Unlikely Angels hero makes case for bigger bullpen role with great outing vs Yankees

Thankfully, at least one of the Angels' bullpen signings from last offseason has worked out. It just wasn't the one that anyone expected.
Los Angeles Angels v Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels v Texas Rangers / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

Coming into the 2024 season, the Los Angeles Angels were pinning a lot of their bullpen hopes on Carlos Estevez and Robert Stephenson while hoping that guys like Jose Soriano, Jose Suarez, Matt Moore, Jose Cisnero, and others would provide enough backup to make it work most nights. Unfortunately, the Angels' best laid plans went sideways in a hurry.

Stephenson was LA's marquee free agent signing of the offseason and, unfortunately, he won't throw a pitch in 2024 as he blew out his elbow in April and required surgery. Estevez was the presumptive closer and while he has been better than his 4.76 ERA this season would indicate, that doesn't mean he has been good. Soriano got moved to the rotation (where he has been pretty good!) while the rest of the bullpen has been uneven at best ... with one notable exception.

When the Angels signed Hunter Strickland to a minor-league deal, it didn't get much attention. Strickland was more remembered for instigating a brawl with Bryce Harper years ago than anything else as he didn't play during the 2023 season and struggled mightily before that with the Reds in 2022.

However, after yet another sterling performance against the Yankees on Tuesday, Strickland is making a really strong case for an increased role in the Angels' bullpen.

Hunter Strickland is making the Angels look like geniuses in 2024

Baseball is wonderful in the sense that sometimes guys come out of nowhere to become big-time contributors. While some thought that Strickland could be pretty good this year, especially given how he looked in spring training, no one thought that he would be the Angels' best reliever through two months of the 2024 season. However, with a 1.96 ERA and 0.6 fWAR over 22 appearances, that is exactly what he has been.

With the Angels desperate to record every single win they can get their hands on, the time is now to give Strickland the respect he has earned. He has thrown a total of 29 pitches in what Fangraphs considers to be high-leverage situations this year versus 231 in low-leverage ones. At minimum, Ron Washington needs to start using Strickland more in these tight games in important spots where the rest of the bullpen keeps fumbling. At this point, he has a much better case to be LA's closer than he does to be their default sixth-inning guy (like he has been used).

Some guys aren't built for those situations and Strickland may not work out in the role. However, he has earned the chance to at least get the opportunity. At this point, he probably couldn't do any worse than who LA has been running out there.

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