Results tagged ‘ Aaron Hill ’

ST Game 4: Angels 3, D-backs 2 …

Most important thing: The Angels got their first taste of expanded instant replay. Angels manager Mike Scioscia used it to challenge a botched hit-and-run that saw Luis Jimenez get thrown out at second. Scioscia thought Aaron Hill missed the tag after fielding Bobby Wilson‘s high throw, but umpires upheld the call and Scioscia couldn’t challenge anything the rest of the day. The Angels have 14 more of these “replay games.”

Second-most important thing: Garrett Richards looked really good, breezing through three scoreless innings while giving up just two hits, walking none and striking out two. The 25-year-old right-hander looked great last spring, too, with a 1.45 ERA in 18 2/3 Cactus League innings.

Third-most important thing: Ernesto Frieri made his spring debut, after temporarily leaving the team while his wife gave birth on Friday, and pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning.

Fourth-most important thing: Jimenez and outfielder Collin Cowgill, both competing for spots off the bench, each had two hits.

Fifth-most important thing: Only two regulars were in the Angels starting lineup (Kole Calhoun and platooning catcher Hank Conger). Most of the rest of the everyday players took part in a scrimmage at Tempe Diablo Stadium in the morning.

Best defensive play (that I saw): Hill smoked a line drive off Frieri to start the fourth, but Jimenez extended to his left and snared what looked like a sure single.

Best quote: Richards, when asked whether not having to fight for a job will alter his approach this spring: “These last two years, I’ve competed for a spot, so I know what it’s like to be on that end of the stick. I try keep the same mentality I’ve had every spring. Just because I’m in the rotation right now doesn’t mean I’ll be in the rotation at the end of the year. I have to stay sharp and improve.”

Alden

How Angels’ ‘Big 3′ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 

Alden 

The ASG rosters that should’ve been …

American League

Mike Trout, CF (.343 BA, .399 OBP, 23 SB)
Rookie of the Year? How about MVP? Trout has elevated himself to that level already.
Robinson Cano, 2B (.316 BA, 20 HR, 50 RBI)
Best second baseman in baseball. And it isn’t even close.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (.323, 18 HR, 68 RBI)
Best hitter in the AL, in my mind, and better at third base than I thought he’d be.
Josh Hamilton, LF (.318 BA, 26 HR, 74 RBI)
Somebody’s going to give this guy an absurd amount of money this offseason.
Jose Bautista, RF (.911 OPS, 27 HR, 64 RBI)
As Mike Scioscia said in Toronto, “How is this guy only batting .240?” He’s as fun to watch hit as anyone.
David Ortiz, DH (.302 BA, 22 HR, 55 RBI)
Remember when we all thought he was finished?
Paul Konerko, 1B (.333 BA, 14 HR, 42 RBI)
Like fine wine, Konerko seems to get better with age.
Joe Mauer, C (.327 BA, .415 OBP, 38 RBI)
He’s only catching about half the time, but he’s healthy and back to being himself offensively. Huge sigh of relief for Twins.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (.370 OBP, 11 HR, 42 RBI)
As slick as there is with the glove and a great hitter.

SP: Justin Verlander (9 W, 2.58 ERA, 128 SO)
Weaver’s numbers are better, but the reigning MVP deserves to start one of these.

National League

Andrew McCutchen, CF (.360 BA, 16 HR, 54 RBI)
Oh, and 14 steals. The guy does it all. An absolute freak.
Ryan Braun, LF (.309 BA, 23 HR, 59 RBI)
It was a rough offseason. Good to see him pick up right where he left off from his MVP year.
Joey Votto, 1B (.350 BA, 14 HR, 47 RBI)
Here’s all you need to know about how good a hitter Votto is: He’s hit ONE infield pop-up since ’09.
Giancarlo Stanton, DH (.364 OBP, 19 HR, 50 RBI)
Man, I sure hope he can compete in the Home Run Derby.
Carlos Gonzalez, RF (.340 BA, 17 HR, 58 RBI)
Like McCutchen, this guy does it all on the field.
David Wright, 3B (.350 BA, 10 HR, 55 RBI)
What a travesty that Pablo Sandoval is starting at third base over him.
Aaron Hill, 2B (.300 BA, 11 HR, 39 RBI)
Two cycles in one half? Yeah, he gets the nod.
Carlos Ruiz, C (.357 BA, 13 HR, 46 RBI)
Ruiz was always lost in those deep Phillies lineups. Not anymore. Without him, they have nothing this year.
Starlin Castro, SS (.291 BA, 40 RBI, 16 SB)
Tough year for NL shortstops. I’ll take the one with the most upside.

SP: R.A. Dickey (2.15 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 12 W)
Great story, great person, great season. I don’t care if he’s a knuckleballer. He deserves it.

*** I’ll be taking the Baltimore series off. Follow Joe McIntyre for Angels updates, and look for stuff on the Angels’ first half and the upcoming Trade Deadline very soon. I’ll catch up with y’all from KC.

Alden

Bautista a 1-man show — & no 1-hit wonder

NEW YORK – Somehow, Jose Bautista has become a bit of a traveling one-man show.

That show marched into the Bronx this week, where Bautista and the team he is now the unquestioned face of – the Toronto Blue Jays – arrived at Yankee Stadium for a three-game set. It was there that a mob of New York reporters greeted the slugger that has emerged as one of baseball’s best hitters after about a decade of obscurity, and it was there that a packed Yankee Stadium mercilessly booed him each time he walked to the plate.

That’s what happens when you arrive in the kind of way Bautista has.

The native Dominican burst onto the scene last year in his age-30 season with 54 homers and a fourth-place finish in American League Most Valuable Player voting. This year, the right-fielder – who was signed by the Blue Jays to a heavily-debated five-year, $65 million contract this past offseason – has essentially erased any skepticism about being a one-hit wonder.

Now, everywhere Bautista goes, fans are coming out to see him, reporters are flocking to interview him and opposing managers are wondering how to stop him.

Is he the best hitter going?

“I would argue that,” Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill said. “But I get to see him on a day-to-day basis, so I’m a little biased. … It’s not necessarily the home runs or the hits that he gets, but his whole game; the whole way he approaches baseball, or the hitting side of it. It’s by far the best I’ve seen.”

It’d be pretty easy to make the case that Bautista has been baseball’s best hitter since the start of the 2010 season, as he’s at the top of the leader boards in many statistical categories.

This year, he has taken his game to a whole new level, including bumping up his batting average which was a major deterrent for him in MVP voting last year.

It’d be pretty easy to make the case that Bautista has been baseball’s best hitter since the start of the 2010 season, considering his Major League-leading 1.055 OPS and 73 homers. This year, he has taken his game to a whole new level, leading the Majors with 19 homers and a 1.269 OPS while adding a .342 batting average — a category that was a major deterrent for him in MVP voting last year.

“To me, it tells me it’s for real,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “In our league, you might have a one-month period or a two-month period, but if there’s weaknesses, with all the video people can watch, they’re going to find it. You’re not finding it on Bautista. He’s making people pay at an alarming rate. It’s good at-bats; you don’t see him chase a ton of pitches, and he’s patient. He’s doing what it takes to be a great player.”

To say Bautista’s recent success came out of nowhere may be an understatement.

He was drafted in the 20th round in 2000, played for four organizations in his first big-league season in ’04, then hit just .254 with 15 homers with the Pirates in ’07 — his only year topping 500 plate appearances from 2004-09.

Bautista was always confident that he could thrive in the Majors … but as the league’s premier slugger?

“I never thought about that because, to be honest with you, I never thought I was going to get the chance again to be an everyday player, and even if I did, I didn’t expect to hit 50 home runs. At one point in the game to be the leader in home runs you had to hit not 50, you had to hit 60 and 70,” Bautista said. “I definitely didn’t think about that too much, but it’s something that’s obviously very gratifying.”

The treatment of Bautista with men on base seems similar to that of Pujols, or perhaps of home run king Barry Bonds in his heyday. The Blue Jays’ right fielder paces baseball in free passes with 43 and has already tripled his intentional-walk total from last year.

It’s a tribute to his patience, but perhaps also to the lack of protection around him.

Adam Lind is the Blue Jays’ de facto cleanup hitter, but he has been out since May 7 due to lower back tightness. So, against Bartolo Colon in the series opener on May 23, manager John Farrell had shortstop Yunel Escobar hitting behind Bautista in the No. 4 spot — making him his fourth cleanup hitter since Lind went on the DL.

In his first at-bat against the Yankees that Monday, Bautista deposited a Colon fastball over the left-center field wall to put him one homer away from 20. Then, in the sixth, he was intentionally walked with none out and a man on second in a 1-1 game.

“They’re taking the bat out of his hand,” Farrell said before the game. “Just from a sheer strategy standpoint, they’re not putting him in a position where he could affect the outcome of the game, particularly late in the game.”

Bautista’s numbers are even more impressive when you consider his lack of chances. But perhaps most impressive is that his emergence as a star hitter has began in the “Year of the Pitcher.”

After a torrid start, Bautista is on pace to finish with 66 homers and become the first player to even reach 60 since ’01.

“I don’t think even think about that,” he scoffed. “I could care less.”

What Bautista does care about is helping the usually under-the-radar Blue Jays win – something he’ll do with defense, demeanor and discipline.

Last year, Bautista opened eyes. So far this year, he has shown the second-guessers he’s here to stay.

“I expected myself to perform well, just because now I know I did it once, and knowing that if I kept my focus on the approach and what led me to the success, that I was going to be able to repeat it,” Bautista said. “It is somewhat gratifying knowing that a lot of people are skeptical about what happened last year, and I guess I’m proving them wrong.”

– Alden 

** What I wrote this week: Some thoughts on the Buster Posey-Scott Cousins collision; the Marlins are thriving, and hardly anyone has noticed; Rafael Soriano could miss up to two more months

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