6 Reasons the Los Angeles Angels Rotation Trumps the Phillies' Rotation
Entering the 2011 season, many people focused on the Philadelphia Phillies' starting rotation and the potential it had. At the start of the season the Phillies' rotation consisted of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton.
Rightfully so, this rotation was often compared to some of the best rotations in the history of baseball. With the exception of Oswalt, who suffered from back injuries throughout the season, the rotation lived up to much of the hype.
With the surprising emergence of 24-year-old Vance Worley, the Phillies' rotation was able to help the team earn yet another postseason berth.
One rotation, however, now stands above the stellar rotation that Phillies fans saw throughout 2011. That rotation belongs to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
In 2011, the Angels' rotation consisted of American League Cy Young runner-up Jered Weaver as well as Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. The No. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation remained in flux throughout much of the season.
After getting a late season call up, 30-year-old Jerome Williams stepped in to take solid control of one of the two open rotation spots.
After the conclusion of the 2011 season, the Angels pushed hard to make their rotation even better. General manager Jerry Dipoto's hard work would pay off and the Angels would land lefty C.J. Wilson. This move not only made the Angels' rotation even stronger, but also gave them the best starting rotation in Major League Baseball.
Even better than the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation.
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It's not everyday you see three center fielders roaming a single outfield. Not unless you follow the Angels, that is.
For a pitcher, nothing is more important than a solid defense. It can take the pressure off a pitcher and gives him confidence that if he pitches to contact, his teammates can ensure that the contact does not result in a hit.
All around, the Angels and Phillies have very respectable defenses that can help to keep their pitch totals and hits allowed down.
In 2011, they finished very close in fielding percentage with the Phillies edging out the Angels with a .988 fielding percentage as opposed to the Angels' .985 fielding percentage.
Where the Angels truly excelled was in their outfield defense. It was here that the Angels had a total of 1,076 putouts and 31 assists. That is over 170 more total putouts and 16 more assists than the Phillies' outfield provided.
While defense all around the field is very important, outfield defense could be the most important factor. It is here that doubles can be cut down to singles and where fielders can prevent runners from taking the extra base.
While it is not necessarily represented in the statistics, the Angels' outfield was able to successfully do just that which ultimately helped the pitching staff in 2011.
Look for the outfield defense to provide a similar boost in 2012. If Mike Trout joins the outfield at some point this season, the outfield defense has the potential to get even better.
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While the Phillies' Cole Hamels is still relatively young, the other two studs—Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee—will be entering the season at the ages of 34 and 33 respectively. They will conclude the season at the ages of 35 and 34.
By comparison, the oldest starters in the Angels' rotation will be 31-year-old Dan Haren and 31-year-old C.J. Wilson.
Arguably the best starter in the rotation, Jered Weaver, will enter the season at 29. In summary, the Angels' best starters are younger than the Phillies' best.
Even though the age disparities are not great, the top starters in each rotation sit in different categories of age. Weaver, Santana, Haren, Wilson and Hamels are all less susceptible to age-related decline than are Halladay and Lee, who are both approaching their mid-30s.
This is not to say that either will decline, but instead that they are more likely to see such a decline.
Health and Innings Pitched
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There is no denying the fact that the pitchers on both staffs have remained reasonably healthy and pitch many innings.
The reason the Angels get the advantage is due to the number of pitchers on their staff capable of maintaining the high innings pitched totals as well as remaining healthy.
The combination of Weaver, Haren, Wilson and Santana have made very few trips to the DL since becoming major league starters.
Going back to the age factor, it is unlikely that any of these pitchers will show signs of wear and tear since each is currently in the prime of his career.
Of the Phillies' top starters, Hamels pitched the least with 216.0 innings pitched. Since he is still young, it is likely that he will see his innings pitched totals remain relatively stable or even perhaps rise.
Lee and Halladay on the other hand could potentially see their innings pitched totals decline as they continue to age. Don't expect to see significant declines in the innings totals but keep in mind that they have more years of wear on their bodies than the younger pitchers.
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Any pitcher who has Albert Pujols on his team must feel good about his chances of getting some run support and ultimately, wins.
For the Angels' starters, the development of a potentially lethal lineup could make things even better than they were in 2011 where many of the starters had to pitch in games with only two or three runs of support.
While the Phillies have been known as an offensive juggernaut in the past, there is reason to believe that their offense could be on the decline. Their main offensive bat, Ryan Howard, will start the season off on the disabled list.
That could complicate things for the Phillies, who also have to stay cautious with players such as Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley who have been prone to injuries in recent years.
Even more worrisome for the Phillies' offense is the addition and return of many ace pitchers within the division.
Some names the Phillies will likely have to deal with are Josh Johnson, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Mark Buerhle in addition to pitchers like Tommy Hanson who should have a rebounding season.
Meanwhile, the Angels look to have a solid offense to support their starters. This already good offense could also get much better with the return of Kendrys Morales, who is capable of hitting 30 or more home runs when healthy.
In 2011, the Phillies scored 46 more runs than the Angels. This comes with a full season of Ryan Howard with the Phillies and no Pujols or Morales with the Angels.
Sure Morales may not be the same player he used to be. Even so, any lineup with Albert Pujols should see a significant jump in offensive production.
Distractions and Pressure
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Comparing the Phillies and Angels, there is no doubt more pressure and possible distractions imposed on the Phillies' starters in 2012. Much of this is due to a stronger media presence and expectation to win in Philadelphia than in Southern California.
In addition to the everyday pressures that come from playing in Philadelphia, the question mark surrounding Cole Hamels and his future with the Phillies could have a negative impact on the young lefty.
Because he is in the spotlight, it is likely that he will get bombarded by questions and comments about his contract situation. While many players have excelled in contract years, there are also those who have become distracted by it, causing a dip in numbers.
The Angels, on the other hand, do not have to worry about contracts in their starting rotation.
While Haren and Santana have free agency on the horizon, both of their contracts have options for 2013. Both are also likely to be exercised, meaning that contract talks are not likely to become a distraction during the 2012 regular season.
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One major difference between the Angels and Phillies is the amount of competition they will face in their divisions. Once again, this is a factor that should give the Angels' starters the edge in 2012
When observing both the American League West and the National League East, there is no doubt that the Angels have to face the toughest opponent in the Texas Rangers.
Outside of that however, the Angels' starters will be seeing only below average offenses from both the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners. In 2011, the A's finished 20th in runs scored and the Mariners finished dead last in runs scored in Major League Baseball.
Meanwhile, The Phillies will have to face a formidable opponent in the Atlanta Braves, who will seemingly be better offensively should Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward put up the numbers expected of them.
From top to bottom, the Philadelphia Phillies will have to face much stronger divisional opponents throughout the course of the season that the Angels.