The All Star game voting for position players has been in full swing already, with the Royals fans swarming the polls to get a bevy of Kansas City players on the field. Mike Trout, the one surefire Angels all star and new baseball icon, is getting beat in the voting by Lorenzo Cain. It's bad enough that he came up with so many crazy plays in last year's ALDS, but now he's just rubbing it in. Look, baseball fans know there is some farcical aspect to the MLB All Star Game voting system, as every year we're treated to a team full of whatever the biggest bandwagon happens to be at the time (last year it was a slew of A's crowding up the ballot). And considering that a megastar like Trout can get usurped by a rabid, vote-often-and-vote-early fanbase, then it's perhaps a lost cause hoping for any of our other every day guys getting on the squad. Mike Trout WILL be an all star, though, so while the voting may still be a little wonky, at least the league's best, and our favorite, will be represented on the field.
So who's left, when looking into who we can send to Cincinnatti? It's time to hang our hopes on starting pitching, and while the marquee names we're used to are having on again, off again greatness(Richards, Weaver), there has been one constant in the Halos starting rotation, and that's Hector Santiago.
Hector had a rough 2014 with the Angels, although at times he did show that his has the goods...it was just incosistent. On a team that ended up winning 98 games, he finished 6-9 on the year, with an ERA of 3.75, including some stints coming out of the bullpen. The ERA isn't so bad, but he really didn't hit any sort of stride until the end of June/early July. He often looked uncomfortable on the bump, and never had much of a leash from Scioscia, regardless of the game situation. Injuries to Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards opened some doors for Hector, and it's not hard to think that if those never happened, he would have been coming out of the bullpen the entire season.
Cut to 2015, and through 10 starts and over 60 innings pitched, you see an almost different guy out there. He has had 10 starts so far this season, and while his w-l column is a little dicey(that can be chalked up to the offense more than anything), he's sporting the sixth lowest ERA in the American League at 2.18. He also holds an impressive 1.18 WHIP. And the guy is just getting heated up: in Hector's last five starts, he's pitched 33.1 innings, given up 22 hits, five runs, walked 11 and struck out a studly 31 batters. Hector is striking out just under 9 batters per 9 innings pitched.
It's only been 10 starts for Hector, but so far in 2015 he's proven to be an invaluable asset to the Angels, and I think should be in the conversation to be on the All Star roster. What has changed this year for Hector? He is locating his pitches better, and throwing a lot more strikes. His strikeout numbers are only slightly better right now than what they were through 60 innings pitched last year, but his opponent's batting average has dipped considerably, showing that he's getting plenty of guys hitting pop ups or into shifts.
Confidence is the key. Hector now has this in spades, and Mike Scioscia has given him a longer leash than ever before. In his first ten starts last season, he was only able to get more than 100 pitches on three occasions and made it through six innings only twice, as well as a few games where he was pulled in the third or fourth. This season, Hector has pitched through the sixth in every one of his starts but one, a game in San Francisco earlier in May where he also gave up nine hits and four earned runs. This game is pretty much the one blemish in his 2015 year-to-date campaign, which has otherwise been sterling.
He's not a big name, but he's got the goods, the swagger and with a couple more starts like his last few, the noise surrounding this dark horse All Star Game pick will start to ring in many baseball fan's ears. Mike Trout is a given, so let's rally around Hector Santiago.
This article originally appeared on Halo's Heaven.
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