The LA Angels thought they had their closer when the 2018 season started in Blake Parker. However, Parker had a disastrous start to the season posting an ERA of over 6 after the first 2 weeks of the season.
With this beginning LA Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to give young gunslinger Keynan Middleton and his 96-99 mile per hour fastball a shot to close and he delivered.
Middleton recorded six saves in his first seven opportunities only blowing his last save chance by giving up a ninth inning run against the New York Yankees on April 27th. Middleton was then placed on the disabled list and was out for 10 days. When he came back he pitched three more times before suffering UCL damage.
With Middleton lost for the season the Angels were scrambling to find someone to fill the closer role and so far the results have been mixed. Cam Bedrosian got the first opportunity, but they did not last too long as he blew his only two save opportunities and so the Angels moved on.
Jim Johnson was next on the list to close games and brought a plethora of experience, but he also did not fare to well only converting one of three save opportunities. So then the Angels decided to go back to square one and give a new and improved Blake Parker the opportunity to regain the role. Parker has done pretty well other than Saturday night’s blown save. He has been three for four in converting save opportunities. Parker has only given up two runs since April 28th which is a span of 15 innings which is good for a 1.20 ERA including posting a 0.79 ERA in May.
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Parker is definitely a decent option as he has shown very good control with a 3 to 1 strikeouts to walks ratio. Parker does not throw extremely hard only topping out around 93 miles per hour, but his assortment of breaking pitches is what causes so many swings and misses.
The other top option is rookie fireballer Justin Anderson. Anderson has had his moments where he is unhittable, but his biggest issue is control. He throws a high 90’s fastball and has a wicked slider as well. His stuff is just plain nasty, but his 1.39 WHIP tells the story.
Anderson has a .182 opponents batting average against him and has struck out 26 batters in only 18 innings. However, he has 14 walks in that same 18 inning span. Anderson has converted two of three save opportunities blowing one game in Seattle in early May. He has lowered his ERA since then from 5.79 to 2.89. The WHIP has unfortunately gone the other way rising from 1.11 to to 1.39 in two weeks.
A wildcard for the role is both Noe Ramirez and Jose Alvarez. Alvarez has bee the most effective reliever. Alvarez has a 2-2 record with a 2.42 ERA. His WHIP is a stellar 1.04. Only issue is Alvarez is 0 for 3 in converting save opportunities.
Ramirez on the other hand has been very successful thus far. Ramirez is 1-2 with a 3.67 ERA with 40 strikeouts. He also has a high WHIP as well with it being 1.40.
So for now I would say it is between Parker and Anderson. I think Parker might get the edge as he has more experience, but if he struggles Anderson can stop in take over.
The other option for the Angels is to make a trade with a team such as the White Sox who has an extra closer. Joakim Soria and Nate Jones who both close games for Chicago this season, could probably had for a low cost. Other options could be Addison Reed of the Minnesota Twins who is a set-up man for the Twins, but has closer stuff and the experience to go with it. Reed would be more expensive and the Twins may not be as willing to part with him.
We will just have to wait and see what the Angels end up doing. For now Parker and Anderson will most likely share the duties with a little bit of Jose Alvarez possibly sprinkled in.
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The Angels need to define the bullpen roles as closer-by-committee, and set-up roles by committee as well tend not to work well. For now I did think it’s Parker’s job to lose.