Former Texas Rangers left handed starter C.J. Wilson will join Albert Pujols in Los Angeles, signing a five year contract with the Angels worth $77.5 million.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating too much by suggesting that the greatest proof of the divide between front offices and talent evaluators in baseball occurred this past post season when journalists quoted scouts ahead of every C.J. Wilson playoff start claiming that millions of dollars were on the line with every pitch.

There are plenty of elements of Wilson’s game that would scare teams off other than his supposed ability to perform in the clutch.

According to ESPN’s Keith Law:

His slider is his most effective pitch, a low-80s offering with good tilt that hitters hit into the ground when they don’t swing over it, and he’ll throw it down and away to a left-handed hitter or throw it at the back foot of a right-handed one. His weakness is fringy fastball command. He throws strikes with his heater but fails to locate it within the zone.

A breakdown of his individual pitch results this past season echo Law’s analysis and indicate rather average stuff, which is surprising given his startlingly good overall numbers since becoming a starting pitcher in 2010. Only eight other pitchers have a higher fWAR over that time period.

You might think this is merely the result of  a high ground ball rate and the somewhat under appreciated infield defense that the Rangers boast with (from left to right) Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland. However, Michael Young’s 1370 innings at third base in 2010 throws something of a wrench into this theory. Besides, his opposition’s BABIP is only slightly below average and FanGraphs’ pitching wins above replacement is based on a player’s fielding independent pitching numbers, not ERA or total runs allowed.

I wonder if what Keith Law refers to as Wilson’s “fringy fastball command” has been something of a blessing in disguise. To this point, the danger from his inability to locate in the zone hasn’t caught up with him. Instead it’s kept batters guessing. How else to explain his pedestrian numbers at almost everything he does? Everything other than the rate at which batters swing at his pitches, which is staggeringly low. Over the last two seasons, only Trevor Cahill has had a fewer percentage of swings on pitches. The same holds true for pitches that he puts in the strike zone. Over the last two seasons, only Doug Fister has had a fewer percentage of opposing batters swing at pitches in the zone

That’s a lot of called strikes.

Whether or not this is a skill that’s actually repeatable is a debate. This data has only been collected for a short time, and while talented pitchers like Cahill, Tom Glavine, Derek Lowe have had two seasons in which they’ve been able to put up low swing in zone numbers, there are some not as talented pitchers too, like Barry Zito, that fall into the same category. The majority of high called strike seasons though, appear to be one offs.

Even if it is a skill and not the result of more random occurrences, it’s certainly not a skill in which I’d be willing to invest in for a great many years.

A five year contract worth $77.5 million anticipates 13 wins above replacement over the length of the contract. And while Wilson shouldn’t have any difficulty overcoming that hurdle based on his first two seasons as a starter, I do have a concern that we’ll see a more dramatic drop off than would perhaps be anticipated of a typical starter of his stature, based on his method of success in 2010 and 2011.

Comments (18)

  1. Chris Bosh is next

  2. Pretty sure this is the Chris Bosh

  3. They just out Marlined the Marlins.

  4. I don’t think this is a terrible signing. Not a bargain, but everyone knew there wasn’t going to be a discount on this guy.

  5. This seems less Marliny, because they actually have that money to spend, if the reports on this new TV deal are true. The Marlins are spending money they should have spent on their stadium instead of on their team. They’re spending the money of the residents of Miami.

    Sucks to be the Rangers. Now they have to fight these guys for the West. Is Fielder in Texas more of a possibility now?

    • I think Yu to Texas is a distinct possibility now.

      • Yeah, I think Texas may go all out to get Yu. I want him in Toronto!! !!!

        • I think they will definitely overpay to get Oswalt and Darvish now.

          I think they’re okay offensively though. I mean they were the best offensive team in baeball last year and nothing has changed position wise.

          the angels are trying to compete with texas, not the other way around.

  6. yeah, you wouldn’t want to take a chance on signing an experienced talented pitcher with playoff experience. wouldn’t dare risk adding that type of top of the rotation starter. i mean, that’d be crazy… why not just call up some unproven players who cost way less. that way, the fans can all get excited about the low payroll and they can talk about the future together while they watch their team meander to another .500 season. because that’s so much the wiser course of action.

    and for that matter, don’t bother trying to sign a top 5 monster power hitter in his prime. wouldn’t want to risk tying up dollars that we could spend on someone that we don’t yet know of down the road in a few (more) years. right? right?

    sigh.

    it’s just so painful reading these jays bloggers as they number themselves out of contention every year. they’re tripping over themselves with mathematical parses and righteous indignation every time another team actually takes a chance on proven players. because the goal is obviously not to try to win, but to try to create the ultimate WAR chart.

    puke.

    • Two words: Tampa Rays.

      That is all.

    • Welcome to reality. I know it is going to sound crazy, BUT this baseball team is a business. Yes a business. One of those evil corporationy things. The ones that don’t flush millions down the toilet.

      I know. I know. Shame on them.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I didn’t get the impression that Dustin was explicitly saying that he didn’t like or agree with the trade…I just took it as an objective analysis regardling the liklihood of this contract being a success. Furthermore; why would such an analysis make you want to “puke”? I

      t’s much more informative and interesting than a blog post that says ‘Angels sign “experienced talented pitcher with playoff experience”; great job Angels”…

  7. this says to me the wildcard comes from the west: two good teams versus two very bad teams skews the records. still gotta hate the yankees, though.

  8. Just goes to show you what true large market can do.

    “What we just got corn holed with the Wells contract, well fuck you look what else we got tough guy. Say hello to my little friends Albert, CJ, and Jared.

    And if you don’t like that…see that guy over there, he’s ours too. Brad Mills is that guy’s name.”

  9. Just an aside on something from earlier today. I don’t think it is necessary (or professional) to make an effort to publicly humiliate a pizza boy on this blog…

    You guys were upset that he said something stupid on a public forum, so the reaction is to antagonize him on a public forum?

  10. Congrats CJ! Going to be a big party at his house.

    No hookers
    No booze
    No cigars
    No spliffs

    It will be a damned good time, he might even bust out his sacred bottle of 2006 Marywood Farms Macintosh Apple Juice

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