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Angels Waiting for the (Bullpen) Miracle to Come

I looked for facts to give me hope. In their vaunted 100-Win season of 2008, the Angels had two separate stretches where they went 10-11 and 10-13, the latter sputter while Mark Teixeira was manning First Base.

At 7-11 to start the season, the 2009 Angels are not performing at the caliber of the franchise's recent high-water mark, and yet, the burden of blame actually falls on but a few Halo shoulders.

With almost no exceptions, more than half of the eleven Angel losses are entirely a bullpen issue, and at that the blame is squarely directed at two role players and one core player.

Kevin Jepsen has two losses and has only faced 29 batters. Scot Shields has 2 losses and has only faced 32 batters. Jason Bulger has been central to 3 losses and has only faced 35 batters. We have had 6 losses in relief. A Scioscia-Era bullpen should have perhaps 1 loss in relief thus far. 12-6 for a Scioscia team with this make-up sounds about right.

It isn't that our starting pitching has been flawless, it is that the greatest difference between these 2009 Angels and recent Mike Scioscia teams has been exclusively in the bullpen. It is Soth Ball all the way until the small lead lands in the late innings. While Scot Shields has historically had a down month in seasons with blown games clumped in triplets and quintets over three-week periods, he has done so when a competent supporting cast minimized the damage out of the pen. Look at 2009 and ask "Who is Rafael Rodriguez and how did did HE get one of our 4 blown saves?"

While the damage has been done, it has been done early and with plenty of time for Mike Scioscia to find the working parts that are in order and to mend the bad connections. If Shields ain't broke, the spare parts around him will likely improve as the manager tests arm after arm under the flame of in-game competition. The arsenal will be searched deep for a suitable late-inning bullet.

The likely scenario is that at some point the engine will hit on all cylinders and the current 5.5 game deficit will be left behind. Once we are tied, this messy early season slate will have been cleaned, the road has been cleared, and the checkered flag for the rest of this season's life will be waved. We should fully anticipate Scot Shields to be an integral part of the pen and the parts around him ready to roll when Scioscia hits tha gas on that day when the only teams near us are at our side.