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Matt Shoemaker coming up big for Angels

8/1/2014
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The Los Angeles Angels were dealt a potentially big blow Thursday night when southpaw Tyler Skaggs had to leave his no-hit bid in the fifth inning with an apparent injury to his pitching arm. If Skaggs lands on the disabled list, the timing should work out as C.J. Wilson is set to come off the DL Saturday.

Meanwhile, Friday starter Matt Shoemaker will remain in the Angels' rotation for the foreseeable future.

The rookie right-hander has been solid since transitioning from long relief to the rotation. His one major hiccup came when he gave up 11 hits and eight earned runs in his last start of June in Kansas City.

Diamond in the rough

Unlike his rotation mates, Shoemaker wasn’t drafted at all, let alone in the first five rounds like Wilson, Skaggs, Garrett Richards and Jered Weaver. The Angels signed him as a free agent in 2008.

By 2011, the Eastern Michigan grad was the star of the double-A affiliate in Arkansas, throwing five complete games en route to being named Texas League player of the year.

Shoemaker struggled in two-plus seasons at Triple-A in the Pacific Coast League, but has actually pitched better from an ERA standpoint at the big league level.

He’s also an extreme bargain at $500,500 this season. Albert Pujols makes that in three-and-a-half games. The Angels are paying Joe Blanton $7 million more than that NOT to pitch.

With all the big contracts on the team, Shoemaker’s contributions this season have been a god-send.

Killer change

The righty has always flashed solid strikeout rates throughout the minor leagues (7.4 K/9 IP), but he has strangely been able to boost that at the big league level (9.1 K/9 IP).

Highest Swinging Strike Pct
On Changeups

This season, 12 percent of Shoemaker’s pitches have resulted in a swing-and-miss. That ranks 11th among all MLB starters, just ahead of the likes of Zack Greinke, David Price and Yu Darvish.

The main pitch behind Shoemaker’s success is his changeup. Opponents are hitting just .135 against it, swinging and missing a ridiculous 27 percent of the time. That’s the second-best rate in baseball.

Of his 77 strikeouts on the season, 48 have come on changeups (62 percent).