Now for the pitching, the strength of the club the last few seasons.
This looks to be the Angels strong suit, once more, with three starters who ended last season with an ERA under 4.00 and four guys who won 10-plus games. Both Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders enjoyed breakout seasons in '08 and were probably the biggest reason for the team's success, as ace John Lackey missed the first month or so the season. While I think Saunders will be hard pressed to repeat his success, I think Swervin' Ervin is the real deal. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he improved on his outstanding 2008 numbers, but I think he'll do about the same. The bullpen looks to be one of the stronger ones in the AL, even with the departure of Francisco Rodriguez. Let's take a look at the numbers.
John Lackey (R): 2008-12-5, 3.75. 2009 Proj.-15-7, 3.65
Ervin Santana (R): 2008-16-7, 3.49. 2009 Proj.-18-5, 3.40
Joe Saunders (L): 2008-17-7, 3.41. 2009 Proj.-13-10, 4.05
Jered Weaver (R): 2008-11-10, 4.33. 2009 Proj.-12-8, 4.20
Dustin Moseley (R): 2008-2-4, 6.79. 2009 Proj.-6-8, 5.00
Big John is still the ace of the staff and the leader of the pitching corps, but I think Ervin will establish himself as the club's best pitcher this season. Saunders will probably come back down to earth a bit, but still be very effective. Weaver is what he is - a 5-6 inning guy who is gonna battle and keep the team in games. He's one of the better #4 guys in the league. As of now, Moseley is 'penciled in' as the 5th starter, and I'm not too thrilled about it. He has a below average sinker and a way below average breaking ball and not much else. He's better suited as a long man and a spot starter, but unless someone like Nick Adenhart, Nick Green or Shane Loux really has a great Spring, we're gonna be stuck watching Moseley every fifth game. Ugh. Still though, not a bad rotation...easily the best in the division.
Brian Fuentes (L): 2008-2.73, 30 SVS. 2009 Proj.-2.25, 42 SVS
Scot Shields (R): 2008-2.70, 31 HLDS. 2009 Proj.-2.60, 30 HLDS
Jose Arredondo (R): 2008-1.62. 2009 Proj.-1.90
Darren Oliver (L): 2008-2.88. 2009 Proj. 3.10
Kevin Jepsen (R): 2008-4.32. 2009 Proj.-3.75
Shane Loux (R): 2008-2.81. 2009 Proj.-3.20
Justin Speier (R): 2008-5.03. 2009 Proj.-4.15
The Angels are going to play a whole lot of close games, so the bullpen will again be tested and called upon to hold many a 1 or 2-run lead. They should be up to it. Fuentes was signed to replace Franky as the closer, and he is very capable. Health has been a bit of a concern the last few seasons, but with Shields and Arredondo waiting in the wings, the Halos have other options. Arredondo is easily the best arm in the pen, and really, it seems like only a matter of time before he takes over the closer role. It actually wouldn't even surprise me if that happens this year, if Fuentes struggles or gets hurt. The middle-inning guys are solid with Oliver, Jepsen and Loux. Speier might be done. He looked horrible last season and really, couldn't get anyone out. I'm hopeful he'll bounce back though and be serviceable. The bullie should be solid enough to get the job done. I'm anxious to see the younger arms like Jepsen, Arredondo and Loux for a full season.
As for the AL West, I still think the Halos have the most complete club in the division and will ultimately win it again. The A's are improved with the additions of Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi, but much depends on how healthy Justin Duchscherer can stay. The Rangers are the Rangers. They'll score a ton and give up a ton and a half - not a factor. The Mariners are a mess, but if Erik Bedard can stay on the field, they shouldn't be too horrendous. Here's how I see it finishing:
Feel free to comment and to pick my projections and predictions apart. Let me know what you think.
And Go HALOS!!!