I'll bet this was taken in his Mom's basement.

Jack Wilson's Weakest Link

I'll bet this was taken in his Mom's basement.

Other than the fact that he looks like he should be writing this post.

It has been well established; Jack Wilson is a known quantity. He’s a 1-2 WAR shortstop that derives most of his value from the fact that he’s an outstanding defender at a premium position and doesn’t suck at the plate. He’s not a fantasy pick, certainly. His career wOBA .298. His season high in stolen bases is 8. His career ISO is .106 and career BB/K 0.47. In his best years he was league average offensively and at 32 years old his best years are certainly behind him.

Jack Wilson came over in the Pirates trade last year and promptly made a poor impression to the Mariner’s fanbase. Ultimately he provided 0.1 WAR in 31 games in teal and blue. Yuck. So is this the beginning of a decline for an aging player starting to show wear and tear? Or was the new environment, injuries, and league adjustment cloaking a player with value still to give?

Let’s first look at the injury. The bruised heel is mildly concerning in its severity but it’s not like this type of injury is usually reoccurring. Not without a hammer or something. The hamstring, though, is more concerning. Especially for someone described by Rick Griffin as “older” and “not the most flexible guy in the world.” I’m convinced that Ichiro’s flexibility is the biggest contributing factor to his longevity, hopefully Jack’s new yoga regimen will help.

His year started out great in Pittsburgh. He put up an 11.5 UZR and his wOBA was .300 before the trade. Vintage Jack. A good sign. So why the decline?

Jack Wilson’s O-Swing% has been consistently around the league average of ~25%. But 2009 saw a change in his approach.

_                               2007  2008  2009                                 Pre-trade      Post-trade
O-Swing%     26.2     26.9   32.4                       K%         11.7               15.9
LineDrive%  18.8    22.0    16.4                BABIP         .290                .258

Jack Wilson didn’t drive the ball as well as in years past. He started fishing on pitches outside of the zone. He started striking out more. And he got unlucky on balls in play.

With a regression in BABIP, a healthy Jack Wilson will bounce back and can be reasonably expected to contribute replacement level offense. Whether he’ll provide league average offense will depend on if he can rediscover his approach. Something to watch for. Maybe he could spend some extra time at his new business venture. Either way, coupled with his defense, Jack Wilson is as good a two year band-aid you’ll find for $5m per year.

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Tags: Ichiro Jack Wilson Mariners

  • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

    I admit I’m not razor-sharp when it comes to the new metrics of baseball, so this is a serious question. Wouldn’t Wilson’s lower BABIP be at least in part caused by the fact that he was swingning at more pitches out of the zone? It stands to reason that he would have made contact with some of those pitches and likely the balls he put in play on pitches out of the zone would not have been well-struck. This would lead to weak groundballs and pop-ups. I guess what I’m wondering is why we attribute BABIP to luck and not to pitch recognition? If Wilson was more discriminating at the plate, he would have made better contact and therefore the balls he put in play would have been more likely to fall in safely. Am I off-base in this thought?

  • http://www.sodomojo.com Nathan

    Thanks for commenting, John. Outstanding comment. http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1017&position=SS
    Here’s Jack’s Fangraphs page. You should dig through fangraphs for a day. I learn something new every time I visit. Its a great site.
    You’re correct in that batters have more control over BABIP than pitchers do. Ichiro is always above the league average just based on the type of batter he is. And the statistic was created mostly to seperate a pitcher’s performance from the defense behind him so applying it to a hitter is crude. Once we start getting data from HitF/X we’re going to have SO MUCH more data to play with. But the theory behind BABIP is that once a ball is hit, anything can happen. Let’s look at the statistic itself. Hits-HR/AB-K-HR+SacFlys. So you’re throwing HRs out of the equation. If HRs didn’t exist it’d be Hits/AB-K+SacFlys. So all it’s doing is counting the hits you got in the at bats you didn’t strike out in while giving you credit for SacFlys. See our problem? It doesn’t account for the type of hit. LD, FB, GB who knows? For now it’s reasonable to assume that for a batter BABIP outside of league average is *mostly* luck and the hitter is doing something to affect it one way or another. The red flag here is that Jack’s BABIP for his time with the Mariners is signifigantly below both league average AND his career average.

    Per Fangraphs’ pitch values his struggles against the fastball remains while he’s still OK (not good, mind you, OK) against bendy things and change-ups. This leads me to believe that the issue wasn’t pitch recognition. Which is good. If it was just his pitch recognition that fell off the map, well, he’d be screwed.

  • Ben G.

    Wouldn’t Jack’s ’04 and ’07 seasons be considered above league average offensively. He had 200 hits in ’04 and won the silver slugger award.

  • http://www.sodomojo.com Nathan

    You’re right, Ben. I was referring to league average offense across the board, I didn’t adjust it to the position. League average offense from the shortstop position is, of course, superior in a relative sense. The next time I’ll be more careful to clarify objective analysis from relative analysis.

    And, John, Jack’s O-Contact% was about almost spot on career average for him during his time in Seattle. I don’t know why I didn’t think to check that earlier.

  • http://sodomojo.com Griffin Cooper

    He had a lot of hits in 2004, but he wasn’t all that great offensively in either of those two years.

    2004: .341 wOBA, .335 OBP, 6.2 wRAA, .333 BABIP
    2007: .335 wOBA, .350 OBP, 1.7 wRAA, .308 BABIP

    So yeah, he was slightly above average, but he was also pretty lucky, as 2004 was a huge BABIP outlier.

  • Ben G.

    What does wRAA mean? That looks like a pretty big gap there between ’04 and ’07. I hope he has another good offensive year for us this year.

  • Ben G.

    Red Sox claimed Gaby Hernandez, oh no

  • http://sodomojo.com Griffin Cooper

    wRAA is his offensive runs above average, based on wOBA.

  • Ben G.

    doh..thanks..still getting acclimated to all this stuff, I just started learning all these new stats a few months ago..thanks again for posting all this stuff, I’ve been coming to this site the past few months..i frequent LL, and USS too, I’m so antsy for this season to start. Obsessed would put it mildly. Also i was going over the NRI list on the M’s website and i saw Mike Wilson on there, i guess he hit 8 homers last year in Spring..Were there any surprise additions last spring who made the team, and do you think there will be any surprises this year, and if so, who?

  • http://sodomojo.com Griffin Cooper

    Nick Hill has a decent shot at making the team in some respect – other than that, no, not really. It’s still unclear as to what the catching situation will look like, but unless you’d consider any of Moore/Bard/Johnson surprises, there really aren’t going to be many.

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