I went to the Angels-White Sox game last night and sat in the first row behind the home team's dugout. If you had your choice of any seats in the stadium, the ones that my friend Glen, brother Tom, and son Joe occupied on Wednesday evening would rank right there with the best of them.
I wore a red Angels shirt to root on Jered Weaver, who was making his first start since signing a five-year, $85 million extension last weekend, and the Halos. As it turned out, Weaver shut down the Pale Hose, tossing seven scoreless innings as the Angels trounced the visitors, 8-0, for the club's sixth consecutive victory. The Angels are now 71-59 and just 2.5 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West.
Manager Mike Scioscia pulled Weaver after the seventh inning even though Jered had only thrown 96 pitches. With the Angels heading to Texas for a three-game series beginning on Friday, the speculation is that Scioscia plans to start his ace on three days' rest this Sunday. If so, the Rangers will face the Angels Big Three in Dan Haren on Friday, Ervin Santana on Saturday, and Jered Weaver on Sunday. Depending on the outcome of tonight's Boston-Texas contest, a sweep would either put the Angels a half-game behind or a half-game ahead of the Rangers with one month to go in the regular season.
Mat Gleason, aka Rev Halofan in the baseball blogosphere, tipped me off to the adjoining photo by Chris Carlson of the Associated Press. He cropped the photo and embedded it in his recap of last night's game. ESPN also ran the photo as part of Mark Saxon's game report.
I can be found with hands cupped around my mouth saying "complete-game shutout" to Weaver as he took his first step into the dugout after the seventh inning. Little did I know that Jered had thrown his final pitch of the evening. The Angels scored four runs in the bottom half of the inning, highlighted by three doubles off the bats of Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, and Bobby Abreu. Bobby Cassevah and Fernando Rodney worked the eighth and ninth innings, combining with Weaver for a team shutout.
Weaver, who started the All-Star Game for the American League, leads the circuit in ERA (2.03); ranks second in CG (4), QS (23), QS% (0.89), and WHIP (0.97); third in W (15) and W-L% (.714); fourth in IP (195.1); and sixth in K (166) and K/BB (3.77). He also places third in BAA (.206) and second in OBP (.252), SLG (.310), and OPS (.562). Among advanced metrics, Weaver ranks first in ERA+ (185), Adjusted Pitching Runs (41), Adjusted Pitching Wins (4.6), Base-Out Runs Saved (46.6), Base-Out Wins Wins Saved (5.5), and Win Probability Added (5.1); and second in FIP (2.80), Component ERA (1.95), fWAR (5.5), brWAR (6.5), Situation Wins Saved (4.4), and Adjusted Game Score (64.6).
The 28-year-old righthander has been consistently excellent all season long. According to Saxon, "(Weaver) has pitched at least seven innings and given up one run or fewer 15 times this season, most in the majors." He set an Angels team record with 15 consecutive quality starts earlier this year, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider that Dean Chance led the AL in W, ERA, CG, SHO, and IP in his MLB Cy Young Award-winning season in 1964; Bartolo Colon was named the AL CYA winner in 2005; and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan tossed four no-hitters and led the league in strikeouts in seven of his eight campaigns with the Angels. Weaver also bested, among others, Frank Tanana (14 consecutive complete games in 1977 when he led the league in ERA and shutouts), Chuck Finley, and Mark Langston.
While skeptics may point to Weaver's BABIP (.250), LOB% (83.7%), and HR/FB (4.6%) stats as indications that he has been "lucky" or benefited from strong defense and bullpen support, one could counter such an argument by pointing to the fact that he has been victimized by the second-worst run support (3.96) in the majors. Look, Weaver has been confounding the experts for years. Be it his pitcher-friendly home ballpark in college, his average velocity, throwing across his body, comparisons of looks and pitching style to brother Jeff, and his extreme flyball tendencies, the naysayers have had more than their share of reasons not to like the pitcher who nonetheless has succeeded at every stop along the way, from Long Beach State to Team USA to MiLB to MLB. The combination of his stuff, command, deception, competitiveness, and smarts places him among the elite pitchers in the game today.
As I introduced in May 2010, popups/pop flies/infield flies are "The Most Under Appreciated Batted Ball Type." Such outcomes had long been ignored or misunderstood. Of note, according to Baseball Prospectus, Weaver has generated 86 popups this season, 21 more than any other pitcher. He also ranks first in POP (15.8%) as a percentage of batted balls. Given that popups are converted into outs about 99% of the time, such outcomes are basically the equivalent of a strikeout. As such, in addition to favoring pitchers with high K and GB rates, look for hurlers who generate a ton of K and POP.
A veteran of six seasons, Weaver has a lifetime record of 79-45 with an ERA of 3.27. Over the course of his career, his numbers rank in the ballpark with the best and highest-paid pitchers in baseball, including Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Dan Haren, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Josh Beckett, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Johan Santana. Like the Angels, it's time to give Weaver his due.