The LA Angels were not eliminated from the playoffs until the season’s final weeks. A large part of this effort was the effectiveness of the bullpen and Mike Scioscia‘s understanding of his relievers.
The LA Angels had one of the best bullpens in 2017. If not for a late season slump, Yusmeiro Petit would have had one of the best seasons ever for a reliever. Blake Parker went from living in a trailer (literally) to being one of the most effective relievers in the game. Bud Norris came out of nowhere to become the Halos’ closer for the majority of the year. Young guns Cam Bedrosian and Keynan Middleton both showed flashes of excellence in 2017.
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However, now Petit and Norris are gone to Oakland and St. Louis, respectively. Now, Jim Johnson from the Braves and a collection of other arms will look to fill the void. However, despite different names joining the bullpen, Scioscia should run his relief group the same way.
In 2017, there we no set roles for the bullpen. Five different Angels recorded multiple saves, with three more adding a save for themselves. Instead of having a set closer and one set-up man, Scioscia instead learned what situations were best suited for each of his relievers, and the strategy paid dividends.
For example, Yusmeiro Petit was the perfect pitcher for clutch moments. He is a finesse, strikeout pitcher who excelled with runners on base. One of the most underrated stats in baseball is inherited runners saved. If a reliever can come into a game halfway through the inning and shut down the opposition, they are elite. Petit was just that, as all 20 of his inherited runners failed to reach home plate.
Scioscia realized that and used Petit in those scenarios. While Keynan Middleton is a strikeout specialist as well, he is a power pitcher and can get rocked. If he was to assume Petit’s role, his ERA would explode from the home runs he gives up.
2018 will be a new challenge for Scioscia, especially if the Halos transition to a six-man rotation. With new faces around and likely one less reliever, Scioscia will have to be on top of his game management for the Halos’ bullpen to be as good as it was in 2017.