Alright, Angels. You've had two weeks to rest up and lick your wounds since the end of the season, but relaxing time is over. If you want to return to the playoffs next year, you're going to have to do some work this off-season. The position players got their assignments last week, but now we turn our attention the the crown jewel of the Angel roster, the rotation. As good as the starting pitchers were this season, all of them still have plenty of work to do if they want to be as good if not better in 2012.
The Angel rotation got good marks this season, but they weren't perfect and thus have plenty of work to do this off-season.
Tyler Chatwood - Grow a pair
I really tried and tried and tried to be a believer in Chatwood. He throws hard enough, maybe a little too straight, but hard enough and he has a great curveball. His command isn't great, but it isn't something he can overcome either. But the command isn't even what is really holding him back. The problem is that he pitches like a coward. Having great stuff doesn't matter one lick if you are CONSTANTLY nibbling at the corners. It would be one thing if he had pin-point control and was painting the black, but he really is just trying to pitch away from contact because he is scared of getting hit hard, which happens anyway, thus defeating the point. He's still only 21 years old, so he has plenty of time to figure it out, but it largely comes down to just being a confidence thing. If he can't ever muster up the balls to challenge hitters, then he is doomed.
Dan Haren - Read Jered Weaver's press clippings
Consider the stat lines for the following two anonymous players:
Player A: 2.98 FIP, 3.29 xFIP, 3.35 SIERA, 1.02 WHIP, 7.25 K/9, 1.25 BB/9, 0.76 HR/9
Player B: 3.20 FIP, 3.80 xFIP, 3.67 SIERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.56 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 0.76 HR/9
Those lines are pretty close, but you would almost certainly rather have Player A rather than Player B, right? Now, guees who Player A is. If you said Dan Haren, you are right. Now guess Player B. Hopefully you don't need to guess since I pretty much gave it away in the assignment name, but, yeah, it's Jered Weaver.
Now, if you're Dan Haren and you spent the entire season listening to fans and media fawn over Weaver and heard all the fans bemoaning the impending loss of Weaver to free agency in 2012 only to have that turn into a wave of adulation when he signed a contract extension, wouldn't you feel a little underappreciated that you are just as good and nobody really seemed to notice or care. Heck, some Angel fans have even suggested the team trade Haren away.
I don't think Haren is a guy who cares too much about that sort of thing and would get jealous of Weaver, but he has to be aware of it on some level. What he needs to do is pour over all the Weaver coverage and use that as motivation to push himself beyond Weaver's level next year.
Ervin Santana - Keep working on that split-finger
For the most part, Santana is a two-pitch pitcher. He's got his fastball and killer slider and also a change-up that he uses sparingly. In fact, this season was the least amount Ervin has used his change, throwing it just 3.2% of the time. While he may have just had a career season using that limited arsenal, it isn't something that usually translates to prolonged high levels of success. However, Santana was working on a split-finger in spring training and threw it a handful of times early in the year before scrapping it. What I'd like to see him do is dust of the splitter this off-season and see if he can refine it enough to use during games, even if it something he only throws a few times per game. He just needs something else he can go to on the nights when his slider is biting too crisply, because those are the games in which he gets lit up since he has nothing else to throw.
Jered Weaver - Relax
This one is pretty cut and dry. Jered through a ridiculous number of innings, racking up huge pitch counts along the way. He even ended up losing a few MPHs off his fastball by the end of the year. I don't think there is anything wrong with him, but that might just be cognitive dissonance talking. Even if he is as healthy as a horse, he just needs to do the bare minimum he needs to do to be ready for 2012 and nothing more because he is undoubtedly in for another season of a similarly heavy workload.
Jerome Williams - Don't relax
There is no doubt that Jerome Williams' improbable return to the majors last season will go down as one of the better stories of the 2011 Angels season. That doesn't mean it is going to have a happy ending though. A lot of guys in Jerome's shoes could easily kick back this off-season and bask in the afterglow of all their hard work paying off. He's "back," mission accomplished, time to reap the benefits. And let's not forget, issues with conditioning and work ethic were major reasons that Williams flamed out in his first stint in the majors years ago. Hopefully he doesn't take for granted that he is back to being a surefire big leaguer now. As impressive as he was, he did much of his damage against weak teams like the Mariners and Athletics. Pair that with a new GM coming to town at some point, and Jerome is going to be sorely mistaken if he thinks he has a rotation spot all sewn up already. He doesn't need to do anything special to avoid falling into this self-congratulatory trap, he just needs to keep doing whatever he was doing before the Angels gave him that call up he had been waiting so long to get.
Hooray for Jeromy! Venezuela isn't exactly where I'd like to be at ANY time but that's just my Colombian coming through. At least he's taking it seriously enough to keep refining his craft.
Chatwood is another story. Ron Romanick suffered from the very same affliction and, truth be told, these guys looked an awful lot alike on the hill. Emphasis on "awful". Romanick never found the cure and his Nibbleitis was so bad he only lasted three unmemorable seasons. God only knows what he had on Billy Beane to get hired in Oakland but it's too bad it wasn't enough to get him returned for one more awful season (for the benefit of the Angels). Guys who pitch like this don't often change their stripes. It's just like most guys who try to pitch quicker, first sign of trouble and they revert to their natural state. Sorry but, again, if Chatwood becomes a usable middle reliever I'll be impressed.
Just wanted to mention in case you didn't know, Jerome is in Venezuela right now playing winter ball for Magallanes. He's definitely not just "kicking back".
@Taimak That's good to know and I can't say I am surprised. Based on his interviews, he definitely seems to understand how fortunate he is to have been granted a second chance.