Los Angeles Angels Jose Alvarez is the forgotten man in Angels pen

TORONTO, ON - MAY 24: Jose Alvarez #48 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim celebrates their victory with Martin Maldonado #12 during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on May 24, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 24: Jose Alvarez #48 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim celebrates their victory with Martin Maldonado #12 during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on May 24, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Angels bullpen has been solid most of the 2018 season.  Guys like Keynan Middleton, Jim Johnson, and Blake Parker were pitchers the Angels knew would be key.  However most people did not expect for Jose Alvarez to make such a big impact.

The Los Angeles Angels have pieced together a decent bullpen over the past two seasons.  In a bullpen it is important to have a left-handed pitcher who can get tough left-handed hitters out late in games. Guys like Didi Gregorius, Robinson Cano, Joe Mauer, Anthony Rizzo, Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, etc. that are tough outs.

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However, if you have a lefty in the bullpen it makes it a much better match-up for your team.  For the Angels their left-handed specialist for the past two seasons and in 2018 has been Jose Alvarez.  Alvarez in 2016 and 2017 has been less than stellar and sometimes downright awful. Alvarez ERA of 3.65 looked respectable, but a WHIP of 1.41 and opponents batting average of .280 tells a different story.

I know that I would cringe every time Alvarez came in the game not knowing which Alvarez we were going to get that day.  The one who could be filthy and spot a low 90’s fastball wherever he wanted to and throw a sweeping slider, or the one who’s control would be erratic and knocked around the yard.

I remember more than a few times wishing the Angels would get rid of Alvarez and bring in someone Who was more reliable and effective like Scott Downs was for a few years. Alvarez seemed to be effective for a month and then awful the next month.

In 2018 the Angels again broke camp with Jose Alvarez and I was ready to start cringing or throwing shoes at my television set whenever Alvarez would be called upon, but something was different.

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In Spring Training Alvarez won the left-handed specialist job not by being the lesser of two evils, but by pitching very well. Alvarez pitched 11.1 innings with 12 strikeouts with a 2.38 ERA, but more importantly he posted a 0.97 WHIP and opponents only batted .186 against Alvarez.

Alvarez carried that momentum into the regular season. In Alvarez’s first 14 appearances in April he gave up only one run, pitching 12 innings and striking 14 batters. His WHIP was 0.92 and opponents hit .182 against him.

So what is the difference? “I don’t know what it is, I have just tried to concentrate more and take more time when I pick my pitches,” Alvarez said. “I have tried to calm down and just pitch my pitches and not rush things. I think that has made a difference.”

Alvarez has seen his ERA rise a little bit in May, but that stems from one bad outing which every pitcher is prone. Alvarez came in against the World Champion Houston Astros on May 15th and gave up three runs in only one-third of inning taking the loss, his only one of the season.

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Since then Alvarez has bounced back nicely with four outings of not allowing a run. If you take away the Houston outing Alvarez’s ERA would a sparkling 1.19 in 22.2 innings of work.  Even with that outing Alvarez still has a 2.35 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP and a .216 opponents batting average.  Alvarez has struck out 26 batters in 23 innings of work.

A far cry from the 3.65 ERA of the past two seasons and a career 3.82 ERA that Alvarez had posted.

“When bad things happen in one game, you just have to go into the next one and say today is a new day and forget about the past,” Alvarez said. “I don’t think about yesterday a guy hit a home run off of me. It’s another chance for me to pitch, learn from my mistakes and go after him.”

Alvarez has had some help in the bullpen with young guys like Noe Ramirez and Justin Anderson who have been very effective as well. In addition with the Angels having Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout as well as Justin Upton and Albert Pujols it has made for an exciting atmosphere and Alvarez has felt very comfortable.

“Our bullpen has been fun to be a part of this year. We have a lot of guys who get guys outs and they need us to throw two or three innings we are ready to help out wherever we can,” Alvarez said. “Having Trout out there and watching Albert hit number 600 and get 3,000 hits is honor for me to be a part of. Ohtani is phenomenal. He can throw a ball 100 miles an hour and hit a ball 500 feet, it’s amazing. I’m enjoying playing every day with these guys and we just try to win each game.”

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If Alvarez can continue to be as effective as he has been the first two months throughout the season it will go a long way in helping solidify the Angels bullpen. For me I no longer cringe when Alvarez comes into the game and I’m glad to see him succeeding as he is a very nice guy and I always like to see good guys finish first, especially when they play for the Angels.