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The case for Matt Shoemaker as the Angels opening day starter

You might think it will be Garrett Richards, but should it be?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

April 4th, 2016 - Garrett Richards took the mound against the Cubs in the Angels home opener. Richards did well, throwing 97 pitches, striking out 7 and allowing only 3 runs. It was a quality start but the the Angels would go on to lose to the eventual World Series champs by a score of 0-9 which would be a painful start and a bad omen to a long painful season.

Teams are beginning to announce their opening day starters, but we may not hear who will take the mound for the Angels until the last week of spring training. Richards is a great pitcher, but not the man he was on opening day last year. Yes he has all of spring training to prove he is healthy, but he has not pitched in a big league games since May 1st, 2016 - which will be about 10 months by the time he takes the mound in Tempe. In addition, Richards will be on a pitch limit and he’s working on changing up some things (like throwing less changeups) to help alleviate elbow strain.

Just about any depth chart you look at will list Richards as the #1 guy. I’m not going to argue who is a better pitcher, but just that I think Shoemaker has earned a shot at pitching opening day - this year. He’s not on a pitch limit due to any injuries and he proved himself well in 2016. I think if Richards were not coming back from a pretty serious injury, his opening day status would not be in jeopardy, but perhaps it should be.

Shoemaker had some really bad luck last year in terms of lack of run support when he pitched and his numbers look worse than they should (especially his win loss record). At one point last year he struck out 49 batters before allowing a single walk. That is one hell of a strikeout to walk ratio. That streak lasted for 155 batters and 26 days.

April 2016 was not a great month for Shoemaker, but it wasn’t until May when he regained that near ROY of the year form from 2014 and started throwing his splitter more. Since that adjustment, his stats change was pretty remarkable. His walk rate when way down, his Ks went up, batting average against was down, and his success started turning heads.

Opening day is against the Athletics in Oakland - a team that Shoemaker has a career 3.48 ERA against in 51.2 innings. He also has a career 3.14 ERA pitching in Oakland.

Richards is good, and arguably the team’s ace, but he will be under a microscope this year and I’m not sure that’s who you want anchoring the very first game of the 2017 campaign.

Your thoughts on the Halos opening day starter? Richards? Shoemaker? Someone else??