Amidst the chaos surrounding Shohei Ohtani’s potentially devastating injury and the attention given to Mike Trout’s fabulous season, the success of the Angels starting rotation has often been overlooked. Even though there were many people criticizing the Halos’ lack of quality pitching, they may have struck gold with their six-man rotation.
Earlier this season, the Angels announced their six-man rotation, consisting of Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Shohei Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Jamie Barria, and Nick Tropeano. The reasons for concern were valid, as 5 of the 6 had an injury history; Heaney, Skaggs, and Tropeano all had Tommy John surgery, which put them on a shelf for most of last season. Garrett Richards had a similar injury, but opted to try stem cell therapy, which was successful. Additionally, Shohei Ohtani’s hitting and pitching maximized the concern for injury. So, how has it worked so far? Surprisingly well.
Garrett Richards – In terms of stuff, Richards ranks highly amongst his peers. In terms of control, not so much. The stuff has always been there, and now it’s on display. It’s evident by his lofty strikeout numbers. He’s punched out 78 batters in 68.1 innings, giving him a K/9 around 10. The problem, though, has been his wildness on the mound. The biggest indicator of how much he’s missing is his 15 wild pitches, which leads the majors. He’s also walked 32 batters (yikes!). He’ll need to increase his 60.9 Strike% if he wants to have sustained success deep in the game.
Tyler Skaggs – Even though he is the second pitcher in their rotation, Skaggs has been the best of all. The 26 year old southpaw has put up a career-low 2.81 ERA in 14 games. He’s been especially effective in his last 7 games, playing a 2.57 ERA. One of the biggest factors is the lack of hits he’s allowed this year. In 2017, he allowed 90 hits in 80 innings (.272 opponent AVG), but this tear he’s given up 74 in 80 innings (.242 opponent AVG). If he can lower his 17.4 pitches/inning average, he could take the next step for the Angels.
Shohei Ohtani – Oh, how I miss Ohtani. Shohei has been a revelation at the plate and especially on the hill, with a 3.10 ERA in 49.1 innings with 61 strikeouts. With his electric four-seam fastball, he’s thrown an average of 96.8 mph (league average is 93 mph), along with a nasty splitter, slider, sinker, and curveball. Everyone lost their minds about the uber-talented rookie and then…the injury bug hit. It was revealed that he had a Grade 2 UCL injury that could lead to Tommy John surgery. He would join Richards, Skaggs, Heaney, Tropeano, Meyer, and Ramirez as Angels with injuries to that section of their arm. Recent reports indicate, however, that the stem cell therapy he opted to use may be successful. They are cautiously optimistic that their future ace and power hitter will return this season and make an impact down the road.
Andrew Heaney – If you take away a few starts along the season, Heaney may be considered the ace of the Angels. Even without elite velocity, Heaney has posted a 3.64 ERA this season in 71.2 IP, striking out 68 with a 1.10 WHIP. All these statistics are leaps from his career averages (4.22 ERA, 200 K in 234.1 IP, 1.23 WHIP), showing an obvious improvement in stuff. In fact, in two of his last three starts, he went 8 innings and 9 innings respectively, just coughing up 3 runs. Taking away his tough outing in Seattle (5 ER, 3 IP), he has been excellent and efficient on the hill.
Jamie Barria – Barria has perhaps been the most pleasant surprise of the group, only having one cough up the entire season. In only 8 starts, he’s accrued a 1.1 WAR, but is his success sustainable? An indicator of decline is his 4.30 FIP compared to his 2.61 ERA this season. He also has below average velocity on his fastball (91.4 mph) and spin rate (2,199 rpm), so hitters may be able to adjust later in the season.
Nick Tropeano – ‘Trop’ is the only one of the 6 who hasn’t exceeded expectations. Essentially, he’s been a non-factor, with a 0.0 WAR in his 10 starts. In those 10 starts, he allowed 29 earned runs in 53 innings with only 44 punchouts. His FIP of 4.79 indicates this is basically what we can expect going forward. If this is true, he may not have many more chances to be a fixture in the rotation in the future.
The Halos’ rotation has been particularly impressive lately, posting a 2.90 ERA since May 1, which is the best in the majors, just ahead of the Washington Nationals. The question going forward is how many arms will be healthy. Tropeano, Richards, and Ohtani all had injuries in these last two weeks to varying degrees, so it may be a few weeks before they return to their unorthodox rotation. For the most part, though, having an additional starter has given the Angels pitchers more rest and has kept two major contributors — Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs — healthy and effective. To make a serious run, the Angels will need all the help they can get.
(image via USA Today Sports)