The Irony of the Angels' Achiles Heel

The bullpen was once the Angels' main strength. It was one of the biggest aspect of the positive reputation the organization was gaining in the 2000's. Then, when K-Rod left, and Scot Shields' knee began bothering him, the Angels' bullpen was never the same. What was the Angels' bread and butter, became their biggest downfall. However, things may finally change. The Angels have a deep bullpen again, and there's a chance we may see a return to form.

 

2014 Bullpen (My Projections)

RCL: Ernesto Frieri  2.71 ERA / 42 SV / 1.27 WHIP / 124 ERA+

RSU: Joe Smith  2.39 ERA / 1.19 WHIP / 127 ERA+

LSU: Sean Burnett 2.57 ERA / 1.15 WHIP / 135 ERA+

RMR: Dane De la Rosa 3.79 ERA / 1.36 WHIP / 110 ERA+

RMR: Kevin Jepsen 4.27 ERA / 1.37 WHIP / 95 ERA+

RMR: Michael Kohn 3.69 ERA / 1.29 WHIP / 102 ERA+

RMR: Fernando Salas 3.27 ERA / 1.25 WHIP / 112 ERA+

RMR: Brandon Lyon  4.19 ERA / 1.34 WHIP / 104 ERA+

RMR: Cory Rasmus  3.53 ERA / 1.39 WHIP / 96 ERA+

LMR: Buddy Boshers 4.73 ERA / 1.471 WHIP / 87 ERA+

LMR: Nick Maronde  4.49 ERA / 1.41 WHIP / 93 ERA+

LMR: Brian Moran  4.71 ERA / 1.53 WHIP / 82 ERA+

LSW: Jose Alvarez  3.76 ERA / 1.37 WHIP / 108 ERA+

LSW: Wade LeBlanc 4.32 ERA / 1.27 WHIP / 99 ERA+

RSW: Matt Shoemaker 3.95 ERA / 1.34 WHIP / 105 ERA+

 

2014 Bullpen (Career Averages)

RCL: Ernesto Frieri  2.76 ERA / 1.171 WHIP / 135 ERA+

RSU: Joe Smith  2.97 ERA / 1.257 WHIP / 136 ERA+

LSU: Sean Burnett  3.51 ERA / 1.341 WHIP / 117 ERA+

RMR: Dane De la Rosa  4.04 ERA / 1.252 WHIP / 94 ERA+

RMR: Kevin Jepsen 4.34 ERA / 1.451 WHIP / 93 ERA+

RMR: Michael Kohn  3.84 ERA / 1.454 WHIP / 101 ERA+

RMR: Fernando Salas  3.42 ERA / 1.196 WHIP / 111 ERA+

RMR: Brandon Lyon  4.16 ERA / 1.381 WHIP / 107 ERA+

RMR: Cory Rasmus  5.40 ERA / 1.708 WHIP / 73 ERA+

LMR: Buddy Boshers  (Minors) 3.75 ERA / 1.372 WHIP

LMR: Nick Maronde  3.97 ERA / 1.853 WHIP / 60 ERA+

LMR: Brian Moran  (Minors) 3.06 ERA / 1.184 WHIP

LSW: Jose Alvarez  (Minors) 3.50 ERA / 1.217 WHIP

LSW: Wade LeBlanc  4.51 ERA / 1.439 WHIP / 84 ERA+

RSW: Matt Shoemaker  (Minors) 4.46 ERA / 1.346 WHIP

 

The Vintage Angels Bullpen

The bullpen has been a disaster since 2009. Really! Even during that fun filled '09 ALCS run, the Angels had a shaky bullpen that contributed heavily to the Halos finishing eighth in the American League in team ERA. But prior to '09, dominant relief pitching was the Angels' forte going all the way back to... 1997? That's right. The Angels had at least very good-to-great bullpens for an eleven year period, from 1997 through 2008. The team featured good offense, defense, and relief pitching for years before their World Series, and the playoff run thereafter. It was actually having a mediocre starting rotation that kept them out of the playoffs, and coming up just short, until 2002. But there were seasons even during their playoff run where their rotation wasn't that great. And then the bullpen picked up the pieces and took over. But that was lost by 2009, and was a major reason for the Angels missing the playoffs over the next four seasons. And for whatever reason, not much has been done to fix this problem. That is, until now.

 

What Exactly Can We Expect From This Bullpen?

After the disaster that was the 2013 bullpen -- highlighting all that has been wrong with Angels relievers -- this year’s bullpen is much deeper. I'm not saying this just because there are more bodies on the depth chart. I'm saying this because the Angels' bullpen now has a lot of young relievers who are ready to make their mark at the major league level. This is the perfect time. This was also the case going into the Championship 2002 season -- that whole team was full of players who were due to have good years all at the same time. The same goes for this bullpen, as well as much of the rest of the team.

So the bullpen could show up big for the Angels. But at the same time, they could falter again.

There is one big positive factor, from a statistical stand point. A large number of Angels relievers had ERA’s under 4.00 in 2013. So unlike the bullpens of old, this won't necessarily be a dominant relief core. But this bullpen will feature a collection of above average to good relievers, with ERA’s likely in the 2.00’s and 3.00’s, and with some in the 4.00’s. I really can't see a whole lot of ERA’s over 5.00 in this bullpen. Maronde, Jepsen, and Moran are the more likely suspects to have high ERA's.

So either this bullpen will help support the horses in the rotation, and spell potential growing pains from the young arms, or they may experience their own growing pains. It can be a fifty-fifty chance. Or a Two-Face flip of the coin. In any case, the Angels have several above average or better arms in their bullpen this season, much like their starting lineup. So,  rather than having a few dominant arms and a bunch of hole fillers, there will likely be an accumulation of good production by Angels relievers. And I'll take that over any bullpen the Angels have had since 2009. 

We obviously will have to see how the season plays out. But there's a good chance the Angels may have their deepest and best bullpen in a long time.