Sunday, March 25, 2012

What is Really Going on with Brian Wilson: Why He Will Need Tommy John for a Second Time

Brian Wilson's career season in 2010 was a huge reason why the Giants won the World Series.
Not only did he pitch well, but he did something even rarer: go 1.2 innings or more in 10 of his 70 appearances that year.

One reason why it is rare to see a closer pitch so 5 or 6 out saves is because those that do it usually do not stay healthy to keep pitching.

 BJ Ryan is the last closer I can think of who regularly pitched two inning saves. In 2006 for the Blue Jays Ryan had 11 appearances of 1.2 innings or more out of 65 appearances (6 of those were 2 inning saves compared to Wilson who threw 2 innings just twice in 2010).

The story for Ryan did not end so well. After his superman season in 2006 his ERAs in his final three seasons were 12.46, 2.95, and 6.53 respectively. Ryan was released in 2009 at age 33 by the Jays with $15 million dollars left on his contract.

I am not going as far as to say that Wilson's career is over. However, it is certainly in jeopardy.

Here is what I think is going on with Wilson's arm right now:


After pitching through pain last year,


Wilson believed he would need surgery after a horrible blown save in Atlanta in August. Upon consulting elbow specialist Dr. James Andrews, Wilson was advised against another surgery at this time.

While this was viewed as good news, the likelihood is that Wilson has a small tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (less than 50%) and that because he already had Tommy John once in his career after his senior season at LSU, he was advised to try to rehab his way back to full health before undergoing a potentially career ending surgery that at minimum would keep him out for 1.5 years.

While the prognosis for pitchers undergoing their first Tommy John is very good with most regaining full velocity as Wilson did,  the results the second time around are much less certain.To my knowledge only one pitcher (Soft toss lefty Chris Capuano) is currently pitching in the big leagues after two Tommy Johns. Royals Closer Joakim Soria recently announced that he will be undergoing his second Tommy John and noted that there is very limited data for players having a second ligament replacement surgery.

Wilson decided that given a second surgery's risk/reward profile it made sense to put it off until he had exhausted all non-surgical possibilities.

Based on what I saw of him pitching this spring, I believe that Wilson will succumb to the surgery in the next two years.

I hope I am wrong and that he goes out and saves 40 games this year but I think it is unlikely.

Brian Sabean knew of Wilson's tenuous status, which is why he so quickly jumped to resign Lopez and Affeldt.

Wilson is scheduled to pitch tomorrow in a big league game so we will get a report of how he throws and his velocity.

I hope I am wrong and that he his pumping 96mph fastballs on opening day. The Giants are a much better team when he is healthy and he is a fun player to watch. However, if you look through the team's rhetoric it is clear that something serious is going on with The Beard.

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