Michael Wuertz is Just Fine, Thank You

I don't know how Billy Beane did it, but in February 2009, he traded Richie Robnett and Justin Sellers to the Chicago Cubs for Michael Wuertz. The Cubs went on to release both of them that year (they're currently floundering around in the Yankees and Dodgers systems, respectively), while Wuertz went on to lead the majors in swinging strikes induced (by more than seven huge percentage points) and place fourth among all qualified relievers in FIP and xFIP. Wuertz was simply miraculous in 2009, striking out more than eleven batters every nine innings while walking less than three over the same period. George A. King III of the New York Post called him a "right-handed, slider-throwing freak".

So what happened?

After a well-deserved contract extension (2 years/$5.25MM with a club option for 2012) and a shoulder injury that put him on the shelf during April, the slider-throwing freak made his season debut in May and...had lost everything. At the beginning of June, he held a 7.27 ERA with a K/9 around half of what it was in 2009. His sliders were hanging, unable to fool anyone. His velocity was down across the board. Did Billy just hand out money to a guy who had finished a fluky unrepeatable season? Or did he give out another big contract to a player among the many to never fully return from an injury?

Nope. Wuertz is back. Not the bad 2010 Michael Wuertz, but the slider-throwing freak of last year. His shoulder injury had some lingering effects, but Wuertz's velocity is finally back to what it was in 2009.

Wuertzvelosd_medium

The average velocity of Michael Wuertz's pitches from month to month are indicated by the high point of each bell curve. The width of each curve indicates the consistency of his velocity, where a wide bell curve means that his velocity varied significantly from appearance to appearance. It's immediately obvious from the graph—Wuertz's arm strength is finally back to normal, and with that, his velocity consistency has returned as well.

But what about movement? Velocity is one thing, but if the shoulder injury has ruined his slider to the point where he consistently leaves them up, all the velocity in the world isn't going to help. Thankfully, that's back too.

Wuertzmovementsd_medium

This movement chart shows all of Michael Wuertz's pitches this year, separated by pitch type and month, in terms of pitch break in inches from the catcher's point of view. Each oval has a radius of two standard deviations, which is fancy math talk that basically says that each oval is drawn so that it encompasses 95% of the pitches it is measuring. There's a small change in his fastball movement, but I'm more interested with his slider. Look at the huge increase in consistency! July's slider oval is less than half the size of May's, which means that not only has Michael Wuertz's velocity returned, his slider's consistency is back to where it should be. And on top of all that, his slider has increased its drop. He's essentially stopped hanging them, which he did all too frequently in May.

Welcome back, you big slider-throwing freak. Sure is nice to have another relief ace out there. And it couldn't have come at a better time.

The A's kick off a crucial series in Arlington, TX, against the Rangers. Tonight, lefty Gio Gonzalez opposes new Ranger ace Cliff Lee at 5:05 PM, Pacific Time.


Current Series

3 game series vs Rangers @ Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

Oakland Athletics
@ Texas Rangers

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2010, 5:05 PM PDT
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

Gio Gonzalez vs Cliff Lee

Partly cloudy,rain. Winds blowing in from center field at 5-10 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 95.

Complete Coverage >

Wed 07/28 5:05 PM PDT
Thu 07/29 5:05 PM PDT

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Athletics Nation

You must be a member of Athletics Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Athletics Nation. You should read them.

Join Athletics Nation

You must be a member of Athletics Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Athletics Nation. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker