Thursday, March 24, 2011
30 A's in 30 Days: Michael Wuertz
Acquired: Traded by Chicago Cubs for IF Justin Sellers and OF Richie Robnett (February 2, 2009).
Contract: Two years through 2011 (with club option for 2012).
Position: Right-handed middle reliever; possibly ruined middle reliever.
2011 Projected ERA: 3.07
2010 Season: In 2009, Wuertz was one of the most dominant middle relievers in the American League. Armed with a ferocious slider; he led AL relievers in strikeouts (102 in just 78.2 innings for a K/9 rate of 11.67) and made a team-leading 74 appearances for Oakland. Unofficially, to my untrained eye, Wuertz also led the team in "warming up in the bullpen" appearances – regardless of whether or not he got into the game. The stat-minded A's front office appreciates reliever volatility better than most organizations, but they still signed Wuertz to a two-year contract after 2009. In 2010, he came to Spring Training with shoulder tendinitis and didn't make it back to the big league roster until May 3. Wuertz was handled with kid gloves – only pitching eight innings total in May. He reversed six weeks of mediocrity with a solid stretch from mid-June through mid-August (1.56 ERA, 20 Ks in 17.2 innings), even drawing rumored trade interest at the July deadline. I'm not sure how real these whispers were as our boy-genius GM was manically manipulating the media around this time, playing public poker with names like Craig Breslow and Ben Sheets (before he got hurt). Wuertz went cold again over his final 12 appearances, posting a 5.06 ERA.
2011 Over/Under: This spring, shoulder tendinitis has once again slowed Wuertz. He made his first in-game appearance on March 15 and is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season – despite reports that Wuertz still hasn't found the snap to his slider. Much has been (over) written about Oakland's bullpen depth and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the A's allow Wuertz a few more weeks to build up arm strength in Arizona after breaking camp this weekend. Take the OVER and remember: multi-year contracts for middle relievers are almost always a sucker's bet – like extended warranties, "deluxe" edition CDs/DVDs with a superfluous second disc and Guinness Black Lager.
By the Numbers: 3 – Only three relievers in team history have recorded more than 100 strikeouts in a season: Rollie Fingers (1972-73, 1975-76), Dennis Eckersley (1987) and Wuertz (2009). In baseball's long history of "one of these things does not belong" statistical hiccups; this bit of trivia is second only to the Hank and Tommie Aaron record for most combined home runs by two brothers.
Surefire 2011 Prediction: Wuertz's inconsistency will continue to the point that he joins T.J. Matthews, Jim Mecir and Kiko Calero as once-effective relievers whom A's fans eventually turned on. Trust me: the boos from 8,000 frozen souls on a 52-degree July evening can cut to the bone.
Old School Rap Track for the Season: Tha Crossroads, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony