C.J. Wilson was paid $77.5M this off season to come in and be a front line starter for the Angels. With Jered Weaver and Dan Haren already on the team, he wasn’t going to be the only ace of the staff, but he has pitched like one. It is now time to sell high on Wilson’s great 1st half of the season. He has 9 Wins, a 2.33 ERA (6th among qualified starters) and a 1.17 WHIP. These stats put him within the top 20 SP in production for the 2012 season (16th SP with ESPN’s Player Rater). His stats don’t match his perifial numbers so he has a good chance of regressing quite a bit in the second half of the season.
The main reason that Wilson should look to regress is that he is completely out performing his Walk and Strikeout rates. Here are his values before tonight’s start:
Somehow he is able to maintain a near 2 ERA with a 4.0 BB/9. Here are 5 pitchers with similar K/9, BB/9 and their ERA:
The lowest ERA from the group is 3.51 which over a point higher than Wilson’s 2.33 ERA.
The average ERA of the 5 values is 4.57 which is fairly close to Wilson’s xFIP (4.10) and SIERA (4.23). I would not be surprised to see Wilson have an ERA twice his current value over the 2nd half of the season based on maintaining his Walk and Strikeout numbers.
The other key to the take out of these numbers is that he is not striking out a ton of batters. Among the qualified starters, he is in the middle of the pack (50th of 101) with 85 strikeouts. His K’s are not at any kind of elite level. His walks look even worse. He has the 8th most walks in the league with 46. His BB/9 is the 13th highest when looking at the same 101 qualified pitchers.
The reason he has been able to keep his earned runs down is that he is 8th among qualified starters with a 0.247 BABIP. The low BABIP has led to career high LOB% of 77.5%. It may seem that his BABIP is likely to increase as the season goes on. Several factors will be keeping it low though. Since becoming a starter, his BABIP has never been as low as it is this season, but he has had good BABIP values in the past (0.266 in 2010 and 0.287 in 2011). Also, he is a ground ball pitcher with 52% GB% so far in 2012. Finally the Angels defense as been solid and have the second highest team UZR total in the league.
A final factor I see working against C.J. is that he has only 27 earned runs counting against his ERA vice the 34 total runs he has allowed. Home teams always seem to give the home defenders errors in order to keep good pitchers’ ERAs as low as possible to make them look better. A possible manipulation seems to exist with Wilson. He has been getting quite a bit of home cooking with 6 of the 7 unearned runs coming at home. The difference between his RA and ERA is 0.60 with the league average difference being around 0.35. He may see an increase in ERA as the number of unearned runs associated with him declines.
The Angels brought in C.J. Wilson this off season to become good, reliable starter. He has been that pitcher and more so far this season. The problem is that several different factors look to derail his season. I would sell high on him now while his value may not be any higher.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.