By Matt Snyder
DALLAS -- While the big news of the Winter Meetings was the Angels adding superstar Albert Pujols via free agency, they also made a big splash on the pitching front, adding C.J. Wilson with a five-year contract. Now, the Angels boast a top four in the rotation that is likely the envy of the entire American League. Just look at the AL Cy Young balloting for last season. Jered Weaver finished second to the Tigers' Justin Verlander -- who had a historic season -- while Wilson came in sixth and Dan Haren was seventh. Ervin Santana's no slouch, either. The Angels now have to be mentioned in the same breath as the Giants and Phillies when it comes to lock-down, top-to-bottom rotations.
The Angels ranked fifth in starting pitching ERA in 2011 for the entire MLB. And they're now replacing Joel Pineiro (5.13 ERA) with Wilson (2.94 ERA).
"I know Jered and Dan, and those are good dudes," Wilson said Thursday. "I haven't talked to Santana yet, but I will. We're gonna push each other to make each other better."
"I know back in Texas, pitching with so many other good pitchers, it was incentive to compete and get better," he continued. "It makes you want to work harder and do your part."
Wilson certainly did his part during the 2011 season, going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 206 strikeouts in 223 1/3 innings, qualifying for his first All-Star Game. Also keep in mind the Rangers played in the most hitter-friendly park in the majors in 2011, and Wilson's road ERA was 2.31. His career numbers in Angel Stadium of Anaheim -- a big-time pitcher's park the past two seasons -- are good, too. Wilson has thrown 38 1/3 innings there, putting together a 2.79 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 32 strikeouts. One of his five starts there was a complete-game effort, too.
|MLB Winter Meetings|
Weaver, 29, was the All-Star Game starter for the AL in 2011. He went 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 198 strikeouts in 235 2/3 innings. Haren, 31, was 16-10 with a 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 192 strikeouts in 238 1/3 innings. Santana, 28, was 11-12 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 178 strikeouts in 228 2/3 innings.
Add it up, and you have a rotation that can work deep into the game and give you a great chance to win four out of every five games. The four combined for 15 complete games, seven shutouts and over 900 innings last year alone. As for the fifth starter, it's likely Jerome Williams, but does that even matter? The bullpen will be so well-rested 80 percent of the games that they'll be able to bail out Williams any time he needs it. Mike Scioscia may even grow bored in the dugout as he sits back and watches his big four eat innings night-in, night-out.
And it's not just the innings. It's the overall value to the ballclub.
According to Baseball-Reference.com's wins above replacement stat, the front four starters of the new Angels' rotation were worth 18.7 wins more than a replacement-level player last season. By comparison, the Phillies vaunted "four aces" had a combined WAR of 21.4. The Giants' top four? Just 14.8.
So while the Angels may not have the top three the Phillies do, they certainly have every bit of an elite starting rotation. Considering Pujols just got added to the offense, the rest of the American League has plenty to fear.
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