Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fall From Grace: Joe Saunders

The alternate title for this post (and future Angels Nation series) was "Did It Hurt When You Fell From Heaven, Because You Suck Now".

Since being traded last summer (along with prospects) for Dan Haren, Joe Saunders has not had the easiest time of things in Arizona. He struggled to close the 2010 campaign, and continues with a slow start into 2011. Granted, his Win-Loss record is partially a result of a streaky (at best) Arizona offense, which couldn't even get a couple of runs across for Dan Haren most days in 2010. But his other numbers show he isn't the same pitcher that made the 2008 All-Star Team, or that started off his big league career with a 48-22 record. Since joining Arizona, Saunders has posted a 3-9 Record, 4.40 ERA and 1.48 WHIP.

Those were his numbers going into today, and in his start today against the Phillies (who have been playing fairly bad offense recently) he has already given up 6 runs (and 10 hits) over 5.2 Innings. Remember, this is the same Joe Saunders who went 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 2008, just 2 1/2 years ago. Could it be he can't handle the National League? Could it be that the Angels just made a genius personnel move, and knew he was in the decline, and traded him while his value was still decent? Could be a little bit of both, his 2010 Angels numbers were already showing that he was trending down. Being one of the best pitchers on the D-Back staff probably comes with its own pressures, but Joe Saunders was arguably our best pitcher for a stretch between 2008 and 2009.

Saunders was always one of my favorites when he was with the club, and I've tried to follow his Arizona starts as closely as I can, but he isn't the same pitcher anymore. He seems to rely too much on trying to strike people out, which was never his strength when he was at the top of his game. As a result, guys are walking more, and his pitch counts get too high too soon. His K/BB ratio this season is an abysmal 0.77. Thats sure to improve a bit, he struck out 8 today while only walking 2, but its still not a good number. Should Saunders continue to decline, he could be out of the league by age 32, never truly realizing his potential.

Its a shame, but Saunders still has time, and the patience of his manager, to turn things around. Granted, if Saunders continues to struggle through 2011, he may struggle to find a new home in 2012.

1 comment:

  1. The Snakes had many pieces moving all at once, but the biggest was that the Haren deal was signed by Josh Byrnes regime. It was obvious after the deck-clearing signaled by the twin firings of both Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch that the incoming administration either had no faith in the current roster, or that they needed to rebuild ASAP and salary relief was the primary issue.

    I think the Angels probably didn't have much faith in Saunders' ability to strand baserunners, something he had to deal with almost from the start of his career. He lived on the edge for a while with WHIP numbers just under 1.5 for most of his career (career 1.403 including 2011); he's at 1.754 in 2011.