In 2017, the closer job was a committee for the LA Angels. However, so far this season all signs point to a young stud running away with the ninth inning.
Throughout the offseason, many LA Angels fan believed Blake Parker would be the closer this season. The best returning closer seemed like a surefire hit for the closer role, especially considering he had eight saves in 11 opportunities.
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However, Parker has been shaky in 2018. The 5.40 ERA is not reliable considering it came in one outing. He is also 1-1 with saves. The problem is that Parker has been shaky and does not have the confidence that a closer pitcher needs.
That man, is Keynan Middleton.
Middleton had an up-and-down rookie year in 2017. Through his first 18 games, he had a 2.35 ERA. Then it rose to 5.91 over his next 35 appearances. Throughout all of this though, Middleton finished the season with 11 straight shutout appearances. And that has flown into 2018.
In 5 games this year, Middleton has not allowed a run in six innings. While his strikeouts-per-nine has regressed, his hits-per-nine has cut itself in half, from 9.3 to 4.5. He has finished two games this year, with one being a save.
Middleton also has the confidence and command that a closing pitcher needs. The 24-year old has always been vocal on the mound, just ask Cody Bellinger, who after striking out on a Middleton slider, received a verbal assault from a fellow rookie sensation. Bellinger and Middleton came through the minors facing each other often, and the rivalry reached its climax then.
When he isn’t on the mound, Middleton can be found engaging with fans behind the bullpen at Angels Stadium. His exuberant, fun personality off the mound is the opposite of the fiery competitor we see closing games for the Halos.
After recording his first save on Friday night, capping off a six-run comeback for the Halos, he was interviewed in the locker room. After being asked how this team came back and eventually won the game, Middleton had a simple answer.
“This team has no holes”.
Confident in himself and his team, Keynan Middleton has the closer job for the foreseeable future, and just like every Halo victory, it will be his to lose.