Solid pitching has Angels poised for success in 2012

Expect Angels ace Jered Weaver to be even better in 2012. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Angels’ 2011 season has long been over. All things considered, the Halos were a lucky break or two away from earning a spot in the playoffs. And I can’t deny it was a fun ride while it lasted. Luckily for the Angels faithful, the fun is only beginning – 2012 looks to be even better.

There were plenty of reasons to get excited last season, but the Angels’ starting pitching staff clearly turned the most heads. The rotation looks to be at least as effective next season. Let’s take a look at the pitching staff and what we can expect in 2012.

1. Jered Weaver (2011: 18-8, 2.41 ERA)

Weave had a fantastic year, contending strongly for the AL Cy Young for most of the season. Had he continued the superhuman pace he set in the first half of 2011, Weaver may well have won the Cy Young and possibly the AL MVP Award. Unfortunately for us Halo fans, Weave did lose momentum late in the season while the Tigers’ Justin Verlander made the American League his personal playground.

The fact of the matter is Weaver has shown massive improvement over the last few years, and there is no reason to believe he won’t continue his meteoric ascent this season. His 2.41 ERA and 18 wins in 2011 are both career-bests.

2. Dan Haren (2011: 16-10, 3.17 ERA)

I can’t think of any other guy I’d rather have pitch second than Dan Haren. Let’s face it: The man is as dependable as the rising sun. His record, while still impressive, suffered at the hands of some particularly poor run support. Considering the team will have a little more experience at the plate in 2012, Haren should have a much easier time getting into the W column. Haren and Weaver formed what was probably the best one-two punch in the American League, and 2012 will be no different.

3. Ervin Santana (2011: 11-12, 3.38 ERA)

For most of his career, Santana has suffered a sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde effect, going from Good Erv to Bad Erv from one year to another. This year, though, Santana appears to have finally gotten it together. His record is misleading for the same reason as Haren’s – the Angels simply could not score runs consistently.

The highlight of Santana’s season – and his career – was undoubtedly his no-hitter against Cleveland on July 27. His Angels teammates won’t take kindly to being outdone, so look for the whole rotation to take it up a notch.

Admittedly, things get a bit hazy beyond the third spot in the rotation. Scott Kazmir and Joel Piñiero both tanked, and the Halos have tinkered with the last two spots in their staff. Tyler Chatwood performed admirably, considering it was his first stint in the majors. I anticipate Chatwood will be a little more focused in his first full season as an Angels starter. Jerome Williams was 4-0 in six starts with a 3.68 ERA, so the Angels would be wise to give him another shot. Garrett Richards made his big-league debut as a starter late in the season, but his 0-2 record and 5.79 ERA indicated he’s not quite ready for the big stage yet. New GM Jerry Dipoto may pursue a pitcher in the free agent market to bolster the staff. Barring any major injuries, though, the Angels’ pitching staff should carry the club far (barring any catastrophic injury, of course).

Pitching has long been a key factor in the Angels’ approach to the game of baseball. In fact, Los Angeles owes much of its recent success to fantastic pitching. With this pitching staff, 2012 looks to be a fantastic season in Anaheim.

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