While garnering losses in the All-Star game, ALDS, ALCS, and World Series in the same season is certainly a dubious distinction, Vaccaro seems to miss two obvious points. The first point being that a pitcher’s W-L record is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things. I could delve a little deeper into those reasons, but we’ve covered that ad nauseum in this space countless times already. In the interest of keeping this article from digressing too far off course, I’ll leave it at that.
The second, and perhaps most important, issue is that in order to meet this achievement, you have to be a pretty good pitcher. While the fans, managers, and players do an imperfect job when it comes to selecting All-Stars; they tend to mostly select deserving players. Wilson, regardless of how you judge All-Stars, was clearly worthy of his selection having posted a 9-3 record with a 3.20 ERA (if you’re a traditionalist), a 3.43 FIP, and a 117/42 K/BB ratio (if you’re a stats guy) at the break this past July. His brutal one-inning performance in the All-Star game can be chalked up to nothing more than small sample variance. Plenty of good pitchers have put together poor performances during the summer classic, and gone on to be successful pitchers in high stress situations. (See Tom Glavine)
As for Wilson’s post-season performance, it is what it is. I’m not going to draw too many conclusions based on 51 innings in October. Sure, those innings have been less than ideal, but they’re predictive of neither his future performance nor his true talent level. Many pitchers struggle for a stretch in the postseason before eventually putting together an excellent stretch of starts. A great example of this is C.C. Sabathia.
After two unsuccessful postseason ventures in 2007 and 2008, Sabathia was widely considered to be a playoff “choker.” Despite his poor previous track record, he still managed to parlay that unfavorable (and undeserved) reputation into the largest contract ever handed out to a pitcher. Furthermore, upon reaching the postseason in 2009, he carried the Yankee rotation to a championship on the strength of a 2.52 ERA in 35-2/3 innings; thus changing his reputation in the process. While I won’t go as far as saying Wilson will make the same transition as Sabathia did a few years ago, it’s certainly a possibility. When you’re dealing with a short series sample, a couple bad bounces or an unfavorable wind pattern can be the difference between being a hero or a goat.
Wilson’s an immensely talented pitcher who’s produced a 3.54 FIP and a 10.5 fWAR in value over the past two seasons, while playing in one of the most hostile pitching environments in the league. While those numbers aren’t necessarily predictive of his future performance, they establish a credible performance baseline from which we can determine reasonable expectations. Though I understand the concerns regarding his age and his unusual career path, his skill set indicates he should be a 3-4 win pitcher on average over the life of a five year deal. He has a very healthy 21% career strikeout rate as a starter; has improved his command dramatically; and keeps the ball on the ground. These things aren’t likely to change upon moving to another environment; including one that potentially carries additional scrutiny. Provided he neither sustains a major injury nor experiences an unexpected decline in performance, he should be a solid acquisition for whomever decides to sign him.
In conclusion, while Mike Vaccaro chooses to ignore the facts by focusing on a small sample of innings in an effort to create a narrative, I’ll focus on the 427-1/3 innings he’s hurled as a starter over the past two seasons. They’re far more meaningful, and chances are; I won’t need to resort to hyperbole to strengthen a weak argument.