quantitatively, it is impossible to say why the pitching staff had better results with Joseph. He is a better pitch receiver and framer. He also spent more time around the staff in 2014 that Wieters did. The lengthy rehab process kept the former All-Star away from the day-to-day relationship-building process that is key to understanding how to handle a pitching staff. That may come back in 2016, but only time will tell. Overall, Joseph is just better at the art of calling a game behind the plate and finding sneaky ways to earn his staff extra strikes.
Wieters taking the qualifying offer was a bit of a shocker to the Orioles and the front office. He needs to have a good 2016 season to re-establish his value on the market. Wieters is the better offensive option behind the plate, but it is not as far off as one would initially believe. Joseph was producing at a good level before the part-time arrangement began in June. An outside-the-box approach could see Wieters spending more time at first base in 2016 if Chris Davis is not re-signed. That would allow Caleb Joseph to continue working his magic with the pitching staff. Regardless, the catching situation is no clearer than it was last summer when Wieters returned.