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Entries in c.j. wilson (12)

Friday
Oct142011

Wilson Missing High, Getting Hammered

During the regular season, Texas Rangers starter C.J. Wilson served up just 16 home runs in 223.1 innings pitched. During the playoffs, however, the lefty with the blue glove has been left black and blue by the long ball. Wilson has surrendered six homers in 15.2 innings, including three in last night's 7-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers. While Wilson rarely left the ball up in the zone during the regular season, he's missing high in the playoffs and paying for it.

 Take a look at Wilson's pitch location during the regular season. He mostly threw around hitters' knees:

Wilson's pitch location during the 2011 regular season

Wilson located 45 percent of his pitches down in the zone, and just 23 percent high in the zone. Now, look at his location during the 2011 playoffs:

Wilson's pitch location during the 2011 playoffsWilson has thrown 38 percent of his pitches low in the zone during the postseason, and 29 percent of them high. Those high pitches are the ones that batters have launched into orbit. Check out the pitch location of Wilson's playoff home runs:

Pitch location of Wilson's HRs surrendered in playoffs

Wilson is at his best when he's hammering hitters at the knees. In his two seasons as a starter, Wilson has a .244 slugging percentage on low pitches (far below the .328 league average over that time frame) and a .426 slugging percentage on high pitches (.401 league average). If he gets another start this postseason, he'll need to re-discover the low approach that has made him a top-notch starter and a soon-to-be mega-millionaire.

Saturday
Oct082011

C.J. Wilson In Driver's Seat vs. Righties

Counting switch-hitters, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland could pencil in as many as eight right-handed batters to face Texas lefty C.J. Wilson in Game One of the ALCS. In years past, that could have spelled doom for Wilson and the Rangers. But not these days. Wilson has quelled righty hitters in 2011 by busting them inside more often, particularly with two strikes.

In his first big league season as a starter in 2010, Wilson allowed right-handed hitters to reach base at a third of the time that they came to the plate. This year, righties have a paltry .296 OBP against Wilson that is nearly 40 points below the league average for lefty pitchers against right-handed hitters.

A big part of that improvement can be attributed to Wilson putting more pitches in on righties' hands. His percentage of pitches thrown inside to right-handers has increased from 34 percent to 39 percent, and opponents are chasing many more of those offerings. Check out righty hitters' swing rate on Wilson's inside pitches in 2010 and 2011:

 Hitters' swing rate by location on Wilson's inside pitches, 2010

Hitters' swing rate by location on Wilson's inside pitches, 2011

Wilson's chase rate against right-handers on inside pitches has spiked from 30 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 2011, which is tied with L.A.'s Clayton Kershaw for the highest rate among major league starting pitchers.

The Rangers lefty really likes to go inside once he has the hitter up against the wall. He has thrown 52 percent of his pitches to righties inside with two strikes, up from 43 percent in 2010. No lefty in baseball has thrown more pitches inside to right-handers when looking for a punch out.

Wilson didn't pitch inside as much against the Rays in the ALDS, and he got taken deep twice by Kelly Shoppach on pitches that were belt-high on the outside corner. It will be interesting to see whether Wilson goes back inside against Detroit, particularly since several Tigers have thumped inside pitches from lefties over the past three seasons while swinging from the right side:

 

If Wilson's conversation with MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan is any indication, don't expect the lefty to step off the gas when it comes to busting righties inside:

The biggest thing is just to try to go out there and be ahead in the count and make them adjust to me, because I think if I'm in the driver's seat, which is a metaphor I like as a race car driver, obviously, I get to steer the course of the game a lot more. As opposed to having to try to pitch around their hot zones or whatever like that. You have to focus on your strengths and attack that way.

Tuesday
Aug232011

C.J. Wilson Cutting Path to Big Payday

Plenty of former starters transition to the bullpen and find success firing in shorter stints. Last year,  C.J. Wilson made the much more difficult move from the 'pen to the rotation look easy, topping 200 innings pitched while helping the Rangers reach the World Series.

Wilson has performed even better during his free agent walk year in 2011. His strikeout rate is up, his walks are down, and he has shaved a half-run off his fielding independent ERA:

2010: 7.5 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 3.56 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

2011: 8.1 K/9, 3.03 BB/9, 3.06 FIP

The 30-year-old lefty's improvement, coupled with the paucity of other top-level starters on the market, has MLBTradeRumors' Tim Dierkes predicting that Wilson could land a $100 million contract this winter. Teams interested in adding Wilson can take heart in the fact that he has done a better job of keeping right-handed batters off base in 2011, thanks to the effectiveness of his cutter and his slider.

In 2010, Wilson allowed righties to reach base at a .333 clip that was above the .325 league average for left-handed pitchers versus righty batters. This year, Wilson is holding opposite-handed hitters to a .292 OBP (.328 league average).

As you might expect, Wilson is issuing fewer walks versus righties (under eight percent in 2011, compared to nearly 12 percent last year). But, rather than throwing many more pitches over the plate, he has cut his rate of free passes issued to righties by getting batters to chase more of his high-80s cutters and sliders out of the strike zone.

Take a look at right-handers' swing rate by pitch location against Wilson's cutters and sliders in 2010, compared to 2011:

Right-handed hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Wilson's cutters and sliders, 2010Right-handed hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Wilson's cutters and sliders, 2011Righties chased about 28 percent of Wilson's cutters/sliders last year, well below the 37 percent league average for right-handers versus lefty pitching. This season, though, Wilson is getting righties to go after 38 percent of his cutters and sliders.  

Wilson already owns same-handed hitters (.287 OBP against from 2010-2011). Should he maintain most of his gains against righties, he might just be worth a nine-figure investment.