An All Star rotation. Two relievers worthy of All Star consideration. One an All Star last year. A free agent pick up who had a nice 2.76 FIP to go along with his 2.42 ERA last year. An aging veteran in the twilight of his career who has amassed 300 saves. That was the core of what was supposed to be a pitching buzz saw that would strike fear into the hearts of any hitter that dared step into the batter’s box. And for a couple of months it looked that way. Therein lies the problem, the season lasts just a liiiiittle bit longer than eight weeks.
July was not very pretty, but the team’s offense scraped and clawed out some wins despite a couple of unreliable starters and an entire bullpen corp seemingly hell bent on giving games away. August on the other hand has been an absolute disaster. So far in August we are 5-13. We’re better than the Astros, but my nephew’s coach pitch team would give that team a run for their money. I’m going to throw an arbitrary 90% (Because arbitrary is fun) of the losses onto the heads of the pitching staff. Dan Haren has been terrible. Zack Greinke looks more like a journeyman than an Ace. Ervin Santana is slowly turning it around (I hope). C.J. Wilson has both forgotten how to win and throw strikes. Even our beloved Jered Weaver got lit up by the Rays this past weekend.
And our relievers? Oh dear. They rank, for the month of August, dead last in WAR (-1.1), FIP (5.29), ERA (7.23), LOB% (57.9%) and HR/9 (2.25). And they are next to last in HR/FB (19.2%) and GB% (36.5%). The starters also come in last in WAR (-1.1), FIP (5.64) and HR/9 (1.91). And next to last in ERA (6.51) and HR/FB (18%). Atrocious numbers, across the board for any Angel that steps onto the mound with the exception of Kevin Jepsen. Yeah, I didn’t think I’d say that either. Even Ernesto Frieri has regressed since his unbelievable start as an Angel. Our offense is averaging five plus runs a game this month, but we have only managed five wins thanks to what the pitching staff has done.
What does this have to do with Mike Butcher? Well, during the Mike Scioscia era, two things have defined his best teams. Defense, and an incredible bullpen. during his tenure he has had two pitching coaches, Mike Butcher, and Bud Black. If you ranked the bullpens for those 13 years by WAR, it would look like this:
2004 – 8.6
2003 – 6.0
2006 – 5.9
2005 – 5.7
2002 – 5.1
2007 – 4.7
2008 – 4.6
2001 – 4.4
2009 – 3.6
2000 – 2.6
2010 – 2.1
2011 – 1.7
2012 – 0.6
(Full stat board here)
Of those thirteen seasons, you don’t get to a team with Butcher as pitching coach until number six. And no, bullpens are not built like lineups and starting rotations are, by trying to make them top heavy with the best talent. The best bullpens are usually made up of the least likely people (see Brendan Donnelly). If a pitching coach, like a hitting coach, is as benign as most believe, then there is no reason why between these two coaches there is as big a difference in production as we see between these two.
And it’s hard for me to blame Scioscia on this one with his bullpen selection when his choices are crappy, crappier and crappiest. Unless, of course, he brings in Takahashi. Nobody could make that guy a good pitcher.
From my perspective, Butcher, like Hatcher, is not good at his job. I would personally offer ten million dollars to both the Padres and Bud Black just so he could get his hands on this staff. In May, Hatcher was sent packing after years of futility from our offense. That move seemed to work out pretty well. Butch, I think it’s time for you to hit the bricks sir. Don’t let the door hit ya’ where the good lord split ya’, we hope you enjoy this cheesy gold watch as a parting gift.