The Angels are again leading the AL West and are the favorite to win their fourth division title in five seasons. The bad news is, they'd only outscored opponents 292--291 through Sunday, an indication that the team isn't as good as its 42--28 record. A 30--12 mark in games decided by two or fewer runs has been the difference. Sabermetric studies have shown that a team's record in close games isn't necessarily connected to its overall quality—sometimes the performance can be summed up as luck. But relief pitching does have a tangible influence in close games, and the Angels' bullpen, already strong with Francisco Rodriguez (above) and Scot Shields, has gotten a boost from rookie Jose Arredondo, who's struck out nine without a walk in his first 13 innings in the majors. That trio will continue to give the Angels an edge in close games.
This is an article from the June 23, 2008 issue