Although the year has seen some wonderful occurrences by the starting pitching staff (Jered Weaver’s no hitter against Minnesota is one of the better moments this season has had to display) and a decent bullpen bolstered by a trade for the seemingly unhittable Ernesto Frieri, what was previously considered to be a lock for a great rotation, has been anything but. Besides the aforementioned Weaver and offseason acquisition C.J. Wilson, the rest of the rotation on the Angels has been spotty, at best. Coming off a season that included a no hitter against the Cleveland Indians, Ervin Santana has been historically horrible with nearly as many home runs allowed as he gave up all of last season. Dan Haren is currently on the DL due to his back and it’s been evident for a long time that he’s been injured, with his WAR being a full 5.1 points lower than his 2011 WAR and his ERA is almost two runs higher than in 2011 as well. However, the reports of the Angels pitching staff and its impending demise may have been greatly exaggerated.
At the front of the team’s pitching staff, there are two great candidates for the American League Cy Young Award in Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Weaver has had a season for the ages, one that gives you the feeling that he may not only win the Cy Young Award but absolutely run away with it. He currently has a 0.90 WHIP, a 10-1 record (a statistic that gives him as much of a chance as anyone to win the award), a 1.96 ERA and he’s also on pace to give out the least amount of walks in a season so far in his career with a 2.05 BB/9. Wilson’s case is a notch harder to make than Weaver’s but when you look deeper into what he’s done this season, you can’t come away feeling anything less than impressed. Wilson currently has a 2.43 ERA, 7.11 strikeouts per 9 innings and an amazing 1.16 WHIP, the best WHIP he’s had in his entire career. His record is misleading at 9-5 but don’t be surprised if it balloons into something quite extraordinary indeed.
Onto the other members of the rotation, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have been severe disappointments to the fans of the team so far this season and it’s led to Pandora’s Box being opened on what could, should or might happen. The possibility of a trade for a new addition into the rotation has been rumored for weeks, with names ranging from Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke to Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano. In my opinion though, I believe that with a few small adjustments, the back end of the rotation can be fixed or at the very least, patched up in an adequate way. When it comes down to it, there’s no reason to panic just yet.
Dan Haren has had a very unlucky season, dealing with a back injury that currently has him on the 15 day DL, the first time he’s ever had to do as such. With that, he’s also the owner of a .329 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls Put In Play) and the highest HR/9 in his entire career so far with a 1.39 rate so while his season long back problem and other factors may have brought him a forgettable season so far, a brief period of rest may help Haren in a lot of ways. When Haren comes back from the DL, I would recommend that he tweak his pitch selection to give him a better chance of success for the second half of the season. In 2012, the former All-Star has thrown his Cutter 38% of the time while it should be higher if he hopes to get anywhere near his 2011 campaign and a slight decrease in the use of his curveball would be helpful as well. Dan Haren has been known as baseball’s most durable pitcher for a long time now and even more importantly, one of the best pitchers in the entire game so to trade valuable prospects for a replacement would be unwise.
On the flip side, Ervin Santana is having a horrific season and according to multiple reports, he has no injuries to speak of. Santana currently sports a 5.75 ERA, a 1.74 HR/9, a 3.66 BB/9 and really, the cringe worthy statistics really don’t stop as you look further and further. Still, there is reason for hope and it lays in what has been his biggest enemy this season, the home run. He has given up 20 of them this season and he’s on pace to make the kind of history that one would not like to be a part of. The record for the most home runs allowed in a season is 46 by Bert Blyleven and while Santana is not on pace for 46 at this very moment, one can’t help but have the feeling that without change, he could end up dangerously close to that number. Thankfully for Santana, home runs are something that isn’t completely in the pitcher’s control. It may seem odd but even the best pitchers can throw quite a few of them and come away with a season that they can be proud of. In Santana’s case, I would simply recommend that he regain a sense of confidence and go out there like he has for many seasons now, the home runs will go and to take care of the multiple hits that he’s giving up, he may want to lower the amount of Changeup pitches that he is throwing. At the All-Star Break, he has a 7.9% rate of when he throws the pitch and while that may not seem like a lot, it is by far the most he’s thrown in six years, all the way back to his second year in the league. As is the case with Dan Haren, Santana is an extremely talented pitcher and with a few adjustments, he could be back to his old self in no time.
Thanks to the bullpen, defense and offense that the team has gotten lately, I do believe that they can live through the adjustments that Haren and Santana will most likely have to make to improve on their 2012 campaigns. With a bit of patience, regained confidence by Santana, health for Haren and an adjustment to their pitch selections for each of them, the Angels could end up fulfilling what was billed as the best starting rotation in all of baseball by the end of the season.