Examining C.J. Wilson


Quite freaking out guys; C.J. Wilson‘s recent playoff collapse has more to do with statistical randomness and just plain struggling. This isn’t a historical thing with Wilson, and there are several splits that point to Wilson not being fatigued and not struggling in crunch time. I mean, he was a reliever for most of his career, so he knows a thing or two about keeping calm in high leverage situations.

For his career, Wilson’s FIP is slightly higher in high leverage situations than it is in low leverage situations. His FIP in medium leverage situations lags behind both, but there is obviously no concern there. Nothing points to Wilson being a guy who melts down when the cards are stacked against him. It is important to note that Wilson had a career high Clutch Index of 1.11 in 2011, which was one of the top 15 totals in baseball.  This is the least relevant argument against Wilson, and not many people- rightfully so- are not holding this against him.

What people are doing is blaming Wilson’s mini-collapse on fatigue and that he isn’t able to hold over a full season. Nothing is farther from the truth as his lowest FIP came in the months of September and October (not including the playoffs). In fact, he actually pitched better later in the season by any statistical measure you use. The only month in which he struggled in was June, and that’s all just BABIP , general struggling, and noise from the statistical atmosphere.

A lot of people are saying that C.J. Wilson will be able to ink a five year deal worth 20 million on the market. Over a five year deal, I would expect seasons of 5.5, 5, 4.5, 4, and 3 WARs. Thus, his value is about 99 million if each win is worth 4.5 million dollars. 100 million is actually a fair price, even though he is currently 30 years old and regression will take place. These are very reasonable projections, in that he was worth 5.9 WAR this season and will slowly regress. I could see him outperforming these projections, but I think 100 million is fair value. With that being said, I see him re-signing with the Rangers. They will hit him up with that much money. That is, of course, barring over-spending from a team like the Yankees or Red Sox.

Since being converted into a starter, C.J. Wilson has the ninth highest WAR in baseball. There is no doubt that he is a top-tier pitcher, and he is the third best lefty in the game behind Cliff Lee and Clayton Kershaw. Even though he allowed a multitude of home runs in this year’s playoffs, over 67 starts in the past two seasons he has the second-lowest HR/9 ratio among starting pitchers.  The only concern I have going forward with him is regression due to aging and fatigue with a higher workload that coincides with the whole concept of getting older. I did account for that in my brief projection, and the whole postseason thing is definitely small-sample size.