Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’
The Angels and A’s are each playing their 100th game tonight, and when the day began, Oakland’s lead in the American League West remained at two. The Angels have been one of baseball’s best teams for most of the season, currently sporting the second-best record in the Majors, but they have the misfortune of playing in a division with the best team. And of playing in an era when winning your division is crucial (nobody wants their season to be decided by a singular Wild Card game, especially if that game comes against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez).
So it goes without saying that the Angels’ goal is to catch the A’s, who only got stronger by adding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to their rotation. To do that, they’ll have to continue to make up ground.
And they’ll have to overcome a far less favorable schedule.
Below is a categorical look at the remaining games for each team, starting Thursday. The first line is the amount of games each has against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today, the second is the amount of games against teams with records above .500, the third is the amount of home games left, and the fourth is the combined number of games above/below .500 from each of their remaining 62 opponents.*
The Angels and A’s play each other 10 more times — Aug. 22-24 in Oakland, Aug. 28-31 in Anaheim and Sept. 22-24 in Oakland, making up the second-to-last series of the regular season. The A’s lead the season series, 6-3.
Combined: 246 games below .500
Combined: 2 games below .500
* a few teams hadn’t finished their Wednesday games by the time I tallied this
Angels utility man Grant Green was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday because of what was initially diagnosed as a strain in his lumbar, a region that makes up his lower back.
First baseman C.J. Cron – basically the everyday designated hitter until he was sent down on Saturday – was called back up from Triple-A as the corresponding move, and Green spent the afternoon visiting team doctors to get a sense for how long he’ll be out.
Green hit the game-winning single on Sunday, then was unavailable the last couple of games. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Green tweaked his back while working out in the weight room; not amid the walk-off celebration.
“It seemed like today it was going in the wrong direction,” Scioscia said, “so we’re going to shut him down for a little bit.”
The Angels will continue to rotate at left field, first base and DH, with Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols getting starts at DH as needed, and the left-handed-hitting Efren Navarro and the right-handed-hitting Cron filling in. The Angels currently have a short bench due to an eight-man bullpen, which is expected to continue until Monday’s off day.
Cron, a 24-year-old rookie, batted .295 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in his first 47 games, a big reason why the 42-year-old Raul Ibanez was released. But he went 3-for-26 with seven strikeouts and no walks in his next six contests before getting optioned back to the Minors. Scioscia called it “the cyclical nature of hitting.”
“C.J. can hit,” Scioscia said. “He’s always hit. It’s just that there’s going to be some periods when you don’t get those balls to fall in, and I think more than anything that’s what you were seeing with C.J.
“The original plan with C.J. was really just to let him exhale. He was really pressing up here a little bit before he got sent down, and hopefully he’s been able to exhale a little bit and be ready to contribute.”
Cron was expected to land about 90 minutes prior to game time, so he’ll be available off the bench.
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Josh Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
SP: RH Jered Weaver (10-6, 3.43 ERA)
The Angels passed the halfway point of their season on Tuesday, and did so emphatically with their first doubleheader sweep since 2009.
It’s perhaps as good a time as any to see how many All-Stars they have.
They produced their most All-Stars in 1979, when Rod Carew, Bobby Grich, Brian Downing, Don Baylor, Nolan Ryan and Mark Clear were all chosen for the Midsummer Classic. They probably won’t have that many going to Target Field this year, but they’ll have a few. Below are some names worth mentioning, with statistical comps to those who play their positions in the American League (I excluded Josh Hamilton because he missed so much time) …
OF Mike Trout
BA: .315 (T-1st)
OBP: .410 (2nd)
SLG: .617 (1st)
WAR: 5.0 (1st)
HR: 19 (2nd)
SB: 10 (12th)
Chances: He’s a sure thing. Trout ranks second in the AL in fan votes, trailing only Jose Bautista and already notching more than 4 million, and will start his second straight All-Star Game at 22 years old.
1B Albert Pujols
BA: .257 (8th)
OBP: .312 (10th)
SLG: .467 (6th)
HR: 17 (4th)
WAR: 1.5 (7th)
Chances: He looked like an All-Star again in April, but has dropped off ever since and now there are a handful of other first basemen putting up better numbers. His reputation will have to carry him. If it doesn’t, it will be three straight All-Star Game absences for Pujols.
SS Erick Aybar
BA: .277 (4th)
OBP: .316 (9th)
SLG: .419 (2nd)
HR: 4 (T-4th)
SB: 8 (6th)
WAR: 2.9 (1st)
Chances: Tough to say. Aybar has had a terrific first half, but Derek Jeter is going to start his final All-Star Game, and Aybar typically loses the popularity contests. Alexei Ramirez is also deserving.
SP Garrett Richards
ERA: 2.81 (8th)
WHIP: 1.07 (5th)
W: 9 (T-5th)
SO: 108 (8th)
IP: 109 (14th)
Chances: In my opinion, he should. But like Aybar, he’s just not as big a name — yet. I still think Richards finds a way onto the staff, especially when you consider that so many pitchers back out every year. Winning AL Player of the Month for June wouldn’t hurt, either.
SP Jered Weaver
ERA: 3.56 (20th)
WHIP: 1.16 (T-9th)
W: 9 (T-5th)
SO: 92 (T-12th)
IP: 116 1/3 (5th)
Chances: Like Pujols, he’ll need his track record to carry him to his fourth All-Star Game. Solid year so far, but by no means great.
Albert Pujols used to have this videotape of Tony Gwynn conducting a hitting clinic in the late 1990s. The Angels’ first baseman was at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City then, still striving to be the hitter who would establish himself as one of the greatest ever, and Gwynn was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. So Pujols popped that tape in frequently, hoping to learn as much as he could from a master at his craft.
“I took a lot of notes off that,” Pujols said Monday, the day Gwynn lost his multiyear battle to salivary gland cancer at the age of 54.
“It’s a sad day,” Pujols added. “Not just for myself, because I got to know him over the years, but for baseball. We lost a great man at a young age.”
Pujols’ first year with the Cardinals – 2001 – was Gwynn’s last with the Padres, and Pujols got to be Gwynn’s teammate during his final All-Star Game at Safeco Field in Seattle that summer. Nearly two months later, when the Padres and Cardinals met for their first regular-season meeting, Pujols finally struck up the nerve to tell Gwynn about those videotapes.
But he never really talked to him about hitting.
“I wasn’t that comfortable my first year in the league,” Pujols said. “But he was always open to help all the young players.”
Gwynn went down as one of the greatest hitters of all time, a guy who compiled 3,141 hits, sported a lifetime batting average of .338, won eight National League batting titles and never struck out more than 40 times in one season.
“A legend,” Pujols said. “Just an unbelievable hitter. But I think for me, he was a better person, with everything that he accomplished in the game versus off the field. What he’s done, and what he did through his career in San Diego, it speaks for itself.”
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
John McDonald, SS
SP: RH Jered Weaver (7-5, 3.51 ERA)
Michael Bourn, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Michael Brantley, LF
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Carlos Santana, DH
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Nick Swisher, 1B
David Murphy, RF
George Kottaras, C
SP: RH Trevor Bauer (1-3, 4.24 ERA)
Tuesday night’s game will be remembered mostly for Collin Cowgill‘s walk-off homer, which set up the Angels’ fifth straight win and put them 2 1/2 games back in the American League West, and for Yoenis Cespdes‘ throw, one of the best anybody has ever seen. But here are some other takeaways from one of the most interesting games of the season …
- This was the Angels’ best pitching performance of the year. Hector Santiago provided six scoreless innings in his return from Triple-A Salt Lake, scattering three hits while walking one and striking out eight. Then, six relievers (Kevin Jepsen, Mike Morin, Joe Smith, Cam Bedrosian, Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus) combined to give up one run in eight innings, scattering five hits, walking two and striking out six, going toe-to-toe with an A’s bullpen that ranks third in the Majors in relief-pitcher WHIP.
- The Angels, as Mike Scioscia said, “were fortunate tonight.” They made two critical baserunning blunders, with Albert Pujols running through a Gary DiSarcina stop sign in the sixth to easily get thrown out at home by Brandon Moss, and Kole Calhoun trying to advance to third in the 11th on a ground ball to shortstop Jed Lowrie, who flipped to Josh Donaldson for the easy out.
- Scioscia made a questionable decision to have Calhoun bunt in the 13th, after Mike Trout drew a leadoff walk. Calhoun did his job, which meant Trout advanced to second, but with first base open, the A’s opted to walk Josh Hamilton (even though they had a lefty, Jeff Francis, pitching). The sac bunt took the bat out of the hands of one of the Angels’ best players, and paved the way for an inning-ending double play from David Freese.
- The Angels and A’s play a lot of extra innings. In five matchups between the two at Angel Stadium, they’ve now gone to extra innings three times. That, in addition to the 19-inning game played in Oakland on April 29 of last year.
Kole Calhoun‘s return to the leadoff spot was merely a byproduct of Albert Pujols missing his first game of the season.
But it may have gotten him going nonetheless.
Calhoun entered Thursday’s game 1-for-19 since coming off a six-week rehabilitation from a sprained right ankle, then went 2-for-4 in the 7-5 win over the Mariners, hitting a double, drawing two walks and scoring three runs. The 26-year-old right fielder believes returning to the leadoff spot played a part in feeling better than he has at the plate since coming off the DL, becuase it forced him to take pitches and be more patient.
“Your typical leadoff hitter is going to try to get on base, let these guys know what the starting pitcher has, especially early in the game,” Calhoun said. “I saw six pitches my first at-bat, laid off some close ones in my second and third at-bats. That’s something personally I need to do, and it’s good for the team. I set the table and had a good night.”
Calhoun entered the season as the team’s leadoff hitter, and hit there for 11 of his first 14 games.
Asked if he’ll continue to ride Calhoun at the leadoff spot, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said: “I think we’ll mix and match a little bit. He did a good job tonight. When he gets comfortable, we talked about him hitting at the top. Against leftie,s we got some guys who are doing a pretty good job getting on base, too. We’ll have some options.”
Translation: Calhoun may actually sit over the next two games, as the A’s start the series with lefties Drew Pomeranz and Tommy Milone. Calhoun has hit lefties well in his career, but Scioscia has been going with Grant Green and Collin Cowgill in the outfield corners in those situations.
Albert Pujols won’t be playing in 162 games this season. Angels manager Mike Scioscia made sure of that on Wednesday, when he told his superstar first baseman he’d be sitting for the first time in Thursday’s series finale at Safeco Field and didn’t let Pujols talk his way out of it.
He tried though.
“Yeah, but they said no,” Pujols admitted, laughing. “They don’t even want me to hit. I’m just going to go to the cage just to get loose. I’m not taking batting practice, either.”
The primary goal – more so than having him in the lineup for every game – is to make sure they keep Pujols fresh throughout the season, especially after he missed the last two months of 2013 with a partial tear of his left plantar fascia. Pujols said his lower half is “good” and “better than it was on the last road trip,” when the hard turf at Rogers Centre took its toll on the 34-year-old.
Scioscia wanted to give Pujols the day off “just to get him to recharge.”
“Albert will go out and play till the cows come home,” Scioscia added. “It’s time for him to take a day today.”
Pujols is batting .262 with a team-leading 14 homers, but his production has dipped over the last month or so, with a .236/.298/.445 slash line, five homers and 19 strikeouts in his last 28 games. In his last at-bat against Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night, though, Pujols stayed back on a 93-mph fastball and drove it to right field for a two-out RBI double in the ninth.
“It was middle-out, and that was a ball I was pulling a little bit,” said Pujols, who has started at designated hitter 11 times this year. “I was able to stay through it. Hopefully I can take it to the next series, and hopefully I get an opportunity to play tonight.”
- Josh Hamilton was slated to take live batting practice on the field Thursday, and if that went well, he’d re-start his rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. Scioscia is hopeful that Hamilton will return before the end of this road trip (Thursday in Houston).
- Dane De La Rosa (right s/c joint irritation) appeared in back-to-back outings for Triple-A Salt Lake for the first time on Wednesday and Thursday, giving up a run in each one-inning outing. He isn’t ready to join the Angels just yet. Scioscia said his “stuff looked good,” but he’s “slowly making progress” and “to get the confidence to know he’s where he needs to be might take a couple more outings.”
- Grant Green (.388/.404/.510) started over Collin Cowgill because, frankly, Scioscia wants to get him as many at-bats as possible since he’s swinging the bat so well (full lineup here).
- Also, Kole Calhoun is back at leadoff. Scioscia: “With Albert out, we definitely want Mike [Trout] third. If you look at his ability to work counts, even though obviously he hasn’t been locked in since he came off the DL, I think hell be a positive in the leadoff spot, and with Erick [Aybar] in there, it will give us a good look before the heart of our lineup.”
Mike Trout, the leading vote-getting in the American League as of Tuesday, looks primed to go to his third All-Star Game in as many years. But the superstar center fielder once again sounds reluctant to partake in the Home Run Derby, saying Tuesday that he “probably” wouldn’t if asked.
“I don’t know if I’d do it,” Trout said. “I don’t think [Mike] Scioscia would want me to do it.”
Trout is correct on that.
The Angels’ manager said participating is “totally a player’s decision, and it should be.” But his stance on the event hasn’t changed.
“I don’t like it,” Scioscia said. “I think it has great fan interest; I even like watching it. But when it’s one of your players doing it, not a fan. I don’t know if a player ever takes that many full-gorilla swings in that short of a time. It’s like a long-drive contest for a golfer who has to go out there and rely on touch. I don’t think they would like that.”
Scioscia’s outlook on the Home Run Derby is the opposite as that of Albert Pujols, who took part in the event in ’03, ’07 and ’09, and has never struggled in the second half because of it.
“For guys that haven’t done it, I encourage them to do it at least once,” Pujols, sporting a team-leading 14 homers, said in late April. “It’s awesome. It’s a good time. And you put on a good show for the fans. That’s what you do it for.”
Trout took part in a home-run derby while at the lower Class A level and said it “didn’t turn out too well.”
“I hit like two or three home runs,” Trout said, but he doesn’t believe it messed up his swing.
“I didn’t think about it much,” he added. “It’s for the fans, to have fun and try to hit some home runs. After the All-Star break, you get back to the basics anyways.”
Scioscia has had four of his players participate in the Home Run Derby since he took over as Angels manager in 2000, and two of them actually won.
In ’01, Troy Glaus was shutout at Safeco Field, then had a higher OPS in the second half (.922) than in the first (.877).
In ’03, Garret Anderson won, but had a lower OPS in the second half (.807) than in the first (.943).
In ’07, Vladimir Guerrero won and stayed at about the same pace (.962 OPS in the first half, .935 OPS in the second half).
In ’12, Mark Trumbo finished third in the Derby and slumped the rest of the way, going from a first-half OPS of .965 to a second-half OPS of .630.
Scioscia let them take part, but only begrudgingly.
“I would advise any one of our guys not to do it, just for the wear and tear it takes on your whole swing,” Scioscia said. “I enjoy watching it. It’s great fan interest. But let the other guys in the league do it.”
Josh Hamilton should return soon — recent setback notwithstanding — and at that point the Angels will have an interesting decision in front of them.
Ultimately, it could come down to the following three guys for one roster spot …
It looks like Raul Ibanez‘s job is safe, partly because keeping him on the roster is the best way for the Angels to preserve their depth. Cron, Green and Stewart (still on the disabled list, but on track to be activated shortly after Hamilton) can all be optioned to the Minor Leagues. So it looks like it’ll come down to whom the Angels believe will benefit them most initially (I say “initially” because guys are sent down and called up all the time). Below is a look at what each brings, and doesn’t …
Stats: .283/.298/.478, 47 PA in MLB; .319/.369/.602, 122 PA in AAA
Benefits: A right-handed bat who can platoon with the left-handed-hitting Ibanez at designated hitter, and a natural first baseman — the only one on the roster — who can occasionally spell Albert Pujols.
Drawbacks: Cron still has some developing to do, and came up a little earlier than projected. In my opinion, he should only be up here if he’s going to get consistent at-bats. I’m not sure that would be the case with the Angels at full strength.
Stats: .357/.378/.476, 45 PA in MLB; .349/.395/.505, 119 PA in AAA
Benefits: Versatility. Green is a natural shortstop who is most comfortable at second base and has gotten a lot more comfortable at third base and left field since being acquired by the Angels last July. For the last few days, he’s been getting a lot of early work at first base, too. And that could be big given what I mentioned above regarding Cron.
Drawbacks: It’s a right-handed bat for a bench that on most nights will probably have the right-handed-hitting Collin Cowgill available. Green has been much better against lefties (.935 OPS in 23 plate appearances) than righties (.768 in 22 plate appearances) during his stint in the big leagues. Still a small sample size, though.
Stats: .176/.222/.382, 72 PA in MLB
Benefits: Stewart made the team out of Spring Training because on the nights Ibanez starts — and initially it was going to be almost all them — Mike Scioscia has a power left-handed bat off the bench. The fact Stewart can give David Freese a day off against a tough righty, while playing second and first base in an emergency situation, was also a benefit.
Drawbacks: Stewart’s performance hasn’t helped him, especially given how well Cron and Green have hit since coming up. He’s struck out 31 times in 24 games, but is working on getting his hands a little lower to shorten his swing path and hopefully cut those down.
So, which one would you pick? …
Jerry Dipoto wouldn’t flat out say that the veteran designated hitter will not be released, but the Angels’ general manager did indicate that the club would continue to be patient with Ibanez – because he turned things around after a slow start last year, because they like his veteran presence, because he’s come through in late-game situations and because keeping him on the roster allows the organization to preserve depth.
“One of the real benefits about where we’re at right now is just the fact that we have unmasked some depth, and once you start peeling depth away, it’s not there anymore,” Dipoto said. “Raul has a track record. He has done this before. He has gone through cold spells, and he has gotten hot. There’s nobody here who believes Raul has had his last good days in the big leagues.”
The Angels’ current dilemma, no doubt, is a good one.
Efren Navarro, Grant Green, C.J. Cron and Luis Jimenez have come up from Triple-A and contributed in the last few weeks, and now several key position players are on the verge of being activated off the disabled list.
Third baseman David Freese (non-displaced fracture in right middle finger) and right fielder Kole Calhoun (sprained right ankle) are deep into a rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake and could be back within the next couple days.
That would presumably lead to Jimenez (a right-handed-hitting third baseman) and Navarro (a left-handed hitter currently playing corner outfield) getting optioned.
But next week, when left fielder Josh Hamilton (sprained left thumb) and third baseman Ian Stewart (left hand contusion) are projected to return, is when things could get interesting.
The Angels would then perceivably have to make a decision between Green, a right-handed hitter who can play up to four different positions, and Cron, the slugging prospect who can spell Albert Pujols by playing first base and can be a right-handed-hitting complement to Ibanez at DH.
Stewart, who has batted .176 and struck out 31 times in 24 games, can be optioned to Triple-A.
“We’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in getting guys back,” Dipoto said. “And the guys who have come up and chipped in have done such a great job that it makes it tough to have conversations. But my goodness, when you look at the way the roster has been stacked, it’s been fun.”
Ibanez, 41, has a .148/.268/.269 slash line in his first 36 games, but he posted only a .511 OPS in April last year and then turned it around shortly thereafter, with a 1.031 OPS in May. The Angels believe he can do the same now.
“To be fair, you bring a guy in, you remain patient with him, you give him his opportunity,” Dipoto said. “Raul wasn’t brought in to jam into the 4-hole and hit cleanup for a month. It hadn’t been a great six weeks for him. We’ll get him where he needs to be.”