Matt Shoemaker said after Tuesday’s bullpen session that he has “no doubt” he’ll be available to start for the Angels in the American League Division Series – and don’t rule him out for Game 2, either.
Starting Game 2, after ace Jered Weaver, would allow Shoemaker to also pitch in a potential Game 5 and would mean C.J. Wilson starts only once, after his worst regular season as a starter. Shoemaker threw his second bullpen sessions in three days during the team’s first mandatory workout from Angel Stadium, and came out of it with no pain in the left oblique that has put him on a rehab program for the last two weeks.
“Everything felt great,” Shoemaker said. “I’d say great, but it felt normal, which is great.”
Shoemaker threw an estimated 40 pitches, with a break in the middle to simulate the time between innings in a game, and didn’t feel the slight tightness that was still present when he got off the mound from Safeco Field on Sunday.
“A few days ago, it was a little tight,” Shoemaker said. “Now, I don’t feel it at all.”
The 27-year-old rookie is coming off a surprising, breakout season that saw him go 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and a 5.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Mike Scioscia won’t reveal his rotation after Weaver until Wednesday, and he has Wilson lined up to pitch Game 2 on five days’ rest.
But Shoemaker would be their ideal choice if he’s ready. And the fact he only missed two turns through the rotation means he may still have his normal length.
“I haven’t thrown 100 pitches yet, but I definitely feel I’m capable, for sure,” Shoemaker said. “Just the way my arm feels, my body feels, definitely feels doable.”
The Angels, it seems, dodged a bullet with Shoemaker.
His left side grabbed on him in the eighth inning of yet another brilliant start against the Mariners, the day the Angels became the first team to clinch a spot in the postseason, and Scioscia feared the worst. But a next-day MRI revealed what Shoemaker said was a “very mild” strain, and he’s been making steady progress every day since.
“It’s definitely a pleasant surprise,” Shoemaker said. “But also, going in when it happened, the very positive thing, that was a blessing, was that it was just mild. It wasn’t anything more than that. Given its mild state, we were able to heal and knock it off really quick, which I’m definitely really happy with.”
The Angels’ regular season ended on Sunday, and now all that stands before the postseason are an off day and a couple of mandatory workouts from Angel Stadium. Rosters are due by Thursday morning, and before then, Matt Shoemaker (left oblique) is expected to get off a mound at least one more time and Josh Hamilton (right chest/ribcage) will have to see some velocity (latest here). Before all the ALDS madness ensues, let’s take a numerical look back at the 162-game grind. And before we get into the objective, here’s a little bit of the subjective …
MVP: Mike Trout
Gold Glove: Erick Aybar (SS), Albert Pujols (1B), C.J. Wilson (P), Kole Calhoun (RF)
Silver Slugger: Trout, Aybar
Rookie: Matt Shoemaker
Comeback Player: Pujols
Rolaids Relief: Huston Street
Executive: Jerry Dipoto
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Trout looks like almost a lock to nab the AL MVP Award, but Shoemaker probably doesn’t stand a chance to win AL Rookie of the Year over Jose Abreu. I can’t really think of a better candidate for Comeback Player of the Year than Pujols, and there’s a good chance Dipoto or Scioscia — not both — win their respective awards. I’d lean towards Dipoto, since Buck Showalter seems to be a popular pick for top AL manager (keep in mind there’s only one Executive of the Year Award, not one per league). Of the Gold Glove list, Pujols seems like the most likely to get one. Aybar had a great year at shortstop, but so did J.J. Hardy and Alexei Ramirez. Trout is a lock for his third straight Silver Slugger. Street has had a great year, but he split it within two leagues, so he’s a long shot for the Rolaids Relief Man Award.
American League Top 10s
BA: Howie Kendrick (10, .293)
OBP: Trout (T7, .377)
SLG: Trout (3, .561)
HR: Trout (T3, 36)
RBI: Trout (1, 111); Pujols (5, 105)
BB: Trout (4, 83)
SO: Trout (1, 184)
fWAR: Trout (1, 8.1)
FanGraphs defense: Aybar (T8, 14.0)
ERA: Garrett Richards (5, 2.61)
W: Jered Weaver (T1, 18); Shoemaker (T4, 16)
IP: Weaver (9, 213 1/3)
WHIP: Richards (3, 1.04)
BB: Wilson (1, 85)
MLB Team Rankings
WPCT: 1, .605
R/DIFF: 2, 143
fWAR: 2, 30.3
R: 1, 773
OPS: 7, .728
SP ERA: 13, 3.62
RP WHIP: 8, 1.22
FLG%: T3, .986
DRS: 20, -16
Angels fWAR Standings
Chris Iannetta: 3.0
David Freese: 2.2
Collin Cowgill: 2.1
Tyler Skaggs: 1.5
Joe Smith: 1.0
Top 10 Prospects
LH Sean Newcomb (Rk, A): 6.14 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 3.0 SO/BB, 14 2/3 IP
RH Joe Gatto (Rk): 5.33 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 1.78 SO/BB, 27 IP
RH Chris Ellis (Rk): 6.89 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 2.00 SO/BB, 15 2/3 IP
3B Kaleb Cowart (AA): .223/.295/.324, 6 HR, 54 RBI, 26 SB (stopped switch-hitting during season)
RH Cam Bedrosian: 6.52 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 1.67 SO/BB, 19 1/3 IP (MLB); 2.00 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 4.56 SO/BB, 45 IP (A+, AA, AAA)
LH Hunter Green: did not pitch
LH Ricardo Sanchez (Rk): 3.49 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 1.95 SO/BB, 38 2/3 IP
2B Alex Yarbrough (AA): .285/.321/.397, 5 HR, 77 RBI, 6 SB
RH Mark Sappington (A+, AA): 6.02 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 1.44 SO/BB, 113 2/3 IP (moved to bullpen during season)
RH Jeremy Rhoades (Rk): 4.42 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2.67 SO/BB, 38 2/3 IP
Team Records Set
Most strikeouts by a player: Trout tied Mark Trumbo (184 in 2013)
Most wins by a rookie: Shoemaker, 16 (previously 14 by Dean Chance, Marcelino Lopez and Frank Tanana)
Scoreless appearances in a season: Smith (67) and Kevin Jepsen (65), topping Francisco Rodriguez (63 in ’08)
Pitchers used: 31 (previously 29 in 1996)
Fewest errors: 83 (previously 85 in ’09, for a non-strike season)
Strikeouts by a pithing staff: 1,342 (previously 1,200 in 2013)
Some other interesting tidbits …
- Second time in club history that they finish the regular season with the best record and lock up home-field advantage throughout the postseason (also 2008).
- 98 wins is the third-most in club history, two shy of the club record set in ’08.
- The Angels went an entire season without being shutout on the road.
- Angels drew 3 million fans at home for the 12th consecutive season, a streak only matched in the AL by the Yankees. Their average attendance (38,221) was the highest since 2011.
- Pujols led the Majors with 33 go-ahead RBIs, finishing one shy of the club record (34, by Vladimir Guerrero in ’06).
- Trout became just the second RBI champion in team history (also Don Baylor, with 139 during his MVP season in 1979).
- Trout is the first player in Major League history to lead either league in runs scored in his first three full seasons (115 in 2014). The last player to do that at any age was Mickey Mantle (1956-58).
- Since 2011, Street has converted 126 of 136 save opportunities (93 percent), which is the best mark over that span (minimum: 50 innings).
- Pujols is the 16th player with 2,500 hits, 1,500 runs and 500 homers, all marks he accomplished this season. The only others to do it by their age-34 season are Jimmie Foxx, Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez.
- Trout is the first player since 1901 with 100 career steals and 90-plus career homers by his age-22-or-younger season.
- All eight of the Angels’ everyday position players finished with an OPS+ over 100. Only the 1973 Orioles, ’09 Angels and ’13 Red Sox had more.
- John McDonald turned 40 on Wednesday, and hit an RBI double in what could’ve been his final Major League at-bat. If it is the end, hats off to a great career by a truly great person.
“Just in case,” said McDonald, fighting back tears at his Safeco Field locker postgame. “You never know. You have to be prepared. That’s what my career has been about more than anything.”
McDonald, who seems unlikely to crack the Angels’ postseason roster because Gordon Beckham fills a similar role, turned 40 on Wednesday. On Saturday, he got his first at-bat as a 40-year-old and flied out, just a few feet in front of the left-field warning track.
“We credited him with a home run on that at-bat because that’s about as far as he can hit a ball,” Mike Scioscia cracked. “We credited him with a home run in our hearts.”
McDonald got another chance, though, with two outs and Brennan Boesch on second, and he lined a Danny Farquhar offering down the left field line, ensuring that the Angels would go an entire season without getting shutout on the road.
“It’s a good feeling to get one more hit,” said McDonald, who carved out a 16-year career mostly as a backup infielder. “It might have more meaning later.”
Matt Shoemaker threw a 30- to 40-pitch bullpen session from Safeco Field on Sunday morning and feels “very” confident he can start for the Angels in the American League Division Series, barring an unforeseen setback.
Josh Hamilton spent the regular-season finale taking swings off a tee, then threw long toss, did some running exercises and tracked pitches during Shoemaker’s bullpen session, but will need to push it harder on Monday and Tuesday before knowing if he can play in the first round, which kicks off Thursday.
Hamilton, who will finish the season playing in just one of the Angels’ last 22 games, didn’t feel the “spasm” around his right chest/ribcage that occurred when he hit off a tee earlier in the week, a sensation that made it difficult for him to even breathe. But he finished his swing with two hands on the bat, which he never does in games.
“I’m going to have to just swing,” Hamilton said. “I can’t be over here trying to remind myself every time I swing to just swing with two hands. So, tomorrow will be another big day.”
Hamilton is slated to take batting practice on the field at Angel Stadium on Monday and Tuesday, and see some live pitching at some point before ALDS rosters are due on Thursday morning. Throwing is no longer an issue, his back no longer bothers him when he runs, and the pain he felt while swinging on Sunday was tolerable.
“The pain isn’t the issue; it’s the spasm part of it,” said Hamilton, who took four days off from striking a baseball because of those spasms. “As long as I can play and not spasm, I’ll be fine. That means I have to get after it the next couple of days, push it a little bit, because I can’t baby it, then get in the game Thursday and it happens.”
Shoemaker, rehabbing from a mild strain in his left oblique since Sept. 15, played catch for six straight days leading up to his first bullpen, gradually ramping up the intensity and the distance until taking part in an unrestricted long-toss session on Saturday.
The 27-year-old rookie threw all his pitches Sunday, finished throwing at full intensity and felt only “a touch” of tightness, which diminishes with each passing day.
“Hopefully in a couple days, I won’t even feel it all,” Shoemaker said. “I think that’s a big possibility.”
The next step for Shoemaker is to face hitters at Angel Stadium on Tuesday or Wednesday, then start either Game 2 or 3 of the ALDS. Asked if he’s confident he’ll start in the ALDS, Shoemaker said, “Very much.”
“Each day has felt better,” he added. “This is the first time we got full intensity off the mound. We’ll find out more tomorrow.”
Matt Shoemaker, strained left oblique played catch for a fifth consecutive day on Friday, prior to the series opener from Safeco Field. The 27-year-old rookie backed up to about 150 feet, after throwing from 110 feet during the off day on Thursday. Shoemaker still has some hurdles to compete before getting cleared to start in the American League Division Series, but he continues to move in the right direction.
Asked how confident he is that Shoemaker will be ready for the first round, Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said: “Right now, based on how he’s feeling, how he’s throwing, I’m very confident that he’s going to be OK.”
“He’s getting better every day,” Butcher added. “Just keep progressing on an everyday basis, see how he feels every day coming into it, then once we get to a point where he feels like he’s getting after it on flat ground, maybe do some one-hope drills, get him on the mound, and that’s really the big task right there.”
Josh Hamilton did some defensive work pregame and will resume swinging the bat on Saturday, after what ended up being three days off (Wednesday’s recovery day, Thursday’s off day, then Friday). Hamilton isn’t expected to play this weekend, but can see some live pitching either during a simulated game in Anaheim or instructional league in Tempe, Ariz., next week.
“He has to see some velocity, whether it’s done in a simulated environment, just to get some perspective of velocity,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He did it in Spring Training when pulled calf muscle, got into a game and was very comfortable. He will see velocity in some form.”
Some other pregame notes …
- Mike Trout is back in the lineup after exiting Wednesday’s game with a stomach illness.
- I previously reported that C.J. Wilson was being moved up from Sunday to Saturday, which may be an indication that he’s starting Game 2 of the ALDS, but Scioscia said he was starting Saturday all along. It was just listed in the wrong order in the game notes. Scioscia said “we haven’t made any decisions” for who starts after Jered Weaver.
- The Angels officially walked away from negotiations with the city of Anaheim.
- ALCS tickets will go on sale Oct. 1.
The American League Division Series kicks off from Angel Stadium next Thursday, Oct. 2. Between now and then are eight days, three regular-season games and a couple of workouts in Anaheim, at which point Josh Hamilton (right ribcage) will hope to see some live pitching and Matt Shoemaker (left oblique) will hope to get off the mound. Who knows; maybe they’ll even face each other!
At any rate, games aren’t necessarily about wins and losses anymore — they’re about looking ahead to October.
With that in mind, here are some takeaways from Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the A’s …
Hector Santiago: Mike Scioscia wouldn’t commit to Santiago getting a start in the ALDS postgame, but he provided some encouraging signs while throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings after recording a combined nine outs in his previous two starts. The problem with Santiago — and C.J. Wilson, for that matter — is that you’re still not quite sure what you’ll get from start to start. But he did finish the year with a 3.81 ERA, and he did post a 2.71 ERA from June 10 to Sept. 9. That’s a very solid three-month stretch.
Howie Kendrick: Scioscia is committed to Kendrick batting cleanup, at least to start the ALDS. Part of it has to do with Hamilton not seeing much live pitching, and part of it has to do with how well Kendrick has hit there while Hamilton has been out. The veteran second baseman had a couple of key two-out hits on Wednesday and is now batting .403 (27-for-67) with 18 RBIs in 18 games behind Albert Pujols.
Joe Thatcher: It remains to be seen whether the Angels will carry their veteran lefty specialist on the postseason roster. Thatcher has a 3.41 ERA on the year, but lefties are batting .300 against him this year and the 32-year-old is still affected by the left ankle sprain that forced him to miss more than seven weeks. Said Scioscia: “I don’t think we’re seeing him at his best yet, but he’s going to get the ball, and hopefully he’ll make some pitches. He looked a little more crisp today.”
Vinnie Pestano: I didn’t list him as a candidate, but perhaps there’s a spot for the 29-year-old sidearmer, who recorded the last two outs of the sixth inning and has allowed just one run while striking out 13 batters in 9 1/3 innings with the Angels.
Gordon Beckham: He started at shortstop, ahead of the birthday boy, and has now made five appearances there this month. Beckham came in as a solid defensive second baseman and has played well at third base, and Scioscia clearly wants to give him some reps at shortstop for his forthcoming role as the Angels’ utility player in the ALDS.
The Angels have a lot of questions to sort through before their postseason roster must be submitted to Major League Baseball on the morning of Oct. 2, must prominent of which is the health of Josh Hamilton and Matt Shoemaker. Assuming Hamilton and Shoemaker are healthy (-ish), here’s a look at the players I deem locks to crack Mike Scioscia‘s ALDS roster …
That’s 21 of 25 spots. Now here’s a look at the guys who are perceivably on the bubble (again, just my educated guess here) …
SS/3B/2B John McDonald: The 39-year-old has had a very set role all year, as a late-game defensive replacement for Freese at third base, but it would be tough to carry him given the fact Beckham — acquired with the playoffs in mind — can essentially fill the same role.
DH/LF/RF Brennan Boesch: The power left-handed hitter has started 10 games in September, and entered Monday with six hits (and two homers) in his last 16 at-bats. Scioscia clearly likes playing him, but not in the field, and he may have to if Hamilton can only DH.
1B/LF/RF Efren Navarro: He doesn’t bring as much power as Boesch, but he’s another lefty bat who has adjusted quickly to the outfield and is a very disciplined hitter.
1B/DH C.J. Cron: I expect at least one of Boesch or Navarro to make the team, and I’d be shocked if Cron didn’t make it as a right-handed power bat who can start (or pinch-hit) against a lefty.
CF/LF/RF Tony Campana: Campana can play a very particular role on this team, as a Chone Figgins-esque pinch-runner. His placement on the roster could hinge greatly on whether the Angels go with a 12-man pitching staff (commonplace for the regular season) or 11-man pitching staff (commonplace for the shorter ALDS).
LH Joe Thatcher: It seemed like a given that Thatcher would crack the roster as that critical lefty specialist when the Angels traded for him in July, but he’s been slowed by an ankle injury and hasn’t fared well against lefties this year, and Scioscia has often said he won’t carry a lefty if he isn’t getting outs.
RH Cory Rasmus: The Angels have plenty of right-handed power arms in their bullpen, but Rasmus has pitched well and provides length. Who knows, maybe he even starts a playoff game.
LH Wade LeBlanc: LeBlanc doesn’t seem to have a chance at cracking the roster if Shoemaker is healthy, but what if he has another solid start on Tuesday?
Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton “feels pretty good today,” manager Mike Scioscia said prior to Monday’s series opener in Oakland. The 33-year-old hasn’t started doing baseball activities, but he did hit off a tee. Hamilton previously said he hopes to play on Wednesday, but Scioscia said that’s “a little aggressive.” Friday looks like his earliest return date.
Matt Shoemaker, out since last Monday with a strained oblique, said he’s “very optimistic about getting on a mound again.” The 27-year-old rookie continues to make steady progress and played light catch prior to Monday’s game, Scioscia said.
“Last two days,” Shoemaker said, “I’ve noticed the best progress, getting into a lot of physical activity, moving around, getting ready to go.”
Still, Scioscia said it’s “very remote” that Shoemaker appears in a game before the end of the regular season. So he’d probably have to throw in some sort of simulated game to get ready for the postseason, if healthy.
Howie Kendrick was held out of the lineup as a precautionary measure for the left hamstring injury that forced him out of Sunday’s game. Kendrick said he felt good enough to play, and went through all the pregame activities.
“I don’t think it’s anything major,” Kendrick said. “I’m going to go out and do what I would normally do. He just told me I wasn’t going to play today. There was no need to really push it.”
It’s no secret. If the Angels — considering a three-man rotation for the American League Division Series — are to go far in the playoffs, they’ll have to rely heavily on their deep bullpen.
The question is: Will it work?
One of baseball’s dogmas says teams that are “built for the playoffs” are the ones that have dominant starting pitching. But in the Wild Card era, that hasn’t proven to be true. Consider: Since 1995, the Major League quality-start percentage has been 48.88 in the regular season, 48.88 in the postseason and 51.96 in the World Series; in terms of innings per start, it’s 5.91 in the regular season, 5.76 in the postseason and 5.88 in the World Series. That’s a very negligible difference, especially when you consider all the bad teams that are lumped into that regular-season category.
Now here’s a case-by-case look at each of the last 19 World Series champions, with the first stat being innings per start and the second being the amount of quality starts throughout the postseason …
2013 Red Sox: 5.81 IP, 8 of 16 QS
2012 Giants: 5.64 IP, 6 of 16 QS
2011 Cardinals: 5.11 IP, 7 of 18 QS
2010 Giants: 6.44 IP, 11 of 15 QS
2009 Yankees: 6.29 IP, 11 of 15 QS
2008 Phillies: 5.9 IP, 10 of 14 QS
2007 Red Sox: 6 IP, 6 of 14 QS
2006 Cardinals: 6.20 IP, 10 of 16 QS
2005 White Sox: 7.66 IP, 9 of 12 QS
2004 Red Sox: 5.61 IP, 9 of 14 QS
2003 Marlins: 5.66 IP, 8 of 17 QS
2002 Angels: 5.02 IP, 2 of 16 QS
2001 D-backs: 7.08 IP, 14 of 17 QS
2000 Yankees: 6.42 IP, 8 of 16 QS
1999 Yankees: 6.58 IP, 10 of 12 QS
1998 Yankees: 6.79 IP, 9 of 13 QS
1997 Marlins: 5.83 IP, 5 of 16 QS
1996 Yankees: 5.42 IP, 5 of 15 QS
1995 Braves: 6.64 IP, 10 of 14 QS
That’s nine of 19 champions that got less than six innings per start during the playoffs, and seven that won the World Series despite receiving a quality start in less than half of their postseason games. Look at the 2002 Angels. Stunning. Managers tend to have quick hooks in the playoffs, because it’s all hands on deck and because the off days tend to keep bullpens relatively fresh.
So, you can win in October with a deep bullpen, a good offense and a rotation that keeps you in the game. And the Angels have the potential for that. Since Garrett Richards went down, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago have allowed three earned runs or less in 20 of 23 starts (includes tonight).
Just something to think about.
Josh Hamilton is shut down again, this time with what the Angels’ outfielder described as “a sharp, stabbing pain” near his chest and right ribcage, underneath his armpit.
Hamilton first felt some pain in the area in the second round of early batting practice on Monday and continued to feel worse throughout Tuesday night, his first game back after missing 11 straight contests with stiffness around his right shoulder.
“As I played, as I ran, as I swung, it got worse and worse, to the point where it hurt to breathe,” Hamilton said. “It just felt like my shoulder blade and everything was pretty locked up.”
Hamilton wasn’t with his teammates when they clinched the American League West title on Wednesday. He had MRIs in the morning, all of which checked out fine, then left the team right around game time to see a chiropractor, having a 40-minute session at his office and then getting worked on again at Hamilton’s house later that night. Hamilton was still feeling pain on Thursday, but was going to try to throw.
Asked of his concern that this could prolong, and keep him out of the playoffs, Hamilton said: “You’re always concerned about it. If I woke up today and felt great, then I wouldn’t be concerned about it. I don’t know what to tell you as far as long-term, short-term or whatever, but the thing I’m going to do is whatever I need to do to get back on the field.”
Hamilton — batting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs — has played in just one game over the last 14 days, and only nine games will remain before the AL Division Series after Thursday. The 33-year-old recently missed time with an injury that began in his right AC joint and spread to his trapezius muscle, prompting him to get three cortisone shots and a couple of trigger-point injections.
Asked if he considers Hamilton’s latest ailment is a setback, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, simply, “I consider it something new.”
“Hopefully it’s a minor blip,” he added, “and we’ll see where we are in a day or two.”
- Jered Weaver was scratched earlier today, with Wade LeBlanc taking his spot. Now, Weaver will start Saturday, the spot vacated by Matt Shoemaker and his left oblique strain, and then again on the last Friday of the regular season and then for Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday, Oct. 2. So, Weaver’s next three starts will come on six days’ rest, five days’ rest and five days’ rest, respectively.
- Shoemaker said his left oblique is “definitely better,” which marks the third straight day he’s said that. He’ll continue to get treatment these next few days and then see when he can pick up a ball again.
- As expected, the Angels trotted out a Triple-A lineup against Felix Hernandez, with none of the regulars playing. After the party died down at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, the players went to Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa, which shut down the bar after 2 a.m. and left it just for members of the Angels. Cabs were lined up outside to take guys home.
- The Angels entered today with a three-game lead on the Orioles for the best record in baseball. Scioscia, on the importance of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs: “It’s important. We’re going to keep our edge and keep playing hard. But I don’t think it has importance of putting guys at risk for injury.”