We don’t have the depth for a big trade come July. What, if anything, is going to save this team? – @angelfan91
Performing to expectations and staying healthy. That simple.
For as star-laden and expensive a team as this is, it’s not a club that can really absorb an inordinate amount of injuries. Their farm system is barren, and their bench looked pretty weak once Vernon Wells was dealt to the Yankees. Look no further than the three starts Tommy Hanson (restricted list) has missed. Each of those nights — especially the latest one — the opposing team has batted around in an inning, basically because the Angels are left with nowhere to turn for additional starting pitching help. There are some teams (Yankees?) that can withstand using the disabled list seven times in the first six weeks. The Angels, apparently, aren’t one of them.
More than that, though, guys are simply under performing, as this Baseball Prospectus article evidenced by deploying PECOTA projections. Joe Blanton (0-7, 6.46 ERA, 1.87 WHIP) has taken the brunt of the criticism. But just as crippling, if not more so, is the fact that the three big signings of the last two offseasons — Albert Pujols (.248/.328/.418), Josh Hamilton (.214/.264/.358) and C.J. Wilson (3.88 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) — are simply not living up to their track records. Add that to all those who have been on the DL since April 1 (Jered Weaver, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett, Kevin Jepsen, Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar) and you have a problem.
The good news: Three-quarters of the season remains.
I’ll be away from the team for a little while moving forward, while trying to juggle a bunch of other things I have going on. William Boor is your man for the rest of this homestand.
SP: RH Wade Davis (2-3, 5.86 ERA)
SP: RH Barry Enright (0-1, 11.37)
- There was thought Ryan Madson could join the Angels before the end of the week, after making his second and final rehab appearance for Class A Inland Empire on Wednesday or Thursday. That is no longer the case. The Angels prefer to slow down his rehab and have him pitch at Triple-A Salt Lake before being activated. This isn’t really a setback, though. Madson continues to feel good, having just the normal soreness pitchers go through, but he’d been going very aggressive in hopes of coming back as soon as possible — throwing off a mound with intensity every other day — and the Angels feel it’d be best if they slowed him down and ease him into the Majors. “I respect that,” Madson said. I’d expect Madson to start pitching in Triple-A by the end of the week. How long will he be there? Mike Scioscia said: “If everything goes the way we anticipate, not very long at all.” Madson threw out “a couple weeks.” Scioscia, when told that, said: “I don’t know if it’s going to take a couple weeks. It might or it might not. We want to make sure that he’s ready to go and his rehab sticks when it goes.”
- Earlier today, Angels owner Arte Moreno publicly backed Scioscia, saying there’s “zero” chance he’ll be dismissed. Sciosica’s reaction: “Arte has always been very supportive. Arte knows how hard I take the non-performance of this team and how we need to get there. It hits me as hard as it hits Arte and it hits Jerry [Dipoto], and I know Arte realizes that. We’re going to take this challenge and hopefully start moving forward and getting the wins that we need to get ourselves in the position we want to. That’s the bottom line is winning, and we’re going to work towards that.”
- Some other injury notes: Jered Weaver (broken left elbow) came out of his Tuesday bullpen session feeling fine and is still scheduled to throw an 80-pitch, up-and-down ‘pen (meaning 20 pitches, sit down, 20 pitches, sit down, and so on) on Friday. The next step after that would be a rehab assignment. … Sean Burnett (left forearm tightness) is expected to throw his first bullpen session on Thursday. … Peter Bourjos (left hamstring strain) has been riding the elliptical, playing catch, doing some aquatic exercises and getting in some lunges, but there’s still no date for when he can run on the field. … Kevin Jepsen (strained lat) was scheduled to throw his third bullpen session today. … Still no timetable for when Tommy Hanson (restricted list) will be back, but he has been throwing.
Well, there you have it.
FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi caught Arte Moreno at the Owners Meetings in New York and asked him about Mike Scioscia‘s oft-speculated-upon status as manager of the Angels. Moreno’s response: “Mike has zero problems, OK? This is his 14th year. Mike goes beyond what he does on the field. He’s a good person. He’s a good person in the community, a very good baseball guy. You don’t have to ask me. You just ask other managers, other baseball people.”
As for the job status of general manager Jerry Dipoto, Moreno told FOXSports.com: “We have had zero discussions on anything other than who is going to be healthy enough to play. Jerry’s been here a year and a half. There are a lot of underlying things we need to fix and adjust in the organization.”
What does all this mean?
Well, not much, really. Scioscia is under contract through 2018, as Morosi pointed out, and there’s no way his boss would ever go on record to say his job status is in jeopardy in the first place. If nothing else, though, it at least quells the outside speculation of whether or not he’ll be retained. And that can only help a manager do his job.
The big question is still what Moreno does, if anything, if the Angels fall short of the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
Right now, regardless of the Angels’ 15-24 record, it’s mid-May, there’s a whole lot of season left and it doesn’t seem very prudent to make a big staff change. As Albert Pujols pointed out, it’s on the players to perform up to their reputations.
“Right now,” Moreno told the site, “in Mike’s job, I have no questions about Mike.”
Joe Blanton perpetually gets hit around and Tommy Hanson continues to be away from the team because of a family issue, but the other rotation newcomer, Jason Vargas, has pretty much provided what the Angels would’ve expected lately.
On Tuesday night, he bounced back from a dud against the Astros, limiting a pretty dangerous Royals lineup to five hits and one walk while striking out seven batters in seven-plus innings of two-run ball. Vargas, acquired in exchange for Kendrys Morales in December, hasn’t allowed a first-inning run in either of his first eight starts, is 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA at home and, most importantly, has pitched seven or more innings in four of his last five outings.
“I try to go out there every time and keep the team in the ballgame, be consistent out there and try to execute,” Vargas said.
His ERA, at 6.75 after his April 16 start, is now at 4.03. He’s responsible for both of the Angels’ complete games (though one was eight innings of a loss on the road). And though he began the season in the fourth spot of the rotation, he’s clearly the Angels’ third-best starter (perhaps even second, depending on how you feel about C.J. Wilson).
“If you look at Jason, you look at his track record, this guy pitches deep into games,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Vargas, who posted a 3.96 ERA and compiled 611 innings his previous three years in Seattle. “It’s one thing saying ‘gives innings,’ but this guy gives you good innings and that’s what’s important to us is these guys getting into the seventh, possibly the eighth, giving those good innings and giving our offense a chance to do what it did tonight.”
On Monday night, the Angels’ high-priced right fielder was pulled after six innings because of what manager Mike Scioscia originally deemed light-headedness. In a sense, that’s true. But Hamilton will simply tell you that he’s sick; dealing with some sort of congestion that makes him prone to dizziness and sensitive to the bright lights of a Major League stadium.
“I’m just off,” he said. “However you want to write it, however you want to describe it – I’m just off.”
Hamilton has been dealing with this issue throughout his career, and his most recent bout began on May 5, a couple days before the Angels left on their six-game road trip through Houston and Chicago. His body continues to “feel great,” but the condition remains.
Hamilton was nonetheless in the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Royals, batting fifth but confined to designated hitter because the illness is manageable in the batter’s box; not so much when constantly running around the outfield.
He’s vehement in saying this won’t keep him out of the lineup, and he’s quick to dismiss it as an excuse for his struggles.
“I’ve felt bad plenty of times and played and done well,” said Hamilton, who has a .212/.261/.344 slash line despite getting two hits in Monday’s loss. “This has nothing to do with that. It’s more of, I’d say probably being out on the field type of thing – run the bases, then go out on the field, combined with lights and all that stuff. It’s not the best thing at this moment.”
Hamilton received a shot before leaving to Houston and felt better. But the cold of Chicago made it worse and, most frightening of all, the issue appears to be sensitive to Southern California’s climate. While with the Rangers last September, Hamilton missed the last two games of a three-game series against the Angels, then another three because of a vision condition called “ocular keratitis,” which impacts the cornea.
But the 31-year-old said that was directly linked to consuming too much caffeine. This, he added, “is an actual sickness.”
Now that Hamilton will be in Southern California long-term, via the five-year, $125 million contract he signed in December, he’ll seek a permanent solution by seeing an allergist soon. For now, he’s between antibiotics, trying to figure out something that will at least temporarily get rid of the problem – or, as he describes it, “put a Band-Aid on it.”
Asked if getting rid of the problem entirely would force him to go on the disabled list, Hamilton said: “No, absolutely not. Because if that’s the case, we’ll just put Band-Aids on it until the offseason comes.”
Here are today’s lineups …
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Alcides Escobar, SS
Alex Gordon, LF
Billy Butler, DH
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Salvador Perez, C
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Miguel Tejada, 2B
SP: RH Jeremy Guthrie (5-0, 2.28 ERA)
Erick Aybar, SS
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Mark Trumbo, RF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris iannetta, C
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: LH Jason Vargas (1-3, 4.26 ERA)
SP: RH Barry Enright (0-1, 9.00 ERA)
White Sox (14-18)
SP: RH Dylan Axelrod (0-2, 3.60 ERA)
- Umpire Fieldin Culbreth, the crew chief who inexplicably allowed Astros skipper Bo Porter to make two pitching substitutions without having the first guy face a batter, was suspended two games on Friday, representing some rare punishment from Major League Baseball. Mike Scioscia said he never had any doubt that he was right. In fact, after he officially protested the game in the seventh, he told his team: “I’m 99.9 percent sure that we have two free innings here, so let’s just try and go win the game, and if we don’t, we’ll get a second crack at it here next month.”
- At one point, though, there was some doubt. “I will admit that after we were sitting there talking about it and we were so adamant, I was thinking, ‘God, am I think that screwed up?’” Scioscia said, laughing.
- Scioscia took the high road with regards to Major League umpires, though, and didn’t egg on. Asked about accountability issues, he said: “One thing I have found is that in the course of, especially with Joe Torre and Major Leauge Baseball, I think there is accountability that is there. It might not always show its face, but I know behind the scenes it’s there, and this is one example.”
- Tommy Hanson, originally scheduled to start tonight’s game, was officially placed on the restricted list, which he can be placed on for pretty much as long as he needs. There’s no gauge as to when Hanson will return. He’s back in Georgia, continuing to console with family members over the recent death of his step brother — the same situation that had him on the bereavement list from April 22-27. “We wish Tommy well and we fully support him,” assistant GM Matt Klentack said. “He has the full support of the entire Angels organization.”
- It doesn’t look like Erick Aybar (right hamstring) or Scott Downs (right foot) will go on the DL, but both remain day-to-day and are currently unavailable. Aybar rode the bike today and hopes he’s out for only a couple days. Downs’ foot is “still a little tender,” Scioscia said.
- Kevin Jepsen (strained lat) is slated to throw his first bullpen session on Saturday.
- Peter Bourjos continues to receive treatment in Arizona and will rejoin the team when they return home on Monday. It doesn’t look like he’ll return any sooner than early June, but you never know with these ailments, especially with speed guys.
- Asked if Scioscia needs a vote of confidence from owner Arte Moreno, the Angels’ skipper said: “Not for what I do, not for my benefit. I think in the clubhouse, these guys are playing hard, they’re preparing hard. I think they understand the need for us to get better in some areas. … There’s always going to be chatter out there that happens, but I don’ thtink it’s anything that’s affecting what I do with these guys.”
The Angels can’t get swept by the Astros, can they? We shall see …
SP: LH Jason Vargas (1-3, 3.72 ERA)
SP: RH Lucas Harrell (3-3, 5.03 ERA)
- Jered Weaver threw his first bullpen today (28 pitches) and felt really good. Mike Scioscia said he’ll need about four more, thrown with one day in between if Weaver continues to feel good, before venturing out on a rehab assignment.
- Ryan Madson threw 20 pitches in an intrasquad game in Arizona today and, as planned, will pitch there again on Saturday.
- If the Angels make the playoffs this year, they’ll become only the fourth team in history to do it despite starting off the season 11-22. Per Elias, the only other teams to start a season 11-22 or worse and play in the postseason were the 1914 Braves, the 1974 Pirates and the 1981 Royals. To be fair, though, there was no second wild card — or even first wild card — back then.
- The last time the Angels were 11 games below .500: May 22, 2006. They haven’t been 9 1/2 games back this early in a season since 2002 — when they were 9 1/2 games back on April 22, 10 1/2 games back on April 23 and (lo and behold!) World Series champs on Oct. 27.
- Eleven of the Angels’ 22 losses have come by two runs or less.
At what point do you expect the Angels to turn their season around? — @keaton_choi
If I knew that, I’d move to Vegas. Who knows. For some reason, nothing seems to be clicking right now. When they hit, like Tuesday, they don’t pitch. When they pitch, like Wednesday, they don’t hit. This is the time to turn it around. Right now. The Angels are two games into a 29-game stretch that will see them play only seven games against a team that’s currently above .500. And that team is the Royals. It’s no excuse — at all — but 22 of the Angels’ first 31 games came against teams that made the playoffs last year. That’s a tough stretch. If they go 19-10 in this 29-game stretch, they’re at .500 with guys like Jered Weaver, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett and perhaps even Peter Bourjos back — and maybe Josh Hamilton finally swinging the bat. But losing back-to-back games to a bad Astros team is a tough way to start.
SP: RH Joe Blanton (0-5, 5.97 ERA)
SP: RH Bud Norris (3-3, 3.89 ERA)
- Pujols is back at DH today because his surgically repaired right knee is bothering him. Nine of his last 11 games (not including the Sunday game he was out of the lineup for) had come at first base. Since his four-hit, two-homer game in Oakland on April 29, he’s 2-for-23, with a homer, a walk and six strikeouts.
- Ryan Madson packed up his bags and left for Arizona on Wednesday, where he’ll pitch in at least two simulated games, then probably venture out on a rehab assignment, likely with the Cal League. On Tuesday, Madson talked about needing only two Minor League rehab outings, allowing him to return by the end of next week. That may be pushing it a little, but Scioscia didn’t rule it out pregame. “The process is not complete with Ryan,” Mike Scioscia said. “You have to see how he bounces back, see how his stuff plays.”
- The Angels are now 4-5 when scoring six-plus runs this season. Last year, they were 93-13 in those instances.
- A feature on Jerome Williams and the relationship with his late mother will run Sunday, at 4 p.m. PT on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. This week, Williams has been posting photos of him and his mom on his Twitter account. Here’s a story I wrote on this subject for Mother’s Day last year.
Only four other times in their 53-year history have the Angels gone 11-21 or worse through the first 32 games of their season — 1961 (the expansion year), ’69, ’72 and ’76. Here’s a look at how those seasons turned out …
1961: 77-84, 38 1/2 GB in the AL
1969: 71-91, 26 GB in the AL West
1972: 75-80, 18 GB in the AL West
1976: 76-86, 14 GB in the AL West
Only the ’69 and ’76 teams lost the next games to move to 11-22, so the company keeps shrinking.
“ I think sometimes people make the mistake of playing GM when they’re not the GM,” C.J. Wilson said after the Angels’ latest loss, 7-6. “Our job is to play and play as hard as we can. We’re putting in the effort. If we got one more swinging bunt, maybe we come out on top, but that’s that’s the way baseball is. You can’t always explain it, can’t predict it. We’re giving 100-percent effort, and that’s all we can do. We could try to be more studious, maybe sacrifice a live goat or chicken, maybe get a pin-cushion out or something. We’re losing a lot of one-run games, but the pitching staff is getting supported by the offense, the offense is scoring enough runs. Sometimes it’s the big inning. Sometimes it’s a lot of little things.”