One Night Only: C.J. Wilson’s WAR

This edition of One Night Only is brought to you by the unpopular imagination. Which, it’s kinda like the popular imagination, except with braces and stuff.

(NERD scores in parentheses. All times Eastern.)

Minnesota (7) at Texas (8) | 8:05pm ET
Starting Pitchers
Twins: Brian Duensing (6)
84.1 IP, 5.12 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, .249 BABIP, 53.6% GB, 6.3% HR/FB, 3.99 xFIP

Rangers: C.J. Wilson (3)
158.0 IP, 7.29 K/9, 4.04 BB/9, .257 BABIP, 49.9% GB, 5.3% HR/FB, 4.30 xFIP

Opening Statement
These are the same teams as last night. And, owing to tomorrow night’s matchup between nerdthrobs Francisco Liriano and Cliff Lee — well, it’ll probably be the same teams tomorrow night.

So sue me.

That said, there are some other sweet games tonight — which, you can see NERDed the eff out at the bottom of this document.

On C.J. Wilson’s NERD Score
It’s too low, probably. Here’re four reasons why I’m saying that:

1. NERD weighs xFIP pretty heavily. Wilson’s got a 4.30 xFIP, which is merely league-average-ish for a starter. But he also throws a cut fastball, which generally suppresses home runs at a better rate than the league-average of 11% HR/FB. Thus, his 3.66 FIP might actually be more representative of his talent here. Or, maybe 4.00 would be a fairer mark. In any case, it’s probably something lower than 4.30.

2. Wilson’s been crazy good this month — and crazy dominant in his last two starts. His line over those two starts (at Baltimore and home versus Boston) looks exactly like this: 16.1 IP, 20 K, 2 BB, 21 GB on 35 BIP (for a 60% GB rate, exactly). That gives Wilson about a 2.10 xFIP over his last two starts.

3. Wilson’s conversion from reliever to starter is still interesting as a narrative — especially if, as seems to be the case, he’s still figuring out what it means to be a starter.

4. While Wilson doesn’t have the nerd cred of a Brian Bannister or Max Scherzer, he appears to be a genuinely enthusiastic and thoughtful person — or, at least that’s what I’d guess from his Twitter feed. In the world I want to live in, thoughtful and enthusiastic people are successful.

On Denard Span, Jason Repko, and Center Field
The Twitters have recently served as a home to a number of Twins fans who’re saying they’d like to see Jason Repko take over for Denard Span in center field — at least on a temporary basis.

At first blush, it seems like a local, very enthusiastic fanbase overreacting to a run of bad luck on the part of one of their better players. Span has slumped lately, slashing .234/.280/.299 (with a .269 BABIP) during the month of August. His season numbers — .267/.336/.352, .296 BABIP, .317 wOBA, 98 wRC+, 2.2 WAR — really aren’t bad, although they’re underwhemling relative to last year’s .359 wOBA (122 wRC+).

Meanwhile, here’s what Repko’s done through 73 PA this season: .246/.319/.477, .283 BABIP .341 wOBA, 114 wRC+. His contact skills are poor, as his low batting average and 24.6% strikeout rate suggests, but otherwise he’s hit pretty well.

Span and Repko, The Remix (Featuring D.J. Parker Hageman)
In any case, I wanted to ask someone about this whole Span/Repko situation — someone who follows the Twins closely and is both (a) saber-friendly and (b) kinda foul-mouthed.

Viva la Parker Hageman of Over the Baggy.

To Hageman I posed this question: “Who should start center field in this game and why?”

Here’s what he said (minus some terrible comments about my mother):

With the Rangers’ CJ Wilson being one of the more lethal left-handed killers in the game, the Twins will certainly contemplate resting slumping center fielder Denard Span in favor of Jason Repko. Repko is very capable of spelling Denard, if for one night only.

Wilson has been one bad mofo against left-handed opponents this season. He’s viciously struck out 28% of all same-sided opponents faced while keeping them to a .105 batting average, currently baseball’s best in this split. That’s cold-blooded. Interestingly enough, Span has actually fared better against his southpawed-kin this year. Still, that is against human left-handers, not CJ Wilson.

Meanwhile, the right-handed hitting Repko has been a wonderful spare part for the club. His output is a reflection of sample-sizing, as he is frequently a strikeout waiting to happen, but he has contributed when needed. What’s more is that he has supplied more ball-shagging abilities than the Kardashian sisters, giving the Twins an above-average defender in Span’s absence.

Resting Span in this contest would be the least sadistic thing to do. After all, considering he is suffering from a well-documented case of walk depression, sending him to the plate against Wilson would qualify as a form of abuse, right?

If I Had My Druthers
• There would be an actual movie called C.J. Wilson’s WAR.
• Tom Hanks would play C.J. Wilson in it.
Colby Lewis would also play C.J. Wilson.

Also Playing
These games are very likely playing at some kind of sporty channel near you.

pNERD = Pitcher NERD
tNERD = Team NERD
Game = Time and Average NERD for Game
* = Estimated NERD




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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.


5 Responses to “One Night Only: C.J. Wilson’s WAR”

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  1. AthleticsBraves says:

    Love the new game NERD Carson ESPN should choose their games of the week based on which has the highest NERD. Also, Carson mentioned this the other day and I was wondering-why does everyone hate Joe Buck? I haven’t listened to him that much but he doesn’t seem too offensive. Does he not like new stats and wants everyone to sac bunt like Joe Morgan and Chip Caray?

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  2. Bill@TPA says:

    Worth noting that Span’s pronounced reverse split isn’t just a 2010 oddity, but has shown up each year he’s been in the majors, and is there in his minor league career numbers as well. To me (with all due respect to my friend, er, mutual-twitter-follow-person Parker), that suggests that you should basically consider Span a righty when it comes to matchups. Maybe sit him because he’s struggling so much, but not just because he’s facing a tough lefty.

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  3. Matt Defalco says:

    Carson, looking at CJ Wilson’s stats made me realize something. “Hotness” or “Coldness” should be entered as well… perhaps you could do a zScore for their stats within the last four weeks compared to their season stats. So, for example, CJ Wilson would be hot because of his shiny 2.10 xFIP over his recent work.

    This is a huge difference compared to Josh Johnson’s (I don’t have numbers but I think we both know it isn’t around his old 1.97 ERA) recent xFIP compared to his season stats. Also I might add that It would be ideal to use his season stats before the stats for his “recent work” are used.

    AKA Start of the season – Aug 1 = regular season stats.
    Aug 2 – Aug 24 = recent stats determining how “hot” or “cold” he is.

    I would say that this is an interesting idea considering it might not be as interesting to watch Josh Johnson’s next start as his NERD score says because he’s been going through quite a rough patch.

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  4. Hey Bill — Good point about Span’s splits and I did have a paragraph on that written up before cutting it because I was getting wordy.

    I think Span’s success (and I would have to doublecheck my Inside Edge numbers before committing to this) against lefties is due to their overall tendency to throw same-sided opponents more breaking pitches. Span’s ability to stay back allows him to stay on those pitches more readily and drive them better. Part of the reason I suspect that Wilson has and would dominate Span is that Wilson leans on his fastball against LHB (70% usage) and Span has been absolutely horrid against the hard stuff in 2010 (-7.8 wFB). Also, while Span has had success against lefties, he has not done well against Wilson (2-for-8 with 3 Ks).

    I wholeheartedly endorse keeping Span in the lineup against left-handed pitchers, even tough ones, but in this case, Wilson has been very effective this year and Span has been trying to make adjustments to the way opponents have approached him. In the end, I recommend sitting him not just because of the tough lefty factor but also because it gives him time to reassess his approach at the plate.

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