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Monday, September 14, 2009
Does Fuentes have tenuous hold on job?


Oh, this is delicious, as there's nothing like a brewing closer controversy as we approach October. From the O.C. Register's Mark Saxon: It's true that most closers throw the baseball exceptionally hard. But there are all sorts of ways to earn saves. Trevor Hoffman throws mid-80s fastballs and changeups. Joakim Soria throws low-90s fastballs and everything else but the kitchen sink. It really doesn't matter who hard a pitcher throws; what matters are the results of what he throws.

Last year, the results for Fuentes included nearly a dozen strikeouts and slightly more than three walks per nine innings. This season he's struck out roughly eight batters per nine innings. Even granting that last season's strikeout rate was uncharacteristic and probably unsustainable, Fuentes' K-rate this season is down roughly 25 percent from his career rate.

Fewer strikeouts usually means more hits, and more hits usually means more runs and a higher ERA. Which is exactly what's happened to Fuentes this season. He's throwing about as hard as he always has, and there's really nothing wrong with him that a few more strikeouts and a few fewer walks won't cure. But the four-time All-Star isn't a superstar, and there's nothing wrong with the manager keeping his options open. Each of the Angels' six busiest relievers this season -- led by the surprising Jason Bulger -- have struck out more than seven per nine innings.

Jepsen's been no better than his bullpen mates in that regard. Where he's excelled is limiting the home runs, giving up only two in 46 innings. Which might go some way toward explaining Mike Scioscia's affection for him.