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Dan Wheeler's Big City Slider Adventure

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Dewayne Staats' favorite son-in-law. (Photo by Dennis Adair)
Dewayne Staats' favorite son-in-law. (Photo by Dennis Adair)

Dan Wheeler does not like things to be balanced or even. Since rejoining the Rays in late 2007, Wheeler has either been really good or really bad. His 2008 started out fantastically, but he traded good and bad months from there on out. He ended with three months with a FIP greater than 6.1 and three months with a FIP less than 3.3. Overall, his numbers still suggested his campaign was a bit lucky and we figured additional regression would occur in 2009.

The predication held true and Wheeler's 2009 started off much like his 2008 ended; badly. In true Dan Wheeler fashion, he rebounded from really bad to really good. Staying true to form, Wheeler has had peaks and valleys all season.

Here is his monthly ERA/FIP over the last two seasons...

Wheeler

IP

ERA

FIP

April 08

13

1.38

3.29

May 08

13

2.77

6.52

June 08

12.1

1.46

2.73

July 08

8

3.38

6.13

August 08

12.2

4.26

2.97

Sept.08

7.1

7.36

6.81

Wheeler

IP

ERA

FIP

April 09

7.1

8.59

7.18

May 09

10

1.8

4.29

June 09

10

1.8

1.89

July 09

10

4.5

4.79

August 09

6.1

1.42

3.57

As you can see Wheeler 2009 has seen one really bad month, one really good month and a few months that have been around average.

One reason for the rebound after his awful April has been pitch selection. Search the archives in April and you'll find plenty of posts from Erik about how bad his fastball and fastball velocity was. It also happened to be the month he used his fastball the most.

 

FB

SL

CB

CH

April 09

64.5

20.7

5

4.1

May 09

56.1

28.7

6.5

8.9

June 09

53.9

29.5

8.3

8.3

July 09

46.9

35.4

8.9

8.9

August 09

31

29.7

22.4

6.9

Surprising, his fastball was actually average for the month with a wFB of 0.0. In actuality, it was Wheeler's slider that was below average in April with a wSL of -0.6.  

 

wFB

wSL

wCB

wCH

April 09

0

-0.6

0.1

-1.1

May 09

0.4

0.1

0.6

0.9

June 09

-0.1

1.9

0.4

0.2

July 09

2.9

-0.5

0.7

-1.1

August 09

1.3

1.7

0.9

-1.3

Since then, "Big City" has fallen in love with tiny burgers his slider. It does seem that his success is tied into his slider; luckily it's been good more often than not. You'll notice his slider was below average in July, and again, it's no surprise that July was his second worst month of the season. Also make note that since minimizing his fastball use, it has made the pitch more effective. He has also added a few ticks to the heater each month.

 

FB Velo

April 09

87.1

May 09

88.2

June 09

88.5

July 09

88.7

August 09

89.1

So far in the month of August, we are seeing Wheeler use three of his four pitches in unison. It is also good news that all three are slightly above average right now. What this tells us going forward is anyone's guess. If I've learned anything from watching the Rays co-record holder for strikeouts in a game, it is that he is as predicable as a heart attack.

Another thing that we've discussed about Wheeler is his contract. I'll admit at the time of the deal I was very happy with the signing. Knowing what I know now about reliever volatility, the deal doesn't seem as good as it did back then. I'm pretty sure that Andrew Friedman won't be throwing big money at a reliever any time soon unless it's J.P. Howell or someone equal to him. As I wrote earlier this summer, giving big money extensions to non-elite relievers is not a good practice. In hindsight, the Rays probably should've just used Wheeler up and tossed him aside, but we'd all be perfect GM's with hindsight.