The Los Angeles Angels entered the 2011 season with a lot of unanswered questions.
When will Kendrys Morales return to the lineup? Will Scott Kazmir keep his spot in the starting rotation? Can Vernon Wells live up to his enormous contract?
A week into the season, these questions have yet to be answered.
But the question of who the top Angels pitchers will be has an easy answer—Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. Both pitchers are off to a hot start and have been one of the few bright spots in the young season.
It should come as no surprise that Weaver and Haren have been superb. Last season, Weaver led the major league in strikeouts with 233 and Haren ranked seventh with 216. Together, they had more strikeouts than any set of teammates.
In addition, from 2006-10, Weaver and Haren combined for 135 wins.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, only two AL teams currently have two starters that won more games during that time frame—the Red Sox (Josh Beckett and John Lackey combined for 140 wins) and the Yankees (CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett combined for 149 wins).
But if you look at Beckett and Lackey, both have taken a few steps back. They had subpar seasons in 2010, and have a combined ERA of 11.85 in 2011.
Burnett is having a decent season, but his performance last year left much to be desired—he finished 2010 with a 10-15 record and a 5.26 ERA.
As for Weaver and Haren, both are still at the top of their game and have found early success this season.
Among pitchers who have started more than one game, the two have combined for the best ERA among any duo in the AL. Weaver’s ERA is 0.69 and Haren’s is 1.23.
Combined they have struck out 24 batters—also more than any set of teammates in the AL.
So far this season, Weaver and Haren are the best duo in the American League.
Despite their success, few give Weaver and Haren the respect and recognition that they deserve. Both pitchers seem to fly under the radar—partly because they play in a smaller market and partly because their team finished below .500 last season.
Regardless of how outsiders view the Weaver/Haren combo, their numbers prove that they belong with the league’s elite.
History has proven the tremendous impact that two great starting pitchers can have on a team.
Back in 2001, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were both 20-game winners and had an ERA below 3.00. They led the Arizona Diamondbacks to the World Series and were instrumental in knocking off a talented Yankees team.
For the Angels to get back to the postseason, and possibly make a World Series run, Weaver and Haren need to have Johnson/Schilling-type years.
The 2011 season is just getting started, but Jered Weaver and Dan Haren have proven to be the best pitching duo in the AL. Can they keep it up?
The answer to that question will ultimately determine how far the Angels go this season. If the duo continues at this pace, the Halos may find themselves reclaiming their spot as division champs.