Jered Weaver made headlines in 2011 for plenty of good reasons and a few not so good ones. Now in 2012, Weaver will be charged with maintaining his now nationally known dominance, justifying his big contract extension and leading one of the best rotations in baseball.
2011 Stats: 18-8, 235.2 IP, 2.41 ERA, 182 H, 56 BB, 20 HR, 198 K
2012 ZiPS Projections: 16-8, 216.2 IP, 3.16 ERA, 188 H, 54 BB, 21 HR, 196 K
2012 Bill James Projections: 15-10, 224.0 IP, 3.17 ERA, 196 H, 55 BB, 23 HR, 197 K
2012 CAIRO Projections: 15-9, 215.1 IP, 3.03 ERA, 188 H, 56 BB, 21 HR, 189 K
2012 PECOTA Projections: 15-13, 231.0 IP, 3.11 ERA, 208 H, 61 BB, 23 HR, 203 K
2012 MWaH Projections*: 18-9, 220.0 IP, 3.22 ERA, 196 H, 52 BB, 24 HR, 184 K
*The MWaH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research
2011 in Review: If not for that meddling Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver likely would have won the AL Cy Young Award in 2011. Weaver built off of his excellent 2010 campaign by setting a new career-best with a 2.41 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. It was a performance that gained him acceptance by the general baseball public as being a bona fide ace and then proceeded to terrify Angel fans into what they thought would be his inevitable free agency departure after 2012. Jered had something else in mind though and surprised everyone by ordering his agent, Scott Boras, to work out a five-year, $85 million extension to keep him an Angel through the prime of his career.
The only real low point of Weaver's season was his epic meltdown against the Tigers after he believed they were showing him up after hitting home runs. Weaver infamously threw at Alex Avila's head (well, he actually threw about a foot over his head, but he did it intentionally) and got himself suspended right in the middle of a heated divisional race as a result. It definitely was not his finest moment, though it did earn him a little street cred for being a tough guy.
What's interesting about his 2011 campaign is that it really wasn't his best season in the majors, instead, it might have been his luckiest, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Weaver did have that sparkling 2.41 ERA, but his FIP was 3.20 compared to his FIP of 3.06 in 2010. He also saw his strikeout rate drop all the way from 9.35 in 2010 to 7.56 in 2011. Finally, Weaver also posted a HR/9 rate of 0.76 and BABIP of .250, which were much better than his career rates. Those all combined to allow Weaver to beat his FIP and xFIP by so much last year.
Three Lingering Questions for 2012:
- Will Weaver regress to the mean and if so by how much? Weaver outpitched his FIP by a healthy margin, so he will have to come back to the pack at least a little bit, especially in regards to how much he limited home runs. On the other hand, Jered did incorporate a cut fastball into his repertoire more last season, so it is possible that by continuing to learn new tricks and refine his arsenal, he can keep hitters off balance and outperform his peripherals.
- Should we be concerned about Weaver's minor loss of velocity? The aspect of Weaver's season that nobody likes to talk about is that he lost 0.8 MPH off his fastball, something that steadily happened during the season. But why did it happen? Was it from such heavy workload of innings and pitch counts? Was it Weaver pacing himself more? Or (gulp) is he starting to breakdown physically?
- Does Jered have a temper problem worth worrying about? Weaver has always been an emotional guy, but that temper tantrum was the first time we'd seen him really lose his composure. Was that display a one-time slip or will opposing teams now try and find ways to get Jered riled up and off his game?
What to Expect in 2012: Weaver loss of velocity is most definitely a concern, especially since it was coupled with him finishing the 2011 season looking a bit mortal. Don't forget, he did have a sub-2.00 ERA most of the year until August. It was in August that his velocity drop got noticed and when he suddenly started coughing up gopher balls again, allowing 12 taters in the final two months of the season.
My guess, or maybe it is just my wishful thinking, is that Weaver started to succumb to throwing an absurd amount of pitches and innings. Last year, Jered only three times threw less than 100 pitches in a start, with his lowest pitch count being 94. Beyond that, Weaver had seven starts where he threw 120 or more pitches. It was after his 127-pitch shutout in early August, followed by his suspension, that Weaver started to come undone a bit. Not so coincidentally, it was right at that time that his velocity really started tailing off. Plain and simple, he was just spent. Turns out three straight seasons of 211+ innings takes a toll on a guy.
Hopefully all Jered will need is the rest and relaxation of the off-season to allow him to get back to pitching like he did prior to August of 2011. From there, it will be up to Mike Scioscia to take a little more care of his ace and not work him so hard. A big part of that will be getting better work out of the bullpen so that Scioscia doesn't have to ride Weaver so hard. Too often it seemed the Sosh left Jered (as well as Haren and Santana) in games deeper than was necessary quite simply because he didn't trust the bullpen to get the job done. The perfect example of this was the game Jered started against Texas on three days rest. Jered was not on top of his game that day, but he was still sent back out for the seventh inning anyway, simply because Scioscia didn't trust his relievers.
Fortunately, I think Scioscia will be wise enough to ease of Weaver's throttle just a bit. Jered's extreme flyball tendencies are still bound to catch up with him a bit, so he'll have a hard time replicating his 2011 season, but he should still be plenty good enough to maintain his ace status.
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