Commentary

Jered Weaver, Dan Haren a dynamic duo

Updated: March 28, 2011, 2:10 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It took all of five innings for Dan Haren to understand how things went so wrong for the Los Angeles Angels last season.

[+] EnlargeHaren
Kirby Lee/US PresswireDan Haren learned about the Angels' difficulties the hard way last season, when he was hit by a line drive in his first game.

On paper the team looked solid: a typical Angels roster of speed, savvy veterans who could single and double you to death, a rotation that went five deep and a stockpile of power arms out of the bullpen.

That equation had added up to American League West titles for years. Last year, it just didn't.

Five innings into his first start with his hometown club last July -- Haren went to high school a few minutes away at La Puente Bishop Amat -- he saw why.

Haren was off to his typically efficient start -- seven hits and two runs through 4 2/3 -- when the Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis nailed him in the right forearm with a line drive.

In one swing, the most durable pitcher in the major leagues for six seasons, the guy who couldn't remember the last time he missed a start because of injury, had to leave the game.

"It definitely wasn't what you'd want for your first start with a new team," he said. "I felt bad. We'd had some injuries already, then I come over, get hit and had to come out of that start."

After losing Kendrys Morales to a broken ankle during a walk-off grand slam celebration, this was just too much for his new teammates.

"I'm pretty sure that's how everyone felt," Haren said. "It was just a frustrating year. We'd make a run, win a few, then something would happen, we'd have a setback and start losing."

It was also why the Angels' acquisition of Haren at the trade deadline, and pretty much everything else the club did last year, caused such a small stir around baseball.

"We weren't in the playoffs last year, so that's why nobody saw the kind of team we have," said veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu. "They didn't give us credit [for the Haren trade] because we didn't make the playoffs. …

"This year, everybody is going to see what's going on."

When Haren joined Jered Weaver atop the Angels' rotation, the team could boast one of the top one-two punches in all of baseball.

No pitcher has been more durable than Haren over the past six years. His 203 starts since 2005 are the most in the majors. Likewise, no pitcher had more strikeouts than Weaver's 233 in 2010.

Weaver and Haren have combined for 135 wins in the past five years (from 2006-10; Weaver's rookie season was '06). According to ESPN Stats and Information, only four teams enter 2011 with their top two starters claiming more wins in that time frame: The Dodgers' Ted Lilly and Jon Garland (136); Boston's Josh Beckett and John Lackey (140); the Yankees' CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett (149); and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay and either Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt (157 -- Lee and Oswalt each won 67 games from '06-10).

Weaver and Haren rank third in combined strikeouts from 2006-10, behind only Sabathia/Burnett and Halladay/Cole Hamels.

Those are impressive statistics and select company, but the Angels' two aces will need more than that to get recognition.

"I think people noticed what Weave did last year," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. "But he didn't get any [Cy Young] buzz because playing out here in Anaheim, people don't take us seriously. What we have to do is go out there and win the World Series. We've got to prove it."

The Angels were a resounding disappointment last season, finishing 80-82 largely because they allowed 21 more runs (702) than they scored (681).

They were six games behind the Texas Rangers on the day they traded for Haren. They finished 10 games back, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

"I think I did pretty well last year, but when I came over I think we were seven games back," Haren said. "It was going to be tough to come back from that. This year, getting everyone healthy and together in the rotation, it should be pretty exciting."

Weaver is quieter than Haren, more laid-back. To some, he might seem uncomplicated. But there's an emotional depth to Weaver, a maturity that comes through experience.

In his five years in the big leagues, Weaver said goodbye to his mentor when Lackey signed with the Red Sox, and lost a dear friend when Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed when a car he was riding in was hit by a drunk driver in 2009.

Like Haren, Weaver rose early -- going 9-0 to start his big league career -- then fell to earth for a couple of years before rising again.

A year ago, there was a question about whether he had the makeup and stuff to lead the Angels' staff. But after a breakthrough season in 2010, the only question is how much better he can get.

"He just learned how to pitch," Hunter said. "He hit his spots, changed speeds. He's deceptive with his windup. I mean, he's 6-6, so by the time he releases the ball, he pretty much slaps the hitter in the face, too."

Said Abreu: "First of all, he's not afraid. He goes to the mound, and he owns the mound. He's not afraid to make a pitch. He's not afraid to throw inside. He's got pretty good location and he works his philosophy very well. …

"I don't know what people look for in a No. 1, but for me, Weave has shown that he's a No. 1. He deserves it."

Weaver deserves more, even. He had the same 13-12 record as the American League Cy Young winner, Seattle's Felix Hernandez, but finished fifth in the voting.

"Yeah," Weaver said when asked about remaining under the radar. "But it's better that way, isn't it?"

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.