Yesterday afternoon, Brian Wilson blew a game. Of this, I shall not speak.
Later that night, though arguments broke out amongst Giant fans everywhere centered on Wilson’s reputation and his performance. That is something that I have something to say about. I will say that one side is completely right, and the other is completely wrong. His reputation has been far better than his performance. He’s been more name than game, or more beard than chin, perhaps.
Now, let me take a few steps back from that. There are many people who will tell you, with absolute certainty that Wilson is declining. I do not make such a claim. Wilson has not been healthy all year, and he’s added a pretty looking but perhaps less than effective new pitch. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if next year (or maybe even next month), he’s back to being stingy, badassed Brian Wilson again. But for now . . .
Wilson’s main issues have come with control of the strike zone. I don’t just mean that in the sense of not throwing strikes (although he’s not throwing as many strikes). When a pitcher has control of the strike zone against a hitter, he’s coming into the strike zone when and where he wants to, and the hitter will take what he can get. When he’s not, his time in the strike zone becomes more dangerous.
Everything about Wilson’s peripherals suggests that he is less in control of this battle. He’s throwing fewer strikes and fewer first pitch strikes. Batters are swinging less often and making more contact when they swing. His surprisingly Tom Glavine-ish style of pitching (each pitch seems slightly farther outside than the previous one) has still been effective at suppressing the homerun, but he’s lost a significant amount of his ability to keep men off base.
Most teams can get by with a pitcher of 2011 Brian Wilson’s effectiveness in the closer role. We all remember the Tim Worrell year, and the Brad Hennessey stretch, but there is also Doug Jones’s whole career . However, thanks to a slew of injuries and ineffectiveness, the Giants are starting to have more players that a team can get by with than players a team actually needs to get by. The bullpen has carried the team in parts of this season, but now that Romo is hurt, Wilson’s transformation from Rob Nenn into Jose Valverde is going to become more of a problem.