The decision by Angels manager Mike Scioscia to replace closer Ernesto Frieri with Joe Smith was a move a lot of us saw coming. Frieri had two blown saves already, and his 9.35 ERA up to that point was pretty much the difference between first place and third place in the American League West. A lot of discussions have rolled around about what the Angels should do. But this seemed like the most logical move for the time being.
The Angels could've made a trade. There are more options in the minors than there has been in a few years. However, Joe Smith just seems like the perfect candidate to put teams away late, and to set the bullpen in order, if they have not already begun to do so.
The rest of the bullpen has put up a lot of zeroes over the past two weeks. The results have shown.
Here are the ERA's of the current Angels' bullpen:
Joe Smith: 3.60
Fernando Salas: 2.79
Michael Kohn: 1.50
Nick Maronde: 1.93
Kevin Jepsen: 5.19
Ernesto Frieri: 7.59
Yoslan Herrera: 1.50
Mike Morin: (no appearances)
The Angels' bullpen is 11th in the AL in ERA, at 4.52. Just removing Frieri all together drops the team's relief ERA to 3.42, good for 6th in the AL.
Overall, the Angels are 4th in the AL in ERA, at 3.88. By removing Frieri, on paper the team's overall ERA drops to 3.53, good for 3rd in the AL.
I think we can all agree that the Angels would be in first place if that were the case. But it's not. However, the Angels can thrust themselves into first place with Smith as closer, with Frieri pushed back with less pressure, and with the rest of the bullpen continuing to do what they've done over the past two weeks. We'll just have to let the scenario play itself out for a little while to see. But I think it will work.
Then, the bullpen excuse will run it's course. And if the Angels are still in third place, but the bullpen and starting rotation are performing, then we'll have to find a different excuse. I'd hate for that to be the offense. But for now, the bullpen, mainly Frieri, is the prime suspect. Hopefully it will all be fixed with this one tweak.
One decision can go a long way in determining a team's season.