With the regular season in its final week, the Los Angeles Dodgers are working to clinch the National League West title while also getting a final look at players who may be on the border of making the postseason roster.
The group that’s most notably been adjusted and largely unsettled for much of the season is the bullpen. Chief among them is Brian Wilson — last season’s setup man extraordinaire — and this year’s question mark. Wilson’s effectiveness has been down from the success he had last season that led to a new contract.
Wilson has also lacked some of the velocity he previously showcased, but recently said an increase could be expected come playoff time.
Although the Dodgers haven’t yet reached that point, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt believed the team’s series against the San Francisco Giants would be ideal for the reliever to add substance to his claims, according to Bill Shaikin of the LA Times:
Brian is obviously a veteran guy that has pitched in these situations,” Honeycutt said. “He has a plan. Here’s a great series where he needs to be on top of his game and show us where he’s at.”
Wilson was summoned out of the bullpen in the eighth inning to face Buster Posey with the game tied, one out and a runner on first base. The right-hander walked Posey and quickly fell behind Pablo Sandoval 3-0 before getting a ground ball out to end the inning.
The two outs was the only work asked of Wilson on the evening and four of his pitches hit 90 mph with a fifth reaching 91 mph. According to FanGraphs.com, Wilson’s fastball velocity (vFA) has averaged 93.1 mph this season, which is up slightly from his 92.6 average in 2013.
Some of Wilson’s low points this season have come in games where he’s been asked to pitch in roles that are unusual for him. Roughly one month ago, Wilson floated the idea that he’s been effective when it mattered most and pointed to his number of holds as evidence.
Although the general perception may be otherwise, Wilson has been much improved since allowing three runs in a Dodgers win Aug. 14. Since that point, he’s allowed two runs in 7.1 innings (11 appearances).
Wilson has two more games against the Giants and three with the Colorado Rockies to offer reassurances he can resemble the reliever he was last season before postseason play begins.