One game is no reason to panic. But, yesterday the Angels were given reason to be afraid of what their one time ace will bring this season. Jered Weaver didn’t have a good outing but it was also far from terrible. What was terrible was his velocity. I wrote about his declining fastball a few months ago and if yesterday was any indication, it’s getting worse.
Yesterday, Weaver threw six innings and allowed four runs on eight hits. That’s a lot of hits and it came with only one strikeout. The four runs isn’t terrible and speaks to his veteran knowhow to get batters out and fool them, but it’s going to be tough to keep that deception up if we can expect an 84.3 MPH fastball. That’s what his four seamers and two seamers averaged yesterday. Even with his awkward delivery (for right-handed hitters) that’s not going to get past too many big leaguers.
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According to Fangraphs, last season his fastball velocity matched his 2013 speed with an average of 86.8 MPH. That ranked 83rd amongst all MLB starters, but he also was effective with an ERA+ of 101, or a minuscule tick above average. With his command and abilities in the clutch he has shown what he always has in his career, an ability to outproduce his stuff. That stuff consists of a slider, curveball and changeup to go along with a few fastball offerings. Yesterdays changeup was right in line with his career average at 78.5 MPH. That’s less than a six MPH difference from his fastball. His slider was close to his career average at 78.9 and his curve was a few MPH less than average at 67.5. Aside from his curve, everything else was a consistent speed which likely allowed hitters to time him better.
The concern for Weaver is real but we should remember that many veterans take a bit more innings to get up to full speed. Several starters such as Adam Wainwright, Yovani Gallardo and David Price were about one MPH less than average yesterday. If age and workload are catching up to Weaver than he will have to adjust yet further to maintain his above average stats.
Decline is always hard on fans who hate to see our stars succumb to the inevitable consequences of time. With Weaver his loyalty to the team, his homegrown status and leadership role make it especially hard. It’s looking more and more like he is fading into becoming a lower of the rotation starter, and yesterday was likely his last opening day start of his career. For a fiercely competitive talent this will be a season of challenges unlike any before. Hopefully he will be up to the task at least one more time.