Normally when the ace of your rotation is able to dodge a smash hit right back up the middle it’s a good thing. But for Angels’ ace Jered Weaver that’s not exactly the case. Weaver landed awkwardly on his left arm while dodging a come backer that was sent screaming off the bat by the Rangers’ Mitch Moreland and after having being examined on Monday it was determined that he had broken his elbow.
That’s devastating news for an Angels team that’s got all the offensive power in the world to go along with a rather mediocre looking pitching staff. The staff’s supposed #2 starter, C.J. Wilson, has been downright vanilla in his time in California, posting a 13-10 record with an ERA just a hair under 4.00. That’s not exactly worth the 5 years and $77 million the Angels shelled out for Wilson’s services.
The rest of the rotation looks to be trouble as well. Tommy Hanson has the ability to do some good things on the mound but he also has a tendency to hang some pitches and that leads to homeruns. Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton fit somewhere in the middle now and neither pitcher has posted an ERA+ above the league average since 2010. Blanton, in particular, is homer-prone so expect more outings like his April 4th start against the Reds. Blanton was rocked for 3 homers in 5 innings while taking the loss.
The job of replacing Weaver in the rotation for the next 4-6 weeks will fall to Garrett Richards. Richards has made 12 starts in his career and he’s appeared in 29 other games as a reliever. Richards was the 83rd ranked prospect in baseball a year ago according to Baseball America and his fastball is the big reason why. Richards can dial it up to around 94-96 mph and he can throw a variation on his fastball that has a little bit of sink. Richards also works in a change-up and a seldom-used curveball that still needs a bit of work.
“All hands on deck,” said Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto. “We’re trying to win a championship here. Garrett understands that. Garrett has trained as a starting pitcher and has been stretched as a starting pitcher. For a long reliever/6th starter, he’s about as good as you can ask for and he could turn out to be a nice surprise for the Angels.
This injury could also turn into a blessing in disguise if Richards can impress. Joe Blanton has been a pinata for the better part of the past 3 seasons, posting a 4.82 ERA over the time frame while allowing homers at a greater frequency than nearly every other pitcher in baseball. There’s a very good chance that his fastball, which struggled to top 90 mph in his first start, is going to get crushed for most of the season by AL hitters.
Richards, even if he struggles a bit, should be able to out-pitch Blanton, for lack of a better term. He already throws harder and thanks to a decent sinker Richards unlikely to be as homer-friendly as Blanton. Once Weaver returns to the rotation, an upgrade from Blanton to Richards could be worth a couple of wins in the long run, which could make all the difference in the competitive AL West.
Los Angeles has committed an absolutely massive amount of money in long-term deals in the hope that they can win a World Series within the next 3 seasons. The Angels already have $105 million committed to just 5 players (Aybar, Pujols, Wilson, Weaver, Hamilton) in 2016 and that’s without considering the arbitration raises that will be due to guys like Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. And apart from those two youngsters, all of those 5 highly compensated Angels will be on the wrong side of 35 by 2016.That makes winning in the now absolutely imperative for this franchise which means somebody is going to have to step up to throw some big innings. The fate of the Angels season may very well hang on it.