The Angels miraculously weathered the early season storm of monumental injuries to the starting staff. John Lackey and Ervin Santana worked through their cobwebs and have rounded into form, and Kelvim Escobar has now also re-appeared, and pitched well in his first start. With Jared Weaver pitching lights out, and the solid work of Joe Saunders and Matt Palmer, as I thought would happen, the Angels again have the strongest and deepest starting staff in the AL. But that bullpen!
The Angels decided to let Frankie Rodríguez leave in the off season, and they compounded that mistake by paying good money for the over-rated, under-talented, and inconsistent Brian Fuentes. His 15 saves are much less of an indicator of his effectiveness than is his 4.95 ERA. Even more troubling, however, is the state of the rest of the pen, with long relief and set-up men one more awful than the next.
The Angel brain trust decided that besides letting Rodríguez leave, that they would build the rest of the crew around the inconsistent Scot Shields, the disappointing Justin Speier, and the inexperienced but potentially outstanding Jose Arredondo. That too, has worked real well. Shields has taken his 6.62 ERA to the DL, while Speier and Arrendondo each have ERAs over five. Out of necessity, the likes of Jason Bulger, Kevin Jepsen, Rafael Rodríguez, and Daniel Davidson have been given bullpen roles, with even less success. Today’s game in Detroit is a prime example of the bullpen woes. The Angels came back from a one-run deficit to take a one-run lead into the eight inning, when Arredondo and Bulger combined to allow five runs and hand Detroit a 9-6 victory.
The Angels can almost certainly again win the West with their current staff, but any hopes of getting to a World Series are mere dreams unless some major help for the bullpen arrives by September.
One thought: While Escobar has had his best success as a starter, he has considerable experience in the bullpen, and with the starters now six deep, perhaps they should leave Palmer as the fifth starter and give Kelvim the closer role, with Fuentes the set-up guy.