The struggles on the mound continue for Los Angeles Angels closer Ernesto Frieri in 2014 as he is in the midst of another disappointing season with the team. It has not been the type of season the veteran right-hander had hoped for, especially coming off a disastrous 2013 where had career-worst numbers in ERA (3.80), blown saves (four), home runs (11) and hits allowed (55).
Heading into this year, Frieri was looking to leave last season’s pitching woes behind him, but has instead carried that over and regressed as a pitcher in many ways.
The 28-year-old holds a 5.59 ERA through 31 appearances, and is on pace to set career-worst across the board in hits and home runs allowed, blown saves and runs allowed. Those are not the kind of numbers that either Frieri or the Angels want to be associated with. What has been most troubling for he and the team is his regression in the role of a closer.
The bottom line with Frieri is that his unreliability has hurt the Halos on several occasions this season, and that cannot continue to occur if they hope to make the postseason for the first time since 2009. Los Angeles needs a stable bullpen and it all starts with having a dependable closer.
A late-game letdown can linger on for not only the team, but also the pitcher who caused it. In Frieri’s case, he has continued to prove time and time again that he does not have the “it” factor as a closer. Yes, he may pitch well over stretches, but games such as this past Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves, where he blew a four-run lead without recording an out, make you wonder if he can ever be a reliable closer for the Angels.
This is no way any disrespect to Frieri, it is just a fact that some players are made to be closers and others are better in different roles in the bullpen. Frieri is a much better pitcher when the pressure is not him to close a game out. He is more of a reliever who can get his team through an inning late in the game.
For that reason, the Halos must do what’s best for the team moving forward, and remove him from the closer spot. There are other players on the roster such as Joe Smith who could fit the bill as the team’s closer. When given a shot at it this season, Smith was quite impressive as he converted five out of his first six save opportunities.
Although he has blown his last two save chances, things could improve if the Halos name him the full-time closer as there will be a sense of confidence and set mentality that would help him succeed in the spot.
When it comes down to it, Frieri is not the answer at closer, and in order for the Angels to have any long-term success, they must make that change.