Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Angels are LITERALLY Insane

Albert Einstein (widely regarded as one of, if not the, smartest guys ever) defined Insanity as doing the same thing over again but expecting different results.  If Einstein is to be believed, what the Angels are doing is actually insane.

Leading 4-1 heading into the final inning of play against the Washington Nationals, the Angels looked poised to sweep the series and hop ahead of .500 for the first time on the season.  The team was in high spirits, with Pujols hitting his 500th career home run the night before and the offense clicking for the first time on the road in a long time.

Then, as the team has done too many times over the past two seasons, they put the ball and the game in the hands of closer Ernesto Frieri.  As you might expect, Frieri blew the save, giving up 3 runs to tie the game before handing the ball off to another one of the rotating crew of lackluster bullpen guys.

The Halos, although still winning the series in Wahshington, now face tomorrow realizing they were three outs from a series sweep but once again left the ball in the hands of the inept-at-best Ernesto Frieri.

If things are going to improve for the Angels this season, and seasons ahead, they need to stop relying on one of the most inconsistent closers in baseball.  I'm not sure what the solution is, but anything at this point would be better than the insanity the Angels are dealing with now.

Monday, April 21, 2014

5 Ways to Fix the Angels Bullpen and (hopefully) Save the Season.

So, it's no secret that to this point in the Angels 2014 season, the biggest problem facing the team is the atrocious bullpen.  It's been a problem for years, but thanks to other weaknesses in the team, went mostly unnoticed by many.  Well, now that the offense is hot and the starting rotation seems pretty solid (roughly as good as anyone else in the AL right now with the exception of Oakland), it's pretty clear that the Bullpen is to blame for at least a few of the Angel's 10 losses so far this year.  With an ERA of almost 5.00 (and roughly 60% of inherited runners scored), the Angels Bullpen not only looks bad in person, but on paper as well.   So, how do they fix it?

1. Find a Way to Cut Ties with Kevin Jepsen

I've had my problems with Jepsen in the past... just click on his name at the bottle of this article to take you to all the other times I've poo'ed all over him.  But it's not just a personal vendetta (like I have with Aybar, who has admittedly been a pretty good player from time to time), he is genuinely a bad player.  It's not like he doesn't have the talent.  He can throw heat and has a decent set of off-speed pitches, but he can't locate for shit.  He will leave batting-practice pitches over the plate frequently and his numbers reflect this.  Over his career, he has a -0.07 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).  That's right.  The Angels are paying someone $1.5 Million to cost themselves almost a whole win over a league-average replacement player that they'd be paying 1/3rd of that.

If they can trade him, great.  If not, who cares.  Don't send him to Salt Lake... don't send him to Arkansas... don't even send him to Inland Empire.  Just cut him.  Eat the salary and you will pretty much be guaranteeing yourself a whole win this season, which with a second wildcard team could be the difference.  Also, maybe a change of scenery is just what Jepsen needs to finally realize all that potential.

2. Replace the Entire Bullpen Staff

Yeah, I think it's great that Steve Soliz has been on the team for so long... first as Bullpen catcher, and now as Bullpen coach... but maybe it's time for him to move on.  Maybe be a pitching coach in the minors somewhere... but he needs a change of scenery just as much as Jepsen does.  The Angels pen needs a new voice to follow.

It's also way more likely that the team would be willing to cut ties with Soliz and Tom Gregario (Bullpen Catcher) than it is Mike Butcher.  I know Butcher probably needs to be replaced as well, but he is now one of just a few of Scioscia's buddies that is left with the team.  Until Scioscia is gone, Butcher isn't going anywhere.

3. Sign Octavio Dotel

After losing Jepsen and a good chuck of the staff in the Bullpen, the Angels will have an open roster spot and a need for a veteran voice in that clubhouse.  Octavio Dotel has been pitching for a long time and he has done it all.  He has been a starter, a closer and everything in between.  He knows what it's like to win it all (2011 with the St. Louis Cardinals, so he also has a relationship with Pujols and Freese), and he won't cost you any prospects, like trading for someone from another team would.

The Angels probably don't need another 40 year old in the clubhouse, but he brings enough to the table that it would be worth their time to consider it.  His health would be the only issue in bringing him in, as he needed to miss the entire second half of last season with Elbow Inflammation.  If he can still pitch, bring him in, even if it's in a limited role.

4. Experiment with Minor League Guys

It's not the easiest solution to the problem, but at this point, could Joe Random from AA be any worse than what we have now?  Maybe, but not likely.  If you are going to be risking a loss anytime you turn to the pen, why not do it with a guy that COULD be the next big thing?

This would also help from putting too many innings on the arms of your starters and the newly-acquired Dotel.

5. Let Other Pitchers Compete for the Closing Role

Scioscia has shown in the past that he isn't afraid to swap closers at a moments notice (Fernando Rodney lost his job just two weeks into the season a few years back), so why stick with Ernesto Frieri?  He has shown that he is shaky at best in the role, and while the rest of the bullpen hasn't really shown what it takes to close out games, maybe a little competition would ignite a fire under the entire staff (especially Frieri himself).

Dotel has closed in the past, and there is SOMEONE who is actually closing out games at every other level.  Maybe make the jump now and see where it takes you.


Now, even if all these steps don't completely fix the bullpen, they will at least make it BETTER.  The way the team is built now, this is probably a team that could go .500 even with the bullpen they have now.  If you can shave off a few losses and maybe a run from that ERA, the Angels have a playoff contender on their hands.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Legends and Tragedy

Originally, I wasn't going to write anything today.  It was just another Wednesday, or so I thought.

Turns out, it's the five year anniversary of the passing of Angels Pitcher Nick Adenhart.

I know I've said a few things about Adenhart, his passing, his potential, drunk driving and the man who killed him in the past, nothing that really needs to be retreaded here.

I saw him pitch his final game, in person, just hours before his untimely death.  I was there two days later for the teams tribute to him and a seemingly meaningless game against the Red Sox.

But I think I've gone over all of that before, and even five years later, just thinking about it puts my heart in knots.  What meaning is there behind drudging up these feelings five years later?  I'm not sure, but as fate would have it, another significant figure in my life passed away recently.  The Ultimate Warrior.

For those not familiar with early 90's professional wrestling, Ultimate Warrior was supposed to be the next big thing.  Wrestlemania VI was the passing of the torch from 80's legend Hulk Hogan.  Hogan lost the WWF Championship to him that night, in what was probably the most entertaining match either of them ever had.  Though personal demons, ugly contract disputes and legal battles put Warrior's rising star on pause, he was still a hero to hundreds of thousands of kids who grew up at that time.  I was always more of a Hogan kid myself, but I still grew up admiring Warrior (a name the man originally known as Jim Hellwig would later legally adopt).

The timing behind Warrior's passing was almost as strange as Adenharts, if not at a completely different place in his life.  Warrior was recently inducted into the (now) WWE Hall of Fame, then made appearances at Wrestlemania XXX and Monday Night Raw.  All of that in a 72 hour time frame, after leaving the business altogether in 1998 and having burned most of his bridges as WWE.  Recently, he had been willing to come back to the company to receive this honor and become an ambassador for the company.  He got to reconcile with those he had hurt (or hurt him) over the years, even Hogan himself, whom he had not spoken to since their time together in WCW in 1998.  He got to mend his life, reconnect with his favorite part of the industry (the fans) and say his peace without even realizing it.

These are Warrior's final public words (in his Ultimate Warrior persona on Monday Night Raw):
“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own, every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, it makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend markers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. Ultimate. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!"

Less than 24 hours later, Warrior collapsed walking outside of a Arizona hotel with his wife and was declared dead soon after.

It's eerie.  The man got about as much closure as someone could without knowing their fate.

So five years since Adenhart's passing, what people are still talking about are what could have been.  Inserting a legend where there wasn't one, but probably would have been one.  Adenhart had a ton of talent, and probably could have been one of the best pitchers in baseball had he lived.  I remember reading an article by a local sportswriter (its really bugging me that I can't remember or find out who) days after Adenhart's passing that he wouldn't be able read the results of the Cy Young voting for 2011, 2012 and beyond without thinking of what could have been.  Adenhart was already a legend, and we have been passing on stories of that legend for 5 years.  We have made Adenhart a legend, I just wish he would have been able to make himself a legend like Warrior did.  He had the talent to.