09/26/09 1:00 AM ET
From start to finish, it's Weaver
Fourth-year pitcher matures throughout breakout season
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Angels left-hander Joe Saunders looks at Jered Weaver and sees a young man all grown up with his 27th birthday one week away.
"Jered kind of took it upon himself to say, `Hey, I need to go out every fifth day and give this team a chance to win,' " Saunders said. "He told himself that at the start of the season, and he's gone out and done it.
"He's been the one constant piece of the puzzle for us with all the injuries and stuff we've had in the rotation. None of our other starters can say that. He's really held it together for us."
Weaver's goals coming into the season were to "get deeper into games" and, by extension, reach 200 innings. He has accomplished both missions, establishing career highs with 206 innings, 15 wins and 169 strikeouts.
Weaver has done it with persistence and a toughness demonstrated in several ways.
There was a period after the season's midway point when he was arm-weary, making a start in Oakland with food poisoning. It was a rough stretch that inflated his earned run average, but Weaver went to the post out of necessity when teammates realized he wasn't close to himself.
"He knew he had to stay out there and try to get us five innings, as difficult as it was for him," Saunders said. "He really showed us something."
Weaver throughout his career has done some of his best work late in close games, with runners on base. He finds a mentality usually associated with late-game relievers, the ability to reach back for something extra to produce the big out.
"I see that competitiveness in him every time he goes out there," Saunders said. "I can see Weav wants to go out and not only win every time out, but dominate. We all do."
For his career, Weaver holds hitters to a .229 average, .293 on-base percentage and .340 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position.
With two outs, those numbers are .234, .301 and .369, respectively -- all highly impressive.
At 6-foot-7 with a cross-firing motion, Weaver has managed to keep his arm strong and alive even though it isn't the classic drop-and-drive delivery designed to take strain off the arm.
"There's a fine line between crossing your body and [being] out in front of your knee," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's out over the front knee.
"That's the way he's always thrown."
Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher monitors Weaver closely, making sure his relatively high-maintenance delivery remains consistent, that his release point doesn't move around. That's when arm stress can surface, with inconsistent points of delivery.
Scioscia sees Weaver reaching the age and stage of his career where he becomes naturally stronger, giving him more endurance.
That, the manager believes, has something to do with the native of Simi Valley, Calif., holding his stuff longer and surpassing his previous career high in innings by 29 1/3.
"It's a combination of things," Scioscia said. "He got the same number of starts a couple of years ago, but his stamina and also his efficiency have allowed him to get 22, 23 outs and also some complete games.
"It was a real battle earlier in his career. Maybe it was pitch execution. He's definitely stronger and feels stronger this year. He's made every start and is pitching deeper in games."
Weaver's strength is his fastball command. His breaking ball and changeup serve as complements to his heater, which falls in the 89-92 range.
"He's been able to turn that fastball into different looks," Scioscia said. "He's really a command thrower. He needs to get in different zones, and he's been able to do that."
And he's done it from April into September, hoping to go well beyond.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.