In 2013, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto added pitchers Jason Vargas, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson to a rotation that featured Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Many fans were under the assumption that this would be a good enough rotation to complement an offense that would be elite. Vargas would give you innings with a near league average ERA. Joe Blanton would give you innings with a below average ERA. Hanson was the wild card in the group as he was coming off injury riddled and below average seasons.
Well, that idea didn’t go well.
In 2014, Dipoto has taken a different approach. The Mark Trumbo trade gave the Angels two young starters in Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs that would compete for the rotation. Garrett Richards pitched well enough down the stretch as a starter in 2013 to be given a full time starting role. Dipoto has essentially gone for a youth movement rather than getting veterans who could eat innings.
The hope among the Angels and their fans is that the 3 youngsters can form a better back end of the rotation than Blanton and Hanson did last season. While it’s likely that this starting 5 is better than the 2013 version, the Angels are still lacking something major: pitching depth.
The Angels didn’t just get poor performances from Blanton and Hanson last season. Their collective group of back end/depth starters was incredibly poor. Weaver, Wilson, Vargas and Richards provided 620 innings across 98 starts. The rest of the starters, which included Blanton, Hanson and Jerome Williams across 64 starts, gave 344 innings. Those starters provided approximately 40% of the team’s starts in 2013.
The first group had a 3.64 ERA, 2.43 K/BB ratio and a 0.83 HR/9. The second group had a 5.49 ERA, 2.14 K/BB ratio and an absurd 1.54 HR/9.
There is the biggest reason for the Angels struggles in 2013. In approximately 40% of the starts, the Angels got absolutely terrible production. The offense was given a huge burden to try to score 5-6 runs any night that that group of starters took the mound.
When the trade for Skaggs and Santiago went down, it was expected that Dipoto would go add 1 if not 2 pitchers on the free agent market. Fast forward 2 months and the Angels have the same exact rotation, minus Mark Mulder, who unfortunately ruptured his Achilles last week. Counting on Mulder to be useful was an indication of how bad the Angels depth is. Now that he is out for the year, the already thin depth just got thinner. Here are the Angels depth starters as of now.
A randomly selected fan
The Angels and Jerry Dipoto are making the same exact mistake that hurt this team last year. It’s fair to say that Dipoto is working under a tight budget so options like Masahiro Tanaka and Matt Garza weren’t necessarily realistic options. Why hasn’t he signed other starters though?
Phil Hughes was a great buy low guy who just needed a change of scenario to avoid the dreaded home run problems at Yankee Stadium. Jason Hammel signed a cheap 1 year deal and could provide decent innings. Suk Min Yoon signed for cheap as a high risk guy who could end up providing value. Scott Baker signed a minor league deal. Chris Capuano signed a cheap 1 year 2.25 deal today with incentives.
Why isn’t Dipoto making moves? Either Dipoto has a move up his sleeve to come soon or he is actually content with the rotation depth. Or he could potentially be saving up all the remaining money to lock up Mike Trout to a mega deal. That’s reasonable but adding guys on minor league deals won’t affect the payroll.
How many more Blanton starts will Angels fans have to struggle through? How many more times must we deal with seeing this face and the 5 home runs he allows every start?
Lets play a hypothetical game. Weaver and Wilson both 200 innings this season. Richards and Santiago pitch 170 innings each. Tyler Skaggs gets 140 innings. This is probably a best case scenario where nobody gets hurts. This group pitches 880 innings. Last season, the Angels starters pitched 964 innings. That leaves 84 innings for the depth starters. Are any Angels fans confident in giving that many innings to Joe Blanton and Matt Shoemaker and whoever else?
That is an optimistic scenario for innings pitched by the top 5 too. Lets knock off 50 innings from the top 5. That leaves the Angels with 134 innings to give to their depth starters. So now you’re giving 134 innings to Joe Blanton and Matt Shoemaker plus others. That doesn’t sound like a plan that will work out well.
Maybe this is all an overreaction. Maybe Dipoto goes out and signs somebody in the next week or he snags up a few starters who will inevitably get released later in Spring Training. The point being is Dipoto definitely needs to garner some rotation depth. There will be injuries to starters. The Angels are looking at anywhere from 100-150 innings that need to be filled by someone outside of the starting 5.
This is the biggest issue I have had with the offseason. If Dipoto adds starters in the coming weeks, many Angels fans like myself will feel much better. Up to this point, it’s been a pretty solid offseason. Dipoto hasn’t committed to any long term deals that could handicap the team any further and he helped the rotation with 2 new young starters. He still has his work cut out for him though. As a collective fan base, we can only take so many more Blanton starts.
If you want to feel better about the rotation, watch this video of Tyler Skaggs and the stuff he possesses. He should help the back end of the rotation and the depth aspect.