Baseball BeatAugust 07, 2006
Shhh! Jered Weaver is Pretty Good
By Rich Lederer

Jered Weaver is the Rodney Dangerfield of pitching. He gets no respect. Well, some people have given him his due over the years. But, outside of the many awards Jered earned in college, he has never quite achieved the level of esteem that his amateur and professional record would otherwise suggest.

For those who weren't paying attention or perhaps for those who have forgotten either willingly or unwillingly, let's take a look at Weaver's numbers the past four seasons.

                      IP    H   R   ER   BB   SO   W-L   ERA
2003 LBSU (So.)    133.1   87  35   29   20  144  14-4  1.96
2004 LBSU (Jr.)    144.0   81  31   26   21  213  15-1  1.63
2005 RC (Cal-A)     33.0   25  18   14    7   49   4-1  3.82
2005 ARK (Tex-AA)   43.0   43  22   19   19   46   3-3  3.98
2006 SL (PCL-AAA)   77.0   63  19   18   10   93   6-1  2.10
2006 LAA (MLB)      59.2   41  13   12   14   47   7-0  1.81

Interestingly, Weaver's combined minor and major league totals this year include a 13-1 record and a 1.98 ERA. Kinda looks like 2003 and 2004 all over again.

If you've been on the wrong side of Weaver thus far, don't feel too bad. Heck, even Bill Stoneman wasn't sure what he had. No doubt, the Angels general manager deserves credit for drafting the College Player of the Year in 2004. He gets a high five for signing Weaver, too. But, let's face it, Stoneman was willing to let Jered re-enter the draft if the prized prospect didn't accept the Angels' terms. The GM won the poker game here but let the record show that he was prepared to fold his cards had Weaver not folded first.

Stoneman also showed a lack of confidence in Jered when he signed his brother prior to the start of spring training. The Angels already had a strong foursome in Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey, and Ervin Santana. There is no reason why Stoneman needed to bring Jeff Weaver into camp when he had two rookie starters in Jered and Joe Saunders waiting in the wings, as well as newly signed free agent Hector Carrasco as a backup.

I have said all along that I would rather give Jered eight or nine million dollars for five years than Jeff the same amount for one. Well, after signing Jered on the cheap, Stoneman turned around and wasted a bunch of money that could have been spent elsewhere on Jeff.

The younger Weaver outpitched his brother and virtually everyone else during the spring, yet was sent down to Salt Lake when camp broke. While Jered was blowing down Triple-A hitters in April and May, Jeff was blowing up in the majors. Who knows how many of big brother's starts little brother could have won although I think it would be fair to say that the team would have fared better than 2-7 in those first nine outings had Jered been slotted into that spot in the rotation.

Little Weav finally got the chance to show his stuff on May 27 vs. the Baltimore Orioles. Jered not only won that game but he went on to win his first four starts, never allowing more than five hits or two runs in any single contest. Despite a 4-0 record and 1.37 ERA, Weaver was sent back down to make room in the rotation for Colon, who was returning after spending nearly two months on the disabled list.

Stoneman could have kept Jered in the mix by temporarily going to a six-man rotation or by sending Escobar to the bullpen where he excelled late last season or facing the facts and designating Jeff for assignment right then and there. After a poor start less than 48 hours after getting the bad news that he was being demoted, Jered bounced back and dominated two opponents, striking out 25 batters while allowing just eight hits and one walk in 15 innings. Meanwhile, Jeff got in three more starts, losing two and running his personal record to 3-10 on the season.

The disparity between the two Weavers was such that Stoneman had no choice but to dump Jeff and recall Jered. The latter proceeded to win three straight, becoming the only pitcher in 25 years to earn victories in his first seven starts. Weaver failed to earn a decision the last two outings even though he gave the Angels a quality start on both occasions, including the Red Sox at Fenway Park and the Texas Rangers at home.

Weaver is scheduled to start tomorrow night in Cleveland. It will be the second time that he has faced the Indians this year. Some naysayers believe Jered will get his comeuppance the second time through the league. But wait, Weaver has already faced the Kansas City Royals twice. He beat them on June 13 at home and once again on July 23 on the road. All told, the tall right-hander pitched 13 2/3 innings, giving up just eight hits and one earned run. Oh, I can hear the snickering now. "C'mon, Rich, that was Kansas City!" Well, the Royals had scored an average of 5.6 runs per game--a pace that would be good for second in the league for the season--for the month prior to facing Weaver the second time around.

Look, if it's not one thing, it's something else. The doubters have been pointing out (supposed) weaknesses in Weaver's game for quite some time now. "He doesn't have great stuff...He's nothing more than a #3 or #4...He's a flyball pitcher...He can't get left-handed batters out...He's just like his brother." Yada, yada, yada.

Let's address these issues one by one. As far as Weaver's stuff goes, it is plenty good. He throws a fastball that hits 92-93 on the gun, yet it gets on top of hitters quicker than that because of his big turn and length. His slider and changeup are also quality pitches that can be used at any point in the count.

With respect to whether Weaver is a #3 or #4, I don't understand how one could reach such a conclusion. Not only is he better than that now, his upside is one of a top-of-the-rotation starter. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he would be a #1 for about half the teams in the big leagues right now.

There is no disputing the fact that Weaver is a flyball-type pitcher. But guess what? He has given up only two home runs thus far. I realize his HR rate is bound to go up from here, but I don't anticipate that it will be a problem as long as he can continue to strike out around seven batters per nine innings. I like groundball pitchers as much as the next guy, but there's more than one way to succeed at this level.

Weaver's arm angle is such that he is not supposed to be able to get LHB out consistently--or so they say. Hmmm, let's take a look at the facts here:

             BAA  OBP  SLG  OPS
vs. LHB     .210 .238 .300 .538 
vs. RHB     .175 .252 .263 .515 

I don't know about you, but I can't see much difference between those two lines. Both look pretty darn solid to me. If the truth be told, there's not too much to choose from on any of Weaver's splits.

             BAA  OBP  SLG  OPS
Home        .213 .241 .307 .547 
Away        .180 .248 .266 .515 
             BAA  OBP  SLG  OPS
None On     .203 .259 .301 .559 
Runners On  .173 .225 .247 .472 
             BAA  OBP  SLG  OPS
Inning 1-3  .146 .230 .202 .432 
Inning 4-6  .238 .270 .362 .632 
Inning 7-9  .150 .190 .200 .390

Finally, let's put to rest the notion that Weaver is no better than his brother. Yes, they share the same parents, the same initials, and the same color hair. But they're not siamese twins. Jered is taller. He is more of a power pitcher than Jeff. Their arm angles are not identical despite those who might beg to differ. The fact of the matter is that Jered throws from the 3/4-to-7/8 slot whereas Jeff delivers from about 5/8-to-3/4.

The Weavers are brothers. They make their living playing professional baseball. They are both right-handed pitchers. But these facts don't make them one and the same, so help me Hank and Tommie Aaron. Or Dick and Hank Allen. Or, for that matter, Tony and Billy Conigliaro, Rick and Paul Reuschel, and on and on.

Now is Jered Weaver going to remain undefeated at the end of the year? No, not unless he gets injured before his next start and misses the rest of the season. Is he going to maintain a sub-2.00 ERA? No, not if you ask me. The guy is human. He will get knocked around just as all pitchers do. It hasn't really happened yet but just give it some time. In the meantime, can't we all agree that we are witnessing a pretty special pitcher?

[Additional comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]


... and so on ... (resists mention of the Mike Maddux sibling)...

That's another good one. There are dozens of 'em out there.

Doubters? I can't imagine who you could be thinking of.

Jesus (Alou), you're right.