I remember the day, way back when, when we were all excited to see Jordan Walden get his shot in the majors. I remember seeing him dominating and hoping I could see the day where Walden would be the Angels full time closer. I envisioned K's upon K's, saves upon saves, and wins upon wins for that kid. I remember when Walden was giving the full-time closer gig and exploding with pure joy and enthusiasm. Walden may be the closer of the future, but he definitely isn't the closer of the present.
I hope you've shaped up by the time this goes live.
With the way Walden has been pitching as of late he has no reason to make his presence known in the 9th. Walden is facing his first real hurdle in the majors and his future depends not only on how he handles this situation, but how the Angels handle it. Walden clearly doesn't belong in the 9th for now and needs to be demoted in order to get his head clear without the pressures of closing for the big leagues dragging him down a la Brandon Wood. Let's slowly lower those torches and pitchforks guys, I'm not suggesting the Angels send him back down to the minors.
The smoothest route for Walden is to find a more relaxed role out of the pen. Pitching in the 8th, maybe even the 7th, is what Jordan needs more then anything. Not only will this help him regain some confidence, it will allow him to work on his secondary pitches and fine tune them with a much larger margin for error. Let's face it here, the problem with Walden is his fastball. Not the quality of the pitch, but the reliance Walden has with it. Walden's control with the change is spotty at best and he hasn't discovered the most effective way to utilize his slider. I am not pleased in the least bit with the way Walden has been using his fastball. He uses it to get ahead in the count, uses if it he falls behind, uses it to finish off hitters, and uses it to set up hitters. Set them up for what? Why, for his FASTBALL of course!
I would not mind if Walden used his fastball all the ways I mentioned if he didn't do it for every single one every single time. When he tries to throw his secondary pitches he fails to place them in the strike zone and ends up having to use his fastball to get back in the count. Hitter's are getting great reads on his fastball, seeing as how that is the only pitch he trusts, and wait on him to throw a hittable one. This would make for some tasty deception is Walden trusted his secondary pitches enough to throw them in those situations. If he can't trust his own arsenal, why should we trust him?
We should, just not as the closer. Dropping him, as I said before, allows him more room for experimentation. Although there is one place where he will have a much larger margin for error. It's called the minor leagues, though I'm sure Walden doesn't want to end up in AAA once again.
Then again, it is possible that he is able to clean out the muck without having to face the indignity of losing your closing role. Though leaving him in the closer role to clean up his own mess is a huge gamble, a gamble which I'm sure this team is not willing to take. The Angels have gambled many times before and fallen on their faces again and again. Let's glance on such gambles the Angels have taken in the past few years.
Kazmir- no explanation required here, straight up bust. He's practically not even on the team anymore.
GMJ- most hated player in recent Angels memory, need I elaborate on why?
Fernando F#@*ing Rodney- this wasn't a gamble as much as it was a dumb move. There was a chance that he could be a solid closer for the Angels and he even instilled us with false hope that he could be early last season. Now the mere mention of his name can send the most war hardened Angels vet into a full fledged sweat and tears panic attack.
Vernon Wells- it is unfair that Wells is judged based on his contract and not the actual player he is. He is a great player to have on a team, good pop, great teammate, even better leader. The jury is still out on this one, although he is making it easy for us Angel fans to hate on him. I'm not going to put too much stock into this season as it is more of a transitory season then anything, although anything less then a decent year will draw much criticism from Angel fans and the baseball world.
Tyler Chatwood- you never want to rush a good prospect to the majors, especially when his AAA experience is practically non-existent. That is exactly what the Angels decided to do with Chatwood and so far it's been....ok? When Chatwood steps takes the mound he has razzled and dazzled whoever steps up to the plate. He's also given the opposing offense an extended batting practice. Chatwood is too iffy to throw down any official marks on him, he can make his case for a 3rd starting ace (see what I did there?) and he can show us why he isn't ready for the majors. He's only 21, so it is far too early to make any judgements on him, but I would say this gamble is paying off in small dividends so far.
Based on their recent track record with lady luck I would rather not see the Angels force Walden to push through his struggles in the closer role. If he was a season major leaguer then it's a different story, but he's just a fragile kid in the dog eat dog world of MLB. Would you rather see him continue to struggle and get eaten alive by the big dogs or see the pressure slowly alleviated off of his shoulders until this mess can clear itself out. The latter for obvious reasons, with the past few closers the Angels have had they don't want to risk allowing a gem slip through their fingers due to shoddy development. They've rushed Walden enough in the past year, it's finally come time to take it easy on the kid and let him figure everything out at his own pace. I'm looking forward to many years of Walden closing out games for the Halos, let's just hope they don't screw up yet again with this one.