From foe to friend, C.J. Wilson exchanged his role as the Rangers ace for a homecoming, a truckload of cash the third starter spot in the Angel rotation. Will Wilson help push the Halos over the top or was Texas right to let him walk away?
2011 Stats: 16-7, 223.1 IP, 2.94 ERA, 191 H, 74 BB, 16 HR, 206 K
2012 ZiPS Projections: 14-8, 200.1 IP, 3.37 ERA, 179 H, 76 BB, 14 HR, 178 K
2012 Bill James Projections: 15-9, 215.0 IP, 3.31 ERA, 184 H, 80 BB, 14 HR, 194 K
2012 CAIRO Projections: 13-7, 178.0 IP, 2.84 ERA, 150 H, 64 BB, 10 HR, 156 K
2012 PECOTA Projections: 13-12, 207.2 IP, 3.11 ERA, 175 H, 79 BB, 13 HR, 190 K
2012 MWaH Projections*: 16-8 215.0 IP, 2.79 ERA, 180 H, 66 BB, 15 HR, 200 K
*The MWaH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research
2011 in Review: C.J. Wilson entered 2011 with the goal of proving that his strong first year as a starting pitcher wasn't a fluke and prove it he did by improving in almost every facet of the game.
He logged more innings, he had a lower ERA, he walked few batters, he struck out more batters and he even won more games, if you are into that sort of thing. He was just better.
The only thing that Wilson didn't do well was perform in the post-season, which is a big reason that any Ranger fan you talk to snickers at the Angels handing over big money to Wilson. Since this was his second straight underwhelming post-season, this does create some concern that he lacks the mental toughness to pitch in big games. Then again, he was a closer before a starter, so he has shown some mental fortitude previously. It is just as likely that Wilson's struggles have more to do with him going from reliever to pitching two straight seasons of well over 200 innings. Arm strength and conditioning can take years to build up, especially when one doesn't convert to a starter until age 30.
His playoff performance obviously didn't scare off the Angels as they very publicly made Wilson their top free agent target and pursued him aggressively as soon as they were allowed to do so, ultimately inking him to a five-year, $77.5 million deal even though the Marlins were allegedly offering both more years and more money.
Three Lingering Questions for 2012:
- Why was Texas so eager to let Wilson walk? Was it because they knew he was too expensive? Or did they know they wanted to get Darvish instead? Were they disenchanted by his poor post-season? Or is there something more sinister lurking like when the Angels gladly let John Lackey leave via free agency?
- How will C.J. blend in to the Angel clubhouse chemistry? Wilson is a humorous, charismatic free spirit who loves the spotlight who is now joining a roster full of mostly low-profile, serious, nose-to-the-grindstone types. Will he help liven up the clubhouse or will his presence be a disruption?
- Can he emerge as the real ace of the staff? This may seem like blasphemy since he and Weaver went toe-to-toe several times the last two seasons, but in some respects Wilson has been the better pitcher and his move to Angel Stadium might give him the boost he needs to eclipse Jered.
What to Expect in 2012: Even if Wilson is unable to replicate the success he had in Texas, he is still an absolutely PERFECT fit for the Angel rotation. For the last few years, the Angel pitching staff has been comprised almost solely of right-handed flyball pitchers. They did try mixing in Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir to shake that up, but we all know how that worked out. Wilson though shouldn't be a problem. Maybe he regresses a bit, but it is hard to envision him putting up numbers any worse than his designated rotation slot of #3 starter. He also might be a bona fide ace. Either way, the Halos finally have a reliable left-handed pitcher and one that is keeps the ball on the ground. It is pretty easy to see why Jerry Dipoto was so eager to add Wilson this off-season.
So how well can Wilson pitch? If his road splits are any indicator, he could be tremendous. Everyone knows that the Ballpark in Arlington is a very unfriendly place for pitchers to exist, yet that is what Wilson did with aplomb for two years. Playing half his games in a hitter's park and brutal heat, C.J. still posted Cy Young contending numbers. Now though, Wilson get's to move to pitcher friendly Angel Stadium where his road splits suggest he could take off.
At home last season, Wilson posted a 3.69 ERA and 3.43 FIP along with a 1.23 WHIP and .245 batting average against. On the road though, Wilson had a 2.31 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 1.15 WHIP and .216 batting average against. Now imagine what he could do with the change of home venue. And the best part is that Wilson won't even be suffering much of a drop off with the defense behind him. Texas' infield is excellent defensively, but the Angels infield isn't far behind while their outfield defense is definitely superior. Really, it is a perfect situation for Wilson.
My lone concern with C.J. is that this situation is a little too perfect. Wilson has been ecstatic to return to Southern California as it has afforded him the opportunity to play near home and also to pursue his multitude of interests. We've already seen him parlay this into commercial appearances, viral videos, magazine spreads and so and so on. The point is the guy is busy and that means lots of distractions. Factor in all the friends and family that he is going to have to accomodate at home games, and make no mistake about that because Wilson most definitely rolls with an entourage, and he is going to have a lot on his plate this year.
Wilson seems like a pretty determined and focused guy, so maybe he can manage all of this, but there is a chance that he might not be able to. Me, I'm betting he can.
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