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Is Jered Weaver done?

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With diminished velocity, and awful results, Jered Weaver may have finally hit bottom.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first posts I ever wrote for SBNation, way back in November 2012, was about Jered Weaver and his diminished velocity. I wrote, confidently, "Even if Weaver can stay healthy going forward, his velocity is probably not coming back, and pitchers can only defy the wrath of BABIP for so long before they succumb.

Going into 2013, everything about Jered Weaver should make us suspicious, because even in the unlikely event that he stays healthy, his continually-diminishing velocity and inability to miss bats is bound to catch up with him sooner rather than later." It only took a couple of years, and another five miles per hour off of his fastball, but I'm finally right.

Weaver continued to put up impressive ERAs, especially as his fastball slowed and strikeout rate fell, thanks to a strong outfield defense behind him and one of the most extreme fly-ball approaches in baseball. Still, his performance was clearly declining:

Year

FB velo

K%

HR%

ERA

ERA+

FIP

2011

89.1

21.4

2.2

2.41

156

3.20

2012

87.8

19.2

2.7

2.81

135

3.75

2013

86.5

18.5

2.7

3.27

115

3.82

2014

86.3

19.0

3.0

3.59

102

4.19

2015

83.1

9.9

5.3

6.29

62

5.81

As league-wide levels in offense dove, it somewhat masked Weaver's continued decline into a league-average starting pitcher. Still, that he managed to hold onto his effectiveness is incredibly impressive.

Eventually, though, there comes a point at which even Weaver can't deceive hitters anymore, and I believe we're there. Hitters are swinging more often, and are simply no-longer missing pitches they used to be unable to touch. Worse, they are hitting them harder than ever.

Weaver is 0-4 and has given up eight homers in six starts, while only striking out 15 batters in 34 innings. Catcher Chris Iannetta claims that "he's throwing not much different than last year. His stuff is good." As we can see above, though, this is fundamentally untrue. Weaver isn't just "making a few mistakes over the middle of the plate," he's serving up beach balls.

Weaver himself has no explanation, telling Mike DiGiovanna, "I'm pretty much serving [batting practice] up there now. I have to work with what I've got... I'm not hurt. Everything feels good. It feels like it's coming out a lot better than it is. It's weird, man. I don't know. I've got no answers."

What will the Angels do about it?

That, for Angels fans, should be the scariest part. On the one hand, maybe Weaver is telling the truth. Maybe there is no injury and this is just what he is now. Maybe there is nothing to be done. If that's the case, though, at age 32 he's no longer capable of pitching in at a major league level and he will be a millstone around the neck of the Angels going forward.

Far more likely, however, is that there is an injury, perhaps one that Weaver has been hiding for years. Perhaps it is something that can be fixed, allowing him to return to something closer to the dominant pitcher he was five years ago (though, given that he will be a free agent after 2016, perhaps Angels fans won't be the ones reaping the benefit).

For now, the Angels will do nothing. Mike Scioscia has indicated that Weaver's spot in the rotation is safe. If and when they finally do realize that the old Jered Weaver isn't coming back, the good news is that the Angels have a replacement ready to go in 23 year old Andrew Heaney.

A consensus top-50 prospect, Heaney was acquired for Howie Kendrick in the offseason, and has posted impressive strikeout, walk, and homer rates in a hitter's paradise in Salt Lake City. Heaney would, at the very least, provide an upgrade over what Jered Weaver has been able to provide in 2015, and could help stabilize an underperforming Angels pitching staff. The only question is whether the Angels and Weaver can face this new reality before it's too late.