The move received thunderous applause from Brewer Nation. One staff friend of mine remarked that he was doing cartwheels. And he has a bum leg, so you can imagine how excited he was. Wolf has just 3 wins on the season, and leads the major leagues in hits allowed (179). He leads the National League in earned runs with 90. Wolf's 5.69 ERA doesn't play, and he has pitched just one quality start in his last 5 outings. So yeah, it was probably time to cut ties.
In some ways, Wolf's story seems a familiar one. Wolf was signed in December 2009 to a 3-year, $29.75M deal, which included a $1.5M buyout for 2013. The much maligned Jeff Suppan, who the Brewers signed to a 4-year deal in 2006, was also released in the final year of his contract at age 35. By the end of their Brewers stints, both were pretty ineffective, although Suppan would go on to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres. Wolf will almost certainly find some team willing to take a flier on him. The Brewers are still on the hook for about $3.5M of his salary, including a $1.5M buyout of their 2013 option.
Yet in some ways, the comparison to Jeff Suppan is entirely unfair. Suppan broke the 200-inning plateau only once, in his first year in 2007. Wolf gave the Brewers back-to-back 210+ inning seasons. Until he totally fell off a cliff this year, Wolf had a respectable 3.93 ERA for the Brewers. In 2007, Jeff Suppan's best year, he pitched to a 4.62 ERA, and it only went downhill from there.
There is something to be said for coming through in the clutch, too. Wolf was an excellent fourth man during the 2011 season, amassing a 3.69 ERA with double digit wins. And though he was inconsistent in his two postseason appearances, he tossed a 7-inning gem in game 4 of the NLCS.
Wolf would probably be more highly regarded among Brewers fans if he had not inserted himself into lineup decisions. After just two turns with Jonathan Lucroy catching him in 2010, Wolf apparently grew frustrated with the rookie backstop. Backup catcher George Kottaras would wind up catching Wolf the vast majority of his remaining time in Milwaukee. That would have been fine if Kottaras could hit lefties. But he couldn't, so there really wasn't a good reason for him to be in the lineup in those situations. Neither Ron Roenicke nor Ken Macha saw fit to end that foolishness, an unfortunate situation that only adds to the exuberance over Wolf's release.
Wolf would almost certainly still be pitching for the team if not for the success stories of Marco Estrada, Mark Rogers, and Mike Fiers. But with Shaun Marcum slated for return soon, there was just one too many pitchers for a five-man rotation. It's the order of things that the old give way to the new. Randy Wolf's release simply follows that cycle.