Angels' Top 5 righty starters: Bollinger's take

May 25th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Rhett Bollinger's ranking of the top 5 right-handed starters in Angels history. Next week: left-handed starters.

Angels' all-time best: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | DH

1. , 1972-79
Key fact: Set an MLB record with 383 strikeouts in 1973

When the Angels acquired Ryan from the Mets in a trade before the 1972 season, he was viewed as inconsistent because of his wildness on the mound. But Ryan put it together with the Angels right away, posting a 2.28 ERA with 329 strikeouts in 284 innings in his first year with the club, getting named an All-Star for the first time in his career while finishing eighth in the balloting for the American League Cy Young Award. He was even more dominant in an All-Star season in '73, when he won 21 games with a 2.87 ERA and set the Major League record with 383 strikeouts in 326 innings. He threw two no-hitters that year and placed second to Jim Palmer in AL Cy Young voting, which was his highest-ever finish.

Ryan threw another no-no in 1974 and a fourth in '75, which tied Sandy Koufax's MLB record. He also struck out 19 twice in '74, which was the MLB record before Roger Clemens became the first to strike out 20 in '86. He was an All-Star with the Angels again in '75, '77 and '79 and finished third in the AL Cy Young voting in both '74 and '77. In 1979, his final year with the club, the Angels made the postseason for the first time in franchise history. He made one start against the Orioles, allowing three runs (one earned) with eight strikeouts over seven innings in a no-decision, as the Angels lost the series in four games.

Ryan went 138-121 with a 3.07 ERA and a club-record 2,416 strikeouts in 2,181 1/3 innings in his eight seasons with the club. He was inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame and had his No. 30 retired by the club in 1992. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

2. , 2006-16
Key fact: 36.1 Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement as a pitcher is third highest in franchise history

Weaver was already a star in college at Long Beach State, but slipped in the Draft due to bonus demands from his agent, Scott Boras. The Angels took advantage by selecting him with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2004 Draft. Weaver ultimately received a $4 million signing bonus, which was less than the original $10.5 million he'd sought. It ended up working out perfectly for the Angels and Weaver, who hailed from nearby Simi Valley.

Weaver made his debut in 2006, posting a 2.56 ERA in 123 innings to finish fifth in the balloting for AL Rookie of the Year. He remained solid for the next three seasons before breaking out and becoming an ace in 2010, when he led the Majors with 233 strikeouts in 224 1/3 innings and posted a 3.01 ERA. He was an All-Star for the first time that year and was fifth in the voting for AL Cy Young. He followed that up by going 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA in '11 before going 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA in 188 2/3 innings in '12, including a no-hitter against the Twins on May 2. He was an All-Star both years, finishing second in AL Cy Young balloting in '11 and third in '12. Weaver also showed his loyalty to the organization in 2011, signing a five-year extension worth $85 million that was viewed as a hometown discount.

In his 11 seasons with the Angels, Weaver went 150-93 with a 3.55 ERA and 1,598 strikeouts in 2,025 innings. His 150 wins with the club ranks second to Chuck Finley’s 165.

3. , 1981-90
Key fact: Threw the 11th perfect game in MLB history in ‘84

The Angels plucked Witt right out of their own backyard, drafting him out of Anaheim’s Servite High School in the fourth round of the 1978 Draft. Witt tore through the Minors quickly, reaching the Majors as a 20-year-old in 1981 and finished fifth in voting for AL Rookie of the Year after recording a 3.28 ERA in 129 innings. By 1984, Witt became a major part of the rotation, as he averaged 247 innings and a 3.73 ERA in six seasons from 1984-89. He threw a perfecto against the Rangers in the final game of the '84 season, striking out 10 and needing only 94 pitches to complete his masterful performance.

His best season came in '86, when he had a 2.84 ERA with 208 strikeouts in 269 innings and finished third in the balloting for the AL Cy Young. He was an All-Star for the first time that year and was one again in '87. In ’86, he led the Angels to the postseason and threw a complete game in Game 1 against the Red Sox, only allowing one run. He also pitched into the ninth inning in Game 5, only to see the Angels lose the most heartbreaking game in franchise history. But Witt was undoubtedly the franchise's best pitcher of the 1980s and was inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame in 2015.

4. , 2002-09
Key fact: Won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie

The Angels selected Lackey in the second round of the 1999 Draft out of Grayson County College in Denison, Texas, and the big Texan paid immediate dividends as a rookie in 2002. He made 18 starts that year, going 9-4 with a 3.66 ERA and placing fourth in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. But it was in the postseason where Lackey became an immediate Angels legend, as he threw three scoreless innings in the AL Division Series against the Yankees and seven more against the Twins in the AL Championship Series before making three appearances in the World Series against the Giants. He pitched in relief in Game 2, gave up three runs over five innings in Game 4 and was called on to start Game 7 after the club made a miraculous comeback in Game 6. Lackey gave up just one run on five hits over five innings to become only the second rookie in World Series history to start and win Game 7.

Lackey was a stalwart the rotation after that and had his breakout season in 2007, when he went 19-9 and led the AL with a 3.01 ERA. He was an All-Star for the first time that year and finished third in the AL Cy Young Award balloting. In his eight years with the club, he won 102 games, posted a 3.81 ERA and struck out 1,201 batters in 1,501 innings. He also pitched in 14 postseason games with the club and went 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 78 innings. He later won World Series titles with the Red Sox and Cubs.

5. Dean Chance, 1961-66
Key fact: 1964 Cy Young Award winner

Chance was one of the first aces in franchise history, as he became the Angels' first 20-game winner and Cy Young Award recipient in '64, when he had an incredible 1.65 ERA in 278 1/3 innings and led the AL with 15 complete games and 11 shutouts. At the time, he was the youngest to ever win a Cy Young, at 23 years old.

The Angels originally acquired Chance in a trade with the Senators for Joe Hicks in 1961, and Chance made his debut in September as a 20-year-old. He posted a 2.96 ERA in 206 2/3 innings as a rookie in '62, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. The Angels, seeking more offense, traded Chance to the Twins before the 1967 season in exchange for Jimmie Hall and first baseman Don Mincher (as well as right-hander Pete Cimino). In his six seasons with the Angels, Chance went 74-66 with a 2.83 ERA in 1,236 2/3 innings. He was inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame in 2015.

Honorable mentions
Andy Messersmith pitched with the Angels from 1968-72 and his 2.78 ERA as a starter remains the franchise record, just ahead of Chance's 2.83. He won 20 games and was an All-Star in 1971, and went 59-47 in his five seasons with the club.

Kirk McCaskill pitched seven seasons with the Angels from 1985-91 and won 78 games with a 3.86 ERA in 1,221 innings. His best season came in '86, when he went 17-10 with a 3.36 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 246 1/3 innings.

Bartolo Colon pitched with the Angels from 2004-07 and won the '05 AL Cy Young Award after going 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA in 222 2/3 innings. But it was his only solid season with the club, as he went 46-33 with a 4.66 ERA in 586 2/3 innings with the Angels.