Angels’ Playoff Rotation Still Unclear


Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards both went down with season-ending injuries, few predicted the Angels to be in a position where they would actually have to pick and choose their starters. And yet here they stand–in first place no less–with some vital decisions impending.

Playoffs rosters traditionally consist of four starting pitchers and seven relievers. As of now, Los Angeles really only has two starters irrefutably making the postseason rotation: Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

Weaver has been considered by many to be the leader of the Halos for several years now. Through all the turmoil and injures, it seems fitting that he still stands at the helm.

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On the other end, we have had spectators clamoring throughout the course of the season that Wilson ran out of gas. These cries were amplified when he pitched just 0.2 innings and allowing 6 runs (4 earned) in his most recent loss against Oakland. But make no mistake about it; Wilson will start next weekend. Whether or not he performs to his standards is an entirely different discussion.

And now we get to the question marks. Matt Shoemaker, who might very well be the Angels’ best pitcher today, has been rather ambiguous on the timetable of his return. After initially stating there was a slight chance he would come back in one of the final games of the season, he has reportedly been playing catch at only 60% intensity as of Wednesday. There is a very real possibility he might miss a start in the postseason, and Angels should plan accordingly.

But for all intents and purposes, we’ll just assume the best case scenario and say Shoemaker is healthy by the ALDS. That still leaves one last pitcher for the rotation.

Conventional thinking favors Hector Santiago, who has 24 games as an Angels starter under his belt. But his performances have been sporadic and inconsistent. Out of all pitchers to start a game for the Angels, he has been arguably the least impressive, ranking dead last in FIP (4.42) and xFIP (4.59).

Santiago unfortunately might not get the same leeway as a Wilson, who has made it to the World Series twice and has pitched well for Los Angeles in years prior. But it is worth noting that Santiago’s 125.1 innings pitched this season is over twice as many as the next two starting options combined.

Cory Rasmus has been tremendous all season and will almost undoubtedly make the postseason roster. What position he would fill, however, is still in question. Though he might be converting into a full-time starter by next season, he is still a long reliever as of 2014.

That said, Rasmus has held his own in the bullpen games that he “started” in, and manager Mike Scioscia hasn’t ruled out the possibility of mirroring the rather unorthodox strategy of a short-inning starter in the playoffs.

Last but not least, we have journeyman southpaw Wade LeBlanc vying for a postseason spot; a phrase I’m sure you didn’t expect to hear in this lifetime. In a year full of improbable heroes, we might be in for the biggest surprise yet.

After being designated for assignment twice by the Angels in what felt like a dysfunctional relationship, he has been called up full-time for the September roster expansions. Though expectations weren’t high, he certainly has put himself on the map this time around with a 0.53 ERA, 2.01 FIP, and 0.76 WHIP. His 26.2 innings in 9 games as an Angel make for a diminutive sample size, but it was still enough to get Scioscia’s attention regarding playoffs rosters.

Narrowing down a starting rotation is a difficult task, but I’m sure the Angels’ management would agree that getting options to select from to begin with is much better than having none at all.

But which starters will ultimately make it to the postseason? At this point, it’s really anyone’s ball game. Ha, puns.