What Happened To The Bullpen?
Ah, the good old days. When starting pitchers threw 500 innings and were considered pussies if they couldn't finish their games, and the major league saves leader had a season total of nine. When the primary role of a trainer was to tell a player to "rub some dirt on it" and then give him a shot of bourbon to wash down a greenie. A team's bullpen was typically made up of washed up veteran starters or rookie "bonus babies". Gone are the days where a pitcher such as Mike Marshall will pitch 208 innings IN RELIEF, and appear in 106 games. These days, a team's bullpen has a LOOGY (lefty one out guy), a set-up guy, a 7th inning guy, long relief guy, a mop-up guy, and a closer guy. That's a lot of specialized guys. And this is the philosophy of Angels' manager Mike Scioscia. He uses his bullpen in a systematic way where each pitcher has their role and each guy has their use. Heading into the play-offs, the Angels suddenly have no one who can pitch out of a jam. Over the last 8 games, the Angels bullpen has given up 25 hits, 18 earned runs, and 15 walks in 24.2 innings. They've posted an ERA of 6.57 over those 8 games, but the good news is the Halos have a record of 5-3. Fortunately the Angels have been playing Oakland, Texas and Seattle, and not Tampa or Boston. Two pitchers vying for one of the play-off roster spots are Mark Bulger and Kevin Jepsen. Over the last 7 games, both pitchers have been less than stellar:
With the recent performance of these two players, and the decent week Speier has had, it's looking like Speier will be on the post-season roster unless something changes in the last 5 games.
- Second baseman Howie Kendrick is back from his hamstring injury just in time to get in a few games before the play-offs. Kendrick played 3 innings Monday and 5 innings last night. He went 2 for 3 with two runs scored last night and appears to be running well. He'll likely get tonight off to rest and then play in the remaining 4 games to see if he's well enough to make the start in game one. Also recovering from injury, Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins have returned during the last week. Aybar was also suffering from a sore hamstring and Figgins has a sore elbow after getting hit by a pitch. A full strength team will be a nice change from last year's post-season when the Angels had a number of players less than 100% and were swept by Boston in the first round. Fill-ins Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez did well during Kendrick, Aybar, and Figgins absence, but still look to be a season away from becoming the Angels' starting middle infield. Wood has improved during his recent call-up, hitting .262 with 4 home runs and 11 RBI after hitting just .091 in 44 at-bats during the month of May.
- Vlad Guerrero is currently hitting .301. If he remains at .300, he'll join Lou Gehrig as the only two players in history to have 25 home runs and hit at least .300 for 11 straight seasons.
- Speaking of Guerrero, his right knee is better, but not completely healed. In this piece from the L.A. Times, "Guerrero has had knee problems for three years -- he has averaged 141 at-bats as a designated hitter the last three seasons -- but chose rest and rehabilitation over surgery the last two winters." Hopefully, his knee holds up during the play-offs. Expect Guerrero to see more games at DH, especially if the Angels play at Tampa on their artificial surface.
- An interesting stat from the L.A. Times; The Angels have won 191 games since the start of the 2007 season, and 80 of those (42%) were by one run, the most one-run wins in the major leagues in that span. This is one of the reasons the Angels Run Differential stats are skewed. Although the Angels don't outscore their opponents at the same rate as some teams, they still manage to win. I'm not sure what to think about this. It's thought that there are no players who are consistently "clutch", or in other words, who hit better with runners in scoring position than they typically do in other at bats. Is that true for teams? Do the Angels consistently do just enough to win, or have they been lucky over the last 2 seasons? This will be something I can look into this off-season.
- The Angels' magic number for home field advantage is 3 with five games remaining. Both Tampa Bay and Boston have clinched play-off spots, which the only thing left to determine is who's going to be the East division winner and which team will be the wild card. Tampa has a 2 game lead over Boston. Regardless of who wins the East, the Angels are assured of home field during the ALDS as they would play the wild card team.
W L Pct GB Angels 97 60 .618 - Tampa Bay 95 62 .609 2.0 Boston 92 65 .586 5.0 Chicago 86 70 .551 10.5