California Disappointment Playbook (Pt. 2)
Part 2 (Pitchers) of Two
At the time of this article being created, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were losing to the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 in a game that is currently delayed due to weather (rain). With a loss, the Halos would find themselves ten games under .500, a slight dagger into what may be (or have been) the most highly anticipated season in franchise history. With that being said, the game hasn’t officially been called and a two run lead certainly isn’t Mt. Everest, although it doesn’t seem likely that the Orioles won’t score another run for the rest of the game, due to the bullpen that Jerry Dipoto has unfortunately put together.
Last night, I put together the first half of what I call the “California Disappointment Playbook” and it featured every position player that was on the team (even Chris Nelson, who has now been DFA’d), a depressing read, indeed. Tonight, we’re all going to take a look at what has been the bane of the Halos for well over a year now, the pitching staff. Starting pitchers from Jered Weaver to Jason Vargas, relief pitchers from Ernesto Frieri to Kevin Jepsen and also, one other guy as well.
Yes, Joe Blanton.
Jered Weaver – SP
Don’t get it twisted, Weaver is by far and away, the ace of this pitching staff. His statistics won’t say all too much this season however, seeing as he’s missed almost all of it so far, with a few starts “here & there”. Counting tonight’s game against Baltimore, Weaver has now started 4 games and really, we don’t know what we’re going to see from Weaver in 2013. One troubling fact is that in this start against the Orioles, Weaver has given up 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings and if this trend continues, the fans may start to wonder if Weaver is still injured, still recovering or perhaps, there’s something amiss. Weaver is the most important pitcher on the Angels and honestly, their most important player as well, in my own personal opinion.
C.J. Wilson – SP
Wilson came over to the team last season in 2012 and while he hasn’t lived up to the constant success he found as a Texas Ranger (as evidenced by Wilson’s WAR line for ‘10/’11 of 4.3 & 5.5, respectively), he’s still been a guy who will pick up the ball and do what he can, which he’s actually done a better job of in 2013 than 2012. Wilson’s ERA for 2013 so far is 4.02 while in 2012, it was 3.83 but with a closer look, C.J. has been a little more “solid”. Wilson’s BB% this season is at 3.90%, which isn’t that great but it’s better than 2012’s 4.05% and it’s actually right around where it was while in Texas. Wilson’s also striking out more batters than he almost ever has with a 8.70 K/9 ratio, only topped by his 2009 season where he rung up 10.26 batters per 9 innings. For Wilson to improve, Wilson needs to keep the home runs he’s giving up to a minimum as he has never given up so many dingers per 9 innings as he has this year, as a starting pitcher at least.
Joe Blanton – Something masquerading as a Starting Pitcher or along those lines/Home Run Monger
The most painful memory I have from the time I spent with my most recent ex-girlfriend is the day that Jerry Dipoto signed Joe Blanton and passed his signing off as gaining someone that could “throw strikes and work a lot of innings”. Everybody (including Blanton, most likely) knew that the signing would not turn out well and what do you know, it hasn’t. Blanton has a record of 1-10 and although win-loss record has very little to do with a pitcher’s performance usually (Cliff Lee in 2012, anyone?), Blanton has deserved the record, which has seen him become the first pitcher to lose 10 games. Whenever Bloated Blanton takes the mound (and Almond Joy), it’s basically an automatic loss for the Halos and it’s not surprising, seeing as he’s putting up his worst HR/9 ratio of his career with a percentage of 1.53%. For Blanton to improve and help this team, he would have to revert back to how he pitched in 2007 for the Athletics, when he had an ERA of 3.95, where it is 5.87 now. The possibility of that happening is just as likely as my father taking up a vegan lifestyle and I’m pretty sure his daily dinner habits resemble something out of The Oregon Trail computer game. Blanton has made this pitching staff die of dysentery.
Jason Vargas – SP
Finally, we get to a pitcher who has been doing well, Jason Vargas. Vargas was acquired by the Halos in the offseason for Kendrys Morales, who was shipped to the division rival Seattle Mariners, a rare in-division move. Vargas was just awarded the American League Pitcher of the Month award and he’s surely deserved it, with his highest K/9 ratio of his entire career besides his rookie season with the then Florida Marlins at 6.03%, a solid ERA of 3.71 (which would be the best for his career, if he keeps it up) and a sustainable HR/9 of 0.93, which is even more impressive seeing as his ratio for that category hasn’t been that solid since 2010 and only 2010. For Vargas to make this club a real contender, he just needs to steady the ship and team up with Jered Weaver to give the Angels a duo that’s quite formidable. Time will only tell though, if Vargas can continue to pitch like this.
Tommy Hanson – SP
Hanson gets a more than deserved mulligan so far for 2012, seeing as he’s only made 7 starts, having missed some time on the bereavement list. In the little group of games he’s pitched in, Hanson hasn’t been a complete disaster, quite the opposite of it actually, almost. Hanson is looking similar to his dominant days as an Atlanta Brave and for me, I believe we’ll see the best of Hanson if he’s resigned in 2014, after having a full year of seeing how the American League operates. If Hanson can stay on the field and pitch close to his Braves days from this point forward, I believe that’ll make Hanson the number 2 choice in the rotation, just slightly above Jason Vargas. It would be a bit of a surprise to see that happen though.
Jerome Williams – SP
A fan favorite due to the color of his pitching glove and his workmanlike look to taking the ball every five games, Williams currently finds himself in a bit of an odd situation, due to Jered Weaver returning. Williams has been doing everything right really, it’s just a contractual obligation to Joe Blanton that is keeping Blanton out of the bullpen and Williams, eventually into it. For now though, Williams will start against the Baltimore Orioles tomorrow night and if he can perform well, I have a feeling he’ll stick around. Think about it, would you take a guy out of the rotation when his ERA is 2.87 and he’s putting together his best big league season so far? I wouldn’t but then again, the Angels are not exactly writing the book on common sense here. For Williams to help the team, he has to just keep performing like he is and hope to god that someone gets their head smacked and doesn’t kick him out of the rotation.
Scott Downs – RP
Before the start of the 2013 season, I wrote a player profile on Scott Downs and said that he may end up being the most reliable bullpen piece for the entire team and so far, I would say that’s correct. Besides three bad outings out of 26, no one is scoring on him. Downs needs to be used more and in more appropriate situations, where the pressure is up and the rally caps are flipped upside down. If the Angels start using Downs in pressure situations more often, only good things can happen.
Ernesto Frieri – RP/CL
“Ernasty” does have 14 saves so far in 2013 but honestly, most Angels fans are wishing that there was someone else who could take his place in the 9th inning. Frieri is fantastic as giving people ulcers and for some reason, most people’s fingernails disappear by the end of close games with him and it’s no wonder, seeing as he’s walking batters with a higher frequency than he ever has in the big leagues, even the minor leagues with a BB/9 ratio of 6.23. For a closer, that’s just not acceptable. When you look over the roster though, there’s not a lot of choices for a replacement, besides perhaps Robert Coello or the old mainstay of Scott Downs. Frieri needs to get his focus and control together or he might just be fried.
Kevin Jepsen – RP
Jepsen has fantastic strikeout numbers with a K/9 of 13.50%, which blows away his closest year of 9.31%, which he had in 2009 but his ERA is also higher than usual with a 3.86 mark. Really though, his one bad performance was against the Oakland Athletics on April 9th, when he gave up 4 earned runs and besides that, no runs further. Jepsen has been fantastic lately and really, I don’t think he needs to do anything differently.
Sean Burnett – RP
Burnett is meeting with Dr. James Andrews “soon”, according to reports stating that he’s seeing little improvement in his recovery from a left shoulder impingement. If Burnett is back this season, I’ll be more than a little shocked.
Ryan Madson – RP
Same with Burnett, although you’d have to think that Madson wouldn’t miss two straight years without throwing as much as a single pitch in the big leagues. Madson would improve the team tenfold, just by taking the field.
Robert Coello – RP
Coello took the bullpen by storm earlier this season with his resurrection of what could be called a “true forkball” and for most of the year, it’s truly mystified batters, left and right. Unfortunately, Coello has really fallen off of late, giving up three earned runs in two straight appearances. I believe in Robert Coello but he must shake the dirt off his shoulder and forget those two games against the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. If he can do that, he’ll have a little less than 99 problems.
Michael Kohn – RP
Kohn is the dark horse of the bullpen and through 20 appearances, he’s rocking a 2.04 ERA (due to three bad outings, especially the April 24th game against Texas) and if it wasn’t for that 2 earned run effort, Kohn would be sporting quite the ERA. Kohn has his highest big league K/9 ratio of 9.68 going for him but one wonders if that could get into the 10.00’s with a little more effort and/or luck, seeing as he’s had at least a 10.00% K/9 ratio every year in the minor leagues, even reaching 11.00, 12.00 and beyond.
Garrett Richards – RP/SP
Richards’ ERA is enough to make even Joe Blanton cringe at 5.44 but all not is lost, it seems to be because of a few direct and obvious reasons. To me, Richards is doing an alright job when there’s no one on base but perhaps due to pressure or something else, runners are just not being left on base. Richards has a LOB (Left on Base) ratio of 59.2% which is an obvious sore sight, when you see that it was 65.3 in 2012 and even better at 69.0% in 2011. Richards has been walking batters and giving up hits less often but this one may just be chalked up to bad luck. I’d recommend that he throw his changeup in a little more, he’s throwing it 0.7% of the time, when it’s usually around the 5% area.