Will the Real Jered Weaver, Please Stand Up
Major League baseball consists of 30 teams. Each one with a five-man starting rotation. That’s 150 starters. Factor in Minor League callups due to injury, ineffectiveness or the occasional spot start, and that number shoots up, probably close 250. OK, that number may be a little high. But if it is, it’s not by much.
Of those 250 starters, a handful can be considered legitimate staff Ace’s.
Justin Verlander is one. Felix Hernandez, another. Cliff Lee and Clayton Kershaw in the National League. Through last season, Jered Weaver was considered among those names. He didn’t do it with overpowering stuff, but he did it nonetheless. Angels fans have known for awhile that Weaver was good, but two straight seasons of sub-3.00 ERA’s and a 20-win season caught the rest of baseball’s attention.
This season, Jered has been anything but the dominant front-of-the-rotation starter that he had become with his a 1-4 mark with a 4.65 ERA so far this season. Some have pointed to his injury, saying that him missing a month and a half is the reason why he has struggled. I, conversely, point to his splits. He has owned April and May throughout his career. Him coming back from injury in late May is like him coming out of Spring Training, he should’ve been just fine.
Recently, Alden Gonzalez was asked about Jered Weaver in his weekly inbox column. He quoted Mike Scioscia who had this to say about Weaver’s struggles so far this season:
"“Once he starts commanding counts a little bit better and being able to really open up counts for his secondary pitches, he’s going to be fine. Right now, he’s just battling to get back in counts and missing up with his fastball. And his command of his fastball, when he’s on, is as good as there is.”"
And Scioscia was dead on.
Jered Weaver’s first pitch strike percentage
The league average for first pitch strikes since Weaver became a regular on the Major League club is at 59%. Jered has routinely sat above 60%, with a career high of 65% first-pitch strikes in 2011. This season, that number sits at 53%, well below the league average. And with his velocity dropping every season down to a career low this year of 86.8 MPH (which is generous in my opinion. I’ve seen a lot of 85 MPH meatballs come out of his hand), his margin for error is razor thin. And falling behind in counts is a quick way for a fly-ball pitcher like Weaver to get himself in to a heap of trouble.
In year’s past, the Angels have relied on pitching and defense as their bread and butter for success. In year’s past, Weaver’s ineffectiveness would have been absorbed by the staff around him. This year, he has no such luxury. C.J. Wilson is pitching like a number four starter. Tommy Hanson‘s velocity is gone. Joe Blanton is either the most unlucky pitcher, or the worst pitcher, depending on the length of his goatee. And the Angels best starter up to this point, Jason Vargas, is out for 4-6 weeks thanks to a blood clot in his left arm pit area.
Jered Weaver adjusted before to a decrease in velocity. Can he adjust again? Of course he can, don’t be silly. You don’t become one of the best starters in baseball without staying one step ahead of your competition. Except now, Weaver is two steps behind the competition. He’s going to have to take a giant leap forward (or, considering his height, a few steps will probably suffice) to get back out in front of the hitters that he is facing. If not, the next three and a half seasons of his contract are going to look just as ugly as the high-priced ones that have been added in the last two years.