Randy Wolf had a horrible 36th birthday. The Brewers released him in what has been a frustrating season for both the team and Wolf. According to Baseball Reference’s WAR, he has cost the team 1.1 more games that a “replacement” pitcher would. His strikeouts are slightly up, and his walks are about the same (leading to a slightly better K/BB) but his average against, BABIP, and WHIP are all up.
However, as useful as WAR can be, it is not very predictive, especially Baseball Reference’s. However, there is an argument than Fangraphs’ pitching WAR has some predictive power. Wolf’s Fangraphs WAR has him at .5, which is not very good, but clearly a MLB starter with some value. In 2011, he had a 2.5 Baseball Reference WAR and 1.4 Fangraphs WAR. So why the difference? Why is Wolf not as good in 2012 as he was in 2011?
Wolf has never had good velocity, but it hasn’t dropped. In 2007, it was 89 MPH, while it was 88.6 MPH this year before he was released. Last year it was actually 88.4 MPH, meaning he is actually added a little velocity. Of course, Wolf relies on moving fastballs, so looking at the just the 4-seamer velocity alone isn’t helpful. However, we see the same story according to Fangraphs. His moving fastball has the same velocity as it did last year and his cutter has actually added velocity. What he has seen is a diminished velocity in his slider, and he is throwing it less. With that said, there really isn’t a major trend change in Wolf’s pitch usage:
So his velocity isn’t any different, and his pitch usage isn’t much different, so what could be the culprit of Wolf’s struggles? How about stuff, more specifically, movement. Here is 2011:
Here is 2012:
There does seem to be some regression there. So it seems that Wolf has lost some of the movement that makes up for his well below average velocity. This could be an explanation for why the run values on his moving fastball and curveballs are awful this year, especially compared to last year, when those pitches were positive. So while there are defensive and luck components to his 2012 problems. There is also the simple fact that his stuff has regressed somewhat. With that said, I don’t think Randy Wolf’s career is over. According to most defensive independent metrics (including the park adjusted ones), Wolf is somewhere in between Jeremy Hellickson (who has defied all DIPs so far in his career), Ricky Romero, and Edinson Volquez. He has certainly been one of the worst starters that have been allowed to continually make starts (until now of course). I would expect for someone to pick him up within the next couple of weeks to add to the bullpen for the rest of the year. I would give him a non roster invite to Spring Training at the beginning of next season.