Last night I was in Walgreen's sporting my Red Sox jacket, when a woman came up to me and asked "How do you like having John Lackey in your rotation?" I affirmed that I liked it very much and she showed me the Angel tatto on the back of her calf. My friendly Angels' fan wasn't all at peace with Lackey being in Boston and for good reason. His absence has made pitching a problem in Anaheim. How big a problem. Let's look at the current cast, beginning with the starting rotation.
*Jered Weaver-- he never quite matched his dazzling start in 2006 when we went 11-2 and a 2.56 ERA, but he has emerged as a very steady guy. Last year he won 16 games with a 3.75 ERA. Whether he's an ace for a championship team is in question, but what's not is that he is, at minimum a solid #2 guy.
*Joe Saunders--has been a full-time starter for two years and is steady and
solid, although more a middle of the rotation guy. I respect his toughness, but he doesn't overwhelm you with his stuff. Perhaps in that sense, he's a microcosm of this organization in 2010.
*Scott Kazmir--The real wild-card in this. He was emerging as a real star, an elite power pitching lefty for Tampa Bay and was vital in their World Series run. Then he had injury problems, and his ERA jumped to 4.89 last year after a few years in the mid-3s, something that's very impressive in the AL East. He was traded to LAA and was up and down in the stretch run and mostly down in the playoffs. The injury problems haven't gone away, as he's already spent time on the DL. He's set to make his first start tonight in Yankee Stadium. Talk about a way to be welcomed back.
*Ervin Santana--he was the can't miss prospect in this organization and in 2008 he looked to be finally fulfilling that promise. Last year he regressed back to a 5.03 ERA, and it's
tough to say he's anything more than a respectable back-end guy.
*Joel Piniero--he had a good year in St. Louis last year, but the AL-NL exchange rate has made fool's gold out of a lot of National League pitchers lately. Piniero pitched most of his career in the American League with Seattle and has only gotten his ERA below 4.50 one time as a full-time starter and that was in 2003. I suspect the National League made him look good, but he's not ready to get hitters out at the higher level he'll have to pitch at this season.
Shifting over to the bullpen Brian Fuentes is the closer and is now on the DL with a bad back until early May, making an already weak area even more dangerous. If there's a young gun, this might be a good spot to give him a shot. That's how the Red Sox discovered Jonathan Papelbon in 2006. Keith Foulke was supposed to be the guy, but he wasn't right. The Red Sox gave Papelbon a shot and he quickly became one of the
game's best. Let's look at the four main options Mike Scosicia has right now...
*Fernando Rodney--he's been mediocre since Detroit's World Series year in 2006 when he was setting up for Todd Jones. As of now, he's handling closing duties while Fuentes is out.
*Scot Shields--coming off an injury-riddled 2009, he had been one of the most successful setup guys in the league going back to 2003 and Scoscia needs him to regain his form.
*Jason Bulger--Got the ball for the first time last year and logged a 3.56 ERA in 64 appearances.
*Kevin Jepsen--also got the ball for the first time and was less successful, ending with a 4.94 ERA.
Prognosis: As long as Texas or Seattle don't find another gear, LAA has enough pitching to win this division. But they don't have enough to keep up with the AL East powers unless Kazmir again becomes an ace or they make a midseason trade--or both.
See you tomorrow to take a look at the