Bullpen inconsistency has been Angels' weak spot

Bullpen inconsistency has been Angels' weak spot

Bullpen inconsistency has been Angels' weak spot
ANAHEIM -- What will be the Angels' greatest area of need this offseason?

Look no further than their American League-leading 22 blown saves.

Early in the year, when the Angels began the season 6-14, it was the offense that struggled mightily. And early in the second half, as the team went 14-22, it was the starting rotation that went through woeful struggles.

But it's the bullpen that has been the team's biggest weakness throughout the year, and it's those 22 blown saves that may play a big part in why the Angels -- 2 1/2 games back of the second AL Wild Card spot headed into Sunday -- have been so streaky.

Consider: The Rangers, 6 1/2 games better in the AL West, only have eight blown saves in 2012 -- tied with the Rays for the lowest in the Junior Circuit. If the Angels would've cut their blown-saves total in half, they could have been in the driver's seat for a division title.

"At times, we've struggled to hold leads and we paid a price for that in our record, there's no doubt about it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "When our bullpen was functioning [from mid-May to the All-Star break], you saw us play great baseball and start to make up ground. And when that part stalled, it affected us in a negative way.

"At times, our bullpen functioned at a very high level, but it hasn't been with the consistency and the continuity that we needed to put us in a better position right now."

Over the offseason, the Angels didn't do a whole lot to address a bullpen that was tied for the AL lead with 25 blown saves in 2011, only signing LaTroy Hawkins to a one-year deal in November and Jason Isringhausen to a Minor League contract during Spring Training.

The early May trade for Ernesto Frieri, which may go down as one of the savviest of the season, essentially saved them. But the Angels couldn't swing a deal for a reliever in July or August. And lately, Frieri -- who started off his Angels career with 26 1/3 scoreless innings and 45 strikeouts -- has been very human, blowing a couple of games via the home run.

For prolonged success, Frieri must get better command of his slider to offset his lively fastball.

"He needs another pitch, and he has another pitch," Scioscia said. "It's just the consistency of it."