Sunday, July 18, 2010
Here is more from our guy, Mike Bacsik:
C.J. Wilson has been great this year. He’s 7-5 with 3.35 ERA. You couldn’t have asked for more from a pitcher who hasn’t started since 2005. Now come the dog days of summer and nobody feels the dog days more than pitchers who are racking up innings.
If you have been a starting pitcher your whole career, or at least the last few years, you know how your body reacts to 30 innings a month. You’ll start to feel a little something in your shoulder or bicep or elbow. As you are sitting around doing nothing, which most pitchers do, you ask yourself, “is that a normal pain? How long has that bump been there? Does it hurt when I do this or that?” All these questions are self evaluations of “can I pitch with this ailment or is this just dead arm?”
As time goes on you know when you’re having “dead arm”. Dead arm is when nothing is wrong with your arm it just feels heavy and like it is moving in slow motion. Every pitcher gets it, and you start to have an idea about how long it takes for that feeling to go away. For me, it was usually 10 days. How do you handle dead arm? Do you throw less or more? More long toss or no long toss? Everyone is different. You just have to find what works for you. So what does this have to do this Wilson?
Before the season started I was concerned with moving C.J. into the rotation. He was a very good reliever last year. C.J was also a high pitch count and high energy level guy on the mound as a reliever. It didn’t seem to translate to a starters mind set. But C.J pitched great in Spring Training and earned his spot in the rotation. That wasn’t easy, but it was the easiest part of this season for him. His body and arm was at peak performance February through May. As this season has gone along, C.J keeps throwing a little slower each time. He is now throwing 86-88 mph’s and topping off at 90. In April he was pitching at 89-92 and topping off at 95. That’s a very different pitcher. It doesn’t mean he can’t win but it means there is less room for error.
C.J. Wilson’s career stats: Here
Look at the difference in innings pitched from this year to the previous 5 seasons. 113 innings right now might not seem like a lot but there is a rule with prospects that teams follow. The Rule: A pitcher can only throw 120% more innings then he threw in the previous season. This is why Tanner Sheppers pitched in the bullpen the first two months of the season. They needed to keep his total innings pitched down this year because he didn’t throw a lot of innings last year in independent ball/fall league. Simple math, C.J threw 73.2 innings last year. Multiply that times 120% and you get 88.1 innings. We are already 25 innings past the max! Why the rule? Studies show that if pitchers throw more than 120% of the innings pitched in a season, the next year they have a high likelihood of sustaining a major arm injury. Wilson isn’t a prospect and is a free agent at the end of the year. Organizations tend not to “baby” players they don’t have to. The Rangers, at this time, have no further investment in him.
C.J. has proven this rule wrong last year because at 46.1 innings pitched in ’08, he was able to throw more than 120% (55.2), by throwing 73.2 innings pitched in ’09 and so far this year he isn’t hurt. My concern for him is the start of August. Wilson got the all-star break for his arm to hopefully bounce back, but after about 3 starts I can see where the ultimate fatigue might set in. Can C.J fight through it and give the Rangers 70 to 80 more quality innings? Will he go back to not only having fastball command but above average fastball speed?
It also doesn’t help that Ron Washington put him behind Lee in the rotation. Why back to back lefties? Ron had the break to split them up. When (not if) the Rangers make the playoffs, where will Wilson be in the playoff rotation? If he isn’t in the top 3 (Lee, Lewis, Hunter), do you move him back to the bullpen for the playoffs to give you 2 lefties with Oliver and Wilson? Time will tell and let’s hope it is a tough decision for Ron on how to setup his playoff pitching staff.