Commentary

C.J. Wilson needs to step up in spotlight

It's time for the Rangers starter to pitch like the ace we saw in the regular season

Updated: October 19, 2011, 1:05 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ST. LOUIS -- The World Series is upon us, so it's time for C.J. Wilson to pitch like he's the ace of the Texas Rangers' staff, something he's failed to do in his first three postseason starts this season.

No excuses. No alibis.

No chatter about his opponent having a lucky rabbit's foot. And none of this silliness about being a novice as a starting pitcher.

The stage belongs to him, and the baseball world is watching. It's an opportunity every competitor wants, but few get. All Wilson needs to do is perform like he did in the regular season, when he went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 223 1/3 innings.

[+] EnlargeCJ Wilson
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelRangers starter C.J. Wilson needs to pitch like he did in the regular season, when he was 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA and 206 strikeouts.
That guy is just a notch below annual Cy Young contenders, such as Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and C.C. Sabathia.

If Wilson does perform like the regular season -- and he will -- the Rangers will win the World Series in six games.

Do that, and we'll forget the three ragged starts that preceded Wilson's World Series performance because we live in a world where social media reigns and Twitter and Facebook have given us the attention span of a 2-year-old.

Wilson has been awful in the postseason, and it doesn't matter if you choose to blame his performances on lucky home runs by Tampa Bay's Kelly Shoppach, rain delays or an unlucky bounce off the third-base bag against Detroit.

Bottom line: He's 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA.

"If you throw the ball where you want it, then that's going to be your best result. It's not like you're going to throw harder or slower," Wilson said. "I'm pretty much the same guy I was in August and September."

Whatever.

Wilson might occasionally get on our nerves with his arrogance and condescending tone, but we must admit he's considerably better than he's pitched in the postseason.

Wilson's ego knows no bounds, so he couldn't possibly be suffering from stage fright. We're talking about a dude who says his stuff is "electric," which certainly doesn't sound like a pitcher who's afraid of the moment.

Then again, all we can do is go by the awful results we've seen thus far.

They're primarily the result of Wilson's inability to command his fastball -- and it hasn't mattered whether he's throwing the two-seamer that tails down and away from right-handed batters.

Or the traditional four-seam fastball, the first pitch we're taught in Little League. Or the cutter that runs in on right-handed batters.

They're all missing.

So hitters can either sit on pitches, location or both, which is why they're whacking his pitches out of the park at an alarming rate.

In his first two seasons, Wilson has allowed just 26 homers in 427 1/3 innings. In this postseason, he's allowed six homers in just 15 2/3 innings.

During the regular season, batters hit .379 against Wilson when the count was 1-0. Just so you know, Wilson was virtually unhittable once hitters had two strikes.

They hit .062 on 0-2 counts, .180 on 1-2 counts, .167 on 2-2 counts and just .181 on full counts.

"He's had really good stuff in the playoffs," catcher Mike Napoli said, "but he's not executing that one pitch at just the right time. Instead of fouling off his mistakes, they're hitting them.

"It's tough pitching when the count is 1-0 or 2-0. You have a lot more options when you're ahead in the count."

Manager Ron Washington had no qualms giving Wilson the ball for Game 1 against Chris Carpenter -- it wasn't altruism -- because he watched him pitch into the sixth inning 28 times in 34 starts this season.

Washington manages his team based on trust. He saw Wilson pitch into the seventh inning 16 times, including 12 consecutive times from May through July, and believes he can and will give the Rangers just their second quality start of the postseason.

"I can't really afford to work my way into the game," Wilson said. "I've got to be right from the first pitch."

Sounds good.

Excuses don't matter in the Fall Classic. It's all about results.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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