2011 was a superb year for the Angels starting pitching staff. Their 3.59 starters ERA ranked 5th in all of baseball and 2nd in the AL behind Tampa Bay. The big three of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana carried the teams weak offense on its back at times and for the majority of the season. These three were the only consistent performers on the entire club. The Halos largely have this trio to thank for their improbable post season contention in 2011. With out the performance of their starters all other statistical evidence highlights a team that should have been well below .500 and out of the race by late summer.
Lets take a look at the individual performances of the Angels starting pitchers in 2011.
- Tyler Chatwood – 2011 marked Tyler’s debut in the big leagues. Chatwood was called up in April to fill in for an injured Joel Pineiro and an ineffective Scott Kazmir (seems so long ago). From his very first start Chatwood immediately lived up to the negative aspects of his reputation as a prospect (5.11 BB/9 in 2009) – flashing solid stuff but a disturbing inability to throw strikes. Tyler’s command issues (71 walks in 142 innings) resulted in him routinely falling behind hitters and working himself into hitters counts. The command issue is further played out statically as Chatwood allowed a .303 BAA , 1.67 WHIP to go along with a 4.75 ERA. in 2011. These numbers are way too high for a guy with a plus fastball – curve combination and an emerging change-up. If Chatwood can improve his command – he could be in the mix for a back end rotation spot again in 2012. Otherwise what we learned in 2011 is what we already knew. Solid stuff – no command.
- Dan Haren – 2011 was a bounce back year of sorts for Haren. Many may forget that Dan struggled for Arizona in 2010 (4.60 era in 21 starts) before the Angels acquired him and he returned to form (2.87 in 14 starts). This season erased any bad taste the first half of 2010 may have left in Haren’s mouth as he was outstanding from the word go – posting a 1.23 ERA with 4 wins and a .166 BAA in April. Dan pitched superbly in 2011 minus a few rough patches here and there posting a 3.17 ERA with, 192 K’s, 238 1/3 innings pitched and a career high 16 wins. Haren uses an assortment of pitches (fastball, cutter, split, change, curve) to keep hitters off balance and while his K rate has gone down in recent years (7.25 in 2011) Haren (signed through 2012) remains a solid number two pitcher in any rotation. The guy can flat gobble up innings (2oo+ in 7 years straight) all while posting solid ERA totals ( 3.59 career). If he gets off to another solid start in 2012 look for the Angels to offer Haren a multi year extension. At just 31 on opening day Haren appears to still have plenty good years ahead of him.
- Joel Pineiro – Joel had a rough year in 2011 starting with a stint on the DL to open the season and culminating in his dismissal from the rotation for ineffectiveness. There was little good in between – outside of a post DL stretch that saw Pineiro hold down a 3.92 ERA up until June 17th. After that the results were not pretty – as Pineiro – a sinker ball pitcher- was unable to keep his sinker down in the zone and was lit up as a result. His ERA ballooned to 5.13 at seasons end as Pineiro was relegated to mop up duty. Pineiro heads into the 2012 off season as a free agent looking for work as its extremely unlikely he will be back with the Angels.
- Ervin Santana – 2011 was a huge year for Ervin Santana. The Dominican righty affectionately known as “Magic” had previously alternated good seasons with bad follow up performances for seemingly every year of his career. In 2011 Ervin said no more! Santana was brilliant for most of the season culminating in a no hit performance on July 27th where Magic was just that across nine no hit innings of stellar baseball. On the season Santana posted a 3.38 ERA with 178 K’s in a career high 228 2/3 innings pitched. Ervin’s fastball slider combination can be as good as any in baseball when he is on. The key for him to sustain his 2011 success will be to further refine his other secondary pitches (curve and change up) to help him get deeper into games. If he can do so- Ervin will again provide the Halos with a top flight number three starter.
- Jered Weaver – After leading the major leagues in strikeouts in 2010 - Jered Weaver cemented his ace status with a follow up performance in 2011 that was equally as sterling. Until Justin Verlander went Bob Gibson on the league Weaver was the front runner for AL CY Young as for a while both he and Haren kept the team a float. Weaver mixes an outstanding change up , two and four seam fastball command, and a nasty curve ball to always keep hitters guessing and leave them off balance. While his fastball routinely tops out at 93-94 MPH – Weaver again posted a solid K rate (7.56) in route to winning 18 games with a 2.41 ERA and 198 K’s in 235 2/3 innings pitched. In August Weaver signed a 5 year 85 million dollar contract extension that will keep him in Anaheim through 2016.
- Jerome Williams – The former Giants top prospect turned journey man burst onto the scene late in the season and likely positioned himself as a spring favorite for a rotation spot in 2012. Williams has a Pineiro like arsenal albeit with a bit more velocity and a bull dog attitude. Williams doesn’t seem afraid on the mound as he pounds the strike zone with a hard sinking fastball and cutter combination mixing in the occasional change-up to keep hitters honest. In 6 starts with the Angels Williams went 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA. Many expect Williams to be the Angels 4th or 5th starter to open 2012 depending on what happens in free agency.
Overall in 2011 the starting pitching was the strong point of the Angels. The big three of Weaver, Haren and Santana remain in tact for 2012 so pitching will again again be a staple of the Halos. Ideally the club would like to acquire a solid starter to fill the number four slot behind the big three – which would leave Williams, Chatwood and Garrett Richards as options for the 5th starter role. Some potential candidates in free agency include Mark Buehrle, Hiroki Kuroda and Paul Maholm. There is also an outside shot that the Angels take a cue from the Rangers – steal from the rival mentality and make a run at CJ. Wilson. Whatever move is made the Angels new GM will certainly be maneuvering from a position of strength here.
- Up next the relievers…..
What We Learned Archive: