17 December 2014

O's Sign Wesley Wright, a Potential Replacement for Brian Matusz

On Tuesday night, the Orioles reached an agreement with left-handed reliever Wesley Wright on a one-year deal. Wright, who turns 30 in January, was a seventh-round draft pick by the Dodgers in 2003 and a Rule 5 selection by the Astros in 2007. He has pitched in parts of seven major league seasons with the Astros, Rays, and Cubs.

Entering his final arbitration year with a projected salary of around $2 million (he made about $1.4 million in 2014), Wright was non-tendered by the Cubs earlier this month.

Year Age Tm Lg SV IP ERA+ FIP BB9 SO9
2008 23 HOU NL 1 55.2 85 5.00 5.5 9.2
2009 24 HOU NL 0 44.2 76 5.29 5.0 9.5
2010 25 HOU NL 0 33.0 70 5.14 3.5 7.9
2011 26 HOU NL 0 12.0 261 3.52 3.8 8.3
2012 27 HOU NL 1 52.1 124 3.34 2.9 9.3
2013 28 TOT AL 0 53.2 110 3.92 3.2 9.2
2013 28 HOU AL 0 41.1 104 4.06 3.5 8.7
2013 28 TBR AL 0 12.1 136 3.45 2.2 10.9
2014 29 CHC NL 0 48.1 121 3.44 3.5 6.9
7 Yrs 2 299.2 97 4.27 4.0 8.7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/16/2014.

Unlike Brian Matusz, who made 68 career starts at the major league level before being moved to the bullpen, Wright has almost exclusively been used as a reliever (only four major league starts, all in 2010). Throwing out the starter innings, here's how they compare:

Matusz: 116.0 IP, 9.47 K/9, 2.79 BB/9, 3.28 FIP, 3.61 xFIP, 37.6 GB%, 7.9% HR/FB
Wright: 280.2 IP, 8.79 K/9, 3.98 BB/9, 4.23 FIP, 3.78 xFIP, 48.4 GB%, 14.2% HR/FB

Wright's sample size is much larger than Matusz's -- by more than 164 innings. But Matusz does have superior numbers, almost across the board. Wright has a nearly 11% advantage in groundball rate, but he's also extremely susceptible to the long ball.

Using career innings splits, though, Wright is similar to Matusz in terms of retiring left-handed batters.

Matusz: 150.2 IP, .273 wOBA against, 10.69 K/9, 2.21 BB/9
Wright: 138.0 IP, .292 wOBA against, 10.24 K/9, 3.20 BB/9

Again, Wright walks more batters, but those numbers are pretty close.

Wright relies on five different pitches, which is a bit odd for a reliever. Many only need two or three. Or some, like Zach Britton, basically rely on one phenomenal pitch. But over the last couple seasons, he's thrown five different pitches more than 8% of the time. Those pitches would be a four-seam fastball, sinker, curveball, and change-up. Wright rarely throws change-ups to lefties and generally sticks to four-seamers, sinkers, and sliders, but he mixes in more curveballs and change-ups to right-handers.

Unlike Wright, Matusz can't become a free agent until 2017 since he's eligible for four arbitration years as a Super Two player. He's also a little younger (he turns 28 in February) and better. But he's also a bit more expensive, and the Orioles do at least appear open to using Matusz as a trade chip to improve another part of the team.

With Andrew Miller gone, the left-handed options in the bullpen are currently Zach Britton and T.J. McFarland, along with Matusz and Wright. Britton will likely resume his role as closer, and McFarland could find himself back in Norfolk, especially if the Orioles end up keeping all six of their current starting pitching options -- Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Miguel Gonzalez. So there could conceivably be a role for both Wright and Matusz in the same bullpen, depending on its construction. But since both are pretty awful against right-handed batters, it would be difficult, and it would also limit Buck Showalter's options in late-game situations. Also, like Matusz, Wright is out of minor league options.

If the O's do end up parting ways with Matusz, Wright should at least do a decent job of replacing him. His walk and HR/FB rates are concerning, though perhaps the O's see value in his high groundball rate with a strong infield defense working behind him. And if anyone knows how to get the most out of various relief options, it's Showalter.


Anonymous said...

Looking over their 2014 wOBA splits on fangraphs with bases empty/men on/scoring position:

Wright .360/.244/.245
Matusz .308/.345/.317

Maybe the FO thinks Wright's problem is in the windup, and the coaching staff can straighten him out? Not sure if I buy it, but the pattern does hold up (to a lesser extent) throughout their respective careers.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

But most relievers throw from the stretch, right? Does Wright throw at all from the wind-up? I have not seen him pitch that much.

Anonymous said...

are you guys going to write about duquette going to the blue jays? is this a real story?