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ESPN's Schoenfield examines C.J. Wilson

12/2/2011

ESPN.com's Sweet Spot blogger David Schoenfield took a look at the market for C.J. Wilson. Here are his thoughts:

In his two years in the Rangers rotation, he won 31 games with a 3.14 ERA, pitching 427 innings without missing a start. He's done that despite pitching in a tough home park -- his road ERA over those two seasons was 2.56. Over the past two seasons, the only starters with a better park-adjusted ERA are Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver. Wilson rates better than CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez or Cole Hamels.

So even if you grudgingly admit Wilson has been one of the game's top starters since 2010, that doesn't help us project his future -- and whether or not he'll be worth a fat mega-contract.

Wilson is difficult to project for a couple reasons, as his years as a reliever make it a little more difficult to evaluate what will happen the next five seasons, especially his ability to stay healthy. There are two mind-sets on that:

1. His years as a reliever saved wear and tear on his arm, so he actually has less mileage on it than most 31-year-olds.

2. Because he's only started for two seasons, we don't know if his arm can hold up for 200-plus innings for six, seven seasons in a row.

Aside from that unknown, one way to project his future is to compare him to other similar pitchers. During his age-29 and 30 seasons, Wilson had a 142 ERA+ (ERA adjusted for league performance and home park). From Baseball-Reference.com, I found 16 other pitchers since 1969 who pitched 400 innings in their age 29/30 seasons, with an ERA+ of at least 130 and who averaged at least 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings.

Those 16: Greg Maddux, Johan Santana, Orel Hershiser, Cliff Lee, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, CC Sabathia, J.R. Richard, Curt Schilling, Chris Carpenter, Teddy Higuera, David Cone, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Bartolo Colon.

Let's see how those pitchers did from ages 31 to 35. I'm going to leave Smoltz, Sabathia and Richard out of the study; Smoltz spent two of those years in the bullpen (although he did miss one season with an injury), Sabathia is just entering his age-31 season and Richard suffered a stroke during his age-30 season and never returned to the majors.

Here are the seasonal averages for the other 13 (noting that Lee and Santana are still in the middle of that 31-35 age range):

29-30: 226 IP, 191 H, 63 BB, 193 SO, 2.99 ERA

31-35: 178 IP, 161 H, 46 BB, 157 SO, 3.24 ERA

Seven of the 13 averaged at least 200 innings from 31 to 35 (Maddux, Lee, Johnson, Glavine, Schilling, Clemens and Mussina). Hershiser missed nearly one full season, Carpenter two and Higuera and Colon also battled major injuries.

For more, click here. It's a nice, in-depth look at Wilson.