One of the most impressive aspects of what Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana are doing lately has been its degree of difficulty. All three at times have pitched dominant games with far-from-dominant stuff.
Anybody can win a race when he’s riding Secretariat, but how does he perform on an aging mare?
Weaver, in particular, has learned to pitch with a fastball that is 8-10 mph slower than his college days and nearly 3 mph slower than it was in April. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Weaver’s average fastball velocity during that scathing March and April was 90.2 mph. In September, with 3,532 pitches under his belt, it’s 87.7.
Only one AL pitcher, Justin Verlander, has thrown more pitches than Weaver this season and Verlander the other day touched 101 mph on the radar gun. His dominance has been an entirely different phenomenon.
Weaver shut down the Oakland A’s Wednesday to keep the Angels alive in this race and afterward, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he pitched with it and got it done.”
That may be as good a statement of Weaver’s elite status as anything, his adaptability to changing, sometimes adverse conditions. Now, Scioscia has to figure out when to best take advantage of his one edge in this race – his three starters – while being perfectly aware they have physical limitations. He’ll decide in the next couple of days whether Weaver will pitch on three days’ rest Sunday in Baltimore, which would line him up to pitch the season finale vs. the Texas Rangers.
“Anything he wants me to do, I’m here for and everyone feels the same way,” Weaver said. “We’ve got a tight one going and right now, anything I can do to help the club win some ballgames, I’m all for it.”