The Life of Brian’s Fastball

The Giant’s Brian Wilson is a fun player. He looks more rock star than ballplayer, what with his mop hair, tattoos and tight pants. He even brings his own brand pyrotechnics to the mound with a blazing fastball that at times has been clocked in the triple-digits. While Wilson accumulated 41 saves for the Giants last year, those saves came with a bloated 4.62 ERA. His 3.93 FIP indicates that he pitched a little better than his ERA, but that is not what you would by and large hope for from your closer.

This year, Wilson has emerged from being a .6 win player to a 2.3 win relief ace. 2+ wins represents the upper echelon for relievers. So why the improvement?

Wilson’s heater has long been his meal ticket. His average velocity has seen a nice bump from this year to last, from 95.7 to 96.5 MPH.

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Not only has he been able to crank up the heat, but perhaps more importantly the pitch also has considerably more movement than before. Looking at his Pitch F/x numbers, Wilson’s fastball used to be straight as an arrow, averaging just less than half an inch of horizontal movement. This season, Wilson’s fastball has much more tail, with -3.5 inches of horizontal movement. It’s probably no coincidence that batters went from slugging .390 against Wilson in 2008 to just .301 this season.

What’s more, Wilson has improved upon his control. Last season he walked a little over 4 batters per nine innings, this season he’s down to about 3.4 per nine.

With an enhancement in ‘life’ to his fastball and increased control of the pitch, “B-Weez” has blossomed into one of the game’s best closers. Giant fans haven’t enjoyed this kind of “Smoke on the Water” in quite some time.



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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.


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B
Guest
B
6 years 8 months ago

It’s great that Wilson’s been so good, but at the same time…he’s just kind of a douche, so I don’t find myself rooting that hard for him. Giants come before anything, though, so I’ll take his performance and be happy.

scott
Guest
scott
6 years 8 months ago

can you clarify why, exactly, you think someone you’ve a) never met b) will never meet and c) have almost no gauge of his personality outside of a 97.5 mph fastball, is a douche?

B
Guest
B
6 years 8 months ago

He did have his own reality show to try to let fans in on his personality. He’s been pretty active in trying to get his personality out there for people to see.

big baby
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

he’s really into UFC and he does a retarded hand gesture after every save. there’s a whole interview with him about it. consensus = douche.

scott
Guest
scott
6 years 8 months ago

well when you become a baseball player and you come up with something to honor your dead father, i’ll be sure to call you a douche for it.

big baby
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

“One More Round is a clothing line. It has to do with the drive and determination that certain fighters have when their backs are against the wall. It’s, `No matter how deep I am in this fight, no matter how badly burned I am, I’ve got one more round in me.’ That’s basically the motto, the creed, of One More Round. No matter what it takes, I’ve got one more in me.”

““Now, one of the main things I do after a game is the crossing of the arms. That’s on a T-shirt I wear underneath my jersey when I pitch. (He wore that T-shirt in an ESPN interview last month.) That’s just respecting the fighters and their commitment and determination and the hard work they put in.”

http://blogs.mercurynews.com/extrabaggs/2008/07/14/at-long-last-brian-wilson-reveals-the-meaning-behind-his-crossed-arms-gesture-after-he-saves-a-game/

has little to do with his father, actually. even if it did, you can still be a douche about it.

scott
Guest
scott
6 years 8 months ago

so you’re trying to tell me that he peed his pants when casey blake did it after hitting the HR because he takes offense to having “one more round?”

“San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson said he wouldn’t forget that Casey Blake mocked the cross-armed gesture he makes after every save as a tribute to his faith and deceased father.

The incident so upset Wilson that he wouldn’t speak to reporters about it Sunday and had to be consoled by teammates”

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/12/sports/sp-dodgers-fyi12

that worked up about a t-shirt? probably not.

Michael
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

Erik, don’t you mean horizontal movement (tail) instead of vertical movement (rise/sink)?

Erik Manning
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

Yeah, I did. Thanks for the catch.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 8 months ago

So – there’s a baseball player named Brian Wilson who plays in California. Easy money, right? The article starts with rock star references, admittedly not ones jiving with most people’s image of the Beach Boys, but there nonetheless. I read down to the bottom, expecting the inevitable – and I get a bad “Smoke on the Water” pun?! I don’t pay you for this sort of amateurism, Fangraphs! I demand that some sort of actual Brian Wilson reference get edited in instead of this tripe!

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen
6 years 8 months ago

Seriously not one “Good Vibrations” pun! I too have come to expect more…

pack
Guest
pack
6 years 8 months ago

I don’t know if I buy that Brian Wilson has turned any corners or is going to be one of the games best going forward. His hr/fb rate is sitting at an unsustainable 3.2%. 3.2 is half the career mark of rivera/nathan/paplebon. For a guy getting FB’s the rate of pap and joe, I feel his era is artificially depressed.

I’m also confused with the pitchfx data. The pitch type table says he’s almost dropped the slider, and started using his cutter exclusively. PitchFX doesn’t seem to identify cutters. Is this an identification issue? Or do you think cutters are being counted as fastballs and are skewing the h-movement?

B
Guest
B
6 years 8 months ago

You’re probably right that his HR rate will increase in the future, but he still has cut down on his walks significantly (4.04 to 3.36 per 9) while maintaining his strikeout rate (9.67 per 9 last year and this year), so he’s definitely been more effective this year and not just more lucky. Also keep in mind AT&T park limits HR’s to lefties pretty significantly, so even though his HR rate is unsustainably low for this year, you can probably expect it to stay on the low side in the future.

As for the Pitch F/X, I’d say the pitch tables probably have it wrong. I think Wilson throws primary FB/SL, and it looks like they’re just ID’ing his slider as a cutter instead (they’re very similar pitches, if I’m not mistaken, so it makes some sense to confuse them).

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