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Everyone is always concerned about bullpens, rightly so mind you. To that end, I'll take a look at the shaky situation in Anaheim where a change could be coming. I'll also highlight two other jobs that may not be on the most solid of footing, those of the Indians and Orioles. Finally, I'll touch on three starting arms, two I like and one not so much.
Ernesto Frieri has a huge arm. Witness his career K/9 mark of 12.26 and his current rate of 12.46. Batters swing and miss a frickin' ton at his balls (that didn't sound very good, did it?). Another interesting fact about Frieri is that his walk rate continues to tumble. Here are his BB/9 marks the last three years: 4.86, 4.09 and 3.93. This year that rate is 3.12, a career best. So success has followed, obviously. Not so much. Frieri is currently saddled with an insane .409 BABIP. His career rate is .273. But it's the homers that are the real issue (and that is saying something). Frieri has a career 56 percent fly ball rate. That is awful and has led him to battle the long ball at times. However, his 1.30 HR/9 rate the last two years hasn't stopped him from racking up 60 saves. This year though things are obnoxious. Frieri has allowed five homers in 10 appearances leading to a... wait for it... 5.19 HR/9 mark. That is patently absurd, but there it is. So Frieri currently is generating more strikeouts than normal, his walk rate has plummeted and his GB/FB is currently the best of his career. Still his ERA is 9.35, his WHIP 1.96 and he's on the verge of losing his closing job though manager Mike Scioscia says he is still the man, for now.
Joe Smith is the name to know here, and for those speculating he's the guy to add. At the same time he has three career saves in 450 big league appearances, so he's never been looked at as “the guy.” Perhaps it's cause of his lame ass name. He's pitching well right now, almost too well though. His 3.67 K/BB ratio dwarfs his 2.00 career mark, and he's yet to allow a homer. Not that a lot figure to be coming since he is the owner of a superb 58 percent ground ball rate which has reached an insane level, that is totally unsustainable, this season (74.1 percent).
Smith is pitching above his head. Frieri is barely holding his head above water despite pitching like he always does.
Ultimately it's all about if the Angels have enough patience to let things stabilize. Frieri is the same dominant arm he's always been. He's just been a combination of unlucky and extremely unlucky in the early going. I'd be trying to buy low if his current owner was nervous, especially if he's removed from the role – I bet he'll get it back. Might want to cover yourself though and add Mr. Smith just in case. Hey, nothing wrong with protecting the old backside.
Tommy Hunter is getting it done. He has six saves in seven chances and is in no danger of losing his closing gig with the Orioles. At the same time I did want to point out that he has an 85 percent left on base percentage which has helped to conceal a 1.57 WHIP and left his ERA at a somewhat respectable 3.86. He's living on the edge right now. A couple of bad outings and we might be worried about his role. Nice to see his K/9 rate at a career best. Too bad it's just 7.71.
Who is pitching better?
Pitcher A: 0.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 13.50 K/9, 3.50 K/BB, 0.88 GB/FB
Pitcher B: 2.79 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.38 K/9, 1.29 K/BB, 0.77 GB/FB
Who is closing? John Axford (Pitcher B) is closing while Cody Allen serves as the setup man. Axford has gotten it done, he's 8-for-9 converting saves, but he's also walked seven batters in 9.2 innings while his K/9 rate is nearly 2.5 batters below his career level. He's just not pitching well. It will likely take a couple of blow ups for him to lose his job, but Allen shouldn't be left on waivers if you're in a league that is bigger than 10 teams.
Tyson Ross is 2-3 through five starts, but it's been mostly positive. His K/9 rate is strong at 8.04. His walk rate of 3.73 is only two hundredths off his career mark, though of course we're hoping it moves back down to the 3.17 level he floated out there last season (his WHIP is a bit elevated at 1.34 cause of the walks). His GB/FB mark was 1.84 in 2012. It was 1.85 in 2013. It's currently 1.88. If the walks tick down a bit Ross will be a valuable arm this season.
Alfredo Simon has made four starts with a 1.30 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. For his career he has a 3.89 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Simon has a 5.53 K/9 mark right now, a full batter below his career rate (6.56). Simon is walking 2.93 batters per nine innings. His career mark is 3.07. He has a 1.45 GB/FB ratio. His career mark is 1.35. His BABIP is .185. His career mark is .284. Pretty sure just that brief little run through tells you that you cannot trust Simon as a mixed league option, right (that's for you Jeff Mans)? Sell high amigos.
Chris Tillman is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.25 WHIP for the Orioles. His production, compare to last season, is eerily similar. Compare.
2013: 3.71 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.81 K/9, 1.44 HR/9, .269 BABIP, 80.5 LOB%
2014: 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.59 K/9, 1.41 HR/9, .271 BABIP, 79.4 LOB%
He's a pretty darn solid hurler. Gotta worry about Chris' propensity to allow the big fly, might mean his 3.38 ERA could be in line to tick back up to last year's level, but over his last 38 starts he's finally becomes the pitcher the Orioles had waited years to see. He's a solid mixed league option that you should be able to trust this season.
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