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.

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