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Key Statistics: Jered Weaver had an absolutely dynamic year. He made his first all-star team, placed fifth in AL Cy Young voting, led the American League in strikeouts and was the most dependable pitcher on an otherwise mediocre Angels team. Fantasy baseball-wise, he may have had his best season yet – 13 wins, a 3.01 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP, a 4.31 SO/BB ratio and 233 punchouts. Beyond most sabermetrics or splits, the statistics that most heavily weigh on my decisions to draft pitchers are if their basic 4 category starting pitching numbers are trending upwards, downwards, or reaching their plateau. In Weaver’s case, he absolutely is trending upwards in all categories except wins, which as I mentioned in my Matt Cain profile, is not entirely up to him. Let’s look at his previous 3 seasons:

2008: 11-10 4.33 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 173 hits, 152 K, 2.81 SO/BB in 176.2 IP
2009: 16-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 196 hits, 174 K, 2.64 SO/BB in 211 IP
2010: 13-12, 3.01 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 187 hits, 233 K, 4.36 SO/BB in 224.1 IP

As you can see, his ERA, WHIP and strikeout numbers are trending upwards, as well as his SO/BB and innings pitched. If Weaver stays the same or even regresses somewhat, he’ll can still be considered to be one of the best 15 starting pitchers in fantasy.

Skeptics Say: There are two knocks on Weaver’s performance. His home and road splits, from not only this year, but his entire career, show that he is a much more impressive pitcher in his home park than on the road.

Home: 6-4, 1.86 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 120 K, 5.00 SO/BB, 6 HR
Away: 7-8, 4.14 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 113 K, 3.77 K/BB, 17 HR
Home: 33/16, 2.92 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 390 K, 3.68 SO/BB, 43 HR
Away: 31-23, 4.16 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 389 K, 2.66 SO/BB, 58 HR

Those are some pretty stark splits. Hopefully this is just a case of a young pitcher being more comfortable in his home park than on the road. After 4 complete seasons though, one has to wonder.

Another note is how many homers Weaver gives up at Angel Stadium versus other parks. Looking deeper at his numbers, it’s obvious that these figures are not only indicative of his home/road splits, but also who he is a pitcher. Jered ranked 84th out of 92 starting pitchers in groundball to flyball ratio and ranked dead last in double plays induced. This guy is a flyball pitcher, and batters make him pay for it in smaller parks outside of Anaheim. The main reasons he’s been able to be so successful despite all the contact towards the outfield (he gave up 54 doubles in 2009 and 40 last season) are his superior defense behind him and the fact he is striking out a quarter of the batters he’s facing.

Peer Comparison: I tried comparing Jered against his brother Jeff for a while because their throwing motions are similar and I thought it would be kind of neat. Unfortunately for this blog post, Jered is light years ahead of his big bro. A good comparison for Weaver is fellow hard-throwing righty Ubaldo Jimenez. Like Jered, Jimenez has been upward trending for the past few seasons and had a breakout 2010:

2008: 12-12, 3.99 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 182 hits, 172 K, 1.67 SO/BB in 198.2 IP
2009: 15-12, 3.47 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 183 hits, 198 K, 2.33 SO/BB in 211 IP
2010: 19-8, 2.88 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 164 hits, 214 K, 2.33 SO/BB in 221.2 IP

I would take Weaver before Ubaldo. Both have their pros and cons, but I’m more wary of Jimenez’s. Weaver is giving up more hits and has had slightly higher ERAs, but he is also walking less batters, striking out more guys and doesn’t have that added and unpredictable variable of Coors Field working against him. Though Ubaldo had those stats in that said unpredictable environment, I’ll take a guy with almost the same statistics who played on a worse team in a pitcher’s park any day.

Lineup Outlook: Tony Reagins struck out almost as many times this offseason as Weaver struck out batters in 2010. The Angels came up on the wrong end of negotiations for Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, Jayson Werth and Adrian Gonzalez. Recently the Angels acquired Vernon Wells, who contract not withstanding, is a fine player who should add more power to the lineup. However, Anaheim will still start with Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and a platoon of Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo on the left side of a returning Kendry Morales. With his presence and the addition of Wells, Weaver should do a bit better than his 77th place ranking (of 92 qualifiers) in run support average in 2010.

However, more pertinent to his flyball tendencies are the defenders roaming the outfield – Peter Bourjos, Wells and Torii Hunter will provide a lot of coverage, as they are all above-average defensive players.

What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #19 Starting Pitcher & #82 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #17 Starting Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of #56 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #64 Overall; Couch Managers: #64 Overall; RotoChamp: #54 Overall

Projection: Weaver is living dangerously with all those flyballs, but as long as he’s striking out 200+ guys, the pride of Northridge, CA should be safe to draft around this spot.

14 wins, 3.15 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 220 K in 220 IP

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