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A Plea to Randy: Please Cry, Wolf

The Dodgers have reportedly agreed to terms with left-hander Randy Wolf on a one-year deal worth about $5.5 million plus incentives.  That seems like a reasonable deal for the Dodgers, especially if Wolf is healthy.

[UPDATEThe deal is now official, at $5 million plus incentives.]

Wolf surprised a lot of people by taking his 4.74 ERA as a Padre, moving from one of the best pitching parks in MLB (Petco Park) to the more hitting-friendly confines of Minute Maid Park, and producing a 3.57 ERA as an Astro.  However, his expected Fielding Independent Pitching (x-FIP, courtesy of The Hardball Times) was 4.49 in both San Diego and Houston, suggesting the difference in performance had more to do with luck and/or the defense behind Wolf than anything else.

Wolf is projected to produce a FIP anywhere from 4.29 to 4.55 (thanks to Fangraphs), a certainly serviceable 3rd or 4th starter for the Dodgers.  If Wolf is healthy (his 33 starts in 2008 was more than the previous two years combined), he could really benefit the Dodgers by outproducing those projections.

The key of course is if Wolf is healthy.  We've been down this road before with Wolf, who came to the Dodgers in 2007.  After 11 starts, Wolf was a pleasant surprise, having produced these numbers:

IP per GS W-L BB/9 K/9 HR/9 ERA Opponents
66.0 6.00 6-3 2.59 9.68 0.82 3.41 .236/.305/.368

Then, Wolf started to struggle.  Over the next 5 weeks, he didn't pitch nearly as well.

IP per GS W-L BB/9 K/9 HR/9 ERA Opponents
36.2 5.24 3-3 4.91 5.65 0.98 7.12 .336/.402/.523

After his July 3 outing -- giving up 6 runs in 3 innings to the Braves -- news of Wolf's shoulder pain started to surface.  From Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:

Randy Wolf thought he could pitch through the pain that has been in his throwing shoulder for the last month.

He was wrong.

Wolf lasted only three innings in the Dodgers’ eventual 7-6 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night, after which it was decided that he would undergo an MRI on Thursday and skip his final start before the All-Star break.

I’ve never had discomfort in my shoulder,” Wolf said. “It’s not something that I’m used to.”

The pain, the byproduct of what is believed to be bursitis, interrupted Wolf’s sleep Monday night. Asked why he went ahead to make his start, Wolf replied, “I thought it would loosen up.”

But it didn’t, which was in part why Wolf gave up six runs and walked four in his shortest outing of the season.

Emphasis mine.  Wolf pitched with pain for a month when he probably shouldn't have, and it cost him his season, and certainly cost the Dodgers as well, as their lack of pitching down the stretch contributed greatly to their downfall.

Two years later, I'd like to think both Wolf and the Dodgers are wiser.  If Wolf is healthy, great!  He would then be quite an asset to the club.  But if he's hurt, I just hope he doesn't try to hide the pain and pitch through it.  The club deserves to know if he's hurt or not.  I hope it doesn't come to this, but I'm hoping there is open communication between Wolf and the Dodgers' coaches and trainers.  Both Wolf and the Dodgers will be better because of it.