Admit it, you never thought we’d be here. An Angels bullpen, one of the best in baseball? The Angels’ relief pitching has been somewhere between “ok” and “terrible” for several years now, and coming into the year, I was among those who felt the bullpen would be absolutely horrendous in 2017. But that was the old me. The one that that bullpen roles should be fairly structured, that receivers needed to throw 94+ with a wipeout slider and grown from the minor leagues. That’s what bullpens have been for a solid 25 years years now. Yusmeiro Petit? Bud Norris? Jose Alvarez? What is this?
This is Eppler at his best.
In order to have an advantage over other teams, a GM must recognize value where other teams don’t. It’s the basics of “Moneyball”.
Eppler (and perhaps a couple of other General Managers to a much lesser extent) has built a relief core made up of former starters, soft-tossers, pitchers that “spin the ball”. These aren’t Kenley Jansens, or even Cam Bedrosians. These are the guys that no one wanted at the end of Spring Training. These were the unsigned all the way into January or February. These are the ones that don’t even garner a headline on MLBTR, but only a footnote.
Not Cam Bedrosian, note Huston Street, not Andrew Bailey.
Bud Norris is over 30 years old, has never been a reliever in his life, hasn’t posted an ERA below 5.00 is three years. He’s the Angels closer. 20 IP 25 K’s 7 saves and a 3.15 ERA. Signed as a minor league invite.
Yusmeiro Petit is also over 30 years old, with a declining fastball. He was slapped around early in his career, and last year with the Nats. He did have a solid three year run as the mop-up man for the Giants. 22 IP 24 K’s and a 2.38 ERA.
Jose Alvarez failed as a starter in Detroit and was dealt to the Angels at the end of Spring Training in 2013 before the Tigers would have to cut him. His first year, he was injured. He probably should’ve been cut right there. Yet here he is four years later with as many strikeouts as innings pitched and a 2.13 ERA.
David Hernandez didn’t even make the Braves team out of Spring Training. The Braves. The worst team in baseball didn’t think he was good enough. The Angels traded for him and so far he’s assumed the role of 8th inning set up man, and is sporting a 0.87 ERA in 10 innings, with 10 K’s and not a single walk.
Blake Parker is in his 30’s and to date, he’s only posted an ERA under 4.67 once in his entire career. Yet in Spring Training he managed to strikeout 17 consecutive batters, which is just silly, and made the team. 17 innings, 27! K’s and a 3.63 ERA (and a 0.93 FIP).
So what do all these guys have in common?
They’re all a bunch of pitchers that no one else wanted. They’re old (for the most part), and don’t exactly have a long string of success as top shelf relievers. Parker, Hernandez and Norris can still throw the ball pretty hard. Alvarez and Petit generate weak contact. Every single one of them can go multiple innings.
More than anything, Eppler has done something that Jerry Dipoto, a former major league reliever himself could never do. Build a shut down bullpen, and do it without much money.