Commentary

Angels closer issue is overblown

Switching from Fernando Rodney to Jordan Walden won't change the Angels' fortunes

Updated: April 7, 2011, 2:48 PM ET
By Colin Wyers | Baseball Prospectus
Fernando RodneyLeon Halip/Getty ImagesFernando Rodney was awful in his first two outings, but moving him out of the closer role won't change much.

As the season began, Fernando Rodney's hold on the Angels' closer job was believed to be tenuous. Other than possessing the "proven closer" label, there wasn't much about Rodney to recommend him for the role. His "success" as a closer, such as it was, was more a testament to how overrated the role is, not his own ability to pitch.

Despite those concerns, few would have expected him to surrender the title as early as he did: Rodney was removed from the closer role on Tuesday, after just two outings and one blown save. What was it about the 1 1/3 innings Rodney had pitched so far this year that wasn't already apparent from the previous 398 innings under his belt? Sure, the most recent innings were worse, but anyone can pitch that poorly in less than two innings.

Rodney is being replaced for the time being by Jordan Walden, who can probably pitch better than Rodney did in his first two appearances, but that's as high as expectations should be set for the rookie pitcher. Yes, he had gaudy strikeout totals in limited action last season, but his minor league strikeout rates -- against inferior competition, mostly at Double-A and below -- don't hint at an ability to sustain that success in the majors.

The more interesting question is this: Given the choice between such uninspiring relief options, does it really matter which pitcher is chosen to pitch the ninth and which sets him up? And is there a lesson to be learned from other teams whose closers have looked shaky to start the season?


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