When you look over the past month there has been no other reliever on this Mariner squad as good as Tom Wilhelmsen. This is kind of surprising because, to be honest, his previous experience at the big league level sucked and he’s sucked rather badly.
What was the cause for the suckage? Predominately, it was because he just couldn’t throw strikes. He couldn’t throw first pitch strikes, he couldn’t throw a 3-0 strike. He couldn’t throw his fastball for a strike and when you are in the business of pitching in major league baseball its currency is strikes.
Okay, he did throw a few strikes. But his command was often bad and his pitch locations were poor at very best and while he went sent down to AA-Jackson to be stretched out as a starter, I have to believe a contributing factor was how poorly he performed at the big league level.
Unfortunately, he sucked in AA too, though it wasn’t on the same level. Yet you did expect him to get better pitching in AA after coming back from the Major Leagues. Well, maybe that’s a wrong expectation. But, in a logical sort of way it makes sense.
In Jackson he continued to be able to show the ability to miss bats but continued to show a lack of command over his pitches. He maintained an ERA/FIP of 5.49/5.12 and this is with keeping his HR/FB ratio below league average and a league average BABIP. The only thing “luck wise” that you could point out was he had a LOB% of 65.4% which is under the league average; otherwise he just wasn’t any good.
Surprisingly enough despite his mediocre 60 innings in Jackson, the Mariners promoted him in early August. I can’t really speak for everyone but I personally just felt like it was a mistake. But hey, I’ve been wrong about a lot before.
See pictures and stuff after the jump…
The before and after numbers are quiet interesting, but it’s not just the numbers. Looking at the pitch F/X it’s kind of interesting. It looks kind of like he adjusted his release point a little and that’s been helping him throw more strikes.
BEFORE – May 7th vs. White Sox
AFTER – September 10th vs. Royals
Wilhelmsen managing to repeat his delivery, hitting his arm slot and release point has not only improved his command but it seems to have returned his velocity. Not to mention that it’s more consistent as well.
And the stats before and after simply speak for themselves.
He’s throwing more strikes, while still missing bats. I’d still like to see him throw more first pitch strikes and stay ahead of hitters but the progress he’s made is phenominal.
The Mariners have to be-and should be- excited about how Wilhelmsen has come into his own in the past month. He’s become one of the more dependable figures in this bullpen and heading into next year it’s nice to know that the organization has one more arm to learn on.