What should we expect to get from Brian Wilson?


Reliever Brian Wilson is already with the Dodgers in Philadelphia, and it’s widely expected that he’ll be activated as soon as today, so it’s worth taking a look at what fans should realistically expect from him going forward.

In four rehab appearances between A+ and AAA, Wilson has pitched four and a third innings, struck out three, walked none, and gave up one hit. All in all, the kind of confidence building performances you’d like to see from a recovering pitcher. However, he’s been universally reported to still be sitting in the 90-93 mph range. From the time he was signed to his stints at AAA, his fastball has been stuck around that range.

When Wilson was an elite reliever with the Giants, he averaged 96 mph and threw the fastball 61% of the time. He mixed in an 89 mph cutter and 86 mph slider. As his velocity declined, starting in 2011, he reduced his reliance on fastballs, going down to 53%, and upped his cutter usage. In his tiny 2012 sample, he threw 68% cutters, showing a selection change that ended up disastrous.

Presently, in order to compensate for his velocity loss, he’s adding more reliance on the slider and a new changeup:

So Wilson has to basically reinvent himself, and while he’s not a huge risk, it is a huge risk in terms of him being effective. It’s odd then that Don Mattingly has said from the beginning that he plans to use Wilson in the setup role.

That dream is even weirder considering how the bullpen has performed in the last month…

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…and especially the last week.

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I mean, even Carlos Marmol and Brandon League are currently pitching well. And I bring them up because I don’t think expectations for Wilson should be much higher than fans have for those two.

When Wilson was signed, I half-jokingly wrote a post regretting the Dodgers inking him, mainly because I don’t like his shtick. However, there was legitimate concern and skepticism on my part that he would be any improvement on League or Marmol, much less become a setup man. Nothing has happened since then to put me off that opinion, as he’ll have to prove he can be effective as a new type of pitcher, something you rarely want to bet on at his age.

That said, crazier things have happened before, and they certainly have happened this year for the Dodgers. So as long as expectations are held in check, Wilson should be yet another interesting experiment to track the rest of the way as the team looks towards their playoff roster.

About Chad Moriyama