Angels fans suffered a blow this weekend, even while their team was romping on the field at home for a change, mercilessly sweeping a visiting Padres team from down the 5 freeway in San Diego.
What was lost in all of the positives this weekend, and also in the debacle that has been the Angels bullpen thus far, was the end of the season declaration from one Mr. Scot Shields.
Shields's season ended this weekend when the 33-year-old opted for surgery to repair his injured knee, the same surgery undertaken by teammate Gary Matthews Jr. this past offseason.
Many people looked at him this year and said he was done, said he was horrible. He'd lost the ability to get 'er done.
But what most people don't realize is just how good Shields has been for this Angels team these past few seasons.
Saves are sexy, and it's easy to see why: gunslinger enters from the 'pen to shut down the opposition. They're usually flashier. They yell. They fireball. They finish the game on the mound.
They get 62 saves handed to them to pad their resume then jump ship (I have a whole other article to write about how over-rated the closer/save number is/has become. More on that another time).
Set-up men are different.
With baseball having evolved into a formulaic style game, much to the chagrin of many fans, the set-up man has evolved into a sort of wanderlust destination.
None of the fanfare of starting. None of the showmanship of closing.
Set-up men rarely get the mention for their work. The good ones (and they are RARE) quietly go about their business, getting it done game in and game out, before handing their games off to the closers to get all the glory.
Nowhere has this been more true than in Anaheim for the past five seasons, where reliever and set-up man extraordinaire Scot Shields has taken the mound.
His numbers speak for themselves.
From 2004-2008, Shields averaged over 28 holds per season. Couple that with 28 wins (almost as many losses, sure, with 26). He's also appeared in an average of 70 games per season during that span, including a whopping 78 games in 2005.
Shields has been so good that he's practically defined the eighth inning set-up role all on his own.
In 2007 and 2008, Shields lead the league with 31 holds in each season. Saves are sexy, but those chances only come if the team maintains the lead.
Shields got four good pitches. A "show-me" pitcher, hitters have to beat him to hit him, as he usually throws strikes and makes batters rise to the challenge. He amassed 432 strikeouts over 425 2/3 innings between '04-'08, while yielding only 163 walks.
But without strong legs to support his dominance, Shields, like the rest of the bullpen he anchors, struggled this season.
At least now Halo fans know why.
Angels fans—especially THIS Angels fan—hope he returns as strong as ever: the unquestioned, unparalleled, undeniable heartbeat and metronome of this Angels 'pen.
The eighth inning is so scary without him.
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