As the Starting Pitching Goes, so go the Angels


May 22, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher

C.J. Wilson

(33) pitches during the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

You would think that I would come up with a less depressing title while this team is on a winning streak, because, winning. But, no. A little more than a week ago, I posted this about the Angels pitching staff, and how it was sinking the ship that is this season. A week (and seven straight wins) later, it turns out that I was more right than I originally thought I was.

The pitching staff was ranked (at that time) near the bottom in each and every category you could possibly think of. I haven’t checked, but I’m pretty sure that the staff’s RPpP (Rosin Pats per Pitcher) also ranks near the bottom as well. Actual categories, made up categories, real stats, fake stats, stats that require a $200 graphing calculator to figure out, all of them, the Angels were near the bottom. Do you get where I am going with this? Good.

The question could be posed though; “But, Mike, what about the offense? Josh Hamilton was a black hole and Mike Trout only recently started to catch fire. Shouldn’t they shoulder some of the blame here too?” In short, no. In long, hell no. Yes, Hamilton was atrocious to start the season, swinging at anything that moved as it approached the plate (baseballs, softballs, butterflies, etc. and so forth). Yes, Trout did start the season in something resembling a slump. But, for the first month of the season, the Angels carried, as a team, a slash line of .262/.321/.402. The offense’s May slash line? .261/.331/.459. More power, but that’s a pretty consistent group of hitters. Its hard to lay blame at their feet when, for the most part, they’ve done their job.

But, the relievers, I mean, it has to be mostly their fault, right? Well, it is true that the group in the bullpen has been, well, terrible. And, in fact, they’ve been slightly worse this month compared to last month. The only stat that has improved for relievers, is its SO/BB ratio (April – 1.88, May – 2.15). The bullpen has looked better of late, and that is in large part because Mike Scioscia has been using the relievers better. Ernesto Frieri has been used for more than just three outs, Sean Burnett‘s return was a boost and Robert Coello‘s emergence at the back end has been a thing of beauty. This bullpen looks solidified, and that’s without the presence of Kevin Jepsen and Ryan Madson.

So it is the offense. More runs are creating the bigger leads, right? Wrong. The offense has been generally consistent. The bullpen has been consistently meh. The biggest problem with April was that this team’s starting pitching couldn’t have gotten into the seventh inning if they were playing a local high school team. And unlike the bullpen, and it’s interchangeable parts, the starting staff, for better or worse, isn’t going to see much change anytime soon other than Jered Weaver‘s return from the DL.

Damage Done By Hitters

Everything is going in the right direction. And, you can't say that this staff is getting lucky because opposing hitters have a BABIP of .310 this month compared to the .314 BABIP they had in April.

Pitchers Progression

First numbers that jump out, 5.26 and 3.85. The starting pitchers are allowing almost one and a half runs less per nine innings. And that's even with Joe Blanton and Barry Enright being allowed to act like pitchers. Second numbers, 1.584 and 1.364. A WHIP of 1.364 isn't going to put you among the top 10 teams in terms of how many runners are allowed on base per inning, but a WHIP of 1.584 is simply unacceptable. Combine that with striking out an extra batter per nine innings, and we've got ourselves a better than decent starting rotation. Which is far better than any of us were expecting coming into the season.

May 24, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher

Jason Vargas

(60) throws a warm up pitch in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

We all knew when the season began that it was going to be the offense's job to cover up for a mediocre starting staff, and that it was going to be the bullpen's job to make sure that the offense's hard work didn't go for naught. None of us thought that the starting pitching was going to be so incredibly awful that no matter how hard the offense tried, it simply wasn't going to be enough. And now that we've seen both extremes with regards to this pitching staff, it seems pretty clear that; as this team's starting pitching goes, so too go the Angels. Which *grabs blankie*, considering how this season has played out so far, might be the scariest epiphany I've ever had.