Tag: Scot Shields

The Free Agent Team: A Team Assembled by Who’s Left on the Free Agent Market

There are still plenty of players left on the free agent market that could improve a major league club. What if it was decided there would be a new expansion team? The team would have to assemble itself by whoever is left, and this is what I believe this team would look like. A team filled with former all-stars, and overlooked players.

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How the L.A. Angels Lost Money By Not Paying Francisco Rodriguez $12 Million

Admit it Angels fans. You’ve been spoiled.

Since Bryan Harvey took over the role in 1989, the Angels have been blessed with a shut-down closer every year until now.

Harvey, Troy Percival, Francisco Rodriguez and yes, Brian Fuentes, have provided an unbroken, 20-year chain of confidence for Halo managers to go to the pen in the ninth.

That amazing streak of good fortune seems likely to be ending this year.

In just 11 appearances this season, Fuentes has already allowed four homers, blown two saves, and lost a game.

With an ERA hovering near 6.00 and a WHIP of 1.31, Fuentes has been far from automatic and anything but intimidating for opposing batters.

Normally, a sampling of 11 games might not be all that much to be concerned about—especially for a guy that led the majors in saves last year with 48 and made the All-Star team.

Lost in those stats from 2009 are his seven blown saves, five losses, 1.40 WHIP and a blown save in the playoffs.

A trip to the DL earlier this year gave the newly acquired, former Detroit Tigers closer Fernando Rodney a shot at locking down wins. Rodney promptly went five-for-five in save opportunities and had fans advocating for manager Mike Scioscia to make the change permanent.

Rodney then promptly blew a save against St. Louis on Sunday, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of Angels fans everywhere.

With all the hand-wringing over the Angels’ offense and inconsistent starting pitching, the biggest letdown of all has been the bullpen. No longer can they count on the best set-up man in baseball to hand the game over to one of the best closers in baseball—a luxury Scot Shields and Brendan Donnelly provided for the past decade.

If the Angels could have simply held on to leads this year in the same way they have held on in the past, they still would be tied for first place despite all of their other woes.

Until the Halos solve their relief problems, the $30 million they are spending on their starting rotation will be utterly worthless, which begs the question: Was Francisco Rodriguez worth $12 million per year after all?

I was front and center on the “don’t re-sign K-Rod” bandwagon two years ago. After all, the Angels had rookie sensation Jose Arredondo, who looked like he was separated at birth from K-Rod with his 1.62 ERA.

Paying the league minimum to a guy that might end up being as good as Rodriguez seemed to make far more sense than paying $12 million for redundancy.

The Angels still obviously put a high priority on the closer slot, despite letting Franky walk. They spent $9 million to bring in Fuentes, 34, because of reservations management had about Arredondo’s readiness in making the jump to closer.

After Arredondo flamed out in his sophomore season, and ultimately ended up needing Tommy John surgery, the insurance move paid off for the Halos.

However, with Fuentes seeming to have lost a step just one year later, questions about the wisdom in letting Rodriguez walk in the first place deserve to be revisited.

Did the Angels actually save money with the move or did they waste $9 million by making Brian Fuentes their highest-paid pitcher?

For $3 million more, would they have been better served to keep the real deal in K-Rod?

$3 million more might start to look like a bargain when you consider K-Rod is only 28 and has already accomplished the following:

He’s a season away from already joining the 300-save club.

Crushed the all-time single-season save record with 62.

Has more saves than any other closer since 2005.

685 K’s in 542 innings pitched (they don’t call him K-Rod for nothing).

Batters are hitting .191 against him for his career (lower than Mariano Rivera).

He’s a World Champion.

Consistently one of the top three most intimidating closers in baseball.

Through 21 appearances this season, he has 25 K’s, with a  1.96 ERA.

Further consider that the Angels spent $5.75 million to sign Rodney as a backup plan to Fuentes this season. That means the Angels ended up spending more on two mediocre closers than they would have if they had just signed their elite closer in the first place. $2.75 million more, which ironically is almost the exact difference between the Fuentes and Rodriguez contracts.

Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but I promise I will never take pitching depth for granted again. It would be wise for General Manager Tony Reagins to take heed as well. It may have taken this year to remind the Angels and their fans what pitching is worth.

The Angels have gone from having the third best team ERA in baseball two years ago, to the second worst in the American League this season.

Now, the Angels are seeing the consequences.

Until the bullpen gets righted, a team that has been built on pitching a defense for the past decade with much success can no longer succeed.

Don’t look for the Angels to make any trades to remedy the problem. They are pretty much stuck with what they have for the season because of all the money they have already allocated to Rodney and Fuentes.

Unless several relievers step up from within the organization in the next month, the Angels will be in for a long, frustrating and forgettable summer.

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Angels Out West: Top 5 Changes L.A. Must Make To Compete in the Division

There are only three things you have to do in baseball: catch the ball, throw the ball, and hit the ball.

Right now, the Los Angeles Angels are struggling to do any of those.

Coming into Saturday’s game, the Angels have made the fourth most errors in the American League (30 in 44 games, including four at the catching position), leading to 19 unearned runs.

Which hasn’t done anything to help a beleaguered pitching staff that has no problem giving up runs on its own.

Angels hurlers are riding neck-and-neck with the Boston Red Sox for the worst team ERA in the league, while L.A.’s bullpen is by far the worst in that category at 5.42.

As a whole, the team has given up the most doubles, the most triples, the most home runs, the second most walks, and the second highest batting average against.

And as for hitting the ball, a nearly identical lineup to the one that set franchise records for batting average and runs scored in 2009 is maddeningly inconsistent here in 2010.

The Angels currently sit in the bottom half of league with a .249 team average and just 185 runs scored. They are also last in triples with only one, although they reside in the fifth spot in the AL with 79 doubles and 43 home runs.

Catching the ball has not been easy, throwing the ball has been a disaster, and hitting the ball hasn’t been enough to make up for the first two areas of concern.

With all of that in mind, here are the top five changes the Angels must make if they want to stay competitive in the American League West.

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Shields Down: Is This the End of One of the Angels’ Greatest Relievers?

The bullpen was supposed to be a key strength for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2010.

All the talk about lacking a true No. 1 starter didn’t matter, because the relievers would be there to secure any lead.

That bravado hinged, in no small way, on the return of Scot Shields.

Shields has indeed returned, but his pitching form has not.

Once one of the brightest young pitching stars to emerge from the Angels’ farm system, Shields burst onto the scene like a supernova in 2001 before going on to help his team secure its first World Series Championship the following year.

That season, he posted a career-best 2.20 ERA and would follow it up with six consecutive years of sub-3.90 work. 

It was only because of a bum knee in 2009 that the ERA streak came to an end. Shields was forced to have season-ending surgery after posting a 6.62 ERA in just 20 appearances.

This year was supposed to be different.

The addition of Fernando Rodney, along with the emergence of both Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger, gave the Angels’ relief corps an effective mix of youth and experience to lock down those late-inning leads.

It also provided the perfect cushion to support Shields as he slowly worked his way back into his usual set-up role. With his knee fully healed and rehabbed, it was only a matter of time.

But after 10 appearances, that time has still not come.

Shields has lost his form entirely. He struggles to find the strike zone with consecutive pitches, and his misses aren’t even close.

Through 7.1 innings this year, Shields has allowed 19 baserunners, including 10 hits and nine unintentional walks, resulting in eight earned runs and a 9.82 ERA.

He’s only given up one home run, but considering it was a walk-off blast to Johnny Damon, who had not homered yet this season, it’s hard to look at that as a positive.

For the time being, manager Mike Scioscia has started to use Shields in situations where the game is not on the line. On Sunday, he was brought in with the Angels down by five. After loading the bases, he managed to escape without further damage.

But Shields is no mop-up reliever and his role as such will be limited. Scioscia is trying to do him a favor by using him in low-pressure situations to help regain his form. If he can’t do it, serious changes may be on the horizon.

What form that takes is anyone’s guess.

Ironically, the most sought-after player on the Angels roster at one time may no longer have any trade value. What can GM Tony Reagins hope to get in return for a 34-year-old reliever with nothing left in the tank?

Given his age and veteran status on the team, it is also unlikely the Angels will send Shields down to the minors to right himself.

At this point, all that Scioscia and the rest of the staff do is wait and hope he works out his mechanical issues at the major league level before the team is forced to cut him.

Because that’s exactly what will happen if he can’t turn things around in the next couple of months.

Amazingly, the Angels are still running in the middle of the pack with a 4.32 bullpen ERA. Jepsen has been a revelation this season, while Rodney continues to justify his $11 million contract.

Even newcomer Brian Stokes, while shaky at times, is still working on a 3.65 ERA.

With the starting rotation not yet in a groove, the Angels bullpen may indeed become the strength of the team, as so many predicted in spring. 

Whether that strength comes from the addition of Shields, or his subtraction, is still a question waiting to be answered.

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