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Key Statistics: I hate Brian Wilson. I hate him, I hate his beard, I hate his quirks, I hate everything about him. Now that that’s out of the way, the guy has been trending upwards for years:

2008: 3-2, 4.62 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 41 SAVES, 62 Hits, 28 BB, 67 K, 62.1 IP
2009: 5-6, 2.74 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 38 SAVES, 60 Hits, 27 BB, 83 K, 72.1 IP
2010: 3-3, 1.81 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 48 SAVES, 62 Hits, 26 BB, 93 K, 74.2 IP

Wilson’s biggest problem when he came up from the minors was his control. During his ’08 season, Wilson walked almost half the number of guys he struck out and allowed as many hits as innings pitched. The odd thing about this is that his walks and hits allowed numbers have stayed almost identical, yet his ERA and WHIP keep on shrinking. The good news for fantasy owners is that this means the guy is basically just striking everyone out. In 2010, Wilson struck out 93 batters in 310 plate appearances. That’s 1/3 of the batters he faced. Just for comparison’s sake, 2010 Cy Young winner Roy Halladay struck out 219 batters in 996 innings, which is about 20% of the batters he faced. Going forth, even if Wilson doesn’t appreciate in skill at the same prodigious clip he has in the past few years and instead plateaus, you are still looking at an elite source for strikeouts, ERA, WHIP and saves.

Skeptics Say: I’ve combed through Wilson’s numbers, and even with a heart full of hate, it’s hard to find something to knock this guy on. Leaving 86% of runners on base won’t happen again and thus his sub two ERA will be difficult to replicate. Last year, Wilson also had an above average infield converting outs behind him. With Miguel Tejada manning short and an ever-expanding Pablo Sandoval in the hot corner, there aren’t those same assurances to keep those balls from becoming hits. Also, as previously noted, Wilson has given up the same number of hits and walks every year – the increase and innings in strikeouts are nice, but typically you want a pitcher whose hit and K numbers go down at the same time.

Peer Comparison: Let’s take a look the closers in the NL West;

Wilson: 48 SV, 74.2 IP, 1.81 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 26 BB, 93 K, .220 BAA
Heath Bell: 47 SV, 70 IP, 1.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 28 BB, 86 K, .221 BAA
JJ Putz: 3 SV, 54 IP, 2.83 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 15 BB, 65 K, .204 BAA
Huston Street: 20 SV, 47.1 IP, 3.61 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 11 BB, 45 K, .225 BAA
Jonathan Broxton: 22 SV, 62.1 IP, 4.04 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 28 BB, 73 K, .270 BAA

I’m taking Brian Wilson before all of them, for a few reasons going beyond the numbers. Putz is stepping into a new job in a new league, Brox is coming off a terrible second half (thus his awful 2010 numbers) and Heath Bell could and most likely will be traded at any minute. So between Bell and Wilson, seeing as both of their stats are trending similarly in the past 3 years, drafting Wilson above Bell is definitely the call to make based on trade speculation.

Lineup Outlook: The Giants won the World Series last year (I still can’t believe that happened) based on their power pitching and spotty, but timely hitting. With a largely unchanged lineup and the same power starting pitching that got them to the series in the first place, I would expect the same type of save opportunities for Wilson next year.

What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #4 Relief Pitcher & #73 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #2 Relief Pitcher; Tristian Cockroft of ESPN: #79 Overall; John Halpin of Foxsports: #111 Overall; Rotochamp: #76 Overall

Projection: It’s hard to imagine his numbers getting better, but with the confidence of closing out a World Series underneath him, I can see Brian Wilson getting better next year.

48 saves, 2.20 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 98 K in 68 IP

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