The other day Jered Weaver was his team’s Opening Day pitcher, one of the minor perks of being the best starting pitcher on the staff of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He was going up against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati and the temperature was 47 degrees for the first pitch, with a slight breeze. It wasn’t frigid, but it wasn’t primo pitching weather either.
As it so happened on a day when the Angels defeated the Reds 3-1 the pitching was dominant. Weaver threw six innings, gave up two hits, one run, walked two and struck out four. The game went on for 13 innings and he did not get a decision. For someone whose numbers were definitely solid, however, Weaver didn’t look great. He looked eminently hittable. It was just an impression left not backed up by statistical evidence.
The same impression was formed by Angels manager Mike Scioscia, though, and that’s why he did not wait for Weaver to get blasted before pulling him when he was not in danger.
“He worked hard to get there,” Scioscia said of Weaver reaching the cusp of the seventh inning.
The funniest part of visiting with Weaver at his locker afterwards was how much time had passed since he came out of the game. In a game that lasted nearly five hours Weaver had been hanging around the clubhouse, showered, dressed, arm iced, watching on TV for about three of them before sportswriters tested his memory of what had gone on.
“I didn’t know if you guys would remember I pitched,” Weaver said thinking of the hours since had had done so.
Actually, these days most games Weaver pitches are memorable. Weaver, who is 6-foot-7 and weighs 210 pounds, making his build resemble a slightly muscular pencil, is working on a five-year, $85 million contract that treats him like one of the best pitchers in the game. Last year Weaver finished 20-5 with a 2.81 earned run average. He was remarkably efficient, accomplishing that in 188 2/3 innings. Weaver went 18-8 in 2011 and after parts of eight seasons in the majors his career record is 102-52. His .662 mark is a heck of a winning percentage.
Although Weaver did his job–later in the season in warmer weather he surely would have pitched another inning or so–the Angels bullpen followed for seven more innings, no one else surrendering a run.
“You were hearing that was going to be our weak point,” Weaver said. “That’s what it takes to win key games.”
The bullpen can be a great asset later in the season, and in particular to Weaver in close games when he comes out early rather than pitching complete games. At 30, with no lingering health issues, and playing for a team that is loaded with big-bopper hitters Weaver has a crack at winning 20 games again.
The 20-victory mark has always been a significant milestone for pitchers, but by pitching fewer innings these days fewer pitchers have a chance to win 20. Even fewer win 20 more than once or keep it up year after year. The reduction in innings pitched for front-of-the-rotation guys reduces those chances to collect 20 victories.
David Price of Tampa Bay joined Weaver as a 20-game winner in 2012 in the American League. In 2011 Justin Verlander was the only one. In 2010 CC Sabathia was the only lone. In 2009 there were none. Over the last several years the only pitcher to win 20 games more than once was Roy Halladay, once with the Phillies and once with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Something always happens, an injury, a trade, the collapse of a team to prevent guys from repeating. If Weaver, or any others like Dickey, Price or Gonzalez manage to win 20 for the second year in a row that would be a pretty cool deal.