Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
C.J. Wilson let a brutal second half ruin his first year as an Angel.
This season, he's determined to make sure that won't happen again.
So far, so good.
Wilson went into the All-Star break on a hot streak. Instead of coming back rusty, the 32-year-old turned in his best start of the season, limiting the first-place Athletics to just three hits in 8 1/3 shutout innings Saturday at Angel Stadium.
Wilson is 6-1 dating back to June 14th with a 1.69 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in seven appearances. Prior to that, Wilson was just 4-5 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in his first 13 starts.
According to ESPN's player rater, Wilson has been the 34th-best player in fantasy over the last month and the fifth-most effective starting pitcher behind only Matt Garza, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Matt Moore.
During that stretch, Wilson's ERA has fallen from 4.02 to 3.15. That's good for tenth-best in the AL and a noticeable improvement from the 3.83 ERA he posted during his first season with the Halos (17th among American League hurlers).
Wilson is also on pace to notch 17 wins this season, one more than the career- high he set in that category two years ago in Texas.
So what's been the big change for Wilson? Is it better velocity?
Nope. His average fastball this season has been 91.2 mph, 0.5 mph slower than his average heater in 2012 (91.7 mph).
What about efficiency?
Try again. Wilson has averaged 17.0 pitches per inning in 2013, which is exactly how many he averaged last season.
Alright, we'll keep guessing. What about run support?
You're bad at this game. The Angels have scored 4.7 runs per game when Wilson has pitched this season. That's down from 5.38 runs per game in 2012.
Okay, one more try. Is it an improved ground ball to fly ball ratio?
False. Wilson was generating way more ground balls last season (1.02 ground ball to fly ball rate in 2012 versus 0.90 in 2013).
This might sound crazy (Nevermind. It definitely sounds crazy.) but I think the secret to Wilson's success this year is that there is no secret.
He's just ... better.
Okay, maybe there's a little more to it than that. If you dig deep enough, you'll find that Wilson is throwing far more sliders this season than he did a year ago (19.9 percent sliders versus only 9.3 in 2012). He's also been better with runners on base, stranding just under 73 percent of all runners that reach (70 percent last season).
I don't usually look to rock music for fantasy inspiration but maybe Jimmy Eat World was on to something when they said, "It just takes some time."
Wilson spent seven seasons in Texas before he signed with Los Angeles in the winter of 2011. That's a major adjustment.
The Dallas/Forth Worth area certainly isn't a small media market, but it's definitely a step down from the media blitz athletes face everyday in Los Angeles. And when the team's counting on you to be the ace (five years and $77.5 million isn't middle of the rotation money), it only makes things more difficult.
So you can forgive Wilson for having a bit of an off-year in 2012, even if his ERA was only slightly higher than his career average (3.59) and he still won more games than he lost (13-10).
Now that he's more used to his surroundings, Wilson finally looks like a guy who can carry a rotation, both in real life and on the fantasy side of things.
Wilson is pitching deeper into games than he did a year ago (6.43 innings per start versus just 5.95 per start last season) and he's striking out batters with much more frequency (8.25 K's per nine innings in 2013 compared to 7.7 in 2012). He's also looked more comfortable in his home ballpark, limiting opponents to a .210 batting average in 10 starts at Angel Stadium this season. Last year, teams hit .245 against Wilson in 15 games in Anaheim (5-6, 3.77 ERA, 1.32 WHIP over that span).
That's not to say there won't be some rough patches along the way. The Angels still have 40 games left against teams with winning records and many of those games will be played on the road. And of course, we all remember how Wilson famously ran out of gas at the end of last season (4-5, 5.54 ERA after the break).
But this year feels different. Maybe not for the Angels: they're probably going to miss the postseason again. But for Wilson, it looks like he's finally figured it all out. And I'm sure he'd love to prove it to everyone in the second half.
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