Tag: Brian Wilson

Biggest Winners and Losers from Dodgers Offseason

There’s less than three months remaining until Opening Day, and the Los Angeles Dodgers look decidedly different than they did at the beginning of the offseason.

For starters, the front office was stripped down and replaced with a new regime headed by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi.

The metrics-minded duo wasted little time revamping the roster, trading away several popular players in an effort to improve the team in less noticeable ways while saving money and replenishing the farm system.

Los Angeles also saw other players walk away, either for a lucrative deal elsewhere in free agency or simply because they were no longer wanted.

It has been one of the busiest winters for the Dodgers in recent years, and there’s still time for more moves to be made before the regular season begins. For now, though, here are the winners and losers from the first three months of the team’s offseason.

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Brian Wilson Released by Dodgers: Latest Details and Reaction

Having already designated reliever Brian Wilson for assignment, the Los Angeles Dodgers decided to release the 32-year-old.

The Dodgers announced the move:

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times initially broke news of the move:

Wilson had a strong first season with the Dodgers, posting a 0.66 earned run average and striking out 13 batters in 13.2 innings. He also pitched six scoreless innings in the 2013 playoffs.

In 2014, Wilson’s performance dropped significantly. He gave up 25 earned runs in 48.1 innings.

USA Today‘s Gabe Lacques reported on Tuesday that the Dodgers decided to DFA Wilson, meaning they would need to either trade or release him within 10 days. It also meant Los Angeles would still be on the hook for $9.5 million of dead money.

“For us, the contract is the contract,” said general manager Farhan Zaidi. “We don’t want to be sort of tied down by financial obligations—we’re just trying to build the best team we can for 2015.”

CBSSports.com’s Dayn Perry wrote that Los Angeles made the smart decision to simply cut ties altogether rather than keep Wilson on the roster simply because it’d be paying him millions:

This reflects well on the Dodger front office. Too often, teams will keep a player on the active roster and give him regular duty solely because he’s owed a lot money. The ill-considered contract must be justified by having that player in the lineup, rotation or bullpen, the thinking goes. This, of course, makes no sense. You’re going to pay him the money anyway, so why harm the team’s chances by giving time to a sub-replacement level talent? In effect, said dubious contract becomes all the more damaging when it’s allowed to manifest itself on the field and, by extension, in the standings.

While Wilson had a rather ignominious end to his time in Los Angeles, he’s still a proven bullpen arm. Although his days as a closer are likely over, he can be a late-inning option in crunch situations.

Wilson likely have plenty of suitors in the coming weeks.

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Brian Wilson Injury: Updates on Dodgers Pitcher’s Elbow and Return

Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a nerve irritation in his right (pitching) elbow, the team announced following Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com first reported Wilson was having issues with his elbow:

Wilson, 32, was not one of the four relievers manager Don Mattingly used to close out the win for starter Zack GreinkeJ.P. Howell occupied the eighth-inning role that Wilson was supposed to shore up this season.

In his second season with the Dodgers, Wilson was already having trouble returning to his 2013 form. He imploded in the team’s U.S. opener on Sunday night, allowing three earned runs and failing to record an out in a 3-1 victory for San Diego. Wilson held in his first appearance of the season in Australia.

Known for at times wild inconsistencies (as well as bouts with being borderline unhittable), Wilson’s game-costing inning was something the Dodgers rarely saw last season. In 18 regular-season appearances, the flame-throwing righty allowed just one earned run—a streak that earned him a one-year, $10 million contract from the team this offseason.

“One thing with Brian, he’s always on the edge and he’s always painting,” Mattingly told reporters following the loss. “Tonight it seemed like he must have been missing that edge out there. He wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him.”

Now, it seems the Dodgers are going to be getting used to another side of Wilson. The bearded reliever, once an integral part of the San Francisco Giants‘ 2010 World Series team, saw his career nearly end due to battles with arm injuries. He has twice undergone Tommy John surgery, first in college at LSU and then again in April 2012

The Giants allowed Wilson to walk into free agency the following winter, where he waited until midway through the summer of 2013 to sign on with the rival Dodgers. Given his history, it will be interesting to see how the Dodgers handle the injury. Mattingly said Wilson “felt some things going on” in his elbow, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, but he did not indicate the severity.

Adrian Garro of Fox Sports noted that, on the surface, the prognosis doesn’t sound promising:

According to Brooks Baseball, Wilson’s velocity was down from his 2013 self, which could either have been an early sign of injury or simply a guy working his way back into top condition. Depending on how a player reacts to spring training, velocity can at times take a little longer to get back.

Regardless, the Dodgers have to feel a little more shaky now than they did heading into the season. Howell, Chris Perez and Brandon League are all capable of stepping into a potential set-up role for as long as Wilson is out, but none touch the consistency he gave to the role last season. Perez was, at one point in his career, groomed as one of the league’s best set-up men, so it could work out over the long term.

Even at 3-1 after Tuesday’s win, this still wasn’t the way Wilson or the Dodgers envisioned Year 2 of their relationship starting.


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Ranking the 6 Biggest Steals of the MLB Offseason so Far

Undervalued assets, in dollars or production, are the key to fielding a successful team.

Thus far, the offseason has been highlighted by contracts in excess of $150 million to Jacoby Ellsbury and $240 million to Robinson Cano, but it’s the smaller, less talked about moves that could pay major dividends in 2014. 

With revenue rising around the sport, free-agent players are receiving eye-opening offers and signing them without hesitation. Due to the cost of those free agents, general managers are holding onto their prospects, hoping for cheap labor to impact the club within a few seasons.

As the sport takes center stage in Disney World, we await the next major signing or trade, but often, it’s the smaller pacts or less publicized trades that go without the coverage they deserve.

Here are the six biggest steals of the offseason thus far. From one-year contracts to trades, the six players changing addresses all can provide more value than their most recent transaction suggests.

*All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.

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Is Brian Wilson the Right Man for the Detroit Tigers’ Closer Job?

The Detroit Tigers were linked to seemingly every “proven closer” under the sun last winter. In the end, general manager Dave Dombrowski moved to acquire none of them.

The closer search is on again this winter. This time, however, it sounds like Dombrowski sees a guy he actually likes: Brian Wilson.

According to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, the Tigers are “moving towards a possible deal” with the 31-year-old right-hander, formerly of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. In related news, Henning also noted that the Tigers have been “aggressively hunting” a closer, preferably one with a “younger, more dynamic arm” than that of the 36-year-old Joaquin Benoit. 

Color me fascinated. More to the point, color me…well, nodding my head in approval if you can manage that level of artisticness (trademark pending).  

It’s hard to pass complete judgment on the Tigers’ apparent interest in Wilson without knowing any terms. But since Dombrowski declined to chase Rafael Soriano last winter and is apparently fixing to sign Wilson over Joe Nathan this winter, I feel safe in speculating that the terms would be modest. Dombrowski may want a closer, but he doesn’t seem dumb enough to pay “proven closer” prices.

In this case, paying a more subdued price for Wilson to step in as the club’s closer is easily justified. He’s a guy who absolutely has the goods to outperform a modestly priced contract.

We naturally have to start with how Wilson performed in 2013. He started his comeback from a 2012 Tommy John operation—unfortunately not his first—in August, and quickly gathered steam.

When it was all over, he did this in the regular season and the postseason:

The “DANGER: SMALL SAMPLE SIZE” caveat applies here. A total of 19.2 innings isn’t a whole lot. Certainly not enough to draw definitive conclusions about a guy. If it were, Wilson would be drawing a ton more interest as a free agent than he seems to be.

But still, wow. That’s one earned run allowed in 24 appearances, and a strikeout rate that stands tall over his 24.8 career mark. And for a guy who hadn’t pitched in over a year, an 8.2 walk rate is pretty darned impressive.

In addition, Wilson was keeping the ball on the ground quite a bit. Per FanGraphs, his regular-season GB percent was 56.3. In the postseason, it was 71.4.

Never mind the ERA and the WHIP. The strikeouts, walks and ground balls represent the really exciting aspect of Wilson’s comeback. There’s only so much a pitcher can do to control how much success he has, but striking batters out, limiting walks and keeping the ball on the ground is about as good a recipe for success as there is.

Can Wilson keep this up? That depends on what or whom you ask.

If you ask a what, your best move is to consult some sort of projection system. Steamer’s a good one, and if we pluck Wilson’s Steamer projections for 2014 from FanGraphs and compare them to his 2013 production, we get:

In other words: No, Wilson’s not going to be an absolutely dominant pitcher again in 2014.

ZiPS is another good projection system, but, alas, it would seem that ZiPS maestro Dan Szymborski is keeping the figures to himself for the time being.

However, Szymborski did chime in on Twitter:

In other words, the same refrain: No, Wilson’s not going to be an absolutely dominant pitcher again in 2014.

Lackluster projections admittedly aren’t the only reasons to be skeptical about Wilson. One thing I noticed is that 11 of his 21 strikeouts were of the looking variety. That’s over 50 percent, a figure that demolishes his pre-2013 rate of 31 percent and the 2013 league average of 24 percent. My powers of logic tells me that’s going to be a hard feat to repeat.

Then there’s Wilson’s fastball velocity. Per FanGraphs, the Baseball Info Solutions data says he worked in the 95-96 range in his heyday in 2009-2010. In 2011, a year during which he told the San Francisco Chronicle he was pitching with considerable elbow pain, he averaged 94.3 miles per hour.

But in 2013? Just 93.2 miles per hour.

So why be optimistic?

One reason is that decreased velocity didn’t mean a decreased ability to miss bats in 2013. It’s a small sample size number, but FanGraphs has his 2013 swinging-strike percentage at 9.2 percent. That’s a tick higher than his career rate of 8.9 percent.

Wilson kept it up in the postseason. Though it doesn’t see such things exactly the same way that FanGraphs does, Baseball-Reference.com says that Wilson’s swinging-strike percentage in October was 12 percent.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, there was something else going on: Wilson was reaching back for some extra velocity. As Brooks Baseball can vouch, there was a spike in Wilson’s heat in October. He was regularly throwing 95 miles per hour.

Maybe that was Wilson’s old arm strength returning to him. Or maybe it was just adrenaline. Either way, it’s a sign that his old mid-90s velocity isn’t ancient history even after two Tommy John surgeries. Even if he can only do so on occasion, his elbow can still handle getting the ball up there in a real hurry.

If you’re worried that he can’t do so all the time, well, don’t be. There’s more to pitching than velocity, after all. Pitch selection, for example, is sort of important.

Speaking of that, did you notice the trend at play when you went and looked at Wilson’s velocity earlier? If not, well, this is it right here:

As time has gone on, Wilson has become less and less dependent on his heat and more and more dependent on his cutter. And after teasing an extremely cutter-heavy approach in the two appearances he made in 2012, he picked up where he left off upon his return in 2013.

Wilson also has a two-seamer in addition to a classic four-seam fastball. It’s a pitch he unveiled to much acclaim in 2011. And between the regular season and the postseason, Brooks Baseball says that Wilson threw his two-seamer almost as often as he threw his four-seamer in 2013.

Nothing forces a pitcher to reinvent himself quite like leaking velocity. That’s exactly what Wilson has done, moving away from a pitcher who got by on velocity and toward a pitcher who is going to get by on movement.

To study said movement, we shall go to the video.

Here’s one of Wilson getting Carlos Beltran looking on a cutter on the outside corner:

And if you watch to the end of this video, you’ll see a two-seamer that got Juan Perez looking:

That cutter? Pretty good.

That two-seamer? Also pretty good.

And since it’s there to be noted, the control to put those pitches where they were put? Another pretty good thing. Maybe not 50-percent-looking-strikeouts good, mind you, but pretty good.

Here at the end, we re-acknowledge that the absurd numbers that Wilson compiled in his comeback are extremely unlikely to happen again. There’s a lot going right, and then there’s a bit too much going right. Wilson’s comeback was a case of the latter.

But since Wilson compiled those absurd numbers with the cunning use of filthy-moving pitches and good location that got him lots of strikeouts and ground balls and kept his walks at a decent rate, there’s plenty to like about how he attacked his comeback. And that, in turn, means there’s plenty to like about him going forward.

Even if the terms end up being less modest than one figures they will be, Dombrowski and the Tigers have their eyes on a darn fine choice for their closer role.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.


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MLB’s End-of-Postseason Stock Watch for Upcoming Free Agents

Of the free agents who will be able to negotiate and sign with new teams beginning on Tuesday, November 5, several of them had an extended opportunity to increase (or decrease) their value in the postseason. 

While only a handful of innings pitched or a small sample size of at-bats normally wouldn’t move the needle very much on a veteran player’s perceived value, a player’s ability to produce in the playoffs certainly can. 

Here are 10 players whose asking price has likely risen or fallen since the end of the regular season.


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2013 MLB Postseason Stock Watch for Upcoming Free Agents, Week 1

How a player performs when the games matter most could have an affect on his overall value, which is of greater importance to those who are eligible for free agency at season’s end. 

While a majority of these players will not stand out in a good or bad way, there are a handful of them who will. As a result, the price tag could rise or fall, at least slightly. A pair of 2012 postseason stars, Marco Scutaro and Anibal Sanchez, each cashed in after boosting their value greatly with strong playoff performances. 

Here are six players off to either a great start or a very poor start, or in one case, already done for the season after a wild-card loss. 


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Dodgers’ Brian Wilson and His Big, Bad, Black Beard Return to MLB Postseason

Amid a bevy of young stars and Cinderella hopefuls, a familiar beard emerges in the MLB postseason. 

You either love him or hate him, but you certainly can’t take your eyes off Brian Wilson or his beard that continues to build as big a legacy as the man hidden beneath it. 

Last we saw of Wilson in the playoffs, he was tipping his hat to the Giants bullpen and giving them all the support he and his outrageous beard could muster. 

It’s all he could do as he came back from Tommy John surgery that April, a surgery he felt would help him return to the team he delivered 171 saves for from 2006-2012.  

Before that, he was busy providing the menacing gaze and powerful arm that gave the Giants six saves during the 2010 postseason, helping the franchise eventually win their first World Series since 1954. 

Fearing the beard was at an all-time high. 

Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and a Tommy John procedure that is becoming as routine as a McDonald’s drive-thru, Wilson is back—only he pitches for the enemy

His arm is nearly as lively and his beard is iconic.  

Proving that he is as confounding to hitters as well as fans, Wilson provided remarkable stats to close the 2013 season as well as one peculiar moment featuring his former team’s CEO. 

As CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly reports, Wilson confronted CEO Larry Baer after the Giants win over the Dodgers on Sept. 26. 

While Wilson shrugged off the exchange as, “Just a conversation between me and him.” Baggarly found from sources it centered on his World Series ring he was yet to receive from his former team.

The act didn’t sit well with some, namely The San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins who offers an interesting insight into a man he believes has become more on an off-kilter character than the one who once pitched for San Francisco. 

As Wilson crossed the field to lecture Larry Baer about not receiving his 2012 World Series ring (yo, Brian, they’ve been trying to give you that ring for seven months), I couldn’t help but recall a scene in Philadelphia before the start of the 2010 NLCS

Jenkins goes on to recall a forthcoming athlete who, in 2010, delved into an honest discussion of his personal history, sans wild beard and silly peripherals. 

Jenkins continues with what he believes Wilson has become. 

Now he’s someone who was invited to the Giants’ ring ceremony (in April) and refused. Someone who was offered a private ring presentation with the Dodgers in town this week, but turned it down.

If one were so inclined, you could draw a comparison to his neat beard that was trimmed and in control to the one that seems to have taken over his face. Can we possibly believe Wilson is now as wild as his facial hair because of one interaction in 2013?

That’s what some might believe. Jenkins even points to The Chronicle’s Henry Schulman who he quotes as saying, “Somewhere along the line, Wilson got angry. And he’s been mistreating a lot of people who were awfully good to him over the years. Sad.”

Once again, Wilson will hit the big stage, beard in tow. The fact that his velocity is up and his ball has movement means those outside the Los Angeles area will get to reintroduce themselves to the wacky antics of Wilson anew. 

Fangraphs shows Wilson’s fastball averages in at 92.6 miles per hour, faster than what we saw before he went down in 2012—their velocity chart illustrates his speed even approaches that of his 2011 totals.

In just over 13 innings pitched with the Dodgers, Wilson has posted a 0.66 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, striking out 13 batters. 

So we assume the Dodgers will look to Wilson, a man with postseason experience, a few times in the coming weeks. It’s then that most will have to ponder a question that has no real answer: Who is the real Brian Wilson?

Is he the candid pitcher who was just beginning to reach his potential with the Giants? Is the jokester who introduced a world to The Machine? Or is he just a great pitcher who is a genius at marketing his brand?

Perhaps he is all, or maybe none truly encapsulate someone so seemingly bizarre off the mound but calm and collected when he is on it. 

The only thing we know for sure is he commands your attention, and will be a welcomed addition to an already star-studded MLB postseason. 


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Los Angeles Dodgers: Brian Wilson Expected to Be Activated Sunday

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brian Wilson appears to be close to returning to the big league diamond. According to multiple sources, the former San Francisco Giant is expected to be activated Sunday after successfully throwing the equivalent of 1.1 innings in a simulated game on Friday. Wilson threw to Dee Gordon, Nick Punto and Matt Kemp (twice). He wore number 00.

Wilson has been solid in his recent minor league appearances, throwing 3.1 scoreless innings.  

The Dodgers are hoping Wilson can add to a bullpen that has been very dominant recently. In July, Dodgers relievers led the National League with a 2.52 ERA and have become even more dangerous in August with a 1.97 ERA, according to ESPN stats.

Wilson was signed to a one-year, $1 million contract last month. He has not pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery. 

Manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt watched Wilson’s simulated game. Mattingly compared what he saw Friday to Wilson’s time with San Francisco and said, “He looks pretty much the same (as he did with the Giants),” according to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.  

Wilson is a former All-Star closer with a career that includes 171 saves and an ERA of 3.21. His best season was 2010 where he posted a 1.81 ERA, recorded 48 saves and won a World Series ring.  

His experience in pressure moments in big games will be extremely valuable to the Dodgers down the stretch. And if you are unfamiliar with Wilson’s personality…

…he certainly is a character. 

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MLB Contenders That Could Use Brian Wilson for the Stretch Run

As the season gets closer to the postseason stretch run, the return of Brian Wilson is going to pique the interest of many MLB contenders.

Wilson was once one of the best closers in baseball, saving 163 games between 2008-11.

However, elbow inflammation landed him on the disabled list late in 2011. In 2012, he underwent Tommy John surgery and was non-tendered by the Giants after the year.

Now, almost fully healed, Wilson is ready to make his return late in the year.

The biggest question is, which contenders could be interested in the right-hander?


Atlanta Braves

If the Braves haven’t made a move for bullpen help by the trading deadline, you can almost bet they’ll be in on Wilson.

Having lost Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters for the rest of the season (and possibly most of next), Wilson could be someone the Braves use down the stretch.

The Braves currently have Jordan Walden as the only viable setup man for closer Craig Kimbrel.

Luis Avilan has filled in nicely with a 1.43 ERA and team-leading 13 holds, but the Braves need more in the bullpen.

They need somebody that can come in during the seventh or eighth to shut the door.

If Wilson proves to be throwing like he used to, it would be worth the risk for the Braves.


Detroit Tigers

We all know about the problems the Tigers have had closing games. 

While some see the Tigers going after Jonathan Papelbon or John Axford, Wilson is a viable candidate for Detroit.

The biggest plus to signing Wilson would be that they wouldn’t have to give up any prospects, which is something they couldn’t get away with by trading for the other two.

Wilson would also come relatively cheap for the rest of the year. Papelbon will be owed $6.5 million for the last half of the year, while Axford will be owed $2.5 million.

The Tigers could offer Wilson $1 million to finish out the year and he’d likely take it. Not only because he knows he has to prove himself, but because he knows the Tigers have a great chance at winning the World Series.


St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals could always use bullpen help.

While Edward Mujica has done well closing games, it’s getting to him that’s been the problem.

While things have improved over the last month, St. Louis still needs the bullpen to be better.

Relievers currently have a 3.52 ERA and are allowing opponents a .247 batting average.

Teaming Wilson with Trevor Rosenthal would give the Cardinals a formidable back end for the stretch run.


Boston Red Sox

Like the Tigers, the Red Sox could use a closer. 

As a relief corps, the Red Sox have 17 saves on the year with four of those coming from injured Joel Hanrahan.

Throw in the fact that Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales are also injured and you see the Red Sox need help.

In the playoffs, a strong bullpen is the key to any series. Of the four teams listed, Boston has the weakest bullpen and one of the weakest of all current contenders.


Likely Destination

Detroit seems to be the most logical choice for Wilson if the Tigers haven’t landed a closer by the deadline.

They have the biggest need at closer, with the Red Sox not far behind.

However, Wilson could surprise everyone and head back out West to pitch for a contender.

Had it not been for Tommy John surgery, that’s likely where he’d still be and likely where he wants to continue to be.

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