On the News & Notes segment of Thursday's Fantasy Baseball Today, I expressed my concern about C.J. Wilson's chances for a rebound. A recent four-game skid had lifted his ERA to 4.33, but all season long he has been tempting fate with some of the worst control we have seen from a starting pitcher in recent years.
As we now know, Wilson went on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ankle just a few hours after our show, but according to the Orange County Register, he may only miss one or two starts. So the question is still worth asking: how dangerous is it to rely on Wilson in Fantasy once he returns, given that he has thrown only 59 percent of his pitches for strikes? This is a rare feat of wildness, as no qualifying starting pitcher has registered a rate below that threshold since 2007, when Tom Glavine and Daniel Cabrera did it. In the six seasons that followed, there were 30 instances of a qualifying starter registering a rate of 60 percent or lower, and 10 of those resulted in an ERA below 4.00.
Fantasy owners probably wouldn't be all that happy with a high-3.00s ERA from Wilson, and only five times did pitchers from this group finish with an ERA below 3.50. Wilson was actually one of those pitchers, accomplishing the feat in 2010, while Gio Gonzalez (2010 and 2011), Trevor Cahill (2010) and Ubaldo Jimenez (2010) were the others. And while this may seem like nitpicking, in all five instances, the pitcher in question threw 60 percent of his pitches for strikes -- just a shade better than Wilson's 59 percent rate from this season.
In each of these cases, the pitcher relied on a favorable BABIP rate or HR/9 ratio to keep his ERA low. Wilson can't count on lowering his .298 BABIP, but as a ground ball pitcher who gets to play home games at Angel Stadium, he does have a shot at a decent ERA if he can limit extra-base hits. It still makes Wilson a risky play in many road starts, and even at home, he could continue to struggle if he doesn't make at least slight improvements in his control.
Among this season's qualifiers, Wilson's strikes-thrown rate is actually the second-lowest after Nick Martinez's. Among mixed-league relevant options, Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa, Justin Masterson (knee) and A.J. Burnett all currently own rates below 61 percent. Only Burnett has enjoyed success of late, but all should be considered risky, even if they are able to string together some productive starts.