As someone who was quite excited about the Angels' starting rotation coming into Spring Training, I am in a weird place right now. The Angels were ostensibly eight starters deep, and all had something to bring to the table; there were vets, rising stars and young guns galore...I was quite sure that they were primed to do some damage in 2016. Well, it didn't take all that long to realize that it's a trickier and more delicate situation that previously imagined. In fact, it just took a couple weeks of Spring Training and a handful of regular season games.
This was the crew we were looking at in late February: Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Hector Santiago, Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker, C.J. Wilson, Tyler Skaggs and Nick Tropeano. Some battle tested, some not; some tried and true and some less reliable, but the fact remained that the Halos were deep in that position. That depth was immediately tested, however, with the nagging elbow of C.J. Wilson and the delayed return to the mound for Tyler Skaggs. No problem for the Angels, though, as they just slipped everybody up a spot and moved on towards Opening Day with a rotation of Richards/ Heaney/Santiago/Shoemaker/Weaver.
Now that they've gotten over a week of 2016 playing time under their belt, we also began to learn a few things about these guys, such as the fact that Jered Weaver's demise might have been over-exaggerated, and while we saw a horrible Shoemaker in his first start, he came right back in his next outing and destroyed the Athletics. Heaney is injured for now, which opened the door for Nick Tropeano, who has already turned some heads. There is a lot to like in this rotation, but there is also a lot of stuff that could make a fan wary.
So, we have some good arms that also come with caveats, and a couple more arms on the way(Skaggs and Wilson) that could also contribute, but what are the Angels going to do with some of these guys, especially if they're not exactly sounding any alarms? Well, maybe Mike Scioscia can get creative.
We've had some interesting discussion in recent articles on Halos Heaven about ways this rotation could be utilized, but it'd definitely take some gumption on Scioscia's part, and that aint exactly his strong suit. But still, it's not like managers haven't gotten wacky with their starting pitching in the past. In 2012, the struggling Rockies went with the infamous "piggyback" rotation, which consists of four revolving starting pitchers, and then you throw in three rotating arms that basically become middle relief.
His goal was to relieve the starters and have them just pitch a few innings, and have his piggyback starters work a heavy amount of innings in the middle. It helps the starters stay fresh and your bullpen doesn't get used on a nightly basis. The problem? It didn't really work, as you can see by a quick look at the Rockies' 2012 season. This is something we'd never, ever see but it'd be fun to think about a piggyback guy paired with a Jered Weaver or C.J. Wilson. Have one of those two take the first three innings, then bring in Skaggs or Tropeano for a few more.
There's also the controversial six-man rotation, a subject that seems to come up every couple years in the MLB , causing it's detractors and proponents to go at it in editorials and think pieces alike. There are cons, like the fact that you'd obviously want your best guys out there for more starts, if you're trying to win a division, and there's also the fact that pitches tend to be paid a lot of dough, so you'd be losing money not trotting them out their every chance you can get. The pros include recovery time, less wear and tear, and more bang for your buck IF you have cheap depth at that spot. If this is a scenario where Nick Tropeano can get his foot in the door even after some guys come back, then i'm all for it, but still...don't hold your breath on this one.
There are some more eccentric and/or desperate rotation ideas that clubs have flung against the wall in the past, but my favorite hypothetical starting rotations came from our own readers on this very blog. These are kind of insane, and out of the box, but man...this stuff could actually work.
The Home Weaver rotation:
This came from a discussion a few members had recently and it was kind of perfect, if not downright insane. The gist is this:
1. Weaver starts at home
2. Nitro pitches against Oak
3. Shoe goes against opponents ace, because we’re gonna lose anyway, may as well burn them a starter
Not too bad, huh? The main crux of this is Jered Weaver. For awhile now, we've known that Weaver can be lights out at the Big A; that's his stomping grounds and he's proven to be a winner there time after time. The road? Not so much. So get the man off of rival turf, and put in Skaggs or Tropeano or Wilson in his place on those games. As some pointed out already, Matt Shoemaker is no stranger to going face to face with the other team's ace, as he did that often in 2014, and became a hero in the process. Nick Tropeano pitches against Oakland because...well...he demolishes them on the regular so far in his career, so just keep feeding him A's. Again, if Mike Scioscia implements this, it's because you're trying to keep Weaver off of the road; the Matt Shoemaker part is just icing on the loony rotation cake.
The 5th Starter platoon rotation:
This one was discussed in these hallowed comment threads recently, just like the Home Weaver rotation, and while it shares an important similarity, it's decidely less complex and hare-brained. The gist is the same: keep Weaver pitching in the Big A and nowhere else. So, how would they go about this? Scioscia would have his five-man rotation as usual, except the fifth starter would be different in home and away games. At home, Jered Weaver is your fifth man. On the road, Nick Tropeano perhaps? Or one of the looming arms of Wilson or Skaggs.
This solves so many problems, although being consistent with the Angels' and their love of Murphy's Law, most likely we'd see some big injury or shakeup that would render the whole plan moot. Oh well, that's what depth is for, right? But in a perfect world, Mike Scioscia would grow some big time cajones and show the world a platoon at fifth starter or go out of his way to make Weaver pitch at home.
This is likely to never happen, of course, but a fan can dream, can't he? The five-man rotation has been a staple of baseball since 1928 and if there's a manager out there right now that is willing to tweak and experiment with that, it surely isn't Scioscia. The pieces are there, however, and while some nights may test our patience with the staff, it's hard to deny that the Halos have the amount of arms needed to buck the trend and be full blown baseball contrarians. The only thing they're missing is the creative vision, and the guts to stand behind it.