Brewers, Wolf Agree to Three-Year Deal

By: Big Rygg

The report is “breaking” all over the internet (let’s be honest…the explosion of Twitter has been a ton of fun for the Winter Meetings this year so far) that free agent starting pitcher Randy Wolf has officially agreed to a new contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. After an edict from MLB stating that teams are not allowed to announce signings of any kind before physicals are completed, the Brewers are still mum at the time I write this.

The reported details are for 3 years at “nearly” and “just under” $30MM with a team option for a 4th year. This nearly matches to the letter what I posted over at the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel’s Brewers Blog yesterday. I was told by a friend that the initial contract offer from the Brewers was 3 years with an option for a 4th year (the same) but at $31MM over three years (the option year was told me to be $12MM). I’ll be interested to see what the final number is reported as since no one has been able to pinpoint it yet. First talk was 3/$27MM since some professional reporters were saying a $9MM/year deal. Then yesterday it became exactly what I said (3/$31MM) that was the offer and then today it’s 3 years but the money is down to not quite $30MM.

But enough about the financial numbers. Let’s go over the numbers that have the impact on the field that we’re all hoping Wolf will bring.

First, let me give full disclosure on something, before last season when Milwaukee needed an extra starter and we ended up with Braden Looper in February, Randy Wolf was a free agent. I did not want the Brewers going after him. Granted, since the Brewers weren’t ever really in the discussion for Wolf, I didn’t look very closely at his peripheral numbers, but the bold-faced ones that are always printed with a pitcher’s name did nothing to excite me. So, is one year in the city of angels enough to change my mind? Let’s review the numbers and then I’ll tell you whether or not I like this signing.

Please note, that’s not to say that I don’t view this signing as a necessity. The Brewers needed to land an above average starting pitcher and they landed the arguable #2 free agent starting pitcher on the market. That’s a good thing for perception if nothing else. But I digress from “need” and will now delve into the worth.

Randy Wolf – DOB: 8/22/1976, 5’10”, 210 lbs, Bats/Throws: L/L

2009 Stats: 11-7, 3.23 ERA, 34 GS, 214.1 IP, 178 H, 81 R, 77 ER, 24 HR, 58 BB, 160 K, .227 BAA, 1.10 WHIP

Wolf has been fairly mediocre over the past several seasons, and put together back-to-back 30+ start seasons for the first time since 2002/03. He pitched over 200+ innings for the first time since 2003 as well. Wolf has had some injury issues over the past half-decade, sure, but when he’s been in the lineup he has been a fair pitcher (on average).

His worst season statistically was back in 2006, his last season in Philadelphia. Sure, he was 4-0 that year, but he only started 12 games and only pitched 56 innings. In that year cut short by an injury, Wolf was never really “right”. His 5.56 ERA was the highest of his career as was his 1.69 WHIP and .285 BAA. The 56.2 IP he accumulated was easily his lowest total as well. Wolf has been a winner throughout his career, however. There are many stat-heads out there that will tell you that Wins and Losses are a terrible way to measure a pitcher’s true effectiveness. With all due respect, while I don’t believe either that they are the best way or even a great way, the numbers do hold some merit. I’ll do a separate blog about why I think that sometime down the road because if I did it now, I’d lose sight of what this post is about. Regardless, Wolf has won in his career. He overall record stands at 101-85 and even when his numbers aren’t the best, his offense tends to support him.

Here’s the rub about Wolf’s numbers though, he has consistently improved each year since the 2006 season, Perhaps culminating in the 2009 season numbers above, perhaps not. One thing we know for sure is that Randy Wolf didn’t have good numbers in 2009 simply because he pitched in a “pitcher’s park” for his home games. In fact, Wolf had better numbers on the road last season. What’s more, when he previously had pitched for the Dodgers during the 2007 season, he was 9-6 with a 4.73 ERA, a WHIP of 1.45 and a BAA of .273. What’s more, that was the only season in his career in which he finished with more ground ball outs than fly ball outs. That should lend itself to a “pitcher’s park” helping his numbers out. Perhaps it was just injuries then, but either way, Dodgers Stadium isn’t what earned Randy Wolf this contract; his left arm is.

I could go deeper and provide the stats for his road/home splits last year, but that information is available on the internet pretty readily. Besides, chances are that this is enough information to help you form your own opinion about Wolf.

So here’s mine:

Randy Wolf, while not an ace by any means to this point in his career, is a solid signing by this club. We’ll see if the money ends up hurting the team, but with so much money coming off of the ledgers after 2010, this deal shouldn’t end up hamstringing this ballclub financially so long as we all continue to fill Miller Park.

I think Wolf slots in nicely in the #2 slot in our rotation and will, as a guesstimate, be capable of contributing to 15-20 wins for the team. I’m not saying he’ll have 15-20 Wins on his record, but that with our offense, we should be able to easily win 15 of his starts with a realistic chance at winning 20 of them. Some quick math for you: If all five pitchers in a rotation make 32 starts, and the team’s record in all of them is 20-12, you finish 40 games over .500 in those games. We won’t do that because no team has five #2s on it let alone the Brewers, but I point it out for the purpose of illustration.

Oh, and for the record? The Dodgers’ record in games that Randy Wolf started in 2009 was 22-12.

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