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Angels bullpen report, week 4: One man’s trash...

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Angels complete a near-perfect week as Mike Scioscia pushes all the right buttons with his bullpen.

Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Most prognosticators scoffed at the idea of the Angels as contenders in 2017, based primarily on their patch-work bullpen. At the conclusion of the season’s first month, they find themselves a game over .500, with the bullpen providing some surprisingly positive performances, even in the face of injuries to two of their major components.

It has undoubtably been a collective effort to keep the Angels’ bullpen afloat on the young season, but one man in particular can lay claim to the title of fireman thus far:

Bud Norris

Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
26-Apr 9 in, 0 on, 0 out, up 3 1, 11 2 0 0 0
27-Apr 9 in, 0 on, 0 out, up 1 1, 13 1 1 0 0
30-Apr 8 in, 2 on, 2 out, up 2 1.1, 29 4 1 0 0

From journeyman mediocrity to spring training invite to un-hittable closer, the time has come to stop betting against Bud Norris. I admit, I was a skeptic in the beginning, thinking Scioscia was overrating the success he saw Norris have against the Angels during his time as a starter.

Now 5-5 in save situations in the absence of Cam Bedrosian, Norris has the stuff and the numbers to justify a role in the back-end of the Angels’ pen. With his fastball now touching 97 MPH with tailing action, he certainly has the look of a dominant closer. Sitting at 15 strike outs across 12.2 innings pitched, his 0.5 WAR in the first month of the season has already more than justified his modest salary.

While he has seen his stuff play up as a reliever before, it is a new-found reliance on his cutter that appears to be responsible for this transformation. He began to toy with the pitch last season, throwing it 11.8% of the time. This year, he has made it his primary weapon, accounting for 40% of his pitches thrown. Opposing batters are hitting just .167 against the pitch, which comes in at 90 MPH with roughly 5.25 inches of horizontal movement.

I will tip my cap to the skipper on this one. Norris did not look overly impressive during spring training, but Scioscia and his staff clearly saw something they liked and we are all grateful for it now, as Norris has been the savior of the pen in the season’s first month.

Blake Parker

Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
25-Apr 8 in, 0 on, 0 out, tied 1, 20 2 1 0 0
27-Apr 6 in, 1st/2nd/3rd, 2 out, up 1 0.1, 3 1 0 0 0
30-Apr 7 in, 0 on, 2 out, up 2 1, 20 2 1 1 0

More bullpen gold mined during spring training, Blake Parker just continues to do work, striking out batters seemingly at will. His 15.43 K/9 has him sitting fifth in all of baseball (among pitchers with a minimum of 10 innings pitched). He has managed all those whiffs while maintaining control of the strike zone, walking only 3.09 batters per nine innings.

During my week 2 report, I noted that Parker did not appear to be as effective when pitching in back-to-back days. It seems as though Scioscia also noticed, as he has not pitched Parker with less than a full day’s rest since April 15-16. Coincidentally or not, that is also the last time Parker has allowed a run.

Jose Alvarez

Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
25-Apr 10 in, 0 on, 0 out, tied 1, 18 0 0 2 1
27-Apr 8 in, 0 on, 0 out, up 1 1, 14 1 0 0 0
28-Apr 9 in, 0 on, 0 out, up 3 1, 9 0 0 0 0
30-Apr 6 in, 1 on, 1 out, up 2 1, 12 0 0 0 0

The rash of bullpen injuries has seen Alvarez’s role elevated. He earned his first career save against Texas, the second Angel to do so this season (Norris being the first). The day before, he was allowed to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning, completing the frame without incident.

The one blemish on Alvarez last week came via a 10th inning home run against the A’s, only to be bailed out the next inning when Mike Trout hit one of his own. After facing more than one hitter in only 4 of his first 9 appearances, Alvarez has pitched at least one full inning in each of his last five games.

David Hernandez

Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
25-Apr 9 in, 0 on, 0 out, tied 1, 16 2 0 0 0
27-Apr 7 in, 0 on, 0 out, up1 1, 6 1 0 0 0
28-Apr 8 in, 0 on, 0 out, up 3 1, 14 2 0 0 0

Toiling in the Braves’ minor league system just last week, David Hernandez suddenly finds himself pitching high leverage innings in the Angels’ bullpen. Thus far he has rewarded their faith, not allowing a single base runner in his first four games with the club.

Hernandez turns 32 this month and nothing in his profile suggests he is suddenly something more than his career 4.07 ERA suggests. But until this carriage turns into a pumpkin, there is no reason for Scioscia to not continue to ride the hot hand.

Deolis Guerra

Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
26-Apr 8 in, 0 on, 0 out, up 3 1, 25 3 1 1 1
28-Apr 7 in, 0 on, 0 out, tied 1, 13 2 0 0 0

Deolis Guerra continues to be vulnerable to the long ball, allowing Matt Joyce to rub one in the Angels’ faces. He did redeem himself two days later, maintaining a tie ball game in a clean seventh inning, striking out two batters.

Yusmeiro Petit

Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
26-Apr 6 in, 0 on, 0 out, up 2 2, 26 2 0 3 1
28-Apr 6 in, 0 on, 0 out, up 2 1, 22 1 0 3 0

Yusmeiro had a rough week, making one game too close for comfort and blowing a two-run lead in another. When everyone is healthy, he is a fine middle-innings option. Pressing him into high leverage work becomes a high wire act for the Angels, as his stuff is just too hittable.

Brooks Pounders

Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
25-Apr 11 in, 0 on, 0 out, tied 1, 10 0 0 1 0
29-Apr 8 in, 0 on, 0 out, down 4 1, 12 1 0 1 0

Jose Valdez

Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
Date Situation IP, Total PIT SO BB H HR
4/29 7 in, 0 on, 0 out, down 2 1, 16 1 1 1 1

Brooks Pounders bounced back nicely after his disastrous debut. He can likely sympathize with Jose Valdez, who allowed a two-run home run working in mop-up duty in his 2017 debut. If the Angels get one of their key bullpen pieces healthy soon, expect one (or both) of these fire-ballers to find themselves on a plane back to Salt Lake City.