By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer -
What if I told you that for just the pro-rated portion of this year’s Major League minimum salary the Angels could get a relief pitcher with a career ERA of 3.06 and a career WHIP of just 1.16? You’d probably say, there’s a catch, like he’s got an injury or those are career numbers, not this year’s numbers. If you said either of those things, you’d be wrong. He is not coming off an injury, and this year, his ERA is 2.88 and his WHIP is 1.18.
Interested? Me too.
That’s probably because the Angels bullpen combined is sporting a 4.35 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, leaving them ranked 28th in ERA and 25th in WHIP. As a team, the Angels bullpen has 22 losses (tied for 10th worst as of the time of the writing according to MLB.com).
So, how do the Angels get this reliever? Easy. They promote him from within the organization.
Let me introduce you to Jeremy Berg, one of the unheralded players in our organization currently playing for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. He’s a sidearm pitcher who won’t blow away the hitters (mostly throwing 86-89 from what I have seen). But, he gets the job done, inducing tons of ground balls and controlling the zone. In 72.0 IP, he has only allowed 17 BBs, or 2.1 per 9.0 IP. He’s struck out 63 batters in that time span. For a full list of his stats, click here.
Jeremy Berg is a sidearm pitcher. It’s not an orthodox delivery, but one that can be difficult to hit when done well. Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Angels in 2009, Berg has slowly been working his way up the organization since graduating from High Point University in North Carolina. Back in November, 2010, I interviewed Abe Flores (the Director of Player Development at the time for the Angels) about Jeremy Berg. Here’s how he described him:
Aggressive, competitive guy. Strike thrower. Causes a lot of swings and misses—funky swings. Changes speeds. Can work soft on soft. He’s just a deceptive guy. He’s just a different package so far as what he brings to the mound, but it works.
Over the years, I’ve seen him pitch several times, but unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to interview him for AngelsWin.com. So, I cannot comment on him as a person. However, that’s not the point of this article. I still want to see Berg promoted to the big league club, especially as soon as the rosters expand on September 1st.
Here’s why: The Angels are going to have to revamp their bullpen this offseason and they need to know what talent they have within the system as they rebuild it. Many fans have started to become familiar with R. J. Alvarez and Michael Morin, but they are at least a year away. Other players may also figure into the Angels plans (one sleeper candidate is Jonathan Van Eaton at Orem) or may get converted into a bullpen role as they move up the ranks, but again, they are more than a year away. Jeremy Berg, on the other hand, is ready right now.
More importantly, there’s another reason why I’d like to see the Angels promote Jeremy Berg this year: It will give the bullpen a new look going forward which will make it more effective. Right now, the Angels bullpen has very little difference in it. Outside of having righties and lefties, the Angels bullpen is pretty much the same. Most of the right-handers primarily throw mid-90s with a slider. If the slider isn’t working, the pitchers can only throw their fastballs, which Major League hitters can hit (and have been hitting this season).
One of the objectives of the bullpen is to give teams a different look and to mess with the opposing hitters’ timing. No one could potentially mess with the opposition’s sightlines and timing more so than Jeremy Berg. With his unorthodox sidearm delivery, his control, and his ability to throw a variety of breaking balls and offspeed pitches, he would make for a very effective setup man. The opposition would have to adjust from a hard throwing pitcher before him and then adjust back to a hard throwing closer in the 9th. It should make the entire bullpen better as whoever comes in after him will benefit from having to make all of those adjustments.
Think of it this way: Earlier in the season, the Angels brought in Robert Coello and he immediately had success with his forkball. Prior to his injury, he struck out 21 in 14.2 innings and for a brief period changed the dynamics of the bullpen because he brought a different pitch and a different look to our bullpen. Adding Jeremy Berg could have a similar effect because he would present something entirely different than what the rest of the bullpen throws. Thus, not only would he have an advantage, but, whoever comes in after him would also gain an advantage as the hitters try to readjust back to the mid-90s fastball and slider combination.
It’s not like sidearm pitchers haven’t had success. There have been a lot of them. With all the movement that they can generate on a pitch, they don’t need to blow hitters away. The last Angels pitcher that I recall pitching like that was Darren O’Day. And, Brad Zeigler from the Oakland A’s has been very effective with that kind of delivery.
At this point, the Angels have very little to lose by promoting him to the Major Leagues. If he does not pan out, then at least they learned that and can move on in their efforts. But, if he has some success, it could be an out-of-the-box move that could help transform the latter innings for the team. If we get a solid closer, we could once again see a conveyor belt from the rotation to lighting up the halo with Berg as a part of it.
I want to see the Angels promote Jeremy Berg this September so that they can truly evaluate how his talent will play out and what effect that could have on our future bullpen. It would add some meaning to the remaining games of this season and no matter what, will help determine our offseason moves.