Angels' Top 5 lefty starters: Bollinger's take

June 1st, 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 five left-handed starters in Angels history. Next week: relievers.

• Angels All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | RHP

1) , 1986-99
Key fact: Leads all Angels pitchers with 52.0 bWAR

The Angels had their eye on Finley while he was pitching at Louisiana Tech University, and they selected him in the 15th round of the 1984 Draft, only to see him not sign and transfer to Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana at Monroe). But the Halos were persistent and took him again with the No. 4 overall pick in the secondary phase of the '85 Draft. It proved to be one of the best picks in club history, as Finley pitched 14 seasons with the club. He won at least 15 games six times, and he won at least 10 games 10 times, including every season from '93-99. Finley's 165 wins are the most in club history ahead of Jered Weaver's 150.

Finley's first year came in 1986 as a 23-year-old, and he established himself as an All-Star by '89. His best year came in '90, when he went 18-9 with a 2.40 ERA in 236 innings and finished seventh in the balloting for the American League Cy Young Award. His 2.40 ERA remains the lowest single-season ERA by a lefty in club history. Finley led the league in innings pitched during the strike-shortened '94 season with 183 1/3, and he was an All-Star again in '95 and '96. In his tenure with the club, he went 165-140 with a 3.72 ERA with 2,151 strikeouts in 2,675 innings. Finley is the club's all-time leader in innings pitched, and he is second in strikeouts behind Nolan Ryan's 2,416. He pitched three more seasons in the Majors after leaving the Angels, and he was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2009.

2) , 1973-80
Key fact: His 3.08 ERA with Angels is club’s fourth-best all-time among starters (minimum 100 decisions)

Tanana grew up in Detroit and hurt his shoulder during his senior year at Detroit Catholic Central High School. He nearly decided to attend Duke on a basketball scholarship, only to sign with the Angels after being selected with the No. 13 overall pick in the 1971 Draft. Despite shoulder problems early in his Minor League career, Tanana was an obvious talent and reached the Majors in '73 as a 19-year-old. He was immediately effective and by his third season, he led MLB in strikeouts with 269 in '75, while posting a 2.62 ERA in 257 1/3 innings and finishing fourth in voting for the AL Cy Young Award. He then began a streak of three straight All-Star seasons and led the AL with a 2.54 ERA in '77. He also struck out 17 batters against the Rangers on June 21, 1975, setting a then-AL record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game by a lefty.

Tanana and Ryan formed one of the best pitching duos in the Majors, leading to the saying, "Tanana and Ryan and two days of cryin'.” Like Ryan, Tanana was a hard-thrower, but he saw his velocity begin to decline in the late 1970s because of the aforementioned shoulder problems. He was limited to just 18 appearances in '79, but he helped the Angels clinch the division for the first time in franchise history by allowing one run in a complete game against the Royals on Sept. 25. He made one start in the postseason, allowing two runs over five innings in a no-decision against the Orioles in a game the Halos ultimately won. He was traded after the '80 season to the Red Sox in a move that sent Fred Lynn to Los Angeles. In his eight years with the Angels, Tanana went 102-78 with 1,233 strikeouts in 1,615 1/3 innings. He went on to pitch for 21 years in the Majors, including eight with his hometown Tigers, but he was most effective during his time with the Halos.

3) , 1990-97
Key fact: Won five Gold Glove Awards with Angels

Langston had already established himself as a solid pitcher with the Mariners and Expos when the Angels signed him as a free agent before the 1990 season. He proved to be a durable force for the club, as he was an All-Star from '91-93 and also won five straight Gold Gloves from '91-95. He was also part of a combined no-hitter with Mike Witt in '90, throwing the first seven innings.

Langston's best year came in 1991, when he went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 246 1/3 innings and finished sixth in the balloting for the AL Cy Young Award. He threw at least 223 innings in each of his first four seasons with the club, 119 1/3 innings in the strike-shortened '94 season and 200 1/3 innings in '95. Langston was limited to 123 1/3 innings in '96 and 47 2/3 innings in '97, and he departed for the Padres in free agency in '98 and reached the World Series. In eight years with the Angels, he went 88-74 with a 3.97 ERA and 1,112 strikeouts in 1,445 1/3 innings. He remains active with the organization as the club's radio color commentator alongside play-by-play broadcaster Terry Smith. He suffered from ventricular fibrillation and collapsed in the broadcast booth in Houston last season, but he has made a full recovery.

4) , 1998-2005
Key fact: Finished fourth in balloting for AL Cy Young Award in 2002

The Angels selected Washburn with the No. 31 overall pick int the 1995 Draft out of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the Wisconsin native reached the Majors by '98. He established himself as a mainstay in the rotation by 2001, and he had his breakout season in '02, when he went 18-6 with a 3.15 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 206 innings and helped the Angels to the postseason. He went 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts against the Yankees in the AL Division Series and allowed one run over seven innings against the Twins in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series. He struggled in the World Series, allowing 10 runs in 9 2/3 innings, but the Halos ultimately beat the Giants in seven games. He remained with the club through '05 before signing as a free agent with the Mariners. In eight years with the Angels, Washburn went 75-57 with a 3.93 ERA and 699 strikeouts in 1,153 1/3 innings.

5) , 1989-92, '95-96
Key fact: Finished third in balloting for AL Cy Young Award in 1991

One of the most beloved players in franchise history, Abbot was born without a right hand but learned to field his position by quickly moving his left hand into his glove after throwing a pitch and then slipping his hand out by using his right forearm and torso and removing the ball from the glove in time to make the play. He was a star at the University of Michigan, winning the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's best amateur athlete in 1987 and a gold medal in the demonstration event at the '88 Summer Olympics.

The Angels selected him with the No. 8 overall pick in the 1988 Draft and he quickly made the Majors by '89 without pitching in the Minors, finishing fifth in the balloting for the AL Rookie of the Year Award after going 12-12 with a 3.92 ERA in 181 1/3 innings. His best season was in '91, when he went 18-11 with a 2.89 ERA in 243 innings and was third in the balloting for the AL Cy Young Award. He had a 2.77 ERA in 211 innings in '92, but he went 7-15 and was traded to the Yankees after the season for J.T. Snow, Russ Springer and Jerry Nielsen. Abbott threw a no-hitter with the Yankees on Sept. 4, 1993, and he returned to the Angels in '95 in a trade with the White Sox. He had a 4.15 ERA in 13 starts with the club after the trade, but he struggled in '96, going 2-18 with a 7.48 ERA and briefly retired before playing again with the White Sox in '98 and the Brewers in '99. In six seasons with the Angels, Abbott went 54-74 with a 4.07 ERA and 607 strikeouts in 1,073 2/3 innings. He’s now a motivational speaker.

Honorable mentions
George Brunet (1964-68) went 54-69 with a 3.13 ERA and 678 strikeouts in 1,047 1/3 innings. His best season was in '65, when he posted a 2.56 ERA in 197 innings.

Geoff Zahn (1981-85) finished his career with the Angels, going 52-42 with a 3.64 ERA and 289 strikeouts in 830 innings. In '82, he went 18-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 229 1/3 innings and was sixth in the voting for the AL Cy Young Award.

(2005-10) was an All-Star in '08, when he went 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 198 innings. In six seasons with the club, he went 54-32 with a 4.29 ERA and 392 strikeouts in 692 innings. His .628 winning percentage remains the best in club history (minimum 600 innings pitched).