Aug 31, 2010, 2:48 PM EDT
After four years spent exclusively as a reliever C.J. Wilson convinced the Rangers to give him the chance to claim a rotation spot this spring and five months later he’s been one of the best starting pitchers in the American League.
Wilson shut out the Royals for 7.2 innings yesterday, improving to 14-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 171.2 innings. He leads the league with 77 walks, but has made up for it by having the league’s lowest opponents’ batting average and remarkably giving up just eight homers in 707 plate appearances despite calling Texas’ hitter-friendly ballpark home.
He’s been absolutely unhittable against left-handed batters, holding them to a .124 average and zero homers in 129 at-bats, and even right-handers are hitting just .227/.327/.333 against him. He’s essentially taken his effectiveness as a reliever and transferred it almost exactly to starting, all while throwing 100 more (and counting) innings than ever before.
What’s interesting about Wilson’s transition from relieving to starting is that he’s thrown significantly fewer fastballs than he did working out of the bullpen. Each season from 2005-2009 he threw at least 70 percent fastballs, but this year he’s relied on the pitch just 49.1 percent of the time, which is the sixth-lowest rate among all AL starters.
Wilson is throwing a cutter far more, with a great deal of success, and has also leaned heavily on his curveball and changeup after years of barely using either pitch. As a reliever Wilson threw his fastball or slider 90-95 percent of the time, but as a starter he’s used those two pitches just 62 percent of the time. Wilson believed he had the stuff to succeed as a starter, the Rangers gave him the opportunity at age 29, and now he’s got the fourth-best ERA in the league for a first-place team.
Plus, he’s great to follow on Twitter.
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