CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Right now, Weaver is the best in baseball

Spencer: Right now, Weaver is the best in baseball

Right now, Weaver is the best in baseball
OAKLAND -- Jered Weaver doesn't overpower or overwhelm you. He doesn't make you wish you'd chosen another sport to play for a living.

What he does is kill you softly, as songbird Roberta Flack once put it in a recording studio, ever so delicately. Weaver beats you without emasculating you.

Dispatching the Athletics, 4-0, with a four-hitter on Monday night, the artist known as Weaver moved to the top of the Major League leaderboard with 15 wins and an earned run average of 2.13.

More

He also lifted his team to within five games of Texas in the American League West, a half-game ahead of the A's, and gave a bullpen that has been gasping for air some breathing room.

"I'm not a numbers guy," Weaver said. "I don't pay a lot of attention to that. My goal every year is to improve. There's always stuff you can do to make yourself better."

Not since Brooklyn's Don Newcombe in 1955 has a pitcher gone 15-1 in his first 20 starts.

Weaver has rolled to wins in nine consecutive starts. His May 2 no-hitter against the Twins drew national attention, but that was just one of eight times this season Weaver has held the other side scoreless while going at least six innings.

"Last year, he had one of the best years I've ever witnessed a pitcher have," teammate Dan Haren said. "He's still got 10 or 11 starts left, and he's definitely not showing any signs of slowing down. I think the confidence he takes out there has a lot to do with it.

"It seems like every time out he believes he's going to win, and the team believes he's going to win. He hasn't struck out as many hitters as in the past, but he's getting deeper in games with early-count outs. He's a pitcher.

"It's about deception, movement on pitches, the ability to change speeds on all his pitches. It's cool to watch him go through a lineup not throwing 90 and getting a lot of bad swings."

Haren doesn't see Justin Verlander every fifth day and acknowledges the supreme talent of Detroit's ace. But he'll take his guy, Weaver.

"I'd be partial," Haren said, "but I think he's the best. He's putting up the numbers that say he's the best."

Verlander hits triple digits on the gun and makes hitters feel inadequate.

Weaver doesn't need to break 90 mph to break hearts. He uses a hitter's aggression against him with a steady stream of off-speed pitches to perfect spots, everything with movement. His curveball floats home about 10 mph slower than his changeup and 20 mph off his fastball.

Brandon Inge's single and double represented half of Oakland's offense. Only twice did the A's put a runner in scoring position, and each time Weaver left the guy at second.

Verlander, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, struck out 14 Yankees on Monday, picking up his 12th win in 19 decisions. His earned run average is 2.51.

Here, however, it was all about the 6-foot-7 craftsman from Simi Valley, Calif., with the easy manner and snapping, cross-body delivery.

Before a recent game, walking from the clubhouse to the dugout, Weaver and a sportswriter had a conversation.

"You know," the aging writer said, "you're a great pitcher now."

"Ah, no I'm not," Weaver said. "I'm good. But I've got a long way to go to be great."

Told there are degrees of greatness, and that he can be great now and continue to strive for higher degrees, Weaver remained unconvinced.

"That's good to hear," said managerial legend Tony La Russa, on hand to watch a ballgame and see old friend Albert Pujols. "That shows you that Weaver really wants to get better. He was great tonight. Pitching is movement and location, and he's as good as anybody."

There is a lot of season left, but Weaver has been better than Verlander -- better than everybody else -- through the first week of August.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less