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Thursday, August 30, 2007

THAT WAS OUR BROOMSTICK 

I've had my worries about the Angels this year -- I know that we're better than Seattle, but our play has been inconsistent and dispiriting at times. But our three-game sweep in the Emerald City certainly was good news, and one certainly can't complain about a five-game lead on August 30. Only one division leader in baseball (Boston) has a larger lead today, and even that's by only one game.

Of course, not everything went right, and our Lads have to keep up their game over the next month. John Lackey, incredibly, was able to dominate despite suffering from strep throat; I haven't had that since elementary school, but I certainly remember it being terrible, so that's an impressive outing all the more. Hopefully he gets better soon, as I can't really imagine him being able to keep it up while suffering illness.

And the enigma of Ervin Santana only continued this week, and hit what is likely his nadir. It's hard to imagine The Magic returning to the rotation as long as the division is still in dispute, but youneverknow, though even if he doesn't we may see him throwing some junk innings out of the pen. As it's been all season, I'm hard-pressed to come up with any explanation's for Ervin's deterioration. But watching him on Tuesday reminded me of ... well, me. I was at the driving range this past weekend, and my entire swing was out of sync, and nothing I could do could get me back on track. It was my worst trip to a range ever, including when I was a small child. Ervin on the mound reminded me of that experience.

We were counting on Ervin this year, and the plan has always been to count on him next year, as well. That appears to be in question, though given his track record, youth, and raw material, I would assume that he'll go into spring training with at least an opportunity to regain his rotation spot. I'm pulling for him, of course; it's always shocking to see any player, especially a young and (presumably) healthy pitcher, fall apart, and hopefully the king's men can put him back together.

Jered Weaver finished off the sweep.. His command was a bit better than his previous start, as he cut down his walks infinitely, but he gave up one more earned run and struck out the same number of batters despite pitching one more whole inning. Jered's ERA+ of 114 ranks 20th out of the 44 AL pitchers with 125+ innings pitched, and tied for 37th out of the 96 major league pitchers above that threshold. Of course, this is Jered's age 24 season, and at that same age, John Lackey was posting an ERA+ of 92, Ervin Santana one of 67, and Bartolo Colon an 83 in less than 100 innings. Jered's brother, Jeff, whose presence on the mound against us Tuesday meant that I never lost hope after Ervin got buried in the first, did manage a 111 that season, fairly close to Jered's mark. However, Jeff only posted an 89 the season before, unlike Jered and his 171.

Jered Weaver has now thrown 256 innings, posting an ERA+ of 136, with rather strong peripherals. Amongst starting pitchers in major league history who had thrown between 200 and 300 innings through the age of 24, Jered's ERA+ is tied for 7th out of 157. His innings pitched total ranks just above the middle of that group, at 65th, yet he manages to rank 10th in strikeouts, 24th in least walks issued, and 4th in wins -- it helps that he 9th in strikeouts per 9 innings and 18th in least walks per 9.

Of course, the season's not over, so we can look at this again over the winter. And there is a long-term question with his health, as there is with any young pitcher. Note Aaron Sele, whose first two season resemble Jered's first two in certain respects. He followed those two seasons with a season where he only managed six starts, presumably due to medical reasons. He was never the same pitcher, and his story is not unique.

At any rate, just as Jered is positioned to have a productive career if he stays on track, so also our team is now very much in the driver's seat as they look to win their third division title in the past four seasons.

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Best wishes.
 
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