By now you are familiar with the popular narrative of the Angels' season: The organization formerly known for pitching, defense and small ball has been wearing down opponents with a deep, relentless offense. The pitching you know as mediocre, but hey, that's OK when everyone in the lineup is hitting around .300.
Well, there's one small problem with that characterization these days: It's flat out not true. The Los Angeles Angels are a better pitching team than you think. Suddenly, no team is heading into the postseason with a deeper rotation than the Angels.
"This is the best rotation we've had here in 10 years," Angels manager
Sometimes numbers, like day-old bread and
In 24 games since Aug. 29, Angels starters are 10-6 with a 2.27 ERA. They have pitched at least six innings in all but three of those 24 games, posted 20 quality starts and allowed no more than two earned runs 20 times.
In the past month,
Middle relief, the soft underbelly of any team, is a non-issue. Asked a question about his setup relief roles, Scioscia responded, "In the seventh inning, we're still looking at our starting pitcher. I don't think there's a rule that our starting pitchers can't pitch deep into games."
Angels starters have averaged 6 2/3 innings during this 24-game run, leaving only seven outs a game for the bullpen to cover.
Well, that's great for the regular season, but does a deep rotation play well in October? Scioscia has no use for a number five starter in the playoffs. And the way Boston has manhandled the Angels in recent postseasons, he might not have any need for a fourth starter, either. Scioscia used only three starters in the 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 Division Series.
Scioscia would likely set up his rotation to have Weaver and Lackey, in some order, pitch the first two games in Anaheim. (Weaver is currently pitching ahead of Lackey in the rotation.) Kazmir makes sense as the Game 3 starter in Fenway Park, where he is 6-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 career games. Game 4 would be a choice between Saunders (5-0 in his past six starts) or Santana (4-2, 3.38 in his past nine starts), with the odd man out going to the bullpen.
Changes in the bullpen, by the way, have also made the Angels a better pitching team. Right-hander
"He's got the kind of stuff when he's on, he's going to match up against anybody," Scioscia said of Jepsen. "I don't know anybody who throws 96, 97 [mph] with a power slider and a good hook who doesn't match up with anybody. I think he's effective against everybody.
"You talk about [left/right] splits; I have not looked at any statistical analysis on him because I think he's a different pitcher than he was [early in the season]."
The bottom line is that the Angels are a much better pitching club now than they were for most of the season. Nonetheless, their starters still have to prove they can get the job done in October. In their past 20 postseason games Angels starters are 1-7 with a 5.04 ERA, with their only win coming from
Sometimes in October, no matter how impressive your lineup might be, you need a starting pitcher to dominate a game. It may still only be September, but Scioscia has five choices who have the potential do just that -- more than any manager in the postseason.