OK people, we've looked at the Halos' additions and subtractions and what the lineup may look like come opening day. Only one thing left to pick apart, and that's the pitchin'. Used to be we Angels fans would head into a season praying, begging the baseball gods for a little extra offense. This season, we may need to pray for outs.
A lot has been made of John Lackey's departure, maybe too much. Now, I'm not gonna sit here and tell you his loss won't be felt AT ALL. That would be retarded (my apologies to Sarah Palin) on my part. But isn't it equally retarded to assume the entire staff is now horrible due to the loss of a guy who won 11 games last season and just 12 the year before? Big John was unquestionably the leader of the Angels staff, and probably of the entire pitching staff. The cliches of him being a "bulldog" and a "fierce competitor" and all that are well-deserved and well-earned. But when you boil down the numbers, Lackey is not in the class of the Roy Halladays, Johan Santanas or CC Sabathias of the world. He is a number one, not a true "ace." Heck, he'll be the number 3 starter behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester on the Red Sox staff. So Lackey wanted a lot of money and the Red Sox gave it to him, end of story.
What's that leave the Angels with?
Weaver is sort of thrust into the defacto number 1 role, coming off his breakout season in '09. The lanky righty went 16-8 and posted a very solid 3.75 ERA. I see no reason why he can't or won't produce similar numbers in 2010. He is just entering his prime years and the changeup he's developed has turned into a devastating pitch for him. It will be interesting to see how he responds to being the "guy" now, defacto or not.
Saunders somehow managed to win 16 games and only lose 7 last year. I say "managed" because he posted a pretty dismal 4.60 ERA. Joe got a ton of run support, sure, but he was really just a bi-polar pitcher last season. When he was bad, he was hit the showers after 3 innings bad, and when he was good, he was outdueling Zack Greinke 1-0 good. He did have a stretch where he pitched at less than 100%, and after coming back from a DL stint, he was pretty solid at the end of the season. Joe was an All-Star in '08 and despite the record, wasn't real good last year. I think we'll see who the real Joe Saunders is this year, and I think it'll be somewhere in between.
Ervin seemed to turn a corner in 2008, putting together a great season and living up to all the potential in that electric right arm. Unfortunately, he turned back around in '09, regressing to the tune of 8-8 and a 5.03 ERA in 139.2 innings. Like Saunders, Ervin wasn't all there physically, and, deserved or not, he has a reputation for being not all there mentally at times too. If Ervin is physically OK, I think he'll be fine, if not, more of the same. He just doesn't seem to have the intestinal fortitude to get by without his best stuff. An 18-win 3.50 ERA wouldn't surprise me any more than a repeat of his horrible 2009.
Scott Kazmir had an off year, it happens. Hell, look at Josh Beckett's roller coaster ride from 2005 to 2007. There are some very concerning signs in Kazmir's case, and that's his strikeouts per innings numbers. WAAAY down last season. Like, from stellar career K numbers to blah, all in one season. I'm not sure how injured/hurt he was, but whatever happened last season, let's hope it's behind him. For Kaz to be effective, he has to strike batters out. We'll see if the velocity's back.
Now for the new guy, Joel Piniero. He's coming off a bit of a revival in St. Louis at the hands of miracle worker Dave Duncan, so as long as he doesn't hit his head and get amnesia, I think he'll pitch just fine. He's a veteran guy, pitches to contact, knows his way around the division from his time in Seattle. Should be a solid innings-eater type guy. Like Jon Garland, but better.
So, looking at what I've written above, the Angels have a few question marks in the rotation. What needs to happen in order for the team to have a good season, is that three of those guys need to perform. Any three. The other two can have bouts of inconsistency, etc., but three of those arms need to step up. We'll see if it happens.