I will admit, Texas Ranger “Ace” C.J. Wilson has been el stinko throughout the 2011 MLB playoffs. After three starts in the ALDS and ALCS, his numbers don’t scream ace, they scream six of clubs. As in being clubbed for six long balls in just 15+ innings. Go ahead and tack on eight walks, fourteen earned runs, and an 8.04 ERA with no wins. Insert Jim Mora’s voice right here…Playoffs! Playoffs?
There were some angry Ranger fans tweeting & facebooking some serious hate during a potential series clinching Game 5 in Detroit Thursday night. So much hate that C.J.’s positive-energy necklace hanging from his neck could have easily been used as a noose if he were pitching in Arlington. Here’s a sample of what kind of trash was slung C.J.s way on the social network:
“If this is the best C.J. can do, he shouldn’t be our ACE!”
“@Str8edgeracer needs to stick to race car driving!’ (@Str8edgeracer is Wilson’s Twitter handle)
“C.J. is the Ranger’s version of Tony Romo. Good stuff, lot’s of hype, but folds during the big games!”
There’s even a website dedicated to hating Wilson. You’d think Ranger fans would be content with back-to-back ALCS visits. I guess not. (The web name humorously refers to a certain female hygienic toilette, but I refuse to give the site any more pub than I already have.)
I hate to break it you Ranger fans. C.J. may not be your Cliff Lee, but he is your ace, and he’s pitched like one for the past two years. Since I brought up Lee, let’s look at the tale of the tape during the regular season for both pitchers and what they averaged over the last two years.
Wilson: GS-33 CG-3 SO-1 IP-215 K-185 BB-83 W-15 ERA-3.15
Cliff Lee: GS-30 CG-7 SO-4 IP-220 K-210 BB-25 W-15 ERA-2.80
What do you see folks? Cliff is clearly the more dominant of the two when it comes to the much appraised K:BB ratio. But look closely one more time. What do you see? I see similarities and ace-like peripherals from both pitchers. Funny how stats work sometimes. They don’t always tell the whole story, but they do paint a pretty good picture.
Look, there are only a handful of bona fide aces in the majors today. Verlander, Halladay, Kershaw, and Lee, quickly come to mind. Creating a list past these guys and trying to figure who’s next in line would be tiring. After the Fantastic Four, who do you want? I hear a lot of grumblings about switching out a C.J. for a C.C. You thought the skinny C was a playoff headache, wait until you get a load of the fat C.
Truth of the matter is, Wilson can be an easy #2 guy on any roster. He can pitch lights out during the regular season and have a couple of bad games during critical times of the playoffs, and it would be understood. After all, he’s only a #2 on that roster. Slap the ace tag on him where he is without a doubt, the best pitcher on the roster such as the Rangers, serve up some tee-ball homers, and it’s crucifixion time in Texas.
In Philly, he pitches out of the #5 hole for sure.
In Texas however, C.J. is their ace-in-the-hole, and I can’t wait to see him take the mound on opening day next year.
By the way, I’m sure Lee, Halladay, Oswalt et al, would love to be where @str8edgeracer is right now.
The Ledger takes a look at the Texas-Detroit ALCS matchup, and which team has the better chance to advance to the World Series.
Bats: Whether it’s lead-off man Ian Kinsler (32 HR) or bottom of the lineup hero Mike Napoli (30 HR), the Ranger’s lumber is wicked no matter how you look at it. Texas bats are capable of the multi-homer game any given night. Although Texas has been known to play small ball at times, their plan is simple: Break out the big sticks against Verlander & Co. and plow into their bullpen early.
Detroit doesn’t pose much of a home run threat with only 2 players with 20+ dingers, but they do score runs and hit well above average, especially at key moments of the game (RISP). The Tigers rank in the top five of all major offensive categories. They are a smart group, but not scary. Cabrera, Mo-Towns biggest long ball threat, has batted well against Texas this year (.421)
Running: We’ve all heard of “Money Ball”, but have you heard of “Ron Ball”? Texas manager Ron Washington’s theory is simple: The more you run, the closer you get to home plate. Ranger base runners execute the “double steal” better than anybody in the majors. They’ll do it from first-to-second, second-to-third, and have won many a game doing it from third-to-home. They do get caught a lot, but “Ron Ball’s” reasoning of “You can’t catch us all the time”, makes it worth the risk.
Detroit only has one player (Austin Jackson-22) with double-digit steals, therefore will not be a huge threat to the Rangers. Detroit only stole 49 bases compared to the Rangers 143.
Defense: Detroit has committed fewer errors and sports a high fielding percentage, which has led to fewer runs allowed. That alone has contributed to the success of an already dominant pitching staff. Their outfield is built around pure speed and can shag just about anything in the gaps. Mid-season acquisition Delmon Young suffered an oblique strain against NY, so Leyland may be forced to shuffle his defense around if Young can’t go.
Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus have combined for 102 double plays, making them one of the top infield combos in the playoffs. With that said however, Andrus (25), Kinsler (11), and Beltre (11) are prone to errors, causing unnecessary unearned runs. Couple the errors with an average pitching staff, and the flood gates could open early for Detroit’s offense.
Pitching: No contest here. One Justin Verlander is better than any two starting pitchers the Ranger’s can trot out to the mound. Verlander is to the Tigers as Cliff Lee was to the Rangers last year; their success solely depends on their ace. JV’s magical stuff resonates throughout his peers and they feed off of him. Ex-Ranger RP Joaquin Benoit has thrived as a setup man, and closer Jose Valverde is as good as they get. Stat wise, Texas’ numbers are better, but you’re looking at a dominant ace along with two hot pitchers behind Verlander (Scherzer & Fister), which the Rangers lack.
Nolan Ryan has been disappointed in his staff as of late. Ranger starters looked lethargic coming down the stretch, and Ryan has attributed it to poor conditioning and the blazing Texas heat. Whatever the case is, reformed closer-now ace C.J. Wilson, and the rest of the Cliff Lee-less staff better muster something better than they did in the ALDS, or Nolan Ryan just may rush the mound himself and go “Robin Ventura” on his hurlers.
Managers: Detroit skipper Jim Leyland definitely has the big game experience: a World Series visit (Florida Marlins), won two pennants in both leagues (Detroit & Florida), and a three-time Manager of the Year (twice with Pittsburgh and once with Detroit). He outwitted Yankee manager Joe Girardi during the series clincher, and at 67 years old, he is craftier than ever.
Ron Washington doesn’t have the skins on the wall that Leyland does, but he is the reigning skipper of the American League champs, and that accounts for quite a bit. “Ron Ball” doesn’t play to lose. His system incorporates a “Total Baseball” concept that places all facets of the game on the same level. Nothing is more important to Wash than “playing simple baseball”. Once a team that only knew how to crack 425-ft homers and win games 10-7 on a regular basis, Washington has taught his players to hit, run, catch, and throw, like a champion should.
If the Ledger had to pick between Texas’ Bats vs Detroit’s Arms; defense and pitching would win in six games. Detroit 4-2.
However, this series is not about the stat.
The Texas Rangers carry with them every day something Detroit can’t relate to. Pain. Ronnie’s Boys of Summer just missed out on a world series ring last year in San Francisco, and although no one on the Ranger staff will admit to it, the sting is still there. In April, the clubhouse quietly set their goal on nothing short of a title. Losing to the Giants gave the Rangers a blueprint of “what not to do” next time they were here. Next time is now for Ron Ball.