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Los Angeles Angels: Can Hanson, Vargas and Blanton Prove Everyone Wrong?

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Los Angeles Angels: Can Hanson, Vargas and Blanton Prove Everyone Wrong?
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Southpaw Jason Vargas is one of three new starters in the rotation for the Los Angeles Angels.

COMMENTARY | Much of the talk this offseason for the Los Angeles Angels centered on the splashy signing of free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. The 2010 AL MVP was plucked away from the Texas Rangers, the second time in two years the Angels have raided the cupboard of the Rangers' roster (C.J. Wilson).

However, the Angels also rebuilt their starting rotation. Gone are Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. In their place are Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton.

A very quick peripheral comparison shows that the former posted a combined 27-28 record with a 4.50 ERA for the Angels last year. The latter trio combined for a 37-34 record and 4.32 ERA overall.

Santana struggled for much of the season for the Angels, giving up a major league-leading 39 home runs. The Angels picked up Santana's 2013 option for $13 million and promptly dealt him to the Kansas City Royals for reliever Brandon Sisk and cash.

Haren saw his consecutive start streak end at 214 games when he was scratched from a start in early June with back pain. Haren struggled mightily in the first half, picking it up somewhat after the All-Star break. However, Haren also had a $15.5 million option for the 2013 season; the Angels declined to pick it up.

Greinke was simply deemed too expensive after the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers jumped into the fray for his services this offseason. Greinke's six-year, $147 contract is now the largest ever rewarded to a right-hander.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto traded for both Hanson and Vargas, and signed Blanton for two years and $15 million.

The overall perception is that the rotation is now the weak link for the Angels.

Hanson, Vargas and Blanton will be out to show there's a flaw in that theory.

Hanson was seen as damaged goods. A rotator-cuff injury and right-shoulder tendinitis sidelined Hanson for two months in 2011, and a back injury put him on the disabled list last year as well. Hanson's velocity has been on the decline, from an average of 92.9 mph as a rookie to just 90.4 mph last year.

However, it's hard to say that Hanson is washed up at the age of 26. A return to full health and throwing in a pitcher-friendly environment like Angel Stadium could be just the medicine the doctor ordered.

Vargas' home/road splits could be of concern. At Safeco Field throughout his career, Vargas posted a 3.49 ERA. Away from Safeco, Vargas hasn't been nearly as stellar, posting a 5.23 in road starts.

Vargas has found Angel Stadium to his liking, however, posting a 2.27 ERA in six career starts.

Blanton earns credit for his ability to eat innings, posting at least 175 innings each year since 2005. In fact, all three starters have the ability to work into the seventh inning with each start, taking pressure off the bullpen in the process.

The Angels have five starters capable of throwing at least 170 innings -- no team in the American League matched that in the 2012 season.

Hanson, Vargas and Blanton may not be considered Cy Young worthy, but it's a trio that can deliver innings and can give their team a chance to win with every start.

That's a major component that not every team can boast.

Doug Mead is a freelance sportswriter living in the Los Angeles area. His work has been featured in Bleacher Report, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

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