Arte Moreno likes to spend money. Lots of money. On both baseball players, and his wife’s wardrobe. During the 2011 offseason, he solidified his stance as a big spending owner when inked both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to contracts totaling $327.5MM. Pujols got the Brinks Truck that he felt he deserved, and Wilson got a large contract to come back home and pitch in his backyard. Perfect.
While Pujols hasn’t lived up to his contract yet (and we shouldn’t expect that he will), Wilson is at least looking like the number three pitcher he was signed to be. Don’t forget that when the Angels signed him, Dan Haren was the Co-Ace of the staff. C.J. didn’t have to be the carrier of the staff like he was in Texas. No. He just needed to be a solid starter. Albeit with expectations to be much better considering the season that he had for the Rangers in 2010.
Fast forward to 2013 and, well, Wilson hasn’t been bad. He just, you know, hasn’t been as good as fans were hoping he would be. He was good enough in the first half of 2012 to earn himself a trip to the All-Star Game, but a bone chip in his left elbow limited his effectiveness in the second half of the season. Kind of a bummer, but offseason surgery repaired the impingement and he was supposed to be all kinds of ready for the start of 2013. Yeah, supposed to be.
Wilson stumbled out of the gates this season posting an ERA of 4.30 in April. he gradually got better with each month as he posted ERA’s of 3.69 and 3.05 in May and June, respectively. His BB/9 got better as well (coming down from 5.2 in April to 3.1 in June), and with his WHIP finally getting below the 1.300 mark on the season, he was looking again like the number three starter he was signed to be.
The problem is, he was signed to be that last season. And this season he had to step up when Jered Weaver went down with a broken elbow in his third start. He then had to continue to pick up the slack until Jered was able to get back to being his normal supremely awesome self after posting an ERA of 4.40 in June. Wilson wasn’t pitching like a slouch in June, but it wasn’t good enough to make up for the kind of production that we have grown accustomed to seeing from Weaver, who we had hoped would come back from his injury looking like Jered bleeping Weaver, but we’re at least a little understanding when he was not.
I don’t know who put the magic potion in the water cooler. Or who went and reminded these two pitchers who they were. Or how Weaver among others has gained velocity on his fastball. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and I do know how to work Baseball-Reference’s Play Index. And for the month of July, Mike Scioscia has been playing with a couple of Ace’s in his poker hand.
Sub-2 ERA’s? Check. WHIP’s less than or equal to 1.00? Check. Striking out a hitter per inning? Che…OK, No. But close. Damn close. Jered Weaver is known for being a control artist as a pitcher. C.J. Wilson is not. But Wilson’s previous “low” for walks in a month this season was 13. He’s sitting on seven for the month of July. And, for him to reach 13, it would take a start of Scott Kazmirian proportions.
Have I said that these two have been dominating? Yeah, they’ve been dominating. Only three other teams have had two starting pitchers throw at least 29 innings in a month and post sub-2 ERA’s. The Tigers saw Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander do it in April. Also in April, the Mariners saw Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez do it. And right along with the Angels in July, the Rays had Matt Moore and David Price mowing down hitters. It has been an exceptional month for the light tower from Simi Valley and the former Fountain Valley Baron.
It’s been said all season long, both here and on other blogs, that the Angels starting pitching is going to be what sinks or swims this team. Weaver is projected to get 26 starts this season thanks to the broken elbow in April, he’s ready for the stretch run. C.J. doesn’t have to be this good for the…well, yeah he does. If only to make up for this lame Head & Shoulders commercials he did before the season started, he does have to keep pitching this well. But I’ll settle for him pitching more like a number two than a number one. And that sentence couldn’t have come out any more wrong.
It would still take the second largest comeback since the Wild-Card era began in 1995 for the Angels to make the playoffs. But, who knows. With these two clicking, and Joe Blanton being pulled from the rotation, the sky now feels like the limit. Doesn’t it?