Brian Wilson is pitching even worse than he looks, and that’s bad news for the Dodgers. Last night he allowed four earned runs while recording just one out on a liner to center in a 7-3 loss to the Phillies. That’s Wilson’s second disastrous outing of the year, and his ERA now stands at 15.75.
Wilson has already hit the disabled list once this season — after his first meltdown of the season, against the Padres on March 30 — for what was termed as “nerve irritation” in his elbow. According to Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times, the time away “was really more for him to build up arm strength.” The break seemed to help, at least at first.
After averaging just 92 mph on his fourseam fastball and sinker in his first two appearances, Wilson was back to his old flame-throwing self against the Giants (96.5 mph on the fourseam, 95.6 mph on the sinker) in a scoreless inning where he gave up a hit and walked a batter. He surrendered two hits, a walk and an earned run in 0.2 innings against the D-Backs two days later. Then he pitched a perfect inning against Philadelphia on Tuesday, which was followed by last night’s disastrous performance, a display that has to have the Dodgers worried about their investment … that is, if they worried the slightest bit about wasting money.
In his three appearances since pitching in San Francisco, Wilson’s velocity on his power pitches has settled into an area between what it was in his first two appearances and the cranked-up mph numbers we saw last week at AT&T Park. And while Wilson has never been known for pinpoint control, he’s throwing fewer strikes than before (he’s throwing 51.9% of his pitches for strikes in 2014, compared to 58.9% in 2013). So it’s not crazy to assume that, in an attempt to keep his velocity at prior levels, he may be finding it even more difficult to command his pitches.
One can question Wilson’s odd nature at times, and the tactics he’s used to distract folks from his receding hairline make him look like someone who smells like a combination of urine, tobacco and shame, but the man’s toughness is undeniable. He finished a save in his last appearance for the Giants with an elbow he knew was shredded. After his second Tommy John surgery and a fantastic late-season run for the Dodgers (0.66 ERA in 18 appearances), he picked up a ridiculous contract from Los Angeles: $10 million in 2014 with a $9 million player option in 2015.
It looks like Wilson will exercise that option, because something seems to be wrong. Wilson left the clubhouse without speaking to the media last night (no surprise there), and Don Mattingly told reporters that he and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt don’t know if Wilson is fully healthy.
“All we can do is ask,” Mattingly said.
“I know he’s a strong guy and he wants to be out there every day. He’s a warrior,” Bruce Bochy said, three days after Wilson’s last save as a Giant. “He’s not always truthful or forthcoming with you, and that’s the problem with Brian Wilson and why he’s probably a little more difficult to manage.”
Luckily for Mattingly, the Dodgers’ bullpen is almost as deep as the team’s pockets. If there is no ligament damage in Wilson’s elbow, perhaps they can rest him for a good portion of the season and bring him back for the stretch run. But Wilson, 32, probably can’t go under the knife again and expect to be a dominant reliever. Based on past history and present struggles, even if Wilson says he’s fine the Dodgers have to prepare for life without the man who had “HOLLYWEEZ” printed on his spikes.