Team of the Tommy John Surgery Finds a Survivor

I had great hopes for the Angels this season, and while their offense had a miserable start to the season, it has been dynamite for weeks now, and the consistent defense has lived up to its reputation. But, the Angels are mired in the AL West cellar due to an unbelievable string of serious injuries to their pitching staff, that for most of the season has seen four starting pitchers on the disabled list at any given time, and now with four starters out for

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not just this full season, but at least three of them to miss 2017 as well.

The culprit? The infamous torn elbow ligament and the necessity of Tommy John Surgery. While the surgery, now seemingly a given at one time or another for virtually every professional pitcher, has a 90% or so success rate, it also has a year-and-a-half recovery period. Thus, the Angels will be without both Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney until 2018, and while the jury is still out on ace
Garrett Richards, he likely will be facing a similar fate, though his surgery has been delayed several weeks as he tries stem cell therapy to possibly avoid surgery. The fourth starter on the List, C.J. Wilson, faces a similarly lengthy recovery period, but far more uncertainty as to a successful outcome after his second surgery for what was described as “fraying” of the labrum and rotator cuff. The success rate for rotator cuff surgery is extremely low, and the chances of Wilson ever returning to full time duty, let alone success, is extremely low.

But on the other end of the spectrum is the return after two years, of Tyler Skaggs, who started last night’s game against the defending World Champion Royals, and was magnificent. After not throwing a pitch in the majors since July 31, 2014, Skaggs’ recovery from his own Tommy John surgery began with outstanding numbers in the minors over the past few weeks (1.60 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 39-1/3 innings pitched), and last night he displayed a fastball consistently in the low-90s, plus excellent curveballs and changeups, as he threw seven shoutout innings, allowing only three hits and a single walk, while striking out five.

Skaggs had great support from the Angels’ offense, with Yunel Escobar going five-for-five,

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Kole Calhoun driving in four, and the team collecting a season-tying high of 22 hits while scoring 13 off Kansas City pitching. Even the disappointing Carlos Perez chipped in four hits, raising his average to a season high of .221.

So, where do they go from here? Many pundits say trade Mick Trout, which they never could do and continue to play their home games in Anaheim. No, amazingly enough, with Skaggs back healthy, and with solid efforts from Hector Santiago and
Matt Shoemaker, plus occasional good games from Jered Weaver, they still have, at least on paper, decent enough pitching generally to contend, but the rub is where they play – the super tough AL West with great teams in Texas and Houston, plus too many other solid records among teams fighting for the two wild card spots from the East and Central.

Looking deeper into their 45-55 record, there are some surprises that can get an Angels’ fan pretty upset, given their astounding number of injures, and not just on the pitching staff. Even with all that, against the American League Central and East, they are much more respectable, having gone 21-23 so far, which is about the same record that the Astros have, 19-21, against the REST of the league.

The Angels, 8-3 since the All-Star break, and Mike Sciascia, who now has to be considered in a precarious position as far as his future is concerned, in a year of unprecedented injuries throughout both leagues and especially to pitchers, could otherwise have been a factor in the AL West, especially with the Astros having had such a slow start and the Rangers facing similar injury issues. But that was not to be and
after years of filling holes here and there hoping for immediate results, for a 2017 season that figures to be similar to 2016 given the pending continued absence of Richards, Heaney, Tropeano and maybe Wilson, maybe major changes and a longer range plan will be their course of action.

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