Monday, May 7, 2012

LA Angels of Anaheim - Looking at the Rotation

Continuing the AL West, the LA Angels of Anaheim have a very dominant rotation, and look after the general consensus being that they “Won” the offseason the halos looked poised to make a very strong run at the postseason this year. That has not so far been the case with LA sitting worse off in the standings than Seattle but to be totally fair, a lot of the league has been completely upside down so far. The angels are sending out no less than three legitimate aces every 5 days, and with that should by all means be amassing wins hand over fist but as of this writing they have a 12-17 record and all the pitching in the world doesn’t seem to be able to help them.

Jered Weaver has looked every bit the ace so far with 2 complete games and his first career no hitter so far this season. Weaver’s WHIP (.784) has been unreal so far, and I can’t see that being the case throughout the year and as his BABIP (.236) comes back closer to his career norm (.277), he’ll probably see the WHIP come back up to around his career average. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning so far, and has only walked 7 batters over his 44 & ⅔ innings. I don’t believe that Weaver’s going to quite be maintaining this pace, I feel his home run rate (1.2% of plate appearances) will eventually normalize, though for him that’s still only 2.6% of the time. His strikeout and walk rates might come back down to earth a bit as well, and that will really be all that would need to change to take this mind blowing start and leave Weaver with a typical ace season, but it’ll still be an excellent year for Weaver whether he comes back down a bit or not. It could be worth noting that Weaver’s ERA and WHIP have actually dropped every year since 2008, but really, how much lower is a guy gonna go than a 2.41 ERA and a 1.010 WHIP?

C.J. Wilson is the example of a reliever turned starter and has looked very good so far. His walk and strikeout rates look pretty close to last year having struck out 39 over 41 & ⅓ innings. Wilson already has 2 losses to his name this year, but they both have to be called tough luck losses because he’s thrown nothing but quality starts this year. Wilson has actually been right on the money with his groundball/flyball split so far though he’s been lucky in not giving up extra bases, and his BABIP (.227) is a bit lower than his career (.286) they might come up a bit as the season wears on but overall Wilson looks like he’ll have another stellar year having come out of the gate hot.

Dan Haren has been very good to start the year, despite having started the year with two short outings, he really only got beat up in his first start and has looked pretty darn good since. Haren’s getting his strikeouts (35) and has only given up 7 walks over his first 39 & ⅓ innings. He’s given up 5 homers so far and that could likely be attributed to his slightly higher flyball rate this year than he has shown over his career. I’d be more concerned with that if he weren’t still striking batters out and forcing popups. Haren’s not looking bad by any stretch of the imagination, and is an excellent option for the Halos to send out every 5th day.

Ervin Santana has looked rough this year, having given up 11 home runs so far. Overall there’s very little pointing to the relative ineffectiveness Santana’s displayed so far (albeit most of it was over the first 4 starts, the last two have been better). He’s striking out batters at about the same rate as he always has(6.8 per 9 vs 7.2 for his career)  and isn’t walking any more batters than usual either (2.8 per 9 vs 2.9 for his career). He’s actually giving up fewer line drives (13%) than usual(17% for his career) but he’s been absolutely thwarted by the long ball so far. Normally the adage is that homers come in bunches for hitters, but it may be the case so far that Santana’s giving up a lot early, and that could settle down as the year continues. I don’t necessarily look for Santana to be an ace this year, his career has been up and down, and this might just be an off year for him. I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in Santana flipping a switch and being lights out like last year, but he may not be too far off from putting up some okay numbers as a number 4 or 5 starter.

Jerome Williams came up late last year and looked better than he had at any other point in his career. That has carried right into the start of this year so far.  After a somewhat auspicious start giving up 5 runs in less than 3 innings, Williams has made it into the 6th in all of the 4 starts he’s made since, all of which have been quality starts. Williams has been striking out batters (23) reasonably well so far and has only walked 9 in his first 32 innings of work this season. It’s hard to use Williams’ career numbers to judge him since prior to last year he spent 2 years in the minors (and one in Taiwan) before making to back up to the show. Williams seems to have all but reinvented himself as a groundball pitcher since coming back up, and by limiting line drives and keeping the ball on the ground Williams looks to be poised to keep himself in the majors through the season. While he’s only given up 1 home run so far I wouldn’t exactly be shocked to see that change some over the course of the year, but Williams may have found what works for him and could be a very real member of this pitching staff going forward.

As the Angels get more acquainted with one another and their batting order begins clicking on all cylinders, this is going to become a very real playoff contender, even if that doesn’t necessarily happen this year.

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