Angels extra innings loss to Rays highlights fundamental problem with bullpen

The Angels' bullpen isn't fooling anywhere near enough hitters in 2024.
Los Angeles Angels v Tampa Bay Rays
Los Angeles Angels v Tampa Bay Rays / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Angels took a truly brutal extra-inning loss to the Rays on Tuesday. Despite the fact that the Angels led the game in the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 13th innings, LA was unable to close the game out and ended up getting walked off by an Amed Rosario RBI single in the bottom of the 13th.

Not only did the loss waste what was a terrific start from Jose Soriano (5 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 6 K, too many walks), but it highlighted a fundamental problem with the Angels bullpen. No, it isn't as simple as "they are bad." The problem is that Angels relievers do not miss enough bats, and that leaves the team open to bad batted ball luck with defensive miscues proving to be costly.

The Angels' bullpen needs to up their strikeout rate, and soon

After LA's bullpen gave up six runs in the loss to the Rays (only three of which were considered earned runs because of ghost runners and defensive nonsense), they rank 24th in all of baseball in reliever fWAR at -0.2. Sure, we are only 17 games into the season and weird things happen in small samples, but one trend is becoming clear, and that's their inability to finish batters off.

With a collective strikeout rate of 7.17 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, only the Yankees' bullpen is worse in all of MLB. To their credit, the Angels' bullpen is top 10 in baseball in 2024, so at least they aren't giving up too many free baserunners. However, they also aren't fooling opposing hitters and have only done as well as they have because opposing hitters have been getting unlucky (.237 BABIP against the Angels bullpen). Case in point: six different relievers threw 7.2 total innings in that loss to the Rays. They struck out just six batters and three of them were by Carson Fulmer, who ended up blowing the game.

In theory, LA had added a solution to this problem already when they signed Robert Stephenson this past offseason. However, Stephenson is dealing with both shoulder and elbow problems and his rehab is on hold after he suffered a setback.

Perhaps a guy like Ben Joyce could figure things out in the minors and help the cause in 2024, but it feels like the Angels have to just hope someone steps up or that they keep getting lucky.

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