You don't want Wolf on your team when he reverts back to Michael J. Fox. Photo: Kelly Doster
Among fantasy baseball's most added players over the last week is veteran starter Randy Wolf. He has only allowed two earned runs in his last four outings and currently stands tall with a sharp 2.39 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 33 strikeouts to 10 walks in 37.2 innings.
However, this is not the lone Wolf you want to invest in heavily this season.
Coming off of a 4.17 ERA, 1.63 K/BB season in 2011, Wolf was all but written off as a veteran who's tendency to give up the long-ball would only continue to worsen in the hitter friendly environment of Milwaukee. After being tagged for six earned runs in his 2011 debut, those sediments seemed more legitimate than ever. However, Wolf has gone on to have five straight quality outings and seems to have won the hearts of at least some fantasy GM's.
There are two major problems with trusting Wolf going forward. First, his recent performances haven't exactly come against potent offensive ballclubs. After getting rocked by Cincinnati (.339 team wOBA) on April fourth, Wolf surrendered six runs (only two or which were earned) and two home runs to the Cubs (.320 team wOBA). He then went on to face Pittsburgh (.295 team wOBA), Philadelphia (.315 team wOBA) and Houston (.316 team wOBA) twice in a row. The Astros and Cubs currently have the two lowest team walk rates in the NL.
While we can't discount the fact that Wolf has pitched well against these opponents, he still hasn't seen the best competition in the NL yet (outside of Cincinnati, who did plenty of damage).
The second major part to the equation is how Wolf's success in ERA and WHIP have come with very little change in his batted ball and plate discipline stats. The only stat that does jump out as a huge regression candidate is his infield fly-ball rate of 20.4 percent. While Wolf has generated a good rate of infield pop-ups over his career (12.5 percent), it is highly unlikely that he sustains such a high pop-up rate going forward. Infield pop-ups almost always result in an out, so a regression in that category would no be a good thing.
Speaking of regression, it seems very likely that Wolf's 3.3 K/BB rate will not hold either. First of all, Wolf has never held a K/BB rate over three in his career. Second, almost one-third of his strikeouts this season came in his start against the Pirates, who, along with the Padres, have the worst team strikeout rate in baseball. Cut those ten strikeouts in half and Wolf's K/9 drops from 7.88 to about 6.69.
I'll buy the improved command, but not the sustainability of his current strikeout rate.
One final issue with Wolf going forward is his tendency to get hurt by the long-ball too often. Based on his career average, it's safe to assume that he'll surrender about one home run per nine innings this season, which means we can expect about 20 more home runs allowed the rest of the way. Last season, only three pitchers (Cole Hamels, Ted Lilly and Shaun Marcum) held an ERA under 3.75 while allowing over one home run per nine innings.
Now would be a great time to sell high if you can. Wolf has clawed his way past some weak competition so far and won't see numbers better than what he has right now. That being said, he's still a quality major league pitcher and worth streaming in the right matchup.
I actually defended Wolf on the Starbonell Station show, but I felt soooo dirty doing so. There aren't too many teams to fear these days. @CIN is scary and maybe STL if they're hitting well. The cutter Wolf is throwing more often isn't too shabby. He's done a good job of limiting Line Drives, but it's easy to see regression coming in the form of about 20 points in BABIP.
@andrewakamds@cin Never learned to evaluate the effectiveness of certain pitches, so that's some encouraging news. But, yeah I got scared off from using him against STL this week in the MDC. I can see myself rolling him out for his up incoming SD and LAD games though.
Agreed, been trying to sell high and streaming him in his HOU matchups.
Who do you think is within range of him in terms of trading up?
@NewBVick Maybe you can buy low on a struggling starter. Something in the Ryan Dempster, Daniel Hudson range. Or perhaps a low-end closer. As far as position players, I'm thinking someone outside the top 100.
You never know though, I've seen some crazy trades in my day. One year, when Micha Owings was awesome in his first four outings and he was traded for Ian Kinsler.
@CharlieSaponara I like the anything can happen angle. I spent most of the beginning of the year trying out some extreme trades. I'm only now getting around to some more reasonable trades while some players are hot so I can still get value out of them. It's a dangerous move though because you try not to burn future trade bridges through lopsided offers.
I actually almost hit propose on a Wolf for Dempster proposal, but I tried aiming a bit higher. I tried out Wolf for Anibal Sanchez, but I don't think it will pay off.