Report Card: Bullpen …
Ernesto Frieri, CL
2012: 2.32 ERA, 23-for-25 SV, 66 IP, 98 SO, 30 BB, .99 WHIP
2011: 2.71 ERA, 0-for-0 SV, 63 IP, 76 SO, 34 BB, 1.35 WHIP
Frieri was the bullpen’s savior when he came over unheralded from the Padres, utilizing a deceptive, Jered–Weaver-on-steroids delivery and a funky fastball to navigate through the first half basically untouched, with no runs and 45 strikeouts in his first 26 1/3 innings with Anaheim. As the league got to know him a little bit, Frieri got hit around a little bit, most glaringly blowing two saves — and two Zack Greinke gems — in a five-day span in mid-September. In the future, he’ll have to work on his slider to off-set that fastball, and the Angels’ bullpen may be better off if he’s the eighth-inning man rather than the closer. But he still had a fantastic year and there’s no reason to believe he can’t put up those numbers again. His stuff is that electric.
Scott Downs, SU
2012: 3.15 ERA, 9-for-12 SV, 45 2/3 IP, 32 SO, 17 BB, 1.31 WHIP
2006-11: 2.57 ERA, 3 SV, 61 IP, 50 SO, 20 BB, 1.17 WHIP
It wasn’t a typically dominant year for Downs, who’s now 36 and looked every bit his age in the second half, giving up 15 runs in 15 2/3 innings while suffering a few nicknack injuries throughout the year. Most concerning, of course, is the shoulder, which prompted him to miss 20 games in August. I’m told he didn’t have any sort of procedure on it this offseason, but it’ll be something to watch for a guy with the tenure of Downs, who’s a critical component of a thin Angels ‘pen. He’ll be in the final season of a three-year deal in 2013.
Garrett Richards, MR
2012: 4.69 ERA, 30 G (9 GS), 71 IP, 47 SO, 34 BB, 1.56 WHIP
As much as manager Mike Scioscia may have wanted it to happen, Richards wasn’t really a great fit in the bullpen. The Angels put him there permanently after recalling him in late August, giving Richards several opportunities late in games. But he was rather hit and miss — mostly miss — with a 5.82 ERA in 17 innings. Next year, though, the 24-year-old right-hander will go back to starting, and you’d figure he’d have a set spot, considering his upside and the amount of holes Jerry Dipoto may have to fill in his rotation this offseason. In an ideal world, though, he’s the fifth starter in 2013.
Kevin Jepsen, MR
2012: 3.02 ERA, 44 2/3 IP, 38 SO, 12 BB, 1.14 WHIP
2009-11: 4.76 ERA, 42 IP, 38 SO, 19 BB, 1.54 WHIP
The explosive Jepsen the Angels had in 2010, and the one they anticipated coming out of Spring Training, finally materialized when he returned from the Minors in July. In 40 appearances since then, the 28-year-old right-hander posted a 1.67 ERA in 37 2/3 innings, striking out 34 and walking 10. Now the Angels hope he’s here to stay.
Jordan Walden, MR
2012: 3.46 ERA, 1-for-2 SV, 39 IP, 48 SO, 18 BB, 1.36 WHIP
2011: 2.98 ERA, 32-for-42 SV, 60 1/3 IP, 67 SO, 26 BB, 1.24 WHIP
Walden was just never right in 2012. He lost his closer’s job after a walk-off homer in Tampa in late April, missed about six weeks with a neck and right biceps strain and his average fastball velocity dropped, from 97.5 to 96.3 mph. The 24-year-old right-hander talked about incorporating his changeup more and improving his slider, but if he can’t dial it up to triple-digits — like he did frequently in 2011 and hardly ever in 2012 — he can’t be successful.
LaTroy Hawkins, MR
2012: 3.64 ERA, 1 SV, 42 IP, 23 SO, 13 BB, 1.38 WHIP
2000-11: 3.29 ERA, 7 SV, 62 IP, 45 SO, 19 BB, 1.27 WHIP
Hawkins, and the man who will follow, got a lot of criticism from fans this year because of what he didn’t do — help preserve leads by being a consistent force late in games. But frankly, that’s not really what he was expected to do. Dipoto identified the 39-year-old Hawkins early in the offseason, eventually signing him to a $3 million deal, not because he expected him to be a shutdown guy late in games but because he expected him to eat innings, throw strikes and guide the young guys. Hawkins did that for the most part, but he faded down the stretch and eventually lost Scioscia’s trust. He’ll head elsewhere this offseason, perhaps on a Minor League deal. The fact he was counted on so much says a lot about just how thin this bullpen was.
Jason Isringhausen, MR
2012: 4.14 ERA, 0 SV, 45 2/3 IP, 31 SO, 19 BB, 1.38 WHIP
2000-11: 3.10 ERA, 26 SV, 55 IP, 50 SO, 23 BB, 1.22 WHIP
Izzy didn’t have much left in the tank while finishing out the year with the Mets last season, and he had hardly anything left throughout 2012 with the Angels. It showed, of course, as the 40-year-old, 16-year veteran gave up 10 runs in his last 10 2/3 innings and appeared in only four games in all of September. A couple of positives from Isringhausen this year: He stayed healthy, and considering the circumstances he came in under — signed late in Spring Training, on a Minor League contract, didn’t make the team until his opt-out deadline — he probably provided more than the Angels expected. The problem, as with Hawkins, is that Isringhausen was never supposed to be as important as he was at one point. He’ll probably retire this offseason. If he does, he noted that his final pitch struck out Michael Young. “Tough to beat that,” he said.
Jerome Williams, LR
2012: 4.58 ERA, 32 G (15 GS), 137 2/3 IP, 98 SO, 35 BB, 1.26 WHIP
Williams was, in a word, serviceable. He began the season as the fifth starter, throwing a few clunkers (like seven runs in 5 2/3 innings vs. the Mariners on June 6) and a few gems (like a shutout against the Twins on May 1). Then — due in part to his asthma attack, Richards’ presence and the Greinke acquisition — he spent the rest of the season as a long reliever, which actually became a critical role considering that six-week stretch when the entire rotation seemed to go bad. Now, he’s heading into his second offseason of arbitration and is a non-tender candidate. Will the Angels bring him back? It’ll depend on what they do with the rest of their rotation.