Brian Wilson Gets to Hit

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has appointed me as president of label assignments, but I think calling Brian Wilson a great reliever is a worthwhile argument. He holds a 3.04 FIP over his 253-inning career and a 2.13 FIP this season in 65 innings. Wilson might be the best reliever in the National League and if he’s not, he’s probably still worthy of discussion.

It’s Friday night and the Giants are playing the Padres. It’s the top of the ninth inning with the Giants batting. The bags are full as they attempt to build on a one-run lead. Wilson – who entered in the eighth to record two outs with a runner on – is due up. Buster Posey is available to pinch hit – although evidently the Giants wanted to avoid playing him at all costs – and the bottom of the Padres’ lineup is due up in the bottom half of the inning. Righty Ryan Webb is on the mound. The Giants do not pinch hit and Wilson hits into an unorthodox double play (Juan Uribe was called for interference after grabbing the catcher’s leg while sliding by at the plate).

The Giants won the game, quenching any potential steam from the decision, but wasting time on a moot point has never stopped me before, so here we go. In The Book, Tom Tango (and company) found the difference in conversion percentage with at least a three-run lead in the ninth between a “great” pitcher and an “average” pitcher to be 2%. The Giants had used a few relievers on the night, but still had someone like, say, Jeremy Affeldt available for duty.

Now, the obvious thing here is there is no guarantee the Giants score a run no matter who bats. Wilson had nine career plate appearances in the bigs entering Friday and had never actually reached base. Maybe Wilson puts on laser shows during batting practice … but I doubt that. My assumption is that just about anyone is an upgrade. Here are the players on the Giants’ active roster who had not been used in the game, with their season-long wOBA (not including players with fewer than 50 plate appearances to give Bruce Bochy even more breathing room) taxed to include the 10% pinch hitter penalty:

Travis Ishikawa .273
Pablo Sandoval .284
Eugenio Velez .258

In order to justify not making the switch, one must believe that either: A) Wilson is a good hitting pitcher; B) the rest of the Giants’ pen is horri-awful; or C) both. Perhaps my initial reaction to bury Bochy in a snarkophagus was too strong, but I still think pinch-hitting is the best decision in the situation.

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16 Responses to “Brian Wilson Gets to Hit”

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  1. Not David says:

    Snarkophagus alone is enough to put this article in the win column.

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  2. Bruce Bochy says:

    Brian Wilson is a hard-nosed, gritty closer and he is the only one I can rely on in a SAVE SITUATION.

    Also, I have a big head.

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  3. AK707 says:

    Whats even funnier is that after the game, Bochy said that Wilson wasn’t supposed to swing, and that he missed the sign. Wilson countered with “I don’t even know the take sign.” I have a feeling that Brian wanted to hit so bad that he ignored all input from others once he was allowed to get to the plate. Pinch-hitting would have been better, but it lets you know that Bochy intended to sacrifice one out to keep Wilson in the game. What happened instead, was that he was burned when his player decided to go rogue on him. I can only assume that Brian’s wallet just got lighter.

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  4. jponrye says:

    I think the issue was not double switching when Wilson was put into the game in the first place. For a guy who normally loves to double switch all the time, even when it has no real strategic value, it was odd that Bochy didn’t do it here.

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  5. hairball says:

    Brian Wilson is a good enough closer that I really think most Giants fans were more amused than frustrated by this decision. There really isn’t anyone in the pen who can touch him. Casilla and Romo can be brilliant, but are also prone to problems. Affeldt’s been better of late, but went through a prolonged bad stretch.

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  6. JWTP says:

    What about the argument of putting him up there to the plate and just letting him take pitches instead of risking the double play to end the inning? I wanted him to stay in but would’ve rather he just struck out and let the next hitter have a chance with ducks on the pond and two down.

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  7. zenbitz says:

    Not sure why you quote stats for a 3-run save when that’s not the situation; it was 1-0. The No double switch thing is weird – but Bochy had already used 5 OFs! Schierholtz and Ross were in the game already. Fontenot had already been burned as a PH.

    I guess he could have switched Rowand -> Torres, but that’s a defensive down grade. I guess he could have put in Ishikawa for Huff… but if the game is tied he’d have already taken out all his sluggers. Finally, he could have swapped Sandoval for Uribe… but Uribe was due to lead off the 9th inning! I had to look at the Roster for this but Ryan Rohlinger could have maybe played 2nd and I suppose they could have swapped out Ross for Ford… but basically he was running out of position players (in september no less).

    However, Brian should have just taken pitches or tried to foul anything close. I wonder if you could teach a pitcher to do that (or anyone really)… just take any breaking pitches and foul off any fastball near the plate.

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  8. Thomas says:

    Kruk and Kuip were hoping he was just going to strike out and give the leadoff hitter (Torres?) a chance to hit.

    But yeah, he had already showed that he had good stuff in that game.

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  9. Bleachers says:

    Am I reading this incorrectly, or are we really wondering why Bochy left in the best closer in the NL in the bottom of the 9th of a 1-0 game, which happened to be the biggest game of the season for the Giants? The decision had NOTHING to do with hitting. It had everything to do with the fact that Wilson leads the planet in 5 out saves (which this was). Runs were solid gold on Friday night in SD and very, very difficult to come by. The odds of the Giants scoring there by PH’ing the likes of Ishikawa, Sandoval, etc were remote at best. The odds of Wilson completing that save were high (he’s converted 9 of 10 saves that took more than 1 1/3 innings….pretty amazing stat).

    Obviously Wilson should’ve taken 3 strikes, no question. But wondering why he was left in the game is simply asinine.

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  10. Dann M says:

    I agree with the people who agree with Bochy’s general decision. Tango’s 2% is inclusive of any given applicable situation. Sorry, but a 1-0 game against a team fighting you for a division title in September is what we call a “high leverage situation.”

    Consider that the odds of Wilson making an out were probably around 90+%, even with the take sign being ignored. Even the best available hitter on the Giants would likely record an out 60% of the time. That’s what a .400 OBP means. And then, if you use Sandoval and he gets on, you still probably need multiple hits to get him around, and still at least one more for Uribe ahead of him.

    Or you can say, you know what, the odds of Wilson recording 3 outs before allowing a run are better than the odds of a pinch hitter bringing Uribe closer to home plate. Based on intuition, I’d say Wilson’s odds are pretty good.

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  11. The question really isn’t weather Wilson should have been in the game. It’s why Bochy didn’t double switch Ford in for Ross when he brought Wilson into pitch. The pitchers spot was due 5th. Bochy drives me nuts with his lack of forsight moves.

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  12. Nick says:

    Wilson is the most underrated Closer in the game.

    When you consider his 2.25 FIP, it really is remarkable considering how unlucky he has been.

    Now the BABIP at .346 up from a career 3.24 might not be cause to groan about. but it kinda is when you look at his LD% being down as well. 14.4 in 10′ from 18.1 for his career.

    His K/9 has improved, his BB/9 has improved. Basically he has improved every year since 08′. Why?

    Try looking at his Cutter usage. Up at 34 percent of the time from 19.5 for his career.

    One of my biggest peeves with Wilson in past years as a Giants fan watching him was the stubbornness in his fastball. No doubt it was great pitch with its velocity, but he was very predictable with it and if you don’t thrown something else, big league hitters will hit 96,97.

    He has learned how to pitch better this year and knows when to give in and when not to.

    The only closers having a better year than Wilson are Wagner and Rivera.

    Wilson is elite.

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