Brian Wilson, San Francisco's bushy-bearded, mohawked stopper, will get the call for Bruce Bochy's National League All-Stars tonight if a save chance arises. There has been some concern about The Beard lately, as he has coughed up five runs in five innings this month. Henry Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle explains:
Before Saturday's game, pitching coach Dave Righetti conferred with Bochy and the decision was made to sit Wilson, who has not been sharp lately. In his past five appearances, he has allowed nine hits and five runs (four earned) in five innings, with two blown saves and a loss.
Wilson's fastball velocity is down some, though part of that can be traced to throwing more two-seam fastballs. which are slower but move more.
"He feels great. He's healthy," Bochy said. "We've talked to him about it. We're not concerned about it at all."
Wilson's fastball velocity is down this season, as he's averaging 94.2 MPH with the pitch after sitting at 95.9 MPH in 2010 and 96.5 MPH in 2009. And, as Schulman noted, Wilson is throwing somewhat slower fastballs with more tailing action, particularly since the beginning of June. Look at the movement on Wilson's fastball in April and May, compared to June and July:
Since June, Wilson's fastball has added about two inches of armside run and has had one less inch of vertical break. Compared to 2010, Wilson's June-July 2011 fastball has four to five inches more tailing action and sits two inches lower in the zone.
The result of Wilson's fastball experimentation so far has been a sharp drop in hitter misses -- 15 percent this season, compared to 25 percent in 2010 -- but an increase in ground ball rate from 36 percent last year to 53 percent in 2011. Perhaps Wilson is still adjusting to the extra run on his fastball, as his strike percentage with the offering has fallen from 64-65 percent in years past to 59 percent this season.
Overall, batters have a .307 Weighted On-Base Average against Wilson's fastball this season, compared to .275 last year. It will be interesting to see whether Wilson continues to throw his fastball with added movement and less velocity, sacrificing some whiffs for grounders, or he returns to the more powerful approach employed in past seasons. If he gets in the game tonight, keep a close eye on The Beard's heat.