Weaver emerges from shadows to establish self
Okay, Jered Weaver lost, again, to the Indians. Okay, for the second time in 152 Major League starts, he failed to strike anyone out, and for the first time this season failed to post a quality start. Okay, he said after Saturday night's game "I didn't have an out pitch."
Pitchers do sometimes lose, so roll the tape back to Tuesday, the day after he gave up three runs to the Red Sox in six innings, having lost close to 10 pounds due to illness.
David Ortiz talking to Torii Hunter. "I think Weaver is the best pitcher I've faced in five years, maybe eight years," Ortiz told his longtime friend. "He's got four or five out pitches, he throws them all at any time -- sometimes from any angle -- and a lot of times I can't pick up the ball."
"It's like playing behind an artist," said Hunter. "I'm just glad I don't have to hit off him."
Weaver is sometimes lost in the storm front known as East Coast Bias, more than half his games starting after 10 p.m. ET. He is in the shadow of King Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia, and tainted by the media portrayal of his older brother Jeff, whose career page is blotted by his perceived struggles in New York.
In fact, Jeff Weaver has been a good and loyal older brother to Jered. "He taught me a lot," says Jered. And when Jered was brought up to Anaheim for good on June 29, 2006, when the kid brother arrived at The Big A, he found out Jeff had been released. Shortly thereafter, Jeff would sign with St. Louis and become a main cog in the Cardinals' postseason run.
"Come October," says Jered, "I was staying with Jeff for the World Series and was with him when he earned his World Series ring. Sometimes the bad turns out to be good."
After Weaver's start in Boston last Monday, in which he gave up a go-ahead, two-run single through the box to Duston Pedroia in what was an unforgettable 13-pitch, nine-foul-ball battle, Jeff texted his kid brother suggesting that he should have tried something different. "Hey, I threw Pedroia everything I had and he got me," Jered said. "That's Dustin Pedroia. We played together on Team USA in 2003 and got to be friends. He never gives in. He and [Long Beach State teammate] Troy Tulowitzki are the same person."
"A foot and about a hundred pounds different," said Pedroia. "Seriously, Jered Weaver is one of the smartest pitchers I've ever known. Great dude."
Don't let the hair and the surfer look fool you. Yes, Weaver led the American League in strikeouts last season, and for 2010-11, he leads the AL in innings pitched, quality starts and strikeouts. He and Justin Verlander are tied for the league lead in strikeouts this season. Does a 288-67 strikeout-to-walk ratio work for you?
"I have heard for years that I shouldn't throw across my body," says Weaver. "I stopped listening when I was a teenager. That's the way I throw. It's my natural delivery." His junior [Draft] year at Long Beach, that strikeout-to-walk ratio was 221-13. His delivery worked.
There are still scouts and evaluators who claim Weaver will never maintain consistency with his three-quarter arm slot, stride that teammates hear hit the ground and the arm across the body. "Just watch," says Mike Scioscia. "He can really pitch."
Weaver doesn't throw 96-98 the way he once did, but he doesn't have to. Hitters say because he is so deceptive and hard to pick up, it still looks high 90s, when he's usually 92-94. "There's a lot of strain on my hip because of the delivery and the turn," says Weaver. "So I work hard to maintain the strength and flexibility in my hip and core."
In so doing, Weaver has worked on an increasing turn, a la Luis Tiant. "I know what that means to hitters," Jered says. "I've tried to add it. I think it gives me a little more to work on."
Weaver is not alone, either. King Felix now occasionally goes El Tiante, adding deception to his sinking fastball and breaking ball. Red Sox reliever Rich Hill, who was working on a three-quarters slingshot fastball/breaking ball/changeup mix, has further added that hip turn and has been very effective against lefthanded batters; he's allowed one hit to a lefty all season between Pawtucket and Boston.
Pedroia and Ortiz rave about what they see as Weaver's instincts. Asked if he works off scouting reports or catchers, Weaver says, "I pitch by what I see. I study hitters. I try to see what they like to hit. I try to watch their swing paths, how they adjust at the plate by moving around. I'll throw any one of my pitches from whatever angle I think works, based on what I see. That's what pitching is about."
Just ask Greg Maddux. Or Tiant.
With Weaver and Danny Haren, the Angels are one of the few teams that have two No. 1 starters. Weaver leads the league in innings, Haren is sixth. Haren is first in ERA, Weaver third. Weaver, Verlander and Justin Masteron have seven quality starts, Haren and Hernandez six apiece.
At the age of 28, Weaver is a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. "I don't worry about that," he says. "I don't worry about money. It'll be there."
He didn't worry when the Angels drafted him in June 2004 and he didn't sign until May 2005, after going to Newark, N.J., in case he had to some Independent League time.
A No. 1 starter on the market at the age of 29 who has already proven that he is a pitcher with Madduxian instincts and what Pedroia calls "a legitimate love of the game?"
Something tells us that Weaver will be as much of a fixture in Anaheim as Space Mountain.
Peter Gammons is a columnist for MLB.com and analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.