One of the most exciting plays in all of baseball is a close play at the plate. The strong-armed outfielder trying to throw the swift, speedy base runner, while the poor, poor catcher is stuck standing still, hoping the baseball beats the runner, allowing him crucial seconds before being plowed into by a freight train. Some catchers around the league are particularly adept at blocking the plate, which is a very important defensive skill, one that can take away runs and turnaround ballgames. Matt Wieters is currently the best in the Majors at blocking the plate so let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why.
Wieters discussed the art of blocking the plate on MLB Network during Spring Training. He talked about his mindset, “This is your plate and they’re gonna have to go through you” and how to prevent an injury. “The main thing is to have your knee and your foot pointing down the 3rd base line.” This is also important because it takes away the closest part of the plate to the base runner. He also talks about making sure you let the ball get to you, because reaching out takes more time, and then making sure you have possession of the ball before making the tag. You can tell that this is a very important skill for Wieters and his diligence in blocking the plate is paying off for the Orioles on the scoreboard.
Wieters is also particularly adept to blocking the plate in part because of his large frame. He is officially listed at 6’5″ and 240 pounds. That makes him one of the larger catchers in the league, and a tough player to bowl over for opposing runners. Sean Rodriguez, one of the runners in the highlight, said, after running into Wieters “He’s definitely a lot bigger than me. I was out. His foot was in front of the bag so I got nowhere to slide. I have to get him and see if I could knock it loose. He held on to it. Credit to him.”
Wieters positioning is also superb. He stays exactly where a catcher is supposed to, on the top corner of the plate, which allows him to receive the throw as soon as possible, while taking away the closest part of the plate from the base runner. This positioning also has the double effect of allowing Wieters to quickly move out of the way if the ball isn’t in time, which can be helpful in preventing injuries over the course of a long season. Base runners either have to go around him or through him, neither of which is an exciting proposition.
His block in the 1st video preserved a game the Orioles went on to win, and his block in the 2nd video ended a rally by Tampa Bay, allowing the Orioles to come back and win. These are crucial plays over the course of the season, and they show Matt Wieters toughness and are part of the reason he is a Gold Glove catcher.