Do the Angels Have Enough Pitching to Live Up to Towering Expectations?

Rick Suter@@rick_suterContributor IIMarch 15, 2013

TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  Pitcher Jason Vargas #60 poses during the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo Day on February 21, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When it comes to the Los Angeles Angels pitching staff, questions about the crop of hopeful hurlers seem to resemble the queries regarding water rations for a 162-day trek across a desert.

Do they have enough to make it, or are they in real jeopardy?  

And where the wrong amount of hydration while struggling across the sands of the Mojave, Sahara or those random, lengthier parts of Santa Monica beach may cause hardship, the wrong amount of viable pitching for the Angels can also lead to unwanted fate: They could miss the playoffs entirely.

However, I think it’s time to finally put this overbeaten horse of a debate to rest: The 2013 squad has plenty of pitching to make it "all the way" this season.

They had plenty of pitching attempting to accomplish the same mission last season, the season before that and even 2010—when they struggled to an 80-82 record.

Yet the pitching this year isn't widely regarded as "plentiful"—why?

Unfortunately, the love of fantasy/All-Star teams has skewed the idea of role players making sense as day-to-day impact players. In the case of the Angels and some of their polarizing offseason acquisitions, fans should be careful what they wish for.

The Angels, with all their PR, ticket-selling wisdom and competitiveness to overshadow the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason, didn't really upgrade the pitching staff for 2013. Rather, they substituted.

But that wasn’t a bad thing, considering they went 89-73 last year.

First, there was the issue of revamping the bullpen—Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson. Both were smart moves, but they were also risks based on current health and consistency.

Madson is just now throwing bullpen sessions at 50 to 60 percent, according to's Alden Gonzalez. Burnett, meanwhile, already has it stuck in his head he must be the savior of the mid-to-late innings, saying, "I'm disappointed. I don't care if it's spring training," after he gave up four hits and two runs in one-third of an inning. (h/t Orange County Register's Jeff Fletcher via Twitter).

However, for both players, it really is only spring training, when Albert Pujols running in a 90-foot straight line constitutes worthy news.

If Madson finds his 2011 stuff (94 percent save average) and Burnett repeats his 2012 season (31 holds and 2.38 ERA), then there is a real possibility that happens. Mix all that in with an impressive Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs (non-spring training) and the 'pen is set—a substantial upgrade over, say, Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins, which should make up for the 19 blown leads from 2012.

Then there is the starting pitching.

The Angels got rid of the unknown, parting ways with Ervin Santana and letting Dan Haren walk instead of shelling out the $13 million to keep him. General manager Jerry Dipoto replaced them with pitchers Jason Vargas (for Kendrys Morales), Tommy Hanson (for Jordan Walden) and Joe Blanton (via free agency).

And while those three acquisitions may yield the most grief and confusion around the water coolers of Orange County work places (and beyond), I see a positive step.

Blanton, now 30 pounds lighter (h/t has impressed me thus far in spring training. I know, it's been mostly bullpen sessions, but whether the weight loss was due to the proximity to Hollywood (where waistlines and chiseled chins function as a business card) or the fact that he knew it was time to cover the first-base line with more ease on an I-got-it/you-take-it grounder, it is a sign of wanting to progress.

And remember: Blanton was 4-0 for the Phillies during the team's 2008 World Series run.

Vargas and Hanson also have some upside, especially when considering the Angels got them for practically nothing.

Vargas is the perfect innings-eater—that happens to complement a right-handed-heavy staff with a lefty twist—and his spring outings have shown he is willing to go inside to right-handed hitters. That kind of confident aggression will help cut down on his 57 home runs surrendered the past two seasons.

Sure, 10 hits over 9.2 innings thus far (h/t can be disconcerting, but so can not being aggressive—or judging stats during spring training.

Speaking of which... 

Tommy Hanson has faced possible doubt because of the partially torn rotator cuff suffered in 2012 and his less-than-stellar beginning with the Angels. However, all is not lost. With a little consistency in his delivery, like in 2010 when he was in the top 25 in ERA, there is a chance he could wind up being a solid No. 3.

Or, perhaps, that surprising Barry Zito-type pitcher down the stretch.

And, finally, there is Zack Greinke—the whole reason there is even an argument regarding the Angels staff in 2013. The Angels didn't get him; the Dodgers did. It was the shame of the offseason for the Halos. 

How were they ever to win without Greinke in the rotation?

Well, how does that—with his current, nagging elbow injury—look right now?

One thing is certain: The 2013 season's expectations would be much more in jeopardy had the Angels signed Greinke, only to now have him on the mend. 

I'll take "Desert Hikes Without Water for $147 million," Alex...


(Note: All stats provided were courtesy of unless otherwise noted.)