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Orioles catchers not producing near career levels so far

Matt Wieters (pictured) and backup catcher Caleb Joseph have struggled this year.
Matt Wieters (pictured) and backup catcher Caleb Joseph have struggled this year. (Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)

Entering this season, the Orioles' catching depth was seen as a strength. Matt Wieters, who hit so well when he was last healthy that he made the All-Star team, was over an elbow scare in spring training.

He's backed up by Caleb Joseph, who entered the year with a .660 OPS and 20 career home runs -- good numbers compared to other catching reserves.

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But through a month this season, neither Orioles catcher is producing at the level the team expected. When Joseph took an 0-for-4 against the New York Yankees' in the Orioles' 7-0 loss Wednesday at Camden Yards, he dropped to .189/.268/.217. Wieters is batting .217/.288/.300.

Together, the pair's .557 OPS ranks the Orioles' catching corps 22nd-best in the majors, according to Baseball Reference. Last year, they ranked eighth with a .732 OPS, 50 points above the league average at the position. That was the high-water mark after coming in 15th (.678) in 2014 and 17th (.688) in 2013.

This season's sample size is small, and like some other Orioles who are struggling, the team trusts their track records will prevail.

But catchers, perhaps more than any other position players, have value beyond their bats. And the values of Wieters and Joseph behind the plate this year vary significantly.

Joseph is rated as one of the game's best pitch-framers behind the plate, stealing an average of 2.46 strikes per game for his staff and having 10.1 percent of all pitches outside the strike zone he catches called a strike.

Wieters is on the opposite end of that spectrum, losing 1.56 strikes per game with 18 percent of the pitches he catches inside the strike zone called a ball.

When it comes to base stealers, it's been a mixed bag for the Orioles, too. Joseph has thrown out just 19 percent of would-be base stealers (three of 16), though part of that could be chalked up to often catching Ubaldo Jimenez, who isn't quick to the plate. Joseph entered the season with a 36.6 percent caught stealing rate.

Wieters has thrown out two of four base-stealers (his career rate of 33 percent). That's one of the only facets of the game that's above the career levels for the Orioles' catchers this season.

Both are secure in their jobs, partly because the position is one of the thinnest in baseball. It's also quite early, considering they fell four places in those catcher OPS rankings just because Joseph didn't get on base Wednesday.

A few good games could change it all for this pair. But life at the bottom of league's catcher rankings isn't a good one, and for the Orioles' offense to become more consistent, it'll need these two to be a part of it.

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