Friday, December 7, 2012

By Jonathan Northrop - Columnist

So here's what Dipoto has done so far:

- Let Torii Hunter, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana go (well, he traded Santana for Brandon Sisk)

- Traded Jordan Walden for Tommy Hanson

- Signed Ryan Madson

- Signed Sean Burnett

- Signed Joe Blanton

Now people are eying Dipoto critically because of what he has NOT done, which is sign Zack Greinke. But if the rumors of the "Greinke Bid Wars" are true - that he will get at least 7/$161MM, can we blame him? That's $23 million a year for the next seven years for a pitcher who has only ever had ONE truly great season, and with a good but not great career ERA of 3.77 (by comparison, CJ Wilson's is 3.65 and Weaver's is 3.24).
The bullpen seems improved, perhaps significantly so depending upon how soon and well Madson comes back. At one year for $3.5MM, it was a low-risk, high-reward type deal, although it should be mentioned that TJ surgery sometimes takes a year or more to get back to form. Still, at worst Madson is $3.5MM paid on a risk, but there's a good chance that he'll be a plus pitcher this year, and a solid chance he'll be worthy of the closer role he's been promised.

Sean Burnett isn't a sexy signing, but he's very solid - a Scott Downs type pitcher who gets outs.

As for the starters, Joe Blanton is one of those pitchers whose ERA and peripherals are out of whack. Fangraphs likes him because his FIP is always much better than his ERA (for the non-stat-savvy, FIP is essentially what the ERA "should" be based upon peripherals and trying to account for luck; the problem is that some pitchers - like Blanton and Greinke, for that matter - consistently have better FIPs and ERA, while some pitchers - like Jered Weaver - consistently have better ERAs than FIPs).

At worst, Blanton provides a solid #4-5 starter and depth. At best he's supposedly increased velocity and improved his arsenal and could be a bit better than expected.

But here's the wildcard: Tommy Hanson. If he's able to re-capture the promise of 2009-11, he's going to give the Angels another #2-3 starter (assuming Wilson returns to form). If not, the Angels are left with only two starters significantly above average.

Looking at the rotation, only 40% of it is reliable in terms of expectations - Jered Weaver and Joe Blanton. We know Weaver will be a #1-2 starter, we know Blanton will be around league average. What we don't know is if Wilson will return to form, if Hanson can re-capture his promise, or if Richards can grow up now rather than in a year or two. Given that an injury to Weaver gives us a rotation of Wilson/Hanson/Blanton/Richards/Williams, we can hope that Dipoto isn't done and will sign at least a Marcum or McCarthy, if not Sanchez or Greinke.

If everything goes right - Wilson and Hanson return to form, Blanton's ERA comes closer to his FIP, and Richards matures, then this is a very good rotation. But a lot can go wrong. The bullpen has essentially replaced its most erratic member with two veteran arms who don't happen to be geriatric like last year's dynamic duo who shall not be named, so looks much better. But everything hinges on that rotation.

A brief Addendum on Torii Hunter. While his personality and 2012 performance will be missed, the reason - I'm guessing - that Dipoto didn't seriously go after him is that it is very unlikely that Torii will repeat his 2012 performance, which was heavily reliant upon a high batting average and unsustainable BABIP. Torii will probably hit around .270/.750 with 15-20 HR next year. It was time to move on. If Trumbo's struggles continue, the Angels have Calhoun waiting in the wings (and chomping at the bit). The offense will be fine without Torii.
Love to hear what you think!

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