ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 01: Pitcher Dan Wheeler #35 of the Boston Red Sox looks to first base while pitching against the Texas Rangers on Opening Day at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 1, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The pitcher known as Dan Wheeler was always one of my favorite relievers coming out of the bullpen. He didn't blow you away (although a 8.7 strikeouts per nine isn't bad) but he usually got the job done; His 145 ERA+ confirms that. Before we get to game 145 on the season lets take a look at some of the achievements Wheeler had while wearing an Astros uniform.
Acquired from the New York Mets for Adam Seuss Wheeler pitched in parts of four seasons with Houston. His two full years 2005 and 2006 he posted an ERA+ of 192 and 177 respectively. In his 14.1 innings after the Astros acquired him he posted an ERA+ of 176. The only blemish was his final season with Houston in which he posted an ERA+ of 88. That was in 2007 when he posted a 5.30 ERA in 49.2 innings for Houston.
Needing a third basemen the Astros traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays for Ty Wiggington. It's hard to say who got the better end of that deal. While it's better to get a productive position player than reliever, Wheeler returned to form with the Rays posting a 142 ERA+ in the year that Wiggington posted a 129 OPS+ for the Astros. The Astros bullpen for those curios had Jose Valverde, Geoff Geary , Tim Byrdak and Doug Brocail all posting ERA+ above 100. So the impact of losing Wheeler was minimized. Still I was a little disappointed when I saw Wheeler had been traded for a good offense, bad defense position player (before I really started digging into sabermetric concepts).
If a label were to be put on Wheeler it would have to be that reliable eighth inning guy, and there's three of those that come to mind in the last ten years. Octavio Dotel, Dan Wheeler and Wilton Lopez. Wheeler's ERA+ blows away Lopez's, 123 ERA+, but it just edges Dotel, 142 ERA+, yet I think most people would go with Dotel. I'm going with Wheeler.