Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Even Without Tanaka, Los Angeles Angels Pitching Staff Will Be Much Improved


The Los Angeles Angels failed to land Japanese hurler Masahiro Tanaka. For a team that is already strapped for cash after the massive spending sprees that the last two offseasons have featured, that’s not the worst news in the world. Taking a chance on a wild card like Tanaka on a deal well into the nine figure range is something that a team that is desperate to win now may not be able to afford to do.

So the Halos will press on without Tanaka, but boasting a rotation that is much improved from where they were last year. They’ll likely remain in the mix for one of the remaining free agent starters, which would only add to the solid work they’ve done to their starting five this winter. Even if they don’t add another impact arm to slot into the top or middle of their rotation, this is a group that looks good heading into the 2014 season.

Scoring runs wasn’t a problem for the Angels in 2013. They ranked seventh in the league in runs scored and finished in the top half of the league in virtually every offensive category, at worst. It was keeping runs off the board that was the largest problem for their pitching staff, which is reflected in the fact that four of their top six pitchers in terms of innings pitched posted an ERA over four (most notably Joe Blanton who was up over six).

Heading into 2014, the Angels have done some work to their starting staff, as well as their relief corps. In regard to the latter, adding Joe Smith is a big boost to the back end of that bullpen, and Fernando Salas can be solid add if he can bounce back. A full season of Sean Burnett should prove beneficial as well, in addition to the fact that Ernesto Frieri regained his grasp on the closer’s job toward the end of the year. It’s the improvements in the starting rotation that have the Angels’ stock as a whole pointing up in 2014.

This was a team that ranked 22nd in the league in ERA among starting pitchers and was 26th in WHIP. Really any way you slice it for Halo starters in 2013, it wasn’t pretty. That shouldn’t be the case heading into the new season, as the Angels now boast a rotation that looks like this:

  1. Jered Weaver
  2. C.J. Wilson
  3. Garrett Richards
  4. Hector Santiago
  5. Tyler Skaggs

That’s assuming they don’t go out and add another starter, which could relegate Skaggs to the bullpen. Not the worst situation in the world. At the top, you have one of the best 1-2 punches in the game, so there’s no concern there. It’s what came after the two that was the major concern throughout much of last year. But Richards really showed that he can be a legitimate mid-rotation starter, posting a 3.59 ERA in the second half of last year, throwing 15 more innings than he did in the first half.

It’s the additions of Santiago and Skaggs that have many intrigued by this potential Los Angeles Angels rotation. Santiago is a sneaky good addition, as he pitched to a 3.41 ERA in 2013 and is entering his second full season in the bigs. Skaggs is another young arm for them, and a lefty like Santiago. He bounced back and forth between the Major Leagues and the minors last year, but he’s only 22 and has big upside. If he can keep that ERA down in the high-3 range for the Halos in 2014, he’ll be a terrific option as a no. 5 starter. Still, at his age and given his limited experience, he’s a bit of a wild card.

With the offense that they already boast, the Angels just need the right pitching to get them where they want to be. They’re playing in a division that has become ultra-competitive over the last couple seasons, so adding Santiago and Skaggs won’t put them over the playoff hump immediately. But with their additions to the bullpen and the rotation, as well as what they could add before spring training begins and during the season, things are definitely looking up for them making a real run at a potential division title this season.

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