Friday, August 12, 2005

Two nice pieces in the Halosphere today; one from Rob breaking down the decisions that got us here, and Sean points out that here isn't such a bad place to be.

Being one game out of first is not the end of the world. What's frustrating now is the manner in which the team keeps finding new and interesting ways to lose. It reminds most of us long-time Angel fans of the past, of the ways the team would historically grab defeat from the jaws of victory. A misplayed bad hop there, a drop of a throw there, and all of a sudden we're not in first place.

But on a positive note, the Angels very easily could have taken all three games in NetAss, and the fact that they got so close and didn't just might light a fire under their ass to remind them that they're not entitled to wins. This is still a good team, and we should be in the thick of this thing the whole way.

Still, it's not a perfect team. Rob points out the thinned bullpen, and he's right. And this was obvious going into the season, and the powers-that-be did little that had a chance to correct the situation.

The loss of Percival was indeed a loss, not so much because he would be going, but because it was an attack on the team's depth. Esteban Yan, despite his scattered moments of non-sucking, was no kind of solution, and there wasn't ever really a chance that he would be. Bret Prinz was brought in, but immediately got injured. But it's not like a healthy Prinz would have been a guaranteed panacea: even with his one earned run in three innings this year, the guy has a 4.77 ERA in over 88 career innings.

And the vaunted Angel Middle Relief Factory has had diminishing returns. Joel Peralta has his moments, and is decent (a 4.02 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning is nothing to scoff at from your fourth reliever), but has not demonstrated the consistency that you would want from someone in a killer lineup for the 7-8-9 innings. The same is true of Jake Woods. Meanwhile, Steve Andrade (dominating AA, as always) and Bobby Jenks (a 2.63 ERA in nearly 14 major league innings, with a 17:7 K:BB ratio) were allowed to go to other organizations, while retainees Tim Bittner (6.33 as a starter in AA) and Dusty Bergman (a solid 3.05 ERA in middle relief at AAA) haven't advanced up the ladder.

I have also found Scioscia's use of the bullpen in recent weeks to border on the bizarre. Asking Shields to go two innings Wednesday instead of using Donnelly in the seventh strikes me as bizarre, but of course Donnelly had to go and spit on my belief in him the next day. And through it all, after magically being enshrined as Closer, Frankie K. has only 44 innings, and is on pace for only 63 innings all year. His DL stint has a little bit to do with that, but he's averaged 85 innings the previous two seasons, and his time missed doesn't explain that whole gap.

One relatively undocumented story this season is that of Shields' alleged rubber arm. No matter how often the story of his 16-inning game from college is recounted, the fact is the man just can't pitch every single day, and he's demonstrated that plenty of times.

The concern is that Scioscia has appeared to lose any confidence in Donnelly, which means he risks overextending Shields, and thus messing up the game before it even gets to Frankie. Donnelly has been inconsistent this year, and has been lit up of late, but his reliability is required. But if he and Peralta start going south permanently, our worries might become valid sooner than we think.

Don't forget to mention Turnbow in that "relievers we let get away" list.

I'd be happy with Turnbow pitching the 7th innings for the Halos right now, wouldn't you?
Good point -- and let's not forget his set-up man, Matt Wise, either.
I had failed to remember Wise. Glad to see him doing well for the Brewers. I always liked him and was sad to hear it when he blew out his arm. At least he has a major league job and is excelling at it - even if not with the Halos.
The 16-inning game really did happen. I've seen the box score.
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