The Angels’ Flagrant Weakness

In a division that features perhaps the American Leagues’ best team in the Oakland A’s, and another sold contender when healthy, the Texas Rangers, the Angels seem to also have just about it all as well, save for one glowing deficiency that, as other elements of the team seem to get better and better, conversely that element is getting worse, game by game.

On a team that features sold hitting and scoring, an outstanding defense, excellent depth, vastly improved starting pitching, players with baseball savvy, and intelligence and experienced managing and coaching, the bullpen is proving one letdown after another.

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I've written about some of the failings before, but last night's extra inning win in Atlanta could have been a disaster, and while the Angels eventually won the game, it had to be a very tough pill for Garrett Richards, who was denied a seemingly gift-wrapped seventh victory of the season. But thanks to a rapidly imploding bullpen, the win went to another.

The Angels are in the top five in the AL in home runs, runs scored, OPS, and slugging, and are
just a couple of batting average points below team number five. They are in the top five in ERA, strikeouts, and opponents bating average. And, no American League team has committed fewer errors or has a better team fielding average.

Yet, virtually every game is a struggle, and the ninth inning of most games is a heart attack in the making. Take last night, for instance.

Garrett Richards pitched the first six innings for the Angels against the Atlanta Braves, allowing four hits, striking out ten, and with hot bats from Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Erick Aybar, left with a three to nothing lead, a lead that was to increase to five to nothing. After a good inning from Keviin Jepsen and a bad one from Joe Smith, “closer” Ernesto

Frieri took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth, and proceeded to allow four runs, to tie the game and send it into extra innings.

The Angels scored a 10th inning run, but it was give back in the bottom of the inning by Cam Bredrosian, one of three rookie relievers, each of whom seem to be pitching virtually every game.

After a couple of scoreless innings, the Angels then scored five in the 13th, and the final guy to be handed the ball for LA, Cory Rasmus, who compiled an 8.10 ERA over three appearances for Atlanta last season, retired the side for a very hard-fought win.

In a game where Trout and Pujols each hit a single, double and home run, and drove in four, and in which Aybar collected four hits and made one of the most dazzling defensive plays of the season, diving into the hole to stab a hard hit ball off the bat of Andrelton Simmons, and then throwing to second for an inning ending force play, the team, well, the bullpen, tried its utmost the give away what seemed like should have been a relatively easy victory.


Over his last eight appearances and 6-2/3 innings, Frieri has allowed seven runs, all earned. Over about the same time frame, Smith has made seven appearances, throwing 6-1/3 innings, giving up five runs, all earned. These are the two established, late-innings guys who are supposed to hold on to a lead, and bring home a victory.

Mike Scioscia has gone through a slew of guys coming
and going, in and out of the bullpen, and recently he has seen some measure of success from rookies Mike Morin and Fernando Salas, and the now healthy and rounding into form Kevin Jepsen. the 29-year-old Jepsen has been inconsistent throughout his seven years with the Angels, and has never had success, nor a real chance, as a closer, but he’s working on a streak of 16 straight scoreless appearances, working 12-1/3 innings while allowing only five hits and striking out 14.

It would seem to be a no-brainer that Jepsen should now get the shot as closer, with Morin and Salas as the set-up guys.

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