How long until Randy Wolf no longer gets the benefit of the doubt? We’re about halfway through his first season with the Brewers, and to this point, he’s statistically been the worst starter in the Brewers’ rotation.
I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of giving Wolf three years and nearly $30 million when it happened, but I understood why it was done. Much like with the ill-fated signing of Jeff Suppan, it was an offseason in which the Brewers needed to sign a starting pitcher, but it was a poor free agent class for starters. Much like with the Suppan signing, Doug Melvin went out and got one of the top two or three guys on the market and gave him a deal in line with his market value.
Unfortunately, the similarities to the Suppan case don’t stop there. I think it’s still premature to officially saddle him with the label of being the next Suppan-type disaster, but it’s pretty clear he’s not giving us a lot of reason to be optimistic about the next 2.5 years of his deal.
Heading into this afternoon’s start, he already had an ERA of 4.79, but a FIP of 5.85 — yes, as bad as he’s been, he’s actually been getting lucky with his ERA, and that was before he gave up two home runs today. His 13.9% HR/FB rate coming into Saturday is his highest since his final days in Philadelphia, and his 4.50 BB/9 is almost twice as high as it was last season.
All of those numbers are the highest among Brewers starters, and Trevor Hoffman is the only other pitcher still on the active roster struggling that badly in those categories. Unfortunately, due to his contract, it’s probably safe to say he won’t be considered in the “who are we booting for Doug Davis” conversation.
The increase in home runs surrendered was probably to be expected with him moving from Dodger Stadium to Miller Park, but I don’t think anyone was expecting him to cough up the longball at these near-Looper rates. I’m not sure why he’s walking so many more batters and striking out so many less, but the drop in the effectiveness of his fastball may have a lot to do with it.
Last year, the average velocity of his fastball with the Dodgers was an even 89.0 MPH and was an incredible 29.3 runs above average. This year, it’s down to 87.9 MPH and 12.7 runs below average. Of course, even if you’re not into pitch type values, you could probably tell that his fastball has been a problem this year — the most memorable of the homers he’s given up this year have come on grooved 86 MPH fastballs, much like Hoffman.
Wolf knows he’s stunk, but if the team is going to at least make things interesting these last few months, he needs to put up an ERA closer to the 4.00 I thought was reasonable. If he doesn’t, I guess we can at least be thankful it’s only a three-year deal, not a four-year anchor like the Suppan contract was, and at no point will he be making as much money as Suppan did.