Sunday, December 28, 2003

For my first post, I'd like to discuss Dan Wilson.

We'll start by taking a look at his batting lines for 2003: .241/.272/.339/.611

Wilson is 34 and is getting old for a catcher. The question is, how is age affecting him?

Wilson's batting line for recent years:
2001: .265/.305/.403/.708
2002: .295/.326/.396/.722

2000 was a poor year for Wilson; previous to that he had performance similar to that in 2001 and 2002, giving us a respectable OPS in the low .700s. 2003 was a bad year for Wilson; the question is, was he just unlucky or is he showing signs of age?

Looking at his history, you can see a few changes in Wilson that started after his 2000 season. His BB/PA ratio (walk per plate appearance) ranged from 6% to 7.5% from 1995 to 2000. In the last few years, we've seen a decline: in 2001, it was 5% (a 33% decline from 2000); in 2002, 4.7%; in 2003, 4.5%.

Similarly, he is getting less walks per strikeout (BB/SO.) From 1995 to 2000, this ratio ranged from 0.35 to 0.54. The ratio declined from 0.43 in 2000 to 0.29 in 2001, 0.22 in 2002, and back to 0.29 in 2003.

So if Wilson is walking less, what was he doing to keep his averages up, and what happened in 2003? And could we have spotted trouble?

As we mentioned before, in 2000 Wilson slumped. He posted a .235/.291/.336/.627 line. This is the worst season that Wilson had since his first year in Seattle back in '94. (Note, however, that he had a superior walk rate that year; 7.5% of his PA resulted in walks.) In 2001 his line improved to be similar to 1999:

1999: .266/.315/.382/.697
2001: .265/.305/.403/.708

Batting average was the same. Power went up. OPS went up. But his OBP went down. In fact, Wilson's historical OPS was .699 - close to his 2001 line. But his complete historical line is .264/.310/.389/.699. Again, higher SLG and OPS in 2001 - but at the expense of his OBP, which dropped. 2001 was the same year where Wilson's walk rate dropped dramatically.

Wilson's P/PA in 2001 actually increased slightly to 3.65, and stayed at that level in 2002. Good signs; but in 2003 it dropped to 3.52, which is a low for Wilson in the big leagues. However, it is important to note that this was just one year, and we can't assume that this will keep trending down.

So what happened to Dan?

He didn't become a less patient batter in 2001. He just started swinging more, effectively replacing walks with hits. And it worked; consider this was the year of the 116 win Mariners when nobody could do wrong.

In 2002, Wilson swung even more; however we can see a definite cost in his line: .295/.326/.396/.722. He hit the ball more, but took less walks. More importantly, his slugging percentage dropped - meaning Wilson lost power. In 2001, 18.3% of Wilson's ABs resulted in a single. That was close to his average of 18.6%. In 2002, that rose to 23.1%. His high SLG that year was due to hitting more, not hitting with more power.

2002 was Wilson's career year for BA in Seattle; but not for OBP, not for SLG, and not for OPS. The difference between Wilson's OBP and BA (which gives us another rough measure of how often a batter walks) was 0.031, the lowest it had been in Seattle since 1994.

So what happened in 2003? 17.4% of his ABs resulted in a single - lower than average for him, but not terribly so. His ability to hit for extra bases was similar to previous years; 6.6% of his ABs were for extra bases, compared to 6.4% and 6.3% in 2002 and 2000. His ability to draw a walk was the same as it had been since 2001.

That was the problem with 2003. He didn't hit singles like he did in 2002; he didn't hit with power like he did in 2001; he didn't draw walks like he did in 2000. Effectively, in the three years prior to 2003, Dan Wilson managed to keep at least part of his offensive game going to mask weaknesses. He couldn't do that in 2003.

Wilson's best hope as he ages will be to rely on his patience instead of his power. But, he hasn't concentrated on drawing walks since 2000. This is a troubling sign. I fear that Wilson will continue to swing at pitches that he should sit on, and as a result we will continue to see similar offensive results from him.
An introduction:

With the recent spurt of Mariner-related blogs, I thought it would be interesting to start one to look at the sabermetrics of the Ms. I'm a relative newcomer to sabermetric analysis, which is in some ways a burden (having to learn what everyone else already knows), but can also be an advantage (coming up with new ways of analyzing the quality of the staff.)

If you are reading this, welcome.

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