First Pitch: Wilson is Better in Relief This Year, Better as a Starter Long Term

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced today that they moved Justin Wilson to the bullpen. The move will be a short term deal, as they’re not ruling him out for the long term as a starting option.

A few weeks ago, if there was a need for a starter, I would have said Justin Wilson should get the call. Wilson was dominating, and his control — always the downside to his game — had seen major improvements. But recently he’s fallen apart. In his last six starts he has given up 20 earned runs in 25.2 innings, with a 28:22 K/BB ratio. The control has completely fallen apart for whatever reason, after looking good for a long stretch this year.

Because of Wilson’s recent struggles, he’s fallen out of the picture as a starting option. Jeff Locke and Chris Leroux have both moved ahead of him if the Pirates need a spot starter or an injury replacement. They also have Kevin Correia in the majors as a starting option. Since Wilson doesn’t factor in to the mix for the rotation, it’s not a bad idea moving him to the bullpen. He’d be a good role player in September. He’s dominating left-handers this year, with a .138 average against and only one homer in 36.2 innings. He does well against right-handers, with a .221 average against, but he’s more prone to the long ball, with ten homers in 80.2 innings.

For the long term, I still like Wilson as a starter. He struggles with his control, which can lead to some really bad starts. He’s very hard to hit, so when his control is on, he pitches like an ace. That can be extremely frustrating, as he has the talent to be a top of the rotation starter, but his inconsistent control limits his value. It’s the same story in the bullpen though. His control doesn’t get any better in relief, and he’s still prone to either looking like a dominant reliever or putting up horrible outings.

Because those scenarios exist in either role, he’d be more valuable as a starter for the long term. When he has control, it would be better to see him using that control over a full start, rather than just flashing good control for one inning. And if he can get back on track with his control, and get back in the groove he was in for the majority of this season, he could be a very valuable starter in the majors.

Links and Notes

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**The Pirates lost to the Diamondbacks 10-4.

**Pirates Notebook: Marte is as Advertised; Correia Adjusting to New Role.

**Prospect Watch: Another Great Start For Holmes, Allie Hits His Third Homer.

**Knights Run Down Indians; Holt Makes His AAA Debut.

**Chris Leroux and Jeff Locke Could Fill Roles in Pittsburgh.

**Pirates Move Lefty Justin Wilson to the Bullpen.

**Drew Sutton Outrighted to Indianapolis.

**Barrett Barnes Injury Update.

**Minor League Schedule: 8/8/12.

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About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • scrappy2499

    Hopefully he just needs to get used to his new throwing motion and repeating the delivery. This is his first year trying it out. Getting late in the season with a new delivery and maybe getting a little tired / sloppy. Hopefully it clicks over the offseason and into next year.

    • Lee Young

      Scrappy…I agree with you and Tim’s article. As a reliever, he could be another “Wild Thing” or he could not. As a starter, he could be a GOOD Jonathan Sanchez-like starter….or not. But, if I had the choice, I’d take the chance on the latter! More valuable!