What Joe Smith and Fernando Salas Bring to the Angels' Bullpen
When the news broke out that the Angels acquired David Freese, I was ecstatic. I didn't mind dealing Peter Bourjos for him. I was, however indifferent to Fernando Salas because I didn't know that much about him. I then looked at his numbers and found them to be much better than I (and other fans) thought. Then, when the Halos signed Joe Smith to his 3 year, $15.75 million contract, my mouth dropped... with joy. For a reliever? I knew this guy was (is) good. He was crucial to the Indians bullpen in 2013. But even I didn't know how good.
Here's some breakdowns for Joe Smith and Fernando Salas:
Joe Smith's ERA over the past three seasons: 2.01, 2.96, and 2.29.
Fernando Salas' ERA over the past three seasons: 2.28, 4.30, 4.50.
Joe Smith's WHIP over the last three seasons: 1.094, 1.164, 1.222.
Fernando Salas' WHIP over the past three seasons: 0.947, 1.415, 1.179.
Joe Smith's BABIP over the last three seasons: .258, .253, and .282.
Fernando Salas' BABIP over the past three seasons: .230, .320, .282.
This is not a comparison to see who is better. It is more for the purpose of just showing how good both of them are. Salas has gotten the short end of the stick by MLB fans because he's not Joe Smith, or Koji Uehara. Salas is more like that overlooked name that the A's go for.
Salas' numbers have been up and down in some categories. But his ERA has gone up every season. But notice how he had a 4.50 ERA and only a WHIP of 1.179? That was because he would go three or four outings without giving up a run, or even a baserunner, and then would have an outing where he'd give up 3 runs. Still, a 1.179 WHIP is very good, as was his .282 BABIP, which was exactly the same as Joe Smith's BABIP. It sounds like bad luck got in the way of Salas proving himself in 2013.
One might also be wondering why Smith's WHIP and BABIP went way up this season? That's not a big deal. It's mainly due to Terry Francona using him against lefties more. Smith became a full time setup man in '13, whereas in seasons past he would primarily be a righty specialist, which of course is why his ERA, WHIP, and BABIP were so low as far back as 2011.
Smith is a groundball pitcher no matter what role he's in; although his groundball rate was the lowest of his career at 49.1%. But again, that's due to facing lefties more, and still is good enough for a setup man, especially in a more neutral park like the Big A.
That's the key for both Salas and Smith: their home ballpark. Smith is another pitcher who will benefit from pitching in Anaheim. Jacobs Field is not as much of a hitters park as Arlington, but the Indians' facility does tend to lean more on the offensive side. I actually find it remarkable that Smith was able to sustain his low WHIP in '11 and '12 pitching in Cleveland. In Anaheim, however, Smith will likely become one of the top setup men in the game. Salas, on the other hand, might show a more drastic difference since Busch Stadium is one of the more hitter friendly parks in Major League Baseball. We'll know in 2014.
What this means for the Angels' bullpen is not only a strong setup man, but added depth, younger relievers under control, a possible cushion for if the Angels don't get the starting pitching they need, and a way out of relievers like JC Gutierrez and Kevin Jepsen. There's a strong possibility one of those two will be non-tendered after this move. That's fine by me.
The current Angels' bullpen now looks like this:
Ernesto Frieri CL
Sean Burnett SU
Joe Smith SU
Dane De La Rosa MR
Fernando Salas MR
Michael Kohn MR
You could possibly add one more as long relief. But right now that's up in the air; plus I don't really feel like just handing Joe Blanton or Tommy Hanson that role. Regardless, the bullpen the Angels have now is far better than the bullpens they've gone into the season with in the last four years. That's a long time. But it's also about time.
The question still remains: What about starting pitching?