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Something Is Wrong With Jack Wilson

Okay, so there are actually a number of things wrong with Jack Wilson. It's funny how playing for this team has allowed him to kind of blend in instead of standing out. Did you realize that Jack Wilson has a .271 OBP and a .298 slugging percentage? That he has the third-lowest OPS in baseball among shortstops with at least 200 trips to the plate? Did you realize that he's gotten here with a perfectly normal BABIP? He hasn't been getting unlucky. He's been terrible.

Nobody ever expected Wilson to hit very much when he came over, mind you. We knew from the beginning that he'd be a glove-first player. But there's a big difference between what he was in Pittsburgh and what he's been here. Here, he hasn't been able to make up for his bat with his glove, because his bat has just been too much of a negative.

Now, when the Mariners first signed Wilson to his two-year contract last November, I supported it. For a while, I was on Wilson's side. Though I was very concerned about his punchless bat and crumbling health, I figured he'd still be able to do enough to earn his $5m a year, since the bar for shortstops is set so low. But it's August now, and as I review Wilson's performance, I have to wonder whether he'll still be in baseball by the time his contract ends.

Rather than going the long way, I'll just get right to it. Here's what I find so troubling about Wilson's season:

  • Career: 11.3% strikeouts, 87.4% contact
  • 2009: 11.9% strikeouts, 86.2% contact
  • 2010: 16.7% strikeouts, 82.8% contact

As we've noted on several occasions before, things like strikeouts and contact rates tend to stabilize very quickly. A player's true talent in those areas becomes apparent in short order. And though the 2010 sample size remains too small to make any definitive conclusions, the evidence so far suggests that Wilson's greatest offensive ability - the ability to put the bat on the ball - is eroding away.

This came to mind when Wilson whiffed on an attempted hit-and-run the other night. The pitch was outside, and by no means a strike, but it was a pitch that you'd expect a contact guy like Wilson to be able to at least roll on the ground or poke foul. He missed, and as he headed back to the dugout, Michael Saunders was thrown out on the bases.

Wilson was already straddling the border of offensive acceptability at the time of the trade. So I don't need to tell you that he can't really afford to get worse. And the evidence - the evidence - is that he's gotten worse. A pretty good deal worse, as a matter of fact.

We'll see if this sustains, but given Wilson's probable offensive decline, his unreliable legs, and his increasingly inconsistent flashes of defensive wizardry, he certainly looks now like a guy the front office would like to go back and un-sign. I honestly wonder if Josh Wilson isn't the better shortstop right now. If nothing else, you could make a pretty convincing argument that he's at least Jack's equal. And Josh Wilson is just some guy that nobody else really wanted.

Someone asked me on Twitter earlier this week why the M's insist on playing Jack Wilson so often when he isn't showing much game. The easy answer is that he's the trusted veteran - the captain of the infield, as Z put it last summer. I think a better answer, though, is that the M's are just trying to get Wilson to show something. To show anything. To show enough ability to either convince other teams that they want him, or to convince the M's that he isn't a complete lost cause going forward. Whether the Mariners will be in dire need of a shortstop in 2011 is one of those questions you'd really rather get answered in 2010.