Will the Angels’ ‘heartbeat’ keep ‘em alive?
It’s pretty remarkable, as you digest the Angels’ up-and-down (or down-and-up) second half, how the status of their rotation has run parallel to their overall success. Yeah, most teams are predicated on starting pitching. It’s the nature of baseball — even now, with so much emphasis on pitch counts and bullpen roles. But the Angels almost live and die by the five All-Stars that reside in their staff — and will make a combined $61.45 million this season.
There have been two different Angels teams in this second half. The one that began it 14-22 (third-worst winning percentage in the AL), and the current one that has won 18 of 25 (second-highest winning percentage in the AL). Here’s a look at how their starting pitching has fared in those spans …
14-22: 5.50 ERA (28th in MLB), 1.41 WHIP (23rd in MLB), 2.2o K/BB (T-22nd in MLB).
18-7: 2.94 ERA (2nd in MLB), 1.06 WHIP (T-1st in MLB), 3.30 K/BB (7th in MLB).
Given that Mike Scioscia so-often calls starting pitching “the heartbeat of our club,” perhaps that isn’t much of a surprise.
What’s amazing, though, is that Jered Weaver, Zack Greinke, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana all seemed to hit a rough patch at about the same time, and then they all seemed to thrive again together, essentially.
“It can be any number of things,” Haren tried to explain. “It can be pressing, it can be bad luck, it can be not feeling great, or a combination of all those things. You can have a couple of bad starts in a row or a bad month or two. I just don’t think that there’s one specific thing to just put your finger on and say, ‘OK, this is why the rotation has turned it around.’ I think it was kind of inevitable given the amount of talent that we have in the rotation for us to turn it around, but just like hitting is contagious, pitching can also be that way. Being able to watch one starter after another go out there and do well, it makes it kind of like a habit.”
If the Angels are to make up the gap that resides between them and the second AL Wild Card spot — 2 1/2 games, behind the Orioles, at the start of Monday — that habit will have to continue for 15 more games. If the rotation pitches to its capability, the Angels have a very good chance to sneak into that one-game Wild Card playoff. If it doesn’t, they have little to no shot.
Over the weekend, Scioscia announced his pitching schedule for the upcoming three-game home series against the Rangers, adding that Weaver (17 wins, 2.74 ERA, Cy Young contender) and Greinke (1.70 ERA last five starts; at least 7 innings each time) will stay on normal rest for the remainder of the regular season, while the others fill in around them.
That means Weaver and Greinke are each guaranteed to pitch in both of the final series against the Rangers. It means Weaver has four starts left and is lined up to pitch the regular-season finale against the Mariners on Oct. 3. It means Greinke has three starts left and will be available to pitch either the Oct. 4 tiebreaker (he’d be on three days’ rest) or, if they don’t need it, the Wild Card game on Oct. 5 (on normal rest).
Here’s a look at the pitching schedule the rest of the way, with the ones in bold pretty much solidified and the ones in italics still TBD …
9/18 vs TEX: Weaver
9/19 vs TEX: Wilson
9/20 vs TEX: Greinke
9/21 vs CWS: Santana
9/22 vs CWS: Haren
9/23 vs CWS: Weaver
9/25 vs SEA: Greinke
9/26 vs SEA: Wilson? (6 days’ rest)
9/27 vs SEA: Santana? (5 days’ rest)
9/28 at TEX: Weaver
9/29 at TEX: Haren? (6 days’ rest)
9/30 at TEX: Greinke
10/1 at SEA: Wilson? (4 days’ rest)
10/2 at SEA: Santana (4 days’ rest)
10/3 at SEA: Weaver