Monday, October 08, 2007

2007 Review: Jack Wilson

2006: .272/.317/.367 with 8 HR, 27 2B, and 1 3B
2007 PECOTA: .273/.320/.392 with 8 HR, 29 2B, and 5 3B
2007: .296/.350/.440 with 12 HR, 29 2B, and 2 3B

What a weird year for Jack. As he has the past couple years, he got off to a pretty good start (.288/.323/.400 on May 8th) and swooned from there out (.233/.299/.314 from May 10th through August 28th). In his swoon, he did the one thing that Jack Wilson never seems to do, which is take plays off. During our ugly sweep at Yankee Stadium in July he looked downright disinterested and that got him benched for close to a week. In fact, there was a decent stretch in June and July where it seemed like Jose Castillo was going to take the starter's job away from Wilson, which was every bit insane then as it sounds now. Things culminated in late July when the Pirates acquired Tracy favorite Cesar Izturis and tried their hardest to deal Jack to Detroit. The deal fell through on deadline day, and somehow that lit a fire under Jack's ass that he rode to the end of the year, hitting an insane .412/.469/.691 from July 31st through the end of the season (that's over 158 plate appearances) to bring us to the season line you see above, which was good for an OPS+ of 103, Jack's second best season.

So what do we make of this? It's always been clear that Jack can hit. Every season he goes through stretches where he tears the cover off the ball. Because he does tend to be such a good fielder (BP had him as 19 runs above average this year, almost as good as his 22 in 2005, his career year with the glove) he generally only has to be an average hitter to be a valuable player. The problem is that in his bad years, his May-July heavily outweighes his April, August, and September. Really, only the incredible tear he went on this year saved his numbers. The amount of his offense this year tied up in those last 158 PAs is ridiculous. He hit eight of his 12 homers and 14 of his 29 doubles in that stretch. How can we possibly expect that to be reproducible?

As much as I'd like it to be, I think 2004 and 2007 are going to go down as blips on the radar of the Jack Wilson we hoped he would become rather than the player he ends up being remembered as. There's just too much of his offense tied up in batting average and in that final tear to make me think it's anything other than that. My gut feeling is that his 2008 is going to be much closer to his 2005 and 2006 than it is to his 2004 or 2007. That leaves the question of whether to trade him or not. That all depends on what kind of rebuilding Coonelly and Huntington are looking to do here. If they're going for a wholesale "sacrifice the now to save the future" rebuilding, then they very well may deal Wilson without a care that Brian Bixler is the only person that can take his at-bats because he's at the peak of his value right now and this is the only time in his career that his value will actually approach what we're paying him. If they're more interested in trying to cobble together a contender on top of the scraps left to them by the previous front office, Wilson is a very valuable player to have around. In fact, what Huntington decides to do with Wilson will give us a very good idea of what his plans for the future of the Pirates are.