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Jack Wilson’s Weakest Link


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.