Jorge Mateo may not be knocking, but his glove makes him impossible to bench
You probably know this, but a quick refresher: WAR is this funny composite stat based on runs: the runs you drive + the runs you produce on the basic paths + the runs you record in the field, all divided by the number of runs. takes for a team to win. (There is a little more to WAR calculation than that, but that’s the basic idea.) It all comes down to WAR, or how many wins you’re worth to your team as an individual.
The statheads assign meaning to WAR as follows. If you’re worth 0-1 wins in a single season, you’re disposable.
Between 1-2 wins: utility player.
5+: All-Star material.
8+: rarefied air – an MVP.
Last year’s Orioles had only three players with WARs above 3: Cedric Mullins (5.7), John Means (3.8), Austin Hays (3.1). The 2019 team, four: John Means (4.5), Jonathan Villar (4.3), Trey Mancini (3.7) and Hanser Alberto (3.4).
Sixty-six games in 2022, and seven players are ready for 3+ WAR during the season: Cionel Pérez, Jorge López, Trey Mancini, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo. Mateo currently ranks as the third most valuable player for the Orioles in 2022, is worth 1.5 WARwhich equates to 3.7 WAR over a full season.
That’s perhaps surprising for a guy who hits just over Mendoza’s line. No one would mistake Jorge Mateo for a top notch bat. His .214/.249/.344 slash line is, well, ugly.
But in his defense, it’s a whole other story. The eyeball test and the analytic agree in this case. Mateo will do a room like this one, starting Tuesday evening. And the advanced data will confirm it: Mateo leads the league in range factor, recorded defensive runs (11), defensive WARand the double games turned.
All in all, he’ll probably save the orioles 28 tracks over the season. Among qualifying shortstops, it’s the highest rating in MLB. With 7.6 above-average defensive runs, he’s the second most valuable shortstop in baseball, behind Houston’s Jeremy Peña.
But if the defensive stats are flashy, the offenses are unfortunate. Fangraphs ranks him at -6.7 offensive carries over average, the second-least valuable shortstop at the majors.
Roughly speaking, if Mateo loses you 6.7 carries as a hitter and gains you 7.6 as a defenseman, what is he worth? An average shortstopmore or less.
Which is really unfortunate. Because he’s got so much talent, and because when Mateo makes contact, it’s solid. His batted ball data is promising: in percentage of barrel, Mateo ranks 15th out of 30 shortstops and the average distance on his batted balls is the fourth most of all shortstops. His sweet spot percentage is 42.5%, the best of any shortstop.
In other words, when Jorge Mateo bats the ball, noise, distance and good results often follow.
The problem is not putting the bat to the ball. Where Mateo really lets himself down is the controllable results: strikeouts and walks. At 32.5 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, Mateo has the worst strikeout and walk percentages of any shortstop in baseball. He sees 3.72 shots per bat, compared to 4.18 for Anthony Santander and 4.22 for Adley Rutschman. Whatever the batting coaches at O preach, it can’t be that.
Stop me if I’m Captain Obvious, but in Mateo’s case, it seems O’s coaches just have to keep preaching patience: Mateo has to hone his batting eye and pick his court. The strategy has worked so far for Santander and Ryan Mountcastle, two sluggers who both increased their BB% in 2022 and saw good things happen in the energy department.
Over the past week, Mateo has been on something of a mini hot streak, hitting .250 with two walks in 18 board appearances (hey, that’s a lot better than 3 walks in 84 AP over the past month). Yes, they were all singles, but that’s okay – Mateo can show zero power and still be a worthwhile investment. Again, he mostly needs to walk more and reduce strikeouts. The average shortstop hits 18-20% of the time. With a bar of 32.5% at the moment, Mateo still has his work cut out for him.
One small glimmer of hope I’d like to point out though: the defensive brilliance that Mateo has shown all year seems to be the product of regular playing time. Mateo didn’t put those numbers into his short stints in San Diego Where NYY. Prior to that, he had only played one full season of games at shortstop and there he was -11 in defensive points saved per year. From there to a rate of +12 in 2022, it’s a complete turnaround.
So the same could hold true to the plate. If consistent batting helps the bat go — not even bad to great, like his glove did, but just bad to OK — Mateo will be a player worth keeping. Watch for strikeouts and walks – these will be key to assessing his progress. As frustrating as he can be, Jorge Mateo is a player to watch.
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