MLB World Series 2011 Schedule: Rangers Need C.J. Wilson To Validate Ace Label

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterOctober 17, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 08:  C.J. Wilson #36 of the Texas Rangers reacts against the Detroit Tigers in Game One of the American League Championship Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 8, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Texas Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson compiled numbers during the regular season that practically scream "Ace!"

If you don't feel like looking those numbers up, here are the good ones: 16 wins, a sub-3.00 ERA, a .232 opponents' batting average, 223.1 innings and 206 strikeouts. Somewhat quietly, Wilson was one of the best pitchers in baseball.

As you have probably noticed, Wilson has not quite been the same during the postseason. He's made three starts during the Rangers' second-consecutive run to the World Series, and none of them have been particularly great. All told, he's pitched 15.2 innings, allowed 14 earned runs and allowed six home runs. He's also walked eight batters, which is not like him.

In retrospect, it's actually pretty surprising that the Rangers were able to make it to the World Series despite Wilson's struggle. That's a testament to their overall quality.

Nevertheless, one has concerns. The Rangers were able to survive two series with Wilson at less than his best, but the idea of them surviving a third against a very good (and very hot) St. Louis Cardinals team is questionable. The Rangers are good enough to beat the Cardinals without Wilson's help, but having his help certainly won't hurt.

As for how Wilson goes about helping the Rangers, I don't think it's rocket science. He's left too many pitches up and out over the plate in his three postseason starts, and has generally failed to fool opposing hitters. He needs to get the ball down, and he needs to change speeds. In other words, he must do what all pitchers must do.

If Wilson does not, he is going to get hurt again. The Cardinals led the National League in runs scored this season, and their offense has been hot in the postseason. The Redbirds have scored 62 runs in 11 games, and have posted an impressive on-base percentage of .345.

Wilson can help more than just his team by pitching well. He is going to be a free agent after the World Series ends, and he is looking to capitalize on being perhaps the best pitcher on a very thin pitching market.

Wilson is going to get paid no matter what he does in the World Series. But if he pitches well and earns a ring, it wouldn't be at all surprising if he gets himself extra years and/or a few million extra dollars in a new deal.

So all things considered, Wilson has every incentive to go out and pitch well. The process will start in Game 1 on Wednesday opposite Chris Carpenter. We shall see what Wilson can do.

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