Jered Weaver adjusts to declining velocity

AP Photo/LM Otero

He's pitching well of late, but Jered Weaver has had little success when's he's started at Texas.Two of baseball’s hottest starting pitchers take the hill as the Los Angeles Angels’ Jered Weaver faces Texas Rangers’ newcomer Matt Garza, Monday at 7 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN.

Weaver goes off-speed

The last time Weaver made a start in Arlington was April 7, when he fractured his elbow dodging a Mitch Moreland line drive. When Weaver returned from the injury he had a 4.55 ERA in his next five starts but since then he's pitched extremely well.

Weaver is 4-1 with a 1.32 ERA in his past six starts and has found success by increasing the use of his curveball and keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate.

In his first seven starts of the season, Weaver threw his curveball about 10 percent of the time, but has nearly doubled that rate since.

An increased use of the curveball coincides with Weaver’s declining fastball velocity, which has dropped from 89.8 mph in 2010 to 86.6 this season. His recent success indicates that Weaver has found a way to pitch around his declining velocity.

Although Weaver has pitched well of late, he has struggled on the road in his career against the Rangers, going 4-8 with a 5.07 ERA. That’s a stark contrast to the 9-0 record and 2.28 ERA he’s posted against the Rangers at home.

Garza’s red hot

In his first start since being acquired by the Rangers, Garza allowed five hits over 7.1 innings in a win over the Yankees.

Matt Garza This Season

Garza has won a career-high six straight starts -- only Bartolo Colon (eight) and Patrick Corbin (seven) have longer such streaks this season. Garza is also riding another career-best streak, allowing two earned runs or fewer in seven consecutive starts.

A key for Garza's success has been his slider, widely regarded as his best pitch. Over his previous seven starts, opponents are hitting .157 without an extra-base hit when he throws his slider.

However, Garza has struggled against the Angels. His 5.83 career ERA against Los Angeles his fourth-worst against any team.

Diminishing returns from Pujols

Another key storyline revolves around Albert Pujols, who was placed on the disabled list on Sunday with a partially torn plantar fascia ligament in his left foot.

If Pujols does not play again this season, he would finish the season with career-lows in games played, batting average, home runs, RBI and runs.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) tell the story of Pujols’ steep decline of late. He led the league in 2009 with a 9.7 WAR on his way to winning the National League MVP. That number has dropped each of the next four seasons to 1.4 in 2013, which ranks outside the top 120 players.

The Angels have gotten a poor return on investment on the Pujols contract thus far, and it does not seem to be getting any better. From 2014-2021, Pujols is still owed $212 million, that's more than any other player except Joey Votto, who is owed $225 million.