Justin Wilson was an unsung member of the New York Mets bullpen during the 2019 season and could duplicate the same success in 2020. After stumbling out of the gates to begin the season, Wilson found his groove towards the end of August and carried it to a dominant September.
Justin Wilson shuts the door and the Mets defeat the Marlins, 8-4 pic.twitter.com/LRVZ2tJoT9
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 9, 2020
Wilson reclaimed his late-inning role in the bullpen but struggled to keep runners off base. Over his first 11 outings, he allowed 12 hits and seven runs, and the BABIP against him was .440. Wilson was another victim of a pitcher who needed a full spring camp to regain his dominance on the mound. What did him in were two outings where he allowed three runs. In the rest of those nine outings, he allowed a run once.
Hot and Cold
When Wilson struggled, he could not limit the scoring from becoming a crooked number. Wilson regained his bullpen success over his last 12 outings. Over 11 innings, Wilson allowed one earned run, struck out 15, and the BABIP against him fell to .231. The most telling outing of that stretch where the Mets desperately needed him to pitch on a third consecutive day. Wilson struggled with his control but managed to get the Mets out of a bases-loaded jam. At the time, it was a game the Mets needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Most of Wilson’s 2020 stats were within one of each other; these included his WHIP, H/9, BB/9, K/9, and HR/9. What hurt him was his inability to be a dual-threat to both sides of the plate. Lefties only hit .115 while righties hit .306, after hitting .232 in 2019.
Wilson’s cutter was a major weapon in 2019 (.197 AVG., .246 SLG.), but it was hit for a .364 average in 2020. The difference was a small, but key, one where Wilson was throwing them low but more were in the middle of the plate. Wilson pinpointed it in 2019, but the xBA only rose 16 points. Getting his location back will make it a dominant pitch again.
Bring Him Back
Overall, the ERA does not explain the season Wilson had. His exit velocity against was the lowest of his career, and his hard-hit rate was in the top 8% of the league. Wilson’s FIP (3.04), WAR (0.5), SIERA (3.92), and soft/hard-hit rate (26.4%/20.8%) were all better than they were in his great 2019 season. If the Mets can bring him back, it would be a no-brainer to give him another contract. If this were a full season, Wilson’s ERA would have balanced out to match the rest of his numbers.
2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)
4-Seam Fastball: 70 (70), On the brink of being a hard sinker, batters only hit .158 against the heat.
Cutter: 30 (65), Slightly struggled with location but will return to an effective pitch in 2021.
Slider: 50 (55), Only threw 12, but it is a pitch Wilson should use more often.
Sinker: 40 (N/A), 4-Seam Fastballs, which happened to have extra sink. Only five were thrown, and one resulted in Michael Conforto’s leaping catch.
Command: 50 (55), BB/9 has progressively improved over the last three seasons.
Overall: 55 (65), Hope to see him back in blue and orange for 2020.
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