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Jack Wilson Struggling

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Dejan Kovacevic's new notebook mentions Jack Wilson's recent troubles at the plate. I've been meaning to write about this for a while.

Wilson hit extremely well in April but contributed almost nothing since then. He had a .292 batting average in May, but had just two walks and five extra base hits (all doubles) the entire month, resulting in a .653 OPS. As Kovacevic says, Wilson was even worse in June, hitting .190 with only four extra base hits.

His current season line:

.258/.296/.373

To put that into perspective, Baseball Prospectus' VORP stat says that Wilson has been just one and a half runs better with the bat than the typical backup or Class AAA callup. Essentially, this means that the Pirates would lose almost nothing on offense if they just dumped Wilson and replaced him with, say, Yurendell DeCaster. Obviously, Wilson is far better with the glove than DeCaster or just about anyone else, but it's very hard to be even an average player overall if you're only replacement level with the bat. If anyone can do it, it's probably Wilson, but it doesn't seem likely, especially since fielding stats like zone rating and range factor suggest that he hasn't been quite as effective with the glove as he was last year. (He certainly still looks good out there, of course.) I can't say exactly how much Wilson's defense has been worth this year, but it'd have to be beyond extraordinary to make Wilson's year a good one overall.

We might be tempted to dismiss Wilson's poor offense since the end of April as the mother of all slumps, but, first, I can't think of any obvious reason (like an injury) to do that, and, second, his hitting for the year is pretty much as it always has been.

YEAR OPS
2006 669
2005 662
2004 794
2003 656
2002 638

Which one of these is not like the others?

I don't have anything especially insightful to say here, because the conclusion should be pretty clear: Wilson just isn't much of a hitter. That doesn't mean he isn't valuable, but it does mean that we should view his contract extension with fear. Wilson is 28, and his play is not likely to get better. He already isn't worth the $6 or $7 million a year he'll be getting over the course of his contract, and he's probably likely to get worse by the time it's over.