Fantasy baseball waiver wires will be heating up thanks to the news Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia announced Tuesday. Scioscia has decided to switch closers from Fernando Rodney to rookie Jordan Walden.
Rodney recorded a save in the Angels season opener but on Sunday he couldn't finish the job when his team gave him a two-run lead in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals. He faced five batters, got only one out and walked the bases loaded before giving up a game-tying two-run double to Wilson Betemit. Scioscia proceeded to remove Rodney from the game and two days later has removed him from his job.
Signed as a free agent by the Angels in December 2009, Rodney's tenure as closer has been rocky. Since the start of last season, Rodney's save percentage of 65.2 is the lowest of the 31 pitchers who had at least 20 save chances. Rodney has blown eight saves in that span, the only pitcher who blew more save chances was Tyler Clippard of the Washington Nationals with 10. Rodney
Why has he struggled? One word - walks. Rodney has issued 4.63 walks per nine innings since donning the Angels uniform. Out of 226 pitchers who have thrown at least 65 innings since 2010, Rodney ranks 218th. This season, Rodney has faced 10 batters and walked four of them, equating to 27.0 walks per nine innings. Entering Tuesday, Rodney's walk percentage of 40.0 is the worst in baseball among pitchers who have faced 10 batters.
So who is Jordan Walden? Drafted in the 12th round by the Angels in 2006, Walden was a starter in the minors in 2009, but struggled at Double-A going 1-5 with a 5.25 ERA in 13 starts. Last year, Walden was converted to a reliever and did well posting a 3.44 ERA in 44 games at two minor-league levels.
His contract was purchased from the minors on August 22 and he was a strikeout machine recording 23 punchouts in only 15 1/3 innings. His 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings was tied with Billy Wagner for fourth in the Majors last year (minimum 15 innings).
Walden is mostly a fastball-slider pitcher. Last year, according to Inside Edge, Walden's fastball averaged 98.7 miles per hour. In 11 instances, Walden hit at least 100 MPH with a top speed of 101. His average speed of his slider was 85.4, giving him roughly a difference of 13.3 MPH. This year, albeit in a much smaller sample size, the difference between his fastball and non-fastball pitches is at 12.8 MPH.
If Walden stays in the role and gets at least nine saves, he'll be the sixth Angels pitcher since Scioscia became manager in 2000 to get to 10 career saves joining Francisco Rodriguez, Troy Percival, Brian Fuentes, Scot Shields and Rodney.