Ryan's 2014 Angels Season Preview: Starting Rotation
Here Is Your 2014 Angels Starting Rotation
To start off, here are the main five, listed with my projected numbers for 2014:
RHP: Jered Weaver 18-9 / 2.87 / 183 SO / 232 IP / 1.12 WHIP
LHP: CJ Wilson 16-9 / 3.57 / 193 SO / 229 IP / 1.32
RHP: Garrett Richards 13-10 / 4.15 / 153 SO / 183 IP / 1.36 WHIP
LHP: Hector Santiago 12-8 / 3.71 / 139 SO / 173 IP / 1.27 WHIP
LHP: Tyler Skaggs 10-9 / 4.53 / 110 SO / 139 IP / 1.39
This is a solid group. They’re mostly young, under control, and have lots of upside. The bottom two spots are now filled with the young controllable starting pitching that (going into the offseason) was the Angels’ main goal. And General Manager Jerry Dipoto met that goal.
In fact, the current five in the 2014 rotation had a collective ERA of 3.66 in 2013. That’s counting numbers as starters from Richards, as well as Santiago on the White Sox, and Skaggs on the Diamondbacks. That 3.66 mark would’ve been good enough for second in the American League. Going into 2014, however, fans still have many questions regarding the depth and effectiveness of this rotation.
How About We Take A Closer Look At This Rotation?
If you’re still questioning Weaver’s sharpness though, just keep in mind that his, despite the 3.27 ERA (how is that even bad?), he still only had a 1.140 WHIP. 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. It was a slow start after coming back from a two month hiatus, as well as a bad stretch in early August that ballooned Weaver’s ERA. Weaver will be fine in 2014.
The Orange County native finally showed us exactly why the Angels signed him in 2013. His 17-7 / 3.39 ERA / 1.34 WHIP were a big reason the Angels kept afloat just enough to keep from going far back below .500 until Weaver returned and Blanton and Hanson were dropped from the rotation. Final 20 starts: 13-2 / 3.01 ERA / 131 IP – I don’t have his WHIP during that stretch because baseball-reference.com (for whatever reason) doesn’t allow it on the game logs calculator. Still, CJ proved he really was the pitcher that helped the Rangers to two consecutive World Series’. Fans need to remember that in 2012, CJ developed a bone spur in the second half that ruined his season. That was after he was leading the AL in ERA at the All-Star Break at 2.43. I think CJ will repeat his 2014 campaign, but perhaps not quite as dominant down the stretch.
The one I call “Little Weaver” (it’s the hair) had a rather modest but effective run as a starter in 2013. He finally cemented himself in the rotation, replacing Joe Blanton, and proving that just a league average performance was a major upgrade. The whole team changed as a result of Richards’ arrival. In 17 starts, Richards commanded a 4.18 ERA / 1.30 WHIP. Guess what? That WHIP was better than league average. In 2014, I’m looking for Richards to basically have the same season again before he ventures into progressing into a good above average starter.
This young lefty might be a hidden gem. He actually has a career road line of 2.98 ERA / 1.236 WHIP. Then, his numbers go up at home at US Cellular Field, which, of course, is a hitter friendly park. The Big A is more neutral, and often favors pitchers, so factor those road numbers with the pitching environment in Anaheim, and Santiago may be more effective than even I’m projecting.
The former Angels’ prospect -- who was dealt with Patrick Corbin to the Diamondbacks for Dan Haren – returned to the organization that drafted him in the same trade (for Mark Trumbo) that brought Santiago. And the fifth spot in the rotation his to lose. In 2013, Skaggs had a 5.21 ERA / 1.37 WHIP. That WHIP doesn’t speak to the ERA, and sure enough that was because of a BABIP of .282. Look for that to fall. His ERA will likely be in the low-to-mid 4.00’s, with roughly the same WHIP. But even if he has his ERA in the 5.00’s again, remember that my calculations of the rotation’s 2013 numbers averaged out to a 3.66 ERA even with Skaggs’ 5.12 ERA. So there is the possibility of him having a cushion, and just develop himself through the growing pains of his first full season. I actually would prefer that to get him into shape.
“Questions… Questions That Need Answering”
One of the most common questions is this: “What if someone gets hurt?”
Well, Joe Blanton is the guy. Matt Shoemaker can be called upon. But remember something: Dustin Moseley and Chris Bootcheck were the Angels’ fifth and sixth starters for a few years. And those options were no better (if at all). Still, I’d rather keep Blanton in the bullpen regardless; in my opinion, he should’ve been a career swingman like Chad Gaudin. But I too think the Angels could use one more starter to ensure depth.
Fans should also keep mind, however, that these questions are going be the case with any rotation, regardless of depth. Look at the 2013 Dodgers. They had decent depth going into last year, and by June they were depleted by injuries. The Boys In Blue were just as terrible as the Angels were at the time. One could even bring in the 2012 Angels rotation that was elite on paper, but was riddled with nagging injuries and a terrible season from Santana.
That's all just bad luck.
The rotations the Angels had in the previous decade weren't all that much better than the last two rotations, as well as this one (on paper), in terms of peripheral stats. But for the most part those rotations from 2002 through 2009 stayed healthy. They were so durable that Mike Scioscia only had to use eight starting pitchers in 2007, only six of which had double digits in starts.
That's good luck.
What doesn't have much to do with luck though is allowing Blanton to stay in the rotation through July. Richards and Williams should've been in the rotation as early as May. Angels fans saw what the team would look like with a healthy Weaver mixed with Blanton and Hanson not in the rotation in the final two months of 2013. The team plowed through it's remaining schedule like a first place team. That is where I'm basing my upcoming 2014 projections.
Give Me Some Career Averages!
Here’s the list of the current starters again; except now the numbers listed are career averages, adjusted to a 162 game season:
RHP: Jered Weaver 17-9 / 3.24 ERA / 182 SO / 217 IP / 1.14 WHIP
LHP: CJ Wilson 14-8 / 3.58 ERA / 181 SO / 209 IP / 1.30
RHP: Garrett Richards 10-10 / 4.37 ERA / 126 SO / 195 IP / 1.36 WHIP
LHP: Hector Santiago 7-8 / 3.30 ERA / 186 SO / 188 IP / 1.36 WHIP
LHP: Tyler Skaggs 7-15 / 5.43 ERA / 149 SO / 177 IP / 1.41 WHIP
The collective ERA of the current five (based on career averages) is 3.95. That’s still well above the league average of 4.17. And the career averages of Richards, Santiago, and Skaggs are based on smaller sample sizes, yes, but this is also meant to evaluate the direction they were headed at season’s end.
Weaver and Wilson’s numbers in 2013 were actually right around their career averages. I look for Weaver (at least) to exceed his career averages again. Richards will probably be the same, if not slightly better as further develops. Santiago’s ERA is the one that jumps out at me. I think Skaggs will improve on his averages. So this still looks good.
A 3.95 rotation ERA would’ve had the Angels seventh in the AL in starting ERA, right behind the Cleveland Indians (3.92) and the Texas Rangers (3.99). And that’s exactly one-third of a run higher than this current five’s collective ERA in 2013. So that, mixed with those career averages, projects to a much more effective rotation than skeptical fans might realize.
There’s a good possibility this five could be a very good rotation for the future.
Comparing Mileage Between The Old Truck And The New Truck
Going into the 2007 season, I had similar questions about the team’s rotation. The Halos were coming off a miserable 2006 season. They had poor starting pitching at the back end, and very poor defense. This led to an 18-28 start, followed by a 71-45 bounce back. But the team still didn’t make the playoffs, for good reason. And, like 2014, that’s why there were so many questions about the rotation going into ‘07.
Ervin Santana (2 years experience); Jered Weaver (1/2 a season of experience); Joe Saunders (1/2 a season of experience); Bartolo Colon (injuries and breaking down); and Dustin Moseley (not an ideal option at all) were all competing for the last three spots in the ‘07 rotation.
Out of those 5 pitchers I just listed, Weaver was the only one who kept his ERA under 4.00. Weaver and Moseley were the only ones who had WHIPs better than 1.40; Santana, Saunders, and Colon all had WHIPs over 1.50 that season. So I'm not seeing a rotation that is much better (if at all) than that 2007 rotation. Looking back, that rotation should not have been near a World Series.
Yet that ’07 team won 95 games, and they had an offense that was only league average. How did they really do it? Well, that’s where constantly taking the extra base and bullpens come in later in the series.
Looking Ahead To Beer And Hot Dogs
Joe Blanton's historically bad 2013 performance; Jered Weaver missing 2 months; and the aftermath put a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. That’s totally understandable. I get what all of you are saying. All concerns are legitimate; otherwise I would not feel the need to dig this deep into analyzing this rotation. Nevertheless, having a healthy Weaver, as well as Blanton (and Hanson) out of the rotation, alone, adds a number of wins by default.
Okay, I’ll admit that I love watching teams with young controllable starting pitching. It's what helped the A's and Rangers climb back to the top of the AL West. And both teams still have their share of that in their rotations. It was a major factor in the Angels’ playoff run in the previous decade. It’s a key component for long-term success. So why can't that be any different for the 2014 Angels?
I guess we’ll just have to let the season play out on this end.