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SF Giants: Matt Wisler experiment was a worthy risk

DENVER, CO - MAY 5: Relief pitcher Matt Wisler #37 of the San Francisco Giants delivers to home plate during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on May 5, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - MAY 5: Relief pitcher Matt Wisler #37 of the San Francisco Giants delivers to home plate during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on May 5, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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SF Giants
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 22: Matt Wisler #37 of the SF Giants pitches during the game against the Miami Marlins at Oracle Park on April 22, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

Matt Wisler’s tenure with the SF Giants is likely over after being designated for assignment on Wednesday morning. He could pass through waivers and elect to remain with the club, but as a veteran of season MLB seasons, he can choose to pursue opportunities elsewhere as a free agent.

The latter seems like the probable outcome as the right-handed hurler could use a change of scenery after a challenging, albeit brief, time with San Francisco. Despite his struggles, taking a chance on Wisler and remaining patient was worth the risk.

SF Giants: Matt Wisler experiment was a worthy risk

Wisler had a career year with the Minnesota Twins in 2020 where he posted a 1.07 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 12.4 K/9, and a solid 2.50 SO/W ratio across 25.1 frames. However, Minnesota chose not to retain the righty. He was due for a modest raise through arbitration but the Twins decided to non-tender him, making him a free agent.

The Giants reeled Wisler in on a one-year, $1.15 million contract with controllability beyond 2021. In a sense, San Francisco felt that they were buying low on a reliever who was trending in the right direction.

On that same note, the Giants bullpen struggled badly from the right side in 2020, and they identified that as an area to improve heading into the winter. The addition of Wisler was meant to bolster the bullpen from the right side. To put it differently, he was expected to play a key role in this year’s bullpen.

That never came to fruition and the struggles began on Opening Day. The bullpen blew a five-run lead, losing to the Seattle Mariners by a score of 8-7 to start the season. Wisler yielded three earned runs without recording an out in that game and seemingly never recovered.

That said, the Giants remained patient with the 28-year-old as he continued to post some encouraging underlying numbers. For starters, Wisler registered a tough 6.05 ERA in 19.1 innings of work but this came with a promising 4.08 FIP. This would suggest that his struggles at preventing runs was inflated by some poor luck.

Furthermore, Wisler struck out 26 batters in 21 appearances while relying heavily on his slider. Opposing hitters knew what was coming, and at times, they struggled to make contact. That is not easy to do in the majors.

Still, it was clear that the coaching staff lacked faith in Wisler in leverage situations, so they avoided them altogether. His usage was limited strictly to mop-up duty. Even in those instances, he struggled to just complete his appearance without needing another bullpen arm to finish the job.

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In the end, the Giants’ faith and patience in Wisler did not pay off. He looked like he was about to regain his 2020 form and confidence at times but failed to find the consistency. That said, he was brought in to potentially fill a key bullpen role at a modest cost and the potential upside was worth the investment.

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