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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Jerry Krasnick Likes The Angels' Bullpen

Jerry Krasnick of ESPN ranks the postseason contenders' bullpens, and puts the Angels atop the heap:
The good: Francisco Rodriguez is on track to obliterate Bobby Thigpen's single-season save record. He's added a changeup to complement his fastball and terrific curve, and he's motivated by the prospect of a huge free-agent deal this winter.

Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo make for a formidable setup tandem. Arredondo throws a fastball in the mid-90s and is confident enough in his splitter to throw it at any time in the count.

Fatigue shouldn't be an issue down the stretch. The Angels' bullpen has had the lightest workload in the majors, and the team's huge division lead gives manager Mike Scioscia the luxury of backing off in September and making sure the relievers are fresh for the postseason.

The bad: It's not the deepest 'pen on the planet. Darren Oliver is solid, but not your prototypical shutdown lefty. Then again, lefties are hitting .145 against Shields and .170 vs. Arredondo, so it might not matter.

Justin Speier, signed to a four-year, $18 million contract in 2006, has been a disappointment. He's given up 10 homers in 47 innings.

"His velocity is way down, and he's not locating his slider anywhere near as well as he used to,'' an American League scout said.

The yet-to-be-determined: Shields handles the Yankees' lefty hitters very well, and Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and Eric Hinske are a combined 4-for-31 against him. But if it's October and David Ortiz is coming to the plate in a big spot in the seventh or eighth, who gets the call? Big Papi has three homers and a 1.480 slugging percentage in 12 career at-bats against Shields, so Scioscia better give it some thought.

Which Angels starter goes to the bullpen when the rotation gets shorter in the postseason? Jered Weaver looks like the early frontrunner.

I can't see Weaver going to the pen given that he has a hard time finding the strike zone, and besides, Jon Garland is just as combustible, though you could add that Garland at least has a decent track record in the postseason.

Krasnick ranks the Dodgers sixth:

The good: The Dodgers' bullpen ranks second in the majors in strikeouts and OPS against and first in ERA. The 'pen took a hit when closer Takashi Saito went down with a sprained elbow ligament, but Jonathan Broxton has been fine as a replacement. Right-handers have four extra-base hits in 108 at-bats against Broxton this season.

Manager Joe Torre has gotten wonderful contributions from lefty Hong-Chih Kuo, rookie Cory Wade and a resurrected Chan Ho Park. Left-handed hitters have a .235 on-base percentage against Kuo.

Let's face it: The NL West isn't exactly a repository for killer lineups. And with Manny Ramirez around, the Dodgers might actually be able to score some runs and take some pressure off the pitching staff.

The bad: Broxton, who posted a 6.75 ERA in September last year, didn't pitch in a save situation Saturday because of a "tired arm.'' The Dodgers claimed it was just a precaution, but it's definitely worth monitoring.

The yet-to-be-determined: Geez, where do we begin?

Saito might return in September, or he could undergo season-ending surgery. Scott Proctor (elbow) is on a rehab assignment, but he got pounded in his first Class A appearance and is still very iffy. And GM Ned Colletti, who upgraded the offense with deals for Ramirez and Casey Blake, is still trolling the waiver wire for help.

"Like everyone else, we would look to add a pitcher if we get the chance,'' Colletti said.
I find this sort of strange from the viewpoint that the Dodgers' bullpen is number two in the majors with a 3.08 ERA, while the Halos tag along at 13th overall with a 3.86 ERA; much of the runs against by the Angels' pen were accrued by Chris Bootcheck and Dustin Moseley, neither of whom are even on the 40-man roster anymore. Nevertheless, the Dodgers don't have an analogue to Justin Speier, whose good outings far outnumber his bad, and so have the luxury of spreading out the workload on a spectrum of quality relievers. The Angels may be in danger of overworking Jose Arredondo before September hits.

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