Projecting Angels pitching

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
9:01
AM PT
The Angels had the second-best starting pitching in the American League behind Tampa Bay last season, before they added C.J. Wilson, the most-coveted pitcher on the open market.

In Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, the Angels had three starters who pitched at least 225 innings, won at least 11 games and had a sub-3.00 ERA. Weaver finished second in Cy Young balloting, Haren finished seventh and Santana threw a no-hitter.

Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA) satisfied two of those criteria, but fell a couple innings shy of the 225 mark. As the only left-hander in the rotation, he adds a little balance and should benefit by facing different lineups than the other Angels starters.

At the back of the rotation, the Angels figure to give Jerome Williams first shot to continue his mid-career resurrection, with hard-throwing youngster Garrett Richards standing by if Williams struggles.

Add it all together and what was a strength last year figures to be the team’s salvation in 2012, right? With Albert Pujols energizing the Angels’ listless offense and reliever LaTroy Hawkins helping hold leads, getting wins might actually be a little easier for Angels starters.

Every starter on this staff is in his statistical prime. Having turned 31 in October, Haren is the oldest member of the Angels’ rotation. There’s a reasonable expectation that the team’s pitching could actually improve in 2012. Santana and Weaver haven’t turned 30 yet.

But one respected projection system, Bill James’, has the Angels starters struggling to repeat what they accomplished last season, with a combined record of 60-50 and an ERA approaching 4.00. Here are James’ 2012 projections, via Fangraphs.com, for Angels starters:

Weaver: 15-10, 3.17 ERA

Haren: 16-10, 3.27

Wilson: 15-9, 3.31

Santana: 11-13, 3.95

Williams: 3-6, 5.11

Richards: 0-2, 5.79


Do the Angels have the best starting pitching in the American League? They’re certainly in the running, though it’s hard to argue with Tampa Bay, which had last year’s Rookie of the Year in Jeremy Hellickson and whose staff veteran, James Shields, just turned 30.

Do they have the best rotation in their division? They’d be the safest bet, with Oakland beginning to auction off its talent, All-Star Trevor Cahill traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Seattle a little thin behind Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda. Texas has to rebound from losing Wilson, its No. 1 starter, but still has plenty of young talent with Neftali Feliz joining the rotation and Derek Holland seemingly on the verge of breaking out.

As usual, there are no sure things in December, but the Angels’ foundation seems as solid as any in baseball.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Mike Trout
BA HR RBI R
.309 24 76 70
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 24
RBIM. Trout 76
RM. Trout 70
OPSM. Trout 1.005
WG. Richards 11
ERAG. Richards 2.47
SOG. Richards 134