The Los Angeles Angels have dealt with their fair share of problems at closer this season, and the team’s recent move to place Joe Smith in the role is the right decision.
Entering his first season with the Angels, Smith had expected to come in and be the team’s full-time setup man to then-closer Ernesto Frieri. It was an ideal move at the time given Smith’s success over the past three seasons in the role with a sub-3.00 ERA, 70-plus appearances and at least 15 holds in each campaign. However, with Frieri’s continued unreliability at the spot that led to Los Angeles trading him to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Smith had to step in and has done a great job of it.
Since the Halos decided to roll with Smith as their full-time closer, he has converted all three of his save opportunities and his last five overall. The 30-year-old has been lights out over his last eight appearances, having not allowed a run over that stretch with a 0.00 ERA in five games played in the month of July. It is certainly appearing that he is adjusting well to his new role and providing the Angels with the reliability that they have been looking for since the days of Francisco Rodriguez.
His move to closer has also allowed the rest of the Angels’ bullpen to settle in, especially with their two recently acquired relievers in Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher. In his five games with the Halos, Grilli has a 0.00 ERA and four strikeouts in 4.1 innings pitched. In his first appearance with the team on Monday since being traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Thatcher had a solid .2 innings of work, getting a ground out and fly out along with having nine of his 14 pitches being strikes.
As for the Halos’ other relievers, such as Kevin Jepsen, who is midst a career-best season as he lowered his ERA to 2.25 on Monday, the Smith move allows him to settle into the role as a seventh-inning reliever for the team in a shared duty along with rookie Mike Morin, who also possesses a sub-2.50 ERA in 30 appearances so far this season.
So as the Angels enter the second half of the season, they will need Smith to continue to be a dependable closer as his success late in games will be vital to the team for the rest of the year.