The Curious Case of Dan Wheeler: HR/uBB > 1

The Curious Case of Dan Wheeler           

Dan Wheeler is on pace to join a very exclusive club this season. In the past 20 years there have only been four American League relievers with a minimum of 50 innings pitched who have allowed more home runs than walks in an individual season. The bad news is that Wheeler has allowed 11 Home Runs in only 55 innings pitched. The good news is that he has a strikeout to unintentional walk ratio of 5.9. Coupled with a BABIP of .203, it is clear Dan Wheeler does not allow a lot of base runners.  BABIPs that low are pretty fluky, but Dan Wheeler finished 2008 at .202.  Wheels has managed to increase his fly ball % year/year  from 54.1% to 55.8%. Fly balls that do not leave the park result in outs far more than any other batted ball type. Now the 13.8% line drive rate is probably not sustainable.

 

So who is Wheeler's company in this club. It's a mixed bag for sure:

HR/uBB

HR/9

K/9

uBB/9

FB%

BABIP

2003 Mike Timlin

1.83

1.2

7.0

0.6

28.50%

0.279

1991 Dennis Eckersley

1.83

1.3

10.3

0.7

N/A

0.278

2009 Dan Wheeler

1.57

1.8

6.7

1.1

55.80%

0.203

2003 Julio Mateo

1.17

1.5

7.5

1.3

51.40%

0.244

2008 Joel Peralta

1.07

2.6

6.5

2.4

47.60%

0.271

 

Timlin walked 2.82/9 for his career so 2003 represented a real outlier in terms of command.  His home run rate was victimized by a HR/FB rate north of 15%.

 

Eck was a stud and a stud. No batted ball data was available but his 1.3 HR/9 broke a string of 7 years of sub-1 HR/9. His 14.7 K/BB ratio was quite nice.

 

Mateo ‘s season was probably the most similar to Wheeler's. Both are low walk-high fly ball pitchers. If you regress Wheeler and Mateo's HR totals to 10% HR/FB, Mateo would have allowed 1.35 HR/9 and Wheeler 1.42 HR/9.  

 

Peralta is an interesting member of the club only because its shocking that a pitcher can give up 2.6 HR/9, have a BABIP of .271, and a 2.6 uBB/9 and make it all the way to the 50 inning requirement.

 

We have learned Dan Wheeler will give up home runs. He's probably not the safest option to protect a 1 run lead or hold a tied game.  I have long railed against bringing him with runners on base.  However, he does not allow base runners via walk or hit and is an excellent option for holding 2-3 run leads without working into a multi-run jam.

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