With the season now, finally, underway, I’ve decided to start a new series in addition to the day-to-day goings on around Angelworld. Every weekday I’ll release a new write-up on one of the players on our major league roster, giving a mix of past performance review and projections for the upcoming season. Projections are going to be a mix of a few things, but mostly it will be me looking at past performance, at CHONE and ZiPS projections, and mixing in my own gut feeling on top of it. It’s not going to be anything scientific or as strenuous as CHONE does, but it will give you some idea of what I expect from the various players for the 2010 season.
Since he is our Opening Day starter, it seems only appropriate that we start with Jered Weaver. As a rookie he burst onto the scene, reeling off 9 straight wins and eventually finishing with an 11-2 record and a 2.56 ERA. To say that it raised expectations for a guy Angel fans were already excited about would be an understatement. To say he lived up to those expectations would just be wrong. Despite being a solid pitcher for four seasons now, he’s never quite lived up to the hype he had swirling around him when he was drafted, signed, or debuted.
Weaver has dealt with injury problems a little, though that is a label that can be attached to almost any pitcher in baseball today. Going back to 2008, however, he’s started at least 30 games for two straight years now, and will be looking to make it three in a row in 2010. If the Angels are to have success this season, his health will be a key piece to that puzzle.
Many are looking to Weaver to be the ace for the Angels this year, and while he may perform as the best on the staff, he will not be a true “ace.” Comparing his past numbers to someone like Felix Hernandez is not a favorable comparison for Weaver, and even comparing him to former teammate John Lackey, himself not ace material, does not have Weaver coming out on top. Calling him a good, not great #2 is probably most accurate.
Weaver has a pretty good arsenal of pitches, and though he throws his fastball most often, his slider and changeup have shown to be his most valuable pitches. In fact, the last two seasons his fastball has had a negative value to it, while his changeup has been his single best pitch, with the slider not terribly far behind. Part of the reason he is having trouble moving closer to that ace status may be his inability to miss bats at anything above an average rate. He’s also fairly average when it comes to getting people to chase outside of the zone, and unfortunately when they do go outside they’re able to make contact at above-average rates in every season he’s pitched in. In fact, if you look at his Plate Discipline numbers, he’s right around average on almost all of them, which is not generally a good recipe for ace-level success.
This is not to say Weaver hasn’t been successful, however. I’m not much of a pitcher wins guy, but people will point to his double-digit wins in every season he’s pitched as a measure of that success. Playing on a team that routinely makes the postseason certainly hasn’t hurt his wins, however. Using other measures like FIP and WAR, we see that Weaver has actually been remarkably consistent, which is both good and bad. He hasn’t had any regression outside of the drop-off from his rookie season, but he hasn’t shown a ton of improvement in his performance either. His FIP total for his career is 3.98, and when you see his past-three-year numbers of 4.06, 3.90, and 4.04, it’s quite easy to see why his average would hover right around the 4 mark. His WAR over the last three years has been about the same as well, going from 3.1 in 2007 to 3.4 in 2008 to 3.9 in 2009. While it would suggest an upward trend, I don’t know that a 0.8 difference in WAR spread across three years is much to write home about.
So, let’s turn our attention towards 2010. What can we expect for Weaver this season? CHONE actually predicts the exact same FIP, 4.04, as he had last season. ZiPS is more pessimistic, predicting a 4.19, and given his past history I’m more inclined to go with CHONE’s projection this time around. Looking at his more traditional stats, I’d expect an ERA around 3.85 and somewhere in the 11-14 wins range, with his K total in the 165-175 range. Again, as the story has gone with Weaver for years now, I think he’ll be good, quite solid, but not great. Of course, all of this could change if he doesn’t remain healthy, though I think he’ll hit 30 games started again.
So it’s your turn: Do you think he’ll do better? Worse? Leave a comment and let me know!