Beginning on Opening Day, fans will have the chance to step up to the plate for the cause.
I had the opportunity to represent B/R in a wide-ranging conversation with C.J. that touched on #whiff, the rise of the West in MLB, rivalries, and the role analytics play on the field.
Bleacher Report: How did you get involved with the Head & Shoulders #whiff for a good cause campaign?
Wilson: They asked me to hop on! It's awesome to be able to follow up Joe Mauer and represent the game this way. The partnership with the RBI Program is amazing, too. Baseball is a game that every kid should have the opportunity to play!
B/R: Ten years ago, the Northeast was the epicenter for star power in baseball. That's shifted out West, specifically to Los Angeles. Why?
Wilson: It's a combination of things, really. First, these franchises are really good now. Texas deserves so much credit for what they've been able to do over the years. When I first arrived, the knock was "they can't pitch," especially when the weather heated up. Now they're a contender based on pitching.
Everyone knows what kind of boom the Dodgers' ownership has brought for them. It's changed the entire complexion of a franchise.
As for us, it's about a commitment to winning. Players want to win and enjoy playing the game. For whatever reason—maybe less media bearing down on you day-to-day—it's a more enjoyable atmosphere.
Don't get me wrong—there's an expectation and pressure to win—but it's different than what the East Coast media does to an athlete.
B/R: You've now been on both sides of the Rangers-Angels rivalry. Why has it become so compelling over the past few seasons?
Wilson: Talent. When you see these franchises adding Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Yu Darvish and Albert Pujols, it's impossible not to be excited. Throw in the emergence of Mike Trout and it's like being part of two All-Star teams.
B/R: Young pitchers are dominating the sport right now. Furthermore, young pitchers off Tommy John surgery are succeeding at a tremendous rate. You're a Tommy John success story (Wilson underwent the procedure in 2003). Do you think modern medicine will reach a point where it almost benefits a pitcher to have the procedure at a young age, considering how strong the elbow can be after?
Wilson: No, no. The main reason I wouldn't agree with that is because of time lost. A career can be so fleeting. Losing a year or two to rehab probably doesn't outweigh the gains of a stronger elbow down the line. Front office's might disagree. I'm not sure.
B/R: You've been able to put together a long, successful career after the procedure. Last year brought about stardom for Stephen Strasburg and Kris Medlen. Have the doctors perfected the repair and rehab for this injury?
Wilson: It's never going to be perfect, but I'm grateful that my ailments have always been elbow injuries, as opposed to shoulder issues.
B/R: Sabermetrics have been a gigantic part of the baseball research community for years. Moneyball popularized the ideology from a management perspective. We know there can be a disconnect between how a front-office chooses a player and how an on-field manager plays him.
I've always wondered about a player's perspective and role in advance stats. Can you use them practically? What helps you get hitters out?
Wilson: That's the main thing—getting hitters out. To be honest, I don't care what an opposing hitters' WAR is or was. That doesn't help me at all. The stuff factored in there—defense, baserunning—won't help me on a 2-2 count in the 6th inning of a tie game.
The research helps, though. Owners aren't short-sighted. They wouldn't spend millions of dollars on players unless they had information telling them it's a good investment.
As for me, I use stuff beyond what you'll find on the research sites. That's for decision-makers. I need information that helps on the field.
The geometry of baseball interests me. What about a batter's torque will make him susceptible to a pitch on the outside half of the plate? How quickly does he rotate his hips?
I'm aware of the advance stats and understand their place in building a roster, but that's not all that interesting to me on the mound.
From either perspective, the more information, the better.