Jered Weaver struggled Sunday night, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks in five innings against the Rangers. After fanning just four batters in six innings in his first start, Weaver struck out only two Rangers before leaving the game with what was diagnosed as a left elbow fracture, which will keep him out 4-6 weeks. He's not the first, nor will he be the last, pitcher to get roughed up by the Rangers in Texas, but there is a glaring issue here, one that first surfaced last year and has gotten progressively worse. Weaver's velocity is falling precipitously, and it threatens to turn him into a mediocre pitcher.
Weaver has never been a pitcher who succeeded because of an overpowering fastball. His average fastball clocked in at 90.2 mph in his rookie year in 2006, and never again topped 90. However, through 2011, it never dipped below 88.8, either. Last year, though, it fell all the way to 87.8. Through two starts this season, it's at 85.6, and according to Fangraphs, he sat right at 85 on Sunday night.
Despite the fact that Weaver doesn't depend on a blazing fastball, 85 mph just isn't going to get it done. Not only does it have him on the level of a high school pitcher, it tracks much too closely to his changeup, which has been one of his best pitches throughout his entire career. From 2006-11, Weaver had the seventh-best changeup in the majors, according to Fangraphs. But the lack of differentiation neutered his changeup of its devastating qualities last year, and Fangraphs has assigned a negative value to his changeup thus far this season. A declining fastball is one issue about which Weaver, the Angels and his fantasy owners should worry. If it continues to compromise his changeup's effectiveness, that's another, much larger, issue.
Additionally, since the 2012 All-Star break, Weaver has surrendered homers at a more rapid rate than at any other point in his career. He has never posted a double-digit home run/fly ball ratio across a full season, but the rate spiked to 12.2 percent in the second half last year. In just 11 innings this season, he has already allowed two homers. I was wary of Weaver heading into the year, largely due to his declining velocity. After two starts and a trip to the DL, I'd already be trying to unload him.
Starting pitcher barometer
What a relief
? By now, you know all about the situation on the North side of Chicago. The Cubs demoted Carlos Marmol, relegating the eponymous Marmolcoaster to a less exciting time of the game. Kyuji Fujikawa is now the closer, and we covered him in this week's Waiver Wire column. I'll say it again: If he's still available in your league for some reason, grab him now.
? Of course, the Cubs aren't the only team with closer drama. Up in Milwaukee, the Brewers could be getting ready to make the switch to Jim Henderson from John Axford. The Brewers weren't necessarily worried about Axford's struggles with command in his first outing of the season -- that has always come with the territory of employing the Ax-Man in the ninth. However, in his second implosion against the Rockies last week, he topped out at 92 mph. The development was so troubling that manager Ron Roenicke discussed it in his postgame presser. Meanwhile, in three appearances this year, Henderson hasn't allowed a run or a walk, and has struck out four batters. In the ninth inning of a 7-3 game against the Cubs Monday, Roenicke turned to Henderson in what became a save situation when two men got on base. Henderson worked out of the jam, giving up one hit, striking out two and getting Starlin Castro to fly out to the warning track to end the game, picking up his first save of the season. I'd still hold on to Axford until Roenicke makes an official announcement, but it looks like the job may belong to Henderson before long.
? Shifting to the AL Central, Kansas City's Greg Holland is off to a shaky start in 2013. In just two innings this year, Holland has allowed four runs on four hits and four walks. Holland deserves a bit of a leash from manager Ned Yost, but the Royals also have one of the league's best ready-made closer replacements in Kelvin Herrera. As a 22-year-old last year, Herrera struck out 77 batters in 84.1 innings and posted a 2.35 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. His fastball averaged a blazing 97.3 mph last year, and he features a power slider as well. Herrera had to come on Sunday to clean up Holland's mess and picked up the save after allowing one hit. Aaron Crow picked up the save Monday, but that was because both Holland and Herrera had worked in back-to-back days. You should hold on to Holland if you own him, but Herrera is worth adding now, as well.