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Spring Training 2011 Question Of The Day: Los Angeles Angels

With Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, the Angels might be brilliant at the top of their rotation. But will the bottom of that rotation wipe out too much of Weaver's and Haren's good work?

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You know what's fun sometimes? Assuming the best.

For example, considering just the last three years, here's the best we've seen from each of the Orange County Angels' five starting pitchers:

  • Jered Weaver:13-12, 3.01 ERA (4.31 K/BB)
  • Dan Haren: 14-10, 3.14 (5.87)
  • Ervin Santana: 16-7, 3.49 (4.55)
  • Joel Pineiro: 15-12, 3.49 (3.89)
  • Scott Kazmir: 12-8, 3.49 (2.37)

Okay, so there aren't any 20-game winners in there. Nor even a 17-game winner. But I'll go to war with those those strikeout-to-walk ratios any day and usually I'll win.*

* And by the way, those 3.49 ERAs are not typos. Statistics are funny that way sometimes.

Of course, we can come up with almost anything if we cherry-pick. Weaver's chosen season is 2010, which is encouraging but also was far better than anything he'd done before. Kazmir's and Santana's seasons are 2008; Haren's and Pineiro's, 2009.

And to be quite frank, there's no reason to think Kazmir or Santana will every pitch as well again.

Kazmir, especially, might never pitch well again at all. He just doesn't throw nearly as hard as he used to, or with as much control (never a strong suit anyway). In 2008, Kazmir struck out nearly 10 hitters per nine innings. He needed a high strikeout rate to succeed, because he also had a high walk rate.

Well, he's still got that high walk rate ... but last season didn't manage even six strikeouts per nine innings. He's still only 27, but that calamitous decline in strikeouts suggests that he'll never be an effective starting pitcher again, and soon it will be far too easy to forget that Scott Kazmir once (in 2007) led the American League with 239 strikeouts.

Unfortunately, the Angels aren't exactly loaded with top-shelf pitching prospects, which is why Kazmir's getting another shot in the rotation this spring. Well, that and the $14.5 million the Angels still owe him.

Also unfortunately, there's little reason to think Santana will recapture his past glories, either. While his 3.92 ERA last season looks decent enough, his underlying performance was little different from that of 2009, when he posted a 5.03 mark. Santana just hasn't been the same since suffering a sprained ligament in his pitching elbow early in 2009, and it's highly possible that his loss of arm strength is permanent.

Santana has to pitch, though. The Angels need his innings, plus he's still got $20 million coming to him over the next couple of years.

Essentially, Weaver and Haren both should be very good and perhaps excellent this season, and Pineiro decent enough if he's healthy (usually a real question with him). So the important question here isn't if Santana and Kazmir will pitch well. They almost certainly will not. The real question is if Santana and Kazmir will pitch so poorly that they'll balance the excellence Weaver and Haren.