The Rosin Bag: Ross Wolf
The Rosin Bag is a new weekly series that highlights and examines the best and sometimes the worst pitching performances of the week for the Texas Rangers.
Last Saturday the Texas Rangers played one of those dreaded marathon, “weird” baseball games in Toronto and unfortunately came out on the losing end. They are dreaded because of what those types of games do to a teams pitching staff especially the two or three days following the extra inning affair. But, there was a bright spot amid all of that dread and doom: Ross Wolf. Wolf entered the game in the 12th inning and was faced with the simple task of keeping them in the game long enough for the offense to get a lead.
Wolf did that and much, much more during his 6.2 innings of relief work despite a loss for the Rangers in the 18th. Wolf showed his manager, team, and fans that he is capable of succeeding at the big league level and a lot of times when given an opportunity you must take advantage or be sent back to the minors. Wolf was fantastic in his relief effort only giving up one run in his outing despite only striking out one. Prior to this season with the Rangers, Wolf’s longest outing of his career was 2.0 innings, which he had only accomplished three times since 2007. He threw 5.0 innings in his first appearance for the Rangers this season, but other than that appearance the longest he has gone in his career has been 2.0 innings. What was the key to his success that Saturday evening? Very simply it was his ability to throw strikes and get a lot of groundballs. He had a 50% groundball percentage that night compared to throwing a 29.2 fly ball percentage, according to information found at Fangraphs.com. Wolf also filled up the strike zone with fastballs that kept his pitch count down and allowed him to eat up that many innings. He threw his fastball 74.4% of the time Saturday night while throwing his change-up 14.6%. Those combinations kept the Blue Jay hitters off-balance and add to that his slider, which he threw 11.0% of the time; you had the recipe for a successful outing as long as he hit spots with those pitches. Establishing fastball command is important and is often the difference between success and not at any level and last Saturday Wolf threw his fastball (sinker) for strikes 69% of the time, his change 75%, and his curveball 89% all leading to the philosophy of pitching to contact, which ideally allows you to stay in the game longer and eat up innings. The key and last point to analyze is where were these pitches located and what allowed him to limit the Blue Jays to one run despite filling up the strike zone and only striking out one batter the entire outing. A lot of times a pitcher can throw too many strikes or the more obvious mistake, they can throw it over the heart of the plate and get too much of the strike zone, but looking at the graph below Wolf did a nice job of keeping the ball down, but like all outings he got lucky on a few misses by the Blue Jays hitters. Of the pitches that the Blue Jays put in play only 9 were above the “heart” of the plate with the remainder down in the zone, relatively.
Wolf fits the bill of most long relief guys, throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone with a good sinker, but lacks that swing and miss pitch like a setup man, closer, or starting pitcher usually has. Considering that his previous high in innings pitched in any one game prior to this season was 2.0 innings, I think it’s fair to give the best pitching performance of the week to Ross Wolf.