Angels' faith in Scot Shields misplaced

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With Brian Fuentes on the DL, the Angels are definitely short-handed in the bullpen. I’d argue that they’re down to two above average relievers, one of whom, Fernando Rodney, happens to be struggling, having given up four runs in four appearances after finishing with an 8.53 ERA this spring.
The other, Kevin Jepsen, is the most important piece in the bullpen right now. He bailed the Angels out in the eighth inning Wednesday against the Yankees after Scot Shields got the team into a big jam in what had been a 5-1 game.
It’s Shields who looks like the biggest problem in the Angels pen right now. It’s not that he’s necessarily worse than Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Stokes. But the problem is that Mike Scioscia is treating him as a valuable setup man when he barely rates as a fringe middle reliever.
Shields was scored upon for the third time in four appearances before being replaced by Jepsen on Wednesday. With his velocity down after last year’s knee surgery, he’s allowed six runs (three earned), five hits and four walks in just 2 2/3 innings. His WHIP stands at 3.38.
The fact is that Angels GM Tony Reagins blew it over the winter. It’s typical that the Halos have avoided minor league free agents, particularly on the pitching side of the equation, as they usually prefer their internal replacements. But it was obvious that the team was terribly lacking in the depth department going into the spring. The Angels should have been all over guys like Kiko Calero, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Nelson, Ron Mahay and others who slipped through the cracks over the winter, but they didn’t have a single veteran non-roster pitcher compete for a bullpen job this spring.
They’re going to pay for it now. They should consider themselves awfully lucky if someone from the group of Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Rodriguez, Bobby Cassevah and Michael Kohn steps up to become a useful reliever. Actually, the best hope may be their former No. 1 starting pitching prospect, Jordan Walden, who was shifted to the bullpen this spring and is currently a co-closer in Double-A.
In the meantime, expect Shields and company to struggle. I’m certainly not giving up on these Angels, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they’re still in last place in the AL West into mid-May.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.