Feb 28, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver (36) pitches against the Chicago Cubs in the third inning at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels Pitching: Comparing This Staff With 2013

 

Going From One Angels Pitching Approach To The Next

The big idea in the Angels front office coming into 2013 was to build a big offense with just enough pitching to get by. It was a good idea. Unfortunately, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto acquired the wrong pitchers, leaving Manager Mike Scioscia with limited options. Dipoto addressed that with a better idea, one that is always the better way to go: acquiring young controllable starting pitching. With this approach, the front office can develop a young Angels pitching staff with upside, while having the tools to get them into the postseason. And because of the control over these young hurlers, it’s another recipe for long-term success. The question is whether it will take place now, or in the coming seasons. To get an idea, we’ll have to see how the 2014 Angels pitching staff compares to the 2013 Angels pitching staff, going into this season.

 

2014 Starting Rotation (My Projections)

RHP: Jered Weaver  18-9 / 2.87 / 232 IP / 1.12 WHIP / 143 ERA+

LHP: CJ Wilson  16-9 / 3.57 / 229 IP / 1.32 WHIP / 129 ERA+

RHP: Garrett Richards  13-10 / 4.15 / 183 IP / 1.36 WHIP / 105 ERA+

LHP: Hector Santiago 12-8 / 3.71 / 173 IP / 1.27 WHIP / 112 ERA+

LHP: Tyler Skaggs 10-9 / 4.53 / 139 IP / 1.39 WHIP / 97 ERA+

 

2014 Starting Rotation (Career Averages)

RHP: Jered Weaver  3.24 ERA / 217 IP / 1.14 WHIP / 127 ERA+

LHP: CJ Wilson  3.58 ERA / 209 IP / 1.30 / 118 ERA+

RHP: Garrett Richards  4.37 ERA / 195 IP / 1.36 WHIP / 86 ERA+

LHP: Hector Santiago  3.30 ERA / 188 IP / 1.36 WHIP / 126 ERA+

LHP: Tyler Skaggs  5.43 ERA / 177 IP / 1.41 WHIP / 73 ERA+

 

Exactly How Does This Rotation Compare To 2013?

RHP: Jered Weaver 11 – 8 / 3.27 ERA / 154.1 IP / 1.140 WHIP / 115 ERA+

LHP: CJ Wilson 17 – 7 / 3.39 ERA / 212.1 IP / 1.342 WHIP / 111 ERA+

RHP: Joe Blanton 2 – 14 / 6.04 ERA / 132.2 IP / 1.613 WHIP / 62 ERA+

LHP: Jason Vargas 9 – 8 /  4.02 ERA / 150 IP / 1.387 WHIP / 94 ERA+

RHP: Tommy Hanson 4 – 3 / 5.42 ERA / 73 IP / 1.548 WHIP / 70 ERA+

RHP: Garrett Richards 6 – 6 / 4.18 ERA / 103.1 IP / 1.306 WHIP / 100 ERA+

RHP: Jerome Williams 8 – 10 / 5.06 ERA / 138.2 IP / 1.486 WHIP / 82 ERA+

 

Angels pitching was awful in 2013. Beyond Weaver and Wilson, all I see in last season’s rotation is high ERA, high WHIP, and low ERA+. But I give Vargas and Richards a mulligan as back-end starters. Williams was the fifth starter down the stretch, and not much more could be expected from any fifth starter. But Richards and Williams filled those spots with decent numbers. Neither was dominant, but they held the fort exactly the way Dipoto had intended coming into the season.

One could even argue that Richards and Williams were the guys to go with at the back-end from the beginning. I’ve always seen both Blanton and Hanson as swingmen; being over sold as starters has been part of their downfall. This brings an irony, where Richards and Williams were better swingmen than the Blanton and Hanson were starters. This season, however, it’s likely the other way around.

The new rotation is full of positives. There are three lefthanders in the 2014 rotation. That is the first plus. The second plus is that Blanton and Hanson are long gone. The third is that Weaver is healthy. The fourth plus is that they’re young, under club control, and full of upside. There is one more.

The fifth factor, and my favorite, is this: the collective ERA of the current five in 2013 (whether with the Angels or elsewhere) was 3.66. That would’ve put the Angels second in the AL in starting ERA. But that’s not including spot starts from current swingmen, which were actually pretty good for the limited outings they had in ’13.

Granted, sample sizes must be accounted for with Santiago and Skaggs; however, that collective 3.66 mark includes Skaggs’ actual 5.12 ERA. So even if Skaggs experiences more growing pains, there is still a cushion for Santiago and Richards to continue developing as well. Of course, that also depends on Weaver being Weaver, and CJ being CJ.

In case you’re wondering about Santiago and his durability, there is legitimate concern. Perhaps a mid-season trade would suffice. Or Shoemaker, LeBlanc, and Alvarez will provide enough spot starts. Regardless, in Santiago’s zone, he might be a hidden gem. For his career, Santiago has a road line of 2.98 ERA / 1.236 WHIP. Then, at the much hitter friendly US Cellular Field, those numbers go up. The Big A is a pitcher friendly ballpark. So combine Santiago’s career road numbers with his new ballpark, and Hector may be more effective than even I’m projecting.

There has also been this collective narrative going around that Weaver was not as sharp in 2013. Well that perception is… only a perception. Weaver had a 1.140 WHIP. That’s still dominant. The league average is 1.32. Weaver was still as dominant as ever at home, with a 2.59 ERA  / 1.10 WHIP. He also had a 2.99 ERA / 1.07 WHIP after the All-Star Break. Weaver’s ERA was ballooned by the shaky start after coming off the disabled list, which should be expected of anyone. The Yankees also knocked him around in early August. One must also take into account that Weaver had about eight starts missing because of his trip to the DL. But he looks like his usual self this spring. So expect both Weaver and Wilson to be the usual horses at the top of the rotation.

With those two at the top, and young arms with upside, this rotation could easily be one of the better rotations in the league, or at least in the division. There’s also a good chance that Angels pitching will have a much better rounded bunch of relievers to spell some hardships that come with a young rotation. And this brings me to the bullpen.

 

2014 Bullpen (My Projections)

RCL: Ernesto Frieri  2.71 ERA / 42 SV / 1.27 WHIP / 124 ERA+

RSU: Joe Smith  2.39 ERA / 1.19 WHIP / 127 ERA+

LSU: Sean Burnett 2.57 ERA / 1.15 WHIP / 135 ERA+

RMR: Dane De la Rosa 3.79 ERA / 1.36 WHIP / 110 ERA+

RMR: Kevin Jepsen 4.27 ERA / 1.37 WHIP / 95 ERA+

RMR: Michael Kohn 3.69 ERA / 1.29 WHIP / 102 ERA+

RMR: Fernando Salas 3.27 ERA / 1.25 WHIP / 112 ERA+

RMR: Brandon Lyon  4.19 ERA / 1.34 WHIP / 104 ERA+

RMR: Cory Rasmus  3.53 ERA / 1.39 WHIP / 96 ERA+

LMR: Buddy Boshers 4.73 ERA / 1.471 WHIP / 87 ERA+

LMR: Nick Maronde  4.49 ERA / 1.41 WHIP / 93 ERA+

LMR: Brian Moran  4.71 ERA / 1.53 WHIP / 82 ERA+

LSW: Jose Alvarez  3.76 ERA / 1.37 WHIP / 108 ERA+

LSW: Wade LeBlanc 4.32 ERA / 1.27 WHIP / 99 ERA+

RSW: Matt Shoemaker 3.95 ERA / 1.34 WHIP / 105 ERA+

 

2014 Bullpen (Career Averages)

RCL: Ernesto Frieri  2.76 ERA / 1.171 WHIP / 135 ERA+

RSU: Joe Smith  2.97 ERA / 1.257 WHIP / 136 ERA+

LSU: Sean Burnett  3.51 ERA / 1.341 WHIP / 117 ERA+

RMR: Dane De la Rosa  4.04 ERA / 1.252 WHIP / 94 ERA+

RMR: Kevin Jepsen 4.34 ERA / 1.451 WHIP / 93 ERA+

RMR: Michael Kohn  3.84 ERA / 1.454 WHIP / 101 ERA+

RMR: Fernando Salas  3.42 ERA / 1.196 WHIP / 111 ERA+

RMR: Brandon Lyon  4.16 ERA / 1.381 WHIP / 107 ERA+

RMR: Cory Rasmus  5.40 ERA / 1.708 WHIP / 73 ERA+

LMR: Buddy Boshers  (Minors) 3.75 ERA / 1.372 WHIP

LMR: Nick Maronde  3.97 ERA / 1.853 WHIP / 60 ERA+

LMR: Brian Moran  (Minors) 3.06 ERA / 1.184 WHIP

LSW: Jose Alvarez  (Minors) 3.50 ERA / 1.217 WHIP

LSW: Wade LeBlanc  4.51 ERA / 1.439 WHIP / 84 ERA+

RSW: Matt Shoemaker  (Minors) 4.46 ERA / 1.346 WHIP

 

So How Does This Bullpen Compare With 2013?

RCL: Ernesto Frieri  3.80 ERA / 68.2 IP / 1.238 WHIP / 99 ERA+

LSU: Sean Burnett  0.93 ERA / 9.2 IP / 1.345 WHIP / 420 ERA+

RMR: Dane De la Rosa  2.86 ERA / 84.2 IP / 1.161 WHIP / 132 ERA+

RMR: Kevin Jepsen  4.50 ERA / 36 IP / 1.528 WHIP / 84 ERA+

RMR: Michael Kohn  3.74 ERA / 86.2 IP / 1.321 WHIP / 101 ERA+

RMR: Cory Rasmus  4.20 ERA / 15 IP / 1.733 WHIP / 92 ERA+

LMR: Nick Maronde  6.75 ERA / 5.1 IP / 2.250 WHIP / 60 ERA+

LMR: Buddy Boshers  (Rookie in 2013) 4.70 ERA / 15.1 IP / 1.370 WHIP / 82 ERA+

RMR: Mark Lowe  9.26 ERA / 11.2 IP / 1.886 WHIP / 42 ERA+

RSW: Matt Shoemaker (Rookie in 2013) 0.00 ERA / 5 IP / 0.80 WHIP

 

The 2013 bullpen was a disaster in many respects. In fact, much of the damage was done early in the season. Mark Lowe let a number of games get away. David Carpenter, who I won’t even put on these lists, was a prime suspect. Frieri lost some games in late July, but the Rangers had a fluky run going on against the Halos that could only be explained by the Baseball Gods. Down the stretch, however, the youngsters joined the fun, and the bullpen managed to hold their own in August and September. That is the bullpen we need to see in 2014.

This year’s bullpen is a much deeper. Not just because there are more bodies on the depth chart, but because there are a number of young pitchers coming into their own as major league hurlers. Frieri is one who is establishing himself as one of the game’s better closers. Smith and Burnett are seasoned and dominant. Others like De La Rosa, Kohn, Salas, Rasmus, and Boshers are all in a position to make their mark in the majors. This is the perfect time for most of the arms in this bullpen. There’s a chance this relief core could show up to the ballpark big for the Angels. There’s also a chance it might tank again.

One factor to point out is that a large number of the relievers coming into this season had ERA’s under 4.00 in 2013. What I’m seeing is a bullpen that won’t necessarily be dominant, but will likely a collection of above average to good relievers with ERA’s likely in the 2.00’s and 3.00’s, with some in the 4.00’s. I don’t really see a whole lot of ERA’s over 5.00 on this staff. Maronde, Jepsen, and Moran are the more likely candidates to be at bottom of the ERA list.

Either this bullpen will provide a cushion for the growing pains experienced by a young starting rotation, or they will experience their own growing pains. It’s a toss-up either way. No matter the case, with this many above average or better arms, the Angels likely have a cushion for all growing pains that might occur.

 

What Should Fans Look For In 2014?

Everyone should look closer at the youth the Angels are exhibiting, despite their depleted farm system. The front office is creating depth, both on the offensive and pitching sides. So much narrative has been put out there about the Angels’ farm system, big contracts, and failures the last four seasons. It seems like people are being blinded from seeing exactly how a team can create it’s own depth. Minor league signings (LeBlanc); unloading veterans for young pitching (Santiago and Skaggs); and making small deals (Andrew Romine for Jose Alvarez) have helped to secure depth that wasn’t there before. There is always the possibility of them tanking. But this Angels pitching staff is younger; is deeper; and has more upside than any staff the Halos have introduced since 2008! It still may not be as good as the staff the club featured in ’08, but it is certainly headed in the right direction. And all the front office needs to do is continue rebuilding the Angels pitching staff as they have during this offseason.

Tags: CJ Wilson Ernesto Frieri Garrett Richards Hector Santiago Jered Weaver Joe Smith Jose Alvarez Los Angeles Angels Sean Burnett Tyler Skaggs

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