Back on October 13th, Buster Olney tweeted something that seemed a little hyperbolic:
As C.J. Wilson pitches this postseason, you’d have to think his performance could swing his FA price by $25-30 million,one way or the other.
Before the postseason, Wilson was expected to be the second- or third-best free-agent starter on the market, behind CC Sabathia and (possibly) Yu Darvish. If a team wants to upgrade its rotation dramatically with the stroke of a pen, Wilson is one of the only pitchers left now that Sabathia is back with the Yankees. It would seem that the news of CC’s extension would help Wilson greatly.
And my reaction to Olney’s original tweet:
If Wilson’s a $12 million-per-year guy in September, he’s not an $18 million-per-year guy with a good October. Or if he’s a $15 million guy in September, he’s not a $9 million guy with a bad couple of playoff starts.
When the dust settled, though, Wilson had a miserable postseason. His control completely vanished in the ALCS and World Series, and at no point did he look like a #1 starter. It wasn’t just the 5.79 ERA in the playoffs or the six home runs he allowed in 28 innings – it was also the high pitch counts and the quick hooks. In six playoff games, Wilson never made it into the seventh inning. He made it out of the sixth inning just once, and that was in a game in which he allowed six earned runs.
So who was right? Olney. Has to be. It seems crazy — completely nutty — that a string of six games could make such a difference for a player who pitched more than 400 innings over the last two seasons, but that would be my guess.
And those innings were more than just quality innings, too.
IPERA+GS ▾ERACliff Lee 445.0 144 60 2.77 C.J. Wilson 427.1 140 67 3.14 Jered Weaver 460.0 146 67 2.70 CC Sabathia 475.0 141 67 3.09 Cole Hamels 424.2 135 64 2.92 Justin Verlander 475.1 145 67 2.86 Roy Halladay 484.1 165 65 2.40 Clayton Kershaw 437.2 147 65 2.57 Felix Hernandez 483.1 137 67 2.85 Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used Generated 11/1/2011. That’s a list of pitchers who have thrown more than 400 innings with an ERA+ over 130 the last two seasons. It’s not just a list of good pitchers — it’s a list of great pitchers, the kind you would build a rotation around.
Wilson didn’t just repeat his breakout season of 2010; he got better. His strikeout rate went up, his walk rate went down, and he threw more innings. He allowed more home runs in 2011, but considering that he pitches in Rangers Ballpark, he still had a fantastic home run rate.
But because of his postseason, a collection of early exits and non-dominant starts, he probably isn’t going to get the 5-year/$100 million contract he might have been in line for before the playoffs started. He still might get five years, but it’s possible that he’ll only get four now. And that alone could make the bulk of the $25 million swing that Olney was talking about.
That’s good news for the Rangers, who have a lot of rotation depth, but probably don’t want to rely on either Matt Harrison or Derek Holland to throw 220 innings for them next year. And Wilson thinks he’ll be back:
Yeah, there’s a great chance (I’ll return to Texas) because I like it here and I’ve won here.
It seems like a pretty good fit on both sides. While the Rangers would probably have rather watched Wilson pitch 35 shutout innings en route to a World Series title, there is a little consolation to be had with Wilson’s price dropping on the market. And don’t forget, Rangers — he’ll cook you breakfast.
More on SB Nation:
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- 100 Years Ago, Rain Held Up The World Series… For A Week
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- World Series 2011: It’s All About Matt Holliday, Now And (Almost) Forever
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