Dangerous Angels Still Need Relief


September 25, 2009

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon once famously said, ?I have come to the conclusion that the two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen.?

While we don?t know much about the Los Angeles Angels? social life, they aren?t doing so well in the latter department.

Mike Scioscia?s relief corps has compiled a 4.44 ERA this season, the worst of any American League playoff team. In fact, the Colorado Rockies (4.51) are the only contender with a bullpen ERA higher than the Halos?.

At this crucial stage of the season and heading into the playoffs, Scioscia has at most three relievers that he can confidently hand the ball to with the expectation of a goose egg on the scoreboard.

One of them is veteran situational left-hander Darren Oliver, who has gradually seen his role grow thanks to his 2.51 ERA in 68 innings and the struggles of his colleagues. Another is righty Jason Bulger, who has been excellent since the All-Star break, logging a 1.17 ERA and allowing just 12 hits in 23 innings over his past 23 appearances. And the third is righty Kevin Jepsen, who has been discussed as a potential platoon partner for closer Brian Fuentes after amassing a 1.87 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 32 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings since the break.

The rest of the bullpen has been somewhere between inconsistent and unwatchable for the majority of the season.

Fuentes was awful at the beginning of the season, excellent in June, and even more awful ever since. He has more walks (14) than strikeouts (10) in 20 2/3 innings since the All-Star break and has blown four of 22 save opportunities. Throw in the four home runs smacked off of Fuentes in those 27 trips to the mound, and his credentials for a demotion start to rival those of the Phillies? beleaguered ninth-inning man, Brad Lidge.

Jose Arredondo, a flamethrowing right-hander with a filthy slider who emerged as a quality set-up man down the stretch last year, also has been whacked around of late. In his 14 trips to the hill since the All-Star break, the 25-year-old has coughed up six homers, leading to a bloated 7.02 ERA.

Matt Palmer was surprisingly effective as a rotation fill-in for the injured John Lackey and Ervin Santana early in the season, and Palmer seemingly has taken to his new bullpen role with a 2.54 ERA in 39 innings since mid-July. The problem is that Palmer?s 22-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio over that span reeks of an impending regression.

Come playoff time, Scioscia will have that crop of relievers to choose from when Lackey, Santana or Scott Kazmir needs to be taken out. Scioscia?s likely division series counterpart, Terry Francona, on the other hand, will have a laundry list of effective arms at his disposal.

In a matchup between two potent offenses, pitching will be the difference, and the Angels are significantly overmatched when it comes to their bullpen.

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