As I watch the baseball world fall all over themselves to anoint Justin Verlander as 2011′s Pitching Jesus, I can’t help but wonder what happened to Jered Weaver. Back before that fateful July day in Detroit when Weaver got into a “who showed up who” fracas with the Tigers, the Cy Young race was neck-and-neck between Weaver and Verlander, now Jered may not even finish second in the voting. He got his big extension but has also seen his performance fall off to the point where some have even wondered if his arm might be overworked.
Fret not, Angel fans. There is nothing wrong with Jered Weaver. He isn’t hurt. He isn’t feeling the pressure. Heck, he isn’t even slumping. He’s just regressing.
The only reason that people would even be suggesting that Weaver is slumping right now is because they are making an unfair comparison by contrasting the current Weaver against the Weaver of the first half of the season. That first half performance was just plain unsustainable. 1.86 ERA? .194 BAA? 5 homers allowed in 140.1 innings? 0.91 WHIP? Those numbers are flat out bonkers and haven’t been seen since the days of Pedro Martinez in his prime. No insult to Jered, but he isn’t vintage Pedro, nobody is.
At some point, the law of regression to the mean was going to force Weaver to return back to his career norms which currently stand at a 3.33 ERA, .231 BAA and 1.17 WHIP. The one I didn’t list there is the most glaring example of regressing to the mean, that would be Weaver’s home run rate.
Jered is an extreme flyball pitcher which inevitably leads to a fair amount of home runs being allowed. While Weaver has generally been able to keep homers from becoming a major problem for him with a career HR/9 of 0.95, allowing five dingers in 140.1 innings pitched, a HR/9 of 0.32, is absolutely outlandish. Had he kept that rate up, that would’ve given him the best HR/9 rate in the league, better than perennial Cy Young groundball machine Roy Halladay at 0.38. Sorry, not going to happen.
As you might suspect since Weaver’s ERA has now shot up to 2.40 on the year, homers have played a role in that. Since the break, Jered has coughed up 11 taters in just 74 innings, good for 1.33 HR/9 rate. Even with his recent spat of gopheritis, Weaver’s HR/9 is still just 0.67 on the year, so he has actually still “overachieved” in that department.
Part of this homer regression has also been Weaver generally being a bit more hittable and perhaps a bit less lucky, as can be seen in the trend of his monthly BABIPs:
March/April = .220
May = .271
June = .238
July = .246
August = .284
September = .300
Surely it is no coincidence that he is seeing his BABIP spike along with his home run rate. But again, we find that Weaver’s BABIP for the season is still just .254, which is still far better than his career BABIP of .278.
I’m not saying that his less than dominant last few weeks are entirely attributable to bad luck, but rather pointing out that, if anything, his amazing first half was greatly assisted by good luck or some other confluence of circumstance that allowed Jered to pitch well beyond his normal means. As such, the fact that he is now proving to be somewhat vulnerable should not be cause for alarm. Sure, maybe his arm is a little fatigued and maybe the three days rest experiment threw him off his game a bit, but the issue at hand is that Weaver had to come back to earth sooner or later.