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I was probably as surprised as anyone else to see it, but Mike Scioscia actually referenced sample size when defending his decision to stick with Fuentes in the closer role. Citing the fact that he’s only pitched 7 2/3rds innings, which is quite a small sample size, Scioscia said he’d be sticking with the Shields-to-Jepsen-to-Rodney-to-Fuentes setup in the bullpen right now, calling it the Angels’ “best look,” and that they feel this is the way the bullpen needs to lineup. Unfortunately for Scioscia, while 7 2/3rds innings is a pretty small sample size, Fuentes numbers have shown decline in larger ones, and don’t exactly point to Fuentes as a bullpen ace.
I think to some degree the Angels know this, which is why they threw so much money at Fernando Rodney. Fuentes $9MM option for next year vests only if he finishes 55 games, and the Angels simply may not want that to happen. Bringing in Rodney, who closed last year for Detroit, allows them to switch to someone that has “veteran experience” before Fuentes hits 55 games, and allows the Angels to either let him walk, or resign him at a lower price. Or, they simply wanted to spend $28.5 million between Fuentes and Rodney, while letting their most valuable player last season head for division rival Seattle. Your guess on this is as good as mine.
The thing that is truly baffling about this is that so much of it seems unnecessary. Consider these three players and their FIP numbers for 2008-2010:
Which one of these three guys do you want in a bullpen ace role? Or even closing out games for you? Any answer other than Player 2 is one I don’t understand. Adding their salaries into the mix only makes things even more absurd. Player 1 is making $5.5MM this season. Player 3 is making $9MM. Player 2 is making $0.415MM. Almost 35 times as much money is going to Player’s 1 and 3 (who, I think it’s obvious, are Fernando Rodney and Brian Fuentes respectively), and Player 2 (known to everyone else as Kevin Jepsen) is performing better than either of them, by a large margin.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the “experience” that Rodney has, and the Angels seem to love the saves stat. This is also baffling, given the decline they saw in Francisco Rodriguez despite the new saves record he saved, and then the meltdown they saw Fuentes have last season despite leading the majors in saves. Two years in a row they’ve watched first hand as the saves stat didn’t show what they were truly getting from their closers, and yet they still seemed to be swayed by Rodney’s 37 last season. It’s almost like the lack the ability to learn from their own mistakes. Unfortunately, I have a feeling Jepsen is holding the Speaker of the House role in this order of succession, and by the time it reaches that point the season, or at the least the bullpen, is going to be beyond saving anyway.