I thought my days of teaching (and thus grading) were behind me, but little did I know that being a blog proprietor mandates that every 40 games I must submit a quarterly report card for the team I cover. Now I understand why everyone else does it. Ah, conformity. Since I want to do a thorough job and grade everybody, I am going to be doing this in a few installments (that and I think there is a federal law against a blog post exceeding 8000 words). So part dos of this exercise will focus on all the pitchers employed by the Angels this year.
Nick Adenhart: N/A
Wow, alphabetical order was a bad idea. Tragedy is no way to start a column nor a season. Adenhart’s untimely death has cast a pall on the Angels’ season that they still can’t fully shake. For three lives to be snuffed out because of one person’s reckless stupidity is truly saddening.
Jose Arredondo: C-
Remember when we all thought the Angels should’ve saved the money they spent on Fuentes and just installed Arredondo as closer? Ummm, oops. While much of the vitriol over the bullpen’s failures have been directed at Scot Shields, Arredondo has been just as guilty. He only has one blown save, but his 5.14 ERA and 1.62 WHIP have contributed to more than a few Angel losses. The sad thing is that he has actually been one of the Angels most reliable relievers. Now you see why the Angels signed Rudy Seanez recently.
Jason Bulger: C+
Even though it took him until early May to get his ERA under 11.00, Bulger really hasn’t been terrible, he has just been the victim of a few epicly bad appearances. Once Mike Scioscia quit trying to use Bulger as his go-to guy to induce a ground ball (giving up home runs instead kind of short-circuited that plan), Bulger finally settled into his role as a middle inning guy. His iffy control makes him too risky an option for the late innings, but he seems to have finally locked down a permanent job in the majors.
Daniel Davidson: D-
Davidson is the poster boy for just how desperate the Angels got for pitching depth to start the season. Davidson somehow managed to pitch just 1.2 innings in four appearances. Called upon to be a lefty specialist, Davidson allowed a 3.60 WHIP in his brief tenure and is now back in his righful place in the Salt Lake Bees bullpen. The only reason he doesn’t get a failing grade is because he had no business ever reaching the majors in the first place.
Brian Fuentes: A-
K-Rod? We don’t need no stinking K-Rod. Fuentes came in with the tall task of replacing record-setting Franky Rodriguez. Perhaps just to prove how meaningless the save stat is, Fuentes is tied for the MLB lead in saves (with K-Rod and two others, ironically) at 13. More importantly, Fuentes has only blown two saves, and one of those was a complete fluke. He may not be as flashy as his predecessor, but Fuentes has been just as effective and his save appearances aren’t nearly as stressful as K-Rod’s.
Kevin Jepsen: F
Supposedly the next in a line of great homegrown Halo relievers, Jepsen’s season has been a living nightmare. He had only one scoreless appearance in the five games he was used in before the Angels demoted him in part because of a balky back. That back must still be bothering him because he has been just as bad at Triple-A where he currently sports a 9.00 ERA in 13 innings of work. Don’t count on seeing him back with the Angels anytime soon.
John Lackey: INC
Lackey’s grade will be delayed since injury has limited him to two starts, well, technically three. How could we ever forget about Big John getting ejected after throwing just two pitches. Granted they were both directly at Ian Kinsler, but why split hairs. Lackey is still working his way back into shape as he hopes to reassume the mantle of Angels ace and earn himself a giant new contract this off-season.
Shane Loux: C+
Loux’s numbers are kind of lucky, but he did a solid job of holding down the fort for John Lackey and Ervin Santana, going 2-3 in six starts. A back injury has since sidelined Loux, but he might have a hard time reclaiming a roster spot once he recovers.
Dustin Moseley: INC
Moseley was the headliner of the Angels ragtag group of fill-in starters but for the second straight season was felled a mysterious elbow injury that he is still dealing with. He did a passable enough job in his brief time in the rotation, but he is going to have to prove himself capable of staying healthy before the Halos entrust him with any kind of role at the Major League level again.
Darren Oliver: A+
Not to knock on Oliver, but when a 38-year old journeyman southpaw is the ace of your bullpen, you are in a lot of trouble. While the rest of the relief corps has melted down around him, Oliver has stepped up to become the jack of all trades for the staff, serving as a left-hand specialist, long reliever, set-up man and even a spot starter (though that start did cause him to make a short trip to the DL). The only thing Oliver hasn’t done is close a game and I’m sure he would handle it deftly as he has with everything else he has been tasked with. Torii Hunter may be the team MVP thus far, but Oliver is only just a hair behind him.
Anthony Ortega: D+
When the Angels needed a warm body to fill a rotation slot for a few games, Ortega got the call and only just barely met the job requirements. Ortega is a solid prospect in the Angel farm system, but he clearly wasn’t ready for prime time when he got called up. That he only lost two of the three games was a small moral victory.
Matt Palmer: A-
Matt Palmer’s story has been one right out of the movies. Palmer was struggling mightily in the minors before necessity forced the Angels to bring him up to the majors where Palmer has been a true revelation. Though he has seldom put up impressive lines, he has displayed amazing composure and grit, mixing that with a healthy dose of good luck, Palmer has won all of his five decisions to date and secured a place on the Angel pitching staff and in the hearts of fans across the Southland.
Fernando Rodriguez: F
If only this was the same F. Rodriguez that played for the Angels last year. This F. Rodriguez appeared just once and pitched poorly in mop-up duty. He got an F for the day and a ticket back to Utah.
Rafael Rodriguez: F
Different Rodriguez, same lousy results, only multiple times over. Rafael looks to have good stuff, but his command is poor at best. He might someday be in the Angels’ plans, but for now he is just keeping a seat warm for Kelvim Escobar.
Ervin Santana: INC
Another one of the recently returned Angel starters, Santana looked at first like he hadn’t missed a beat before imploding in his most recent start, renewing concerns about a potentially serious arm injury. No judgment shall be passed on his performance until he proves one way or another that his health woes are behind him.
Joe Saunders: A-
Just admit, Saunders is good. Statisticians insist that he shouldn’t be any better than an average starter, but they are likely to change their tune now that Saundo appears on track to make his second consecutive All-Star game. Anyone who saw Saunders outduel Zach Greinke back in April knows that he is the real deal. His consistency on the mound is a big reason the Angels were able to weather the storm of early season injuries.
Scot Shields: F
F is a generous grade for Shields, there just isn’t a lower grade I can issue. Shields made a mess of his season by concealing a nagging knee injury from the training staff in a misguided attempt to tough it out for the good of the team. His good intentions resulted in three blown saves and three losses for Shields before he finally caved and went to the disabled list earlier this week. As good as he has been for the Angels over the years, Shields has to know when to admit that he isn’t right rather than inflicting so much damage.
Justin Speier: B-
Once a big free agent signing, Speier was coming off a terrible 2008 campaign and hoping to work his way back into Mike Scioscia’s good graces. Speier made some headway in that department in the first few weeks of the season but lost some goodwill with Sosh after getting into an argument with an umpire a few weeks ago. Like most of the other relievers, Speier’s ERA is bloated due to a few horrible appearances, but Speier is at least coming close to earning his money this season. He still isn’t trusted in high leverage situations though, something that might have to change now that Shields is on the disabled list.
Rich Thompson: C
For all the trouble the Angels have had stabilizing the bullpen, it is a wonder that they have shown so much reluctance to give Rich Thompson a shot. Once considered strong relief prospect in the organization, Thompson has become a forgotten man with the Halos, getting into only 3 games this year while lesser prospects continue to get opportunities. Thompson is back with the Angels for now, but probably not for long even though he has performed solidly whenever given a chance.
Jered Weaver: A+
Say hello to the current ace of the Angel rotation. The infamously inconsistent Weaver has come into his own this season and currently owns the second-best ERA and WHIP in the American League (trailing only Zach Greinke in both categories). The only shame of it is that Weaver has just 4 wins to show for all of his excellent work. Though Weave is still too homer prone to realistically continue performing at such a high level, he has obviously matured as a pitcher and learned how to minimize the damage that can be caused by his extreme flyball tendencies.