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Jack Wilson's defense worth big money

Is Jack Wilson really worth $5 million per season? No, he's not much of a hitter. And yes, he did miss a big chunk of time this season. Still, the guy's got a case. Greg Johns on Wilson:

    But he is regarded as one of baseball's premier defensive shortstops and Zduriencik chose to iron out a two-year deal that eliminates what had been a one-year, $8 million option remaining from his prior contract.

    The Mariners could have bought out that last year of Wilson's deal for $600,000 and gone a different direction, but chose instead to invest in a longer contract.

    --snip--

    "I know Jack was disappointed in how he played here," Zduriencik said. "He came over here and was hurt, new league, he'd been with a different organization for nine years.

    "But this guy can play defense. I don't think there's anybody in baseball that wouldn't tell you they like that position solidified with a premier defensive player. It's just the right thing for us at this time."

    Wilson earned the Fielding Bible Award as the best fielding shortstop in the Majors in 2009. He is a career .268 hitter in 1,190 career games and was a National League All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner in 2004 when he hit .308 with 41 doubles, 12 triples, 11 home runs and 59 RBI.

Isn't baseball incredible? In 2009, Jack Wilson was one of the worst hitters in the majors. Yet just five years earlier, he was the best-hitting shortstop in the National League.*

* Or maybe he wasn't. We rarely think about the Silver Slugger Awards, but they're just as rife with mistakes as any of the other awards. Wilson did have a good season with the bat in 2004, but his only real edge over Jimmy Rollins was in batting average, .308 to .289. Rollins topped Wilson in runs (119-82), RBI (73-59) and home runs (14-11), and Rollins destroyed Wilson in walks (57-26) and steals (30-8). When you throw in park effects, they were pretty close. I have a hard time imagining the Silver Slugger voters accounting for park effects. But maybe I'm wrong.

Actually, Wilson was pretty good with the bat in 2007, too. It's been an odd career. Here are Wilson's seasonal adjusted OPS's, beginning with his first full season (2002): 67, 70, 104, 74, 77, 106, 76, 74. If you think that patterns are meaningful, you might expect Wilson to post another big (for him) season at the plate in 2010. If you're like me and you think that "patterns" like Wilson's, however elegant, are essentially the product of randomness, you might expect him to post an OPS+ somewhere between 70 and 80 (his career mark is 78, but he's older and he's moved to the tougher league).

If he can just keep doing what he's done the last couple of years, he'll be worth the $10 million, because he really is that good with the glove.