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2006 Team Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Pitchers

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I refrained from making a joke of the team's name.

We're running three-a-days, today, just like a football team trying to kill people. My apologies for my lack of posting of late and for my inability to get as many of these done as I'd hoped...

Actually, as an aside, don't we make a big deal out of the silliest things sometimes? So the Angels wanted to change their name. The New York Giants play in New Jersey. The Dallas Cowboys play in Irving, Texas. Who cares? The Detroit Pistons play in Auburn Hills (I think). What's the difference?

I should get on with the pitching, huh.

  1. Bartolo Colon shaved 1.3 walks per 9 innings off his total and gave up 12 fewer homers in 2005, drastically improving on a very, very, very disappointing 2004. Colon's an innings-eating horse, but that could mean that he's been overworked, too. More importantly, "Colon tore his latissimus dorsi tendon which sounds serious, but isn't," according to injury-guru Will Carroll. Carroll goes on to offer a caveat: it's function is somewhat minimal in most people, but Colon is a pitcher. And that's not like most people.

    On the scouting side, Colon throws a bunch of fastballs, and he uses his slider as a secondary pitch. At this stage in his career, Colon is basically a flyball pitcher; his 1.01 G/F was the highest in three seasons for him. He has struggled with the longball in the past, though, and those troubles could return. PECOTA pegs him at a 3.93 ERA, which would be a step back but more in line with career norms. Sounds good to me.

    Oh, and nowhere in that summary did I mention that Colon won the Cy Young. He did, and he wasn't really a bad candidate for it in a weak American League field, but his teammate...

  2. ... John Lackey was probably a better candidate, and he got my third-place vote on the IBA ballot. The Towering Mr. Lackey (as opposed to The Talented Mr. Ripley) posted a career-best strikeout rate of 22.3%. The optimist in me looks at the fact that he posted a 3.44 ERA in spite of a .328 BABIP and expects regression to the mean to handle the rest, making Lackey into one of the game's most elite pitchers. I'm not an optimist, though; I'm what I'd consider a realist (but what most other sane people would consider a pessimist, a defeatist, or a "gloomy Gus," as Thesarus.com gives it). Lackey's BABIPs over the last three years have been .310, .318, .328. I've seen people put an average BABIP at .300, and I've seen it at .290, but my calculation of the BABIP of American League batters' BABIPs was .298. Lackey's been above that number three years running. I wish I could explain that, but ESPN's data on pitch-types, frequency, and success isn't quite detailed enough to make any reasonable comparisons and hypotheses. PECOTA doesn't think much of it; he's projected at a .294 BABIP next year. It also expects some regression across the board. I think he'll beat his projection and be one of the league's top 10 hurlers in '06. But we should keep an eye on this BABIP thing.
  3. Twenty-two year old Ervin Santana burst onto the scene last year and held his own across 23 starts (4.65 ERA). His work in the playoffs wasn't indicative of his work during the regular season, so the world didn't see the best of Ervin. Stil, the home-run ball did hurt him (he's one of the league's more dramatic flyball pitchers), and his control, while much-improved from his minor league history, wasn't particularly great. The signs aren't bad here, though; Santana was VERY good as a  22-year old and posted a K/BB over 2. John Sickels is enthusiastic, calling him a "very good young pitcher," with comparables of "Ben Sheets and Brad Penny." PECOTA's #1 comparable is Jake Peavy, and I think that those three are good company. This Santana probably won't live up to the Johan name he once used, but he'll be pretty good in 2006, I think.
  4. Rated a yellow-light on Prospectus' Team Health Ratings, Kelvim Escobar has battled bone chips over the last two seasons. Escobar thrives in relief, but he holds his own as a starter, certainly. In 2004, he posted a 3.93 ERA in 208.1 innings, and there's no reason to think that he couldn't at least approach that level in 2006, if he's healthy. His STATS Inc scouting report describes his repertoire as "one of the most impressive... in the game." I'd agree with that sentiment and his stats back that up; his strikeout rates are formidable (21.8% as a starter in 2004; 26% in relief in 2005). With Escobar, it's really not a question of ability at this point. We know that Escobar is talented. But we must ask: will his arm handle the increased workload? Will bone chips cause more problems? Will Escobar be able to replace Jarrod Washburn's production and innings? Tune in for next week's all-new episode of Batman...
  5. I've profiled Jeff Weaver in a past article, so for some hard-core Weavernalysis, you should go there. Not everyone agrees with me on my conclusion, though; John Donovan over at SI.com still thinks Jeff can be a star. I don't see it at this point. He's not "young," anymore, and his top comparables are guys like John Smiley, Esteban Loaiza, and Mark Clark, none of whom were real "late-bloomers." Even a guy like Loaiza, who did come into his own in his later years, never really blossomed into a star. Weaver's peak at this point isn't that of an elite pitcher; it's more like that of Loaiza. Still, he was an astute signing... and it would be interesting if the brothers ever were to pitch on back-to-back days.
Overall? A solid rotation, but a notch or two below the boys in Minnesota and Chicago, in my opinion. If Colon 2006 looks like Colon 2005, and Escobar stays healthy and brings his game up to the next level, and if Weaver becomes what Donovan thinks he can be, and if Santana matures.... no, I'm not even going to bother. It won't all happen.

The bullpen has gotten a lot of acclaim over the last few years, especially for being built "from the ground up" and "from within." They've done a great job piecing together some unacclaimed players and some talented arms. The result is a bullpen led by closer Francisco Rodriguez, affectionately known as "K-Rod." K-Rod's pitching is downright scary for a few people: opposing batters, opposing fans... and medical personnel, because they know that he's an arm injury waiting to happen. I won't profess to be an expert on pitching mechanics; I'm quite the opposite. Learned people say that his are dangerous, and he's been on the DL before. Assuming they're right and K-Rod does blow out his arm, though, he's going to have to reinvent himself as a pitcher someday, because this whole scheme won't work. Until that happens, though, we can marvel at his 37% K/PA in 2004 and his 32.6% K/PA in 2005. He's a damn good closer when healthy... but Scot Shields is similarly damn good, and he has a much better health record. Shields is one of those guys who has just been better in relief than as a starter (although I think he threw a 16-inning complete game in college), but Shields probably could start and do a pretty good job, there, too. There's very little NOT to like about Shields, and he should be taken in any fantasy league... There's also Brendan Donnelly, who is the textbook definition of a guy with success in the minors that translated to the bigs. He blossomed late and he peaked quickly, but the best years of Donnelly's career are probably behind him at this point. See: K/9 decline, uptick in homers. There was no better reliever in 2003, but that was three years ago. He'll still probably be adequate, but this could be an ugly one (see: 47% collapse rate)... The Angels added a nice lefty in J.C. Romero, who has done a number on lefties over the last three seasons (.225/.325/.305) but hasn't gotten killed by righties (.257/.379/.397). The composite of that, though, is a .356 OOBP, which is certainly not elite... I remember being mildly perplexed by the fact that the Angels gave Esteban Yan 2 yrs, $2.25 million to be a mop-up reliever, and that's basically where he was last year. He threw 66.7 innings in 49 appearances with a LEVERAGE of .67, which ranked last on a list of the team's relievers who threw 50+ innings. Oh well, those things don't really hurt, do they? I guess not... Signed to a 2-year, $6.1 million deal, Hector Carrasco will be hard-pressed to duplicate his career-year in 2005, which was far out of line with anything else he'd done in the past 5 years. He was helped by a .236 BABIP... and a major pitcher's park. This probably won't look too good in six months.

An all-around solid staff, and, if I were ranking the staffs, I'd put these guys in the Top 10 in the league. There's a lot of potential in the rotation, potential to bring this team back to the playoffs in a competitive AL West. But they'll need superior pitching to compensate for the hitting this year, especially if guys like McPherson and Kotchman are unable to establish themselves.