One of the biggest unexpected contributors for the Minnesota Twins in 2020, Matt Wisler has gone from zero to hero for the team.
Matt Wisler has been quite the surprise for the Minnesota Twins in 2020. Signed last year off the Seattle Mariners waiver list, this journeyman starter and reliever has filled several roles for the Twins.
Twins Pitching Coach Wes Johnson was excited to hear that the Twins had picked up Wisler last year, even though he sported a 5.61 ERA in split time between the Padres and Mariners in the first half of last season. Johnson said at the time: “I thought if we can get this guy in the right roles and do some different things with him, he had a chance to really help us out.”
Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 7th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft, he made his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves in June of 2015 starting his big-league career off with a bang during an 8 inning win against the New York Mets.
His season faltered shortly after that, and he was moved to the bullpen. Later in the year however, with the Braves struggling with injuries, he was inserted back in as a starter in September and he posted a 2.33 ERA down the stretch.
Matt had a difficult year in 2016, bouncing between Triple-A Gwinnett and the Braves several times during the season. Used mostly as a starter that year, he finished the season with a dismal 7-13 record, coupled with a 5.00 ERA. The next year, he fared no better as he served 6 different stints with the Braves, resulting in a 0-1 record with a career high 8.35 ERA.
Wisler was given a change of scenery in 2018 after being traded to the Cincinnati Reds on July 30th of that year, and he pitched much better after the trade. Wisler did not allow an earned run in 9 of his 11 appearances with the Reds.
In 2019, Matt was a traded twice: first to the Padres in April, and then later to the Mariners in July. Again, he was used as both a starter and reliever, and Matt he finished with disappointing numbers, going 3-4 with a 5.61 ERA.
After all of this, what exactly did the Minnesota Twins see in Matt Wisler? As expertly covered in a Puckett’s Pond article last year, the Twins loved his analytics. In 2018, Wisler’s strikeouts per nine innings rate jumped from 7.2 in 2018 to 11.0 with the Padres and Mariners.
In addition, Matt Wisler registered a 37.1% chase rate with his pitches, an analytic number that baseball teams love to look at. These are the statistics that made Wes Johnson smile when Matt was acquired by the Twins.
Maybe the most unusual thing about Wisler’s recent success is his current pitch selection. After throwing a mixture of sliders, fastballs, and changeups in his first few years in the league, he is now throwing his wicked slider 81% of the time.
According to Minnesota Twins catchers, the key to this pitch, what makes it so good, is that it moves differently on every pitch. This has allowed Matt to lower his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), to a career low 3.89.
FIP is similar to ERA, but it focuses solely on the events a pitcher has the most control over such as strikeouts, hit-by-pitches, home runs, etc. It removes results on balls hit into the field of play and focuses more on the pitchers ability.
Wisler has had an excellent season in 2020, and the Minnesota Twins should count themselves lucky that he has gone from zero to hero in no time at all.