Andrew Heaney was not only one of the most reliable starters on the LA Angels starting staff in 2018, he had the best season of his career by far while cementing himself as a true MLB starter. While he’s had serious struggles in years past he turned it around in a big way by not only having a career year, but by leading the Angels starting rotation.
It’s no surprise Andrew Heaney won the LA Angels team award for Pitcher of the Year with his performance throughout 2018. He led the starting staff by example, pitching 180 innings for a team that struggled heavily to get innings out of a starter. Not only did he log career bests in innings pitched (180) and strikeouts (180), he logged his first Complete Game which was also a shutout affair. What’s important to note with his strikeouts isn’t the number of K’s, logically he would have a career high given 75 extra IP over his previous career high (105.2 in 2015), it’s the strikeout rate of 9.0 maintained over the 180 innings that show his growing consistency on the mound.
Despite his glowing accolades it was still a bit of a rough year for Heaney here and there. He would get abused by offenses on a more-regular-than-should-be basis, Heaney allowing hitters to put up 5+ runs on him eight times across his 30 starts for the team. Another knock against him was that he let hitters tee off on him a bit too regularly, allowing 6+ hits in 15 (half!) of his starts. Out of those 15, 6 starts came with the Angels securing a win. That’s a bit of a rough and tumble stat line to observe, but it could also been seen as a point to improve from in 2019. If Heaney can cut down on giving up tons of hits regularly he can secure himself within another realm of pitching than he currently is. Even though he had a solid year in which he stepped up for the team a cut-down on those wild games could solidify him as much more than a middle-of-the-pack innings eater.
Another notable stat was his 5 total games of 10 K’s or more. Inning eating and high strikeouts was a staple of former Angel Jered Weavers game, and I’m not comparing, but should Heaney model himself after that game-style the Angels will see some incredible things from him in the future. He’s already shown that he can eat innings and strike guys out, so if he is able to cut down on letting hitters merry-go-round off him he can develop into a prime starter. Using the phrase “develop” is a bit strange given his MLB service time of 5 years, though at the young age 27 and performance in 2018 we can clearly see there is a big evolution waiting for Heaney just around the corner.
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Andrew Heaney went from being a work-in-progress to a reliable starter, and reliable may not seem like the best phrase given half of his games saw the offense hitting him all over the place, yet those 180 innings seem like a godsend considering the condition of the Angels in 2018. It can’t be stressed enough how much Andrew Heaney stepped up for the team in 2018. It’s basic psychology that critical situations can form/bring out the best of man and we saw how the Angels desperate situation called Andrew Heaney to rise to a truer form.
What we saw in 2018 was just the start. While he has had a bumpy career with 3 years of less than 30 IP and only one that saw him go over 100 (2015, 105.2 IP), Heaney was always seen as having the potential to be a top guy and despite the current run of his career it seems like things are taking a huge turn. 2019 will be a huge, career making year for Heaney. Will he continue to be a reliable innings eater for the Angels? Will he improve on his strikeout ability? Can he learn to keep hitters from making consistent contact on him?
There’s a lot to consider with Andrew Heaney’s 5th season officially in the books. Only time will tell if this season was simply a product of circumstance or if this is a more realized Andrew Heaney. My bet is on what we saw being the truer form of Andrew Heaney beginning to make form. With Heaneys growing confidence/ability and the other factors that will reshape the team in 2019, next season may turn out to be a greater year for the Angels than any of us may expect