Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Rotation: A Breakdown & Reasons to Believe

Coming into the 2013 season, almost every team around the league (with the exception of maybe the Washington Nationals), have a concern with some part of their ball club. The Los Angeles Angels are no exception as many around the industry believe that the Angels' starting rotation could become problematic throughout the season due to lack of health as well as performance. While these sorts of concerns are justifiable, there is reason to believe that the starting rotation can be just as strong, if not better than it was last year, when it led the team to 89 wins.

Jered Weaver:
There is not much to discuss here. Weaver has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League for the past few years. Heading into the 2013 season, there is no reason to believe that Weaver will be anything other than an ace once again. If the Angels rotation does manage to struggle throughout the season, it is unlikely that Weaver, with a 2.73 ERA over the last three seasons, will be a part of such struggles.

C.J. Wilson:
Wilson's first season with the Halos was pretty underwhelming. After signing Wilson to a 5-year $77.5 million contract, the Angels expected much more from Wilson who despite being dominant in the first half of the season, struggled down the stretch. Wilson was incredible in the early parts of the season where he posted 2.43 ERA in 18 starts and 111.1 innings pitched. The last 16 starts however, saw Wilson post a 5.54 ERA in 91 innings pitched. Many wondered why Wilson struggled so badly after the All-Star break and it wasn't until after an October 1 win over the Seattle Mariners that they got their answer. Wilson had been dealing with bone spurs in his elbow which have since been successfully removed. With the bone spurs gone and a new season upon us, one can expect that Wilson will be a better pitcher than he was after the 2012 All-Star break.

Jason Vargas:
Vargas should be interesting to watch with the Angels. He has a career 4.35 ERA and has averaged just over 200 innings pitched over the last three seasons. While the amount of earned runs may not be pretty, Vargas' track record in Angels stadium suggests that his numbers could improve in 2013. Throughout his career, Vargas has pitched 43.2 innings in Angels Stadium and has a 2.27 ERA in those innings. If this small sample size holds true, Vargas could become a valuable asset for the Angels. Additionally, if Vargas can match his statistics from the 2012 season where he went 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA, 1.178 WHIP and 217.1 innings pitched, there is reason to believe that he could improve on his win total by moving from the offensively challenged Seattle Mariners to the (on paper) offensive juggernaut in the Los Angeles Angels. Even 14 wins would be more than Dan Haren or Ervin Santana provided the Angels last season.

Tommy Hanson:
What will Tommy Hanson be in Anaheim? I think that all depends on how healthy he can stay. Between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Hanson has spent a total of 75 days on the disabled list and even more time pitching with injuries. What could he be if he stayed healthy? That's the bigger question. In 2009 and 2010, Hanson was very good. He had a combined 21-15 record with a 3.16 ERA in 55 starts with the Atlanta Braves. Despite some struggles in 2011, Hanson still posted a 3.60 ERA but that ballooned to a 4.48 ERA in 2012. The biggest question mark for Hanson is health. If he can find a way to keep himself healthy and off the disabled list there is a possibility that he could regain form and begin pitching up to his capabilities. Joe 

Joe Blanton:
This is the one signing that frustrated many Angels fans. How could they possibly give 2-years and $15 million to a pitcher with a career 4.37 ERA? The simple answer is that General Manager Jerry DiPoto wanted to ensure that the rotation had a steady innings eater and generally healthy body to fill out the back end of the rotation. Despite having an ERA above 4.00 in each season between 2009 and 2011, Blanton has also earned 12, 9 and 10 wins respectively. That essentially what you look for in a number five starter. Angels fans of course expect more because, lets face it, we have been spoiled with good pitching for a very long time now. The signing also gives the Angels some starting pitching depth. If Blanton doesn't pitch well enough, the Angels also have other options in Garrett Richard, Nick Maronde, Barry Enright, Brad Mills and Jerome Williams.

With five good starters and plenty innings between them, I don't believe the Angels' rotation will be too much of a liability and actually think it has a chance to be quite a bit better than it was in 2012 when much of the rotation struggle significantly through the second half of the season. Don't expect the rotation to be amazing but don't expect it to be horrible either. Each of these pitchers has a decent upside and each has shown success in the majors at least once or twice. The new additions come into a pitcher friendly ballpark, get an explosive offense to support them and seemingly do not have to face any terrifying offenses. Additionally, while not quantifiable, one has to wonder what sort of effect playing in native Southern California will have on Hanson and Vargas. The success of the rotation, in my opinion will not be based necessarily on how well they pitch. Instead it will be based on their ability to avoid the disabled list and stay healthy.

Oh and stop worrying......baseball is back!

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