Jordan Walden Is Learning From The Vets

By MJ Lloyd

Jordan Walden had a better season in 2011 than most people think. The young Angels closer led the league with 10 blown saves. Blown saves are just as ridiculous a stat as their counterpart, the save. Nonetheless, Walden was criticized for the blown saves because he was in the spotlight role of “closer.” Maybe he doesn’t have what it takes to be a closer. I don’t really put too much stock in that.

Walden averaged a 97 MPH fastball and could dial it up to 100 MPH at will. In 60.1 innings, he had a 2.98 ERA, 2.79 FIP (fielding independent pitching), 3.33 xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) and a 9.99 K/9. I’d like to see fewer walks but I’d like to date more models too. Some things just ain’t gonna happen.

The projections for 2012 don’t love Walden. ZiPS is the kindest with a 3.54 ERA, followed by Marcel at 3.63, Bill James at 3.86 and PECOTA with a 4.28 ERA. Yikes. But Walden is putting in the work this spring by turning to veteran free agent signees LaTroy Hawkins (entering 18th season) and Jason Isringhausen (entering 16th). Walden is eager to learn from the old timers…

"“There are some years right there,” Walden says, smiling. “I’m trying to learn things, all kinds of things that they’ve done that have worked for them.“When do you come out (to the bullpen)? When do you stretch? Every one of them is different. It’s kind of cool to hear what each one of them did.“I’m picking their brains every day.”"

The closer role is clearly Walden’s after the Angels passed on Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero and instead signed the pair of 39-year-olds. Walden, 24-years-old, was thrust into the closer role in his first full season in 2011 after Fernando Rodney ended up still being Fernando Rodney. While Walden had the veteran presence of Scott Downs in the pen with him, it can’t hurt for him to have a few more guys with success at closing around him.

From the same Ken Rosenthal article, Isrinhausen has been trying to get Walden to slow down and learn the importance of routine while Hawkins is trying to groom him into a John Axford type. I’m praying that involves a whimsical mustache.

Walden pitched an inning against the White Sox on Wednesday and it was a mixed bag. He gave up two hits including a two run homer by Adam Dunn but he also struck out the side. Spring stats are basically meaningless though. I’m a bit more optimistic than the projections are for Walden because he still has room for improvement. Maybe I’m not as much of a curmudgeon as the Internet has been saying all of these years.