Craig Calcaterra notes a surprising turn of events out west:
- After starting the year with three starters on the disabled list, then losing two more -- and one in tragic fashion -- I would have bet very good money that as of May 6th, the strength of the Los Angeles Angels would not be its rotation. Yet there those guys sit, leading the American League in ERA and leading a team that seemingly stalled at the starting line to six victories in their last eight games, and to within two games of first place. The Los Angeles Times is crediting Angels' pitching coach Mike Butcher ...
Whatever he's kicking it's working, and given what he's working with -- a rotation made up of Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Shane Loux, Matt Palmer and Darren Oliver of all people -- it's hard not to credit him.
And given this little bit of news, it's hard not to think that the Angels will soon find themselves in their rightful place atop the AL West.
The "little bit of news" is about John Lackey's super rehab start in the minors last night; looks like he'll be back soon. The story about Mike Butcher (the excerpt of which I snipped) is about him shepherding Shane Loux through bases-loaded jams in his last two starts. I looked up the stats, and it's true: Angel starters have combined for the best ERA in the American League.
So why (I wondered to myself) are the Angels 12-13? And how can they have a 4.85 team ERA that's just ninth-best in the league?
The answer is simple: as good as the Angels' starters have been, the Angels' relievers have been worse. Their starters are 11-5 with a 3.60 ERA; their relievers are 1-8 with a 7.44 ERA. When writing about Mike Butcher, then, would it be indelicate to mention that his magic with the starters doesn't seem to work with the relievers?
I don't really believe in magic. Anaheim's starters have averaged 4.5 strikeouts per nine innings. They've not walked many batters, which is admirable. But they've been lucky. Really lucky. Meanwhile, the Angels' two best relievers have combined for a 6.04 ERA despite striking out 31 in 22 innings. They've been unlucky. Really unlucky.
At the risk of seeming ... well, something, I have to suggest that the Angels teach us little except that just about anything can happen in 25 games.