Results tagged ‘ Athletics ’
Most important thing: Joe Blanton, entering in the fifth, started his spring by giving up back-to-back singles and a two-run double to Yoenis Cespedes. But he retired seven of the next eight batters, striking out two of them, and Mike Scioscia called it “a step forward.”
Second-most important thing: The Angels had most of their starters in the lineup, but they were shut out in the five innings they were on the field. Mike Trout walked to load the bases with one out in the fifth, but Albert Pujols (now 0-for-5 with a walk this spring) grounded into an inning-ending 5-3 double play.
Third-most important thing: Screwball master Hector Santiago was a little erratic to start the game — his first pitch sailed way wide of Chris Iannetta — but was able to navigate through two Angels misplays and his own two walks to allow just one unearned run in 2 2/3 innings.
Fourth-most important thing: Brennan Boesch, vying for a spot off the bench, had a couple of singles and is now 4-for-7 this spring.
Fifth-most important thing: Brandon Lyon, competing with several other relievers for two bullpen spots, pitches a clean ninth inning, recording a strikeout. Lyon, 34, is an interesting name to watch because he has a good track record and gets hitters out a different way (with offspeed stuff).
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): To start the game, Pujols ranged into foul territory and made a nifty, over-the-shoulder basket catch to record the out. It wasn’t necessarily spectacular, but it was the kind of play he may not have made while hindered by plantar fasciitis last year.
Best quote: Pujols, when asked if Trout’s performance the last two years has pushed him to be at that same level to keep up with him: “I don’t need to keep up with anybody, buddy. Just look at my numbers. My job is to stay healthy and go out there and play. I don’t need anybody to motivate me. My job is to be out there and give 110 percent, and that’s what I’ve been doing [my whole] career.”
Angels’ record: 1-2
Last year’s record: 78-84, 3rd place
Key additions: SP Hector Santiago, SP Tyler Skaggs, RP Joe Smith, 3B David Freese, DH Raul Ibanez, RP Fernando Salas, SP Mark Mulder, 1B Carlos Pena, INF John McDonald, RP Brian Moran
Key subtractions: 1B/OF Mark Trumbo, CF Peter Bourjos, SP Jason Vargas, SP Jerome Williams, SP Tommy Hanson
Biggest strength: Offense, even without Trumbo. The Angels ranked fifth in OPS last year despite getting mediocre-to-bad seasons from Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Both should be better this year — Pujols because of health, Hamilton because of mindset — and they still have the game’s best all-around player in Mike Trout. They’ll be fine in this department.
Biggest question: Starting pitching, just like it was around this time last year. The Angels got the cost-controlled pitching they needed by getting Skaggs and Santiago for Trumbo. But they couldn’t resign Jason Vargas and couldn’t bring in Matt Garza, so they’ll be relying on three young guys — Skaggs, Santiago and Garrett Richards — to fortify their rotation behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.
Most important player: Skaggs. He’s coming off a rough season in the Majors and in Triple-A, but he’s only 22 years old, still has good stuff and is returning to the organization that originally drafted him.
In 25 words or less: They no longer have the hype of the last two years, but the talent is still there to contend. It’ll come down to starting pitching.
Last year’s record: 51-111, 5th place
Key additions: SP Scott Feldman, CF Dexter Fowler, SP Jerome Williams, RP Chad Qualls, RP Matt Albers, RP Anthony Bass, INF Cesar Izturis, 1B/OF Jesus Guzman, RP Jesse Crain, OF Adron Chambers
Key subtractions: SP Erik Bedard, INF Ryan Jackson, OF Brandon Barnes, SP Jordan Lyles
Biggest strength: The future. The Astros’ farm system was ranked first by ESPN.com’s Keith Law recently. They have four prospects within MLB.com’s Top 25 (Carlos Correa, Jonathan Singleton, George Springer and Mark Appel) and they’ll have the No. 1 overall selection once again this June.
Biggest question: The present. There’s a reason — besides savvy Drafts, prospect-laden trades and a bigger presence in Latin America — that their farm system has become so good: Because their Major League team has been so bad. There’s no sugarcoating it. The Astros have lost at least 100 games three straight years, their big league club is still full of questions, and the division they’re still new to is much better.
Most important player: Springer. The 24-year-old outfielder, ranked 23rd by MLB.com, is expected to make his Major League debut at some point in 2014. And if his numbers at Double-A and Triple-A are any indication, he could make an immediate impact.
In 25 words or less: They’ll be a little better this year, with Fowler, Feldman and Qualls adding necessary veteran presence, and should be much better in a few more.
Last year’s record: 96-66, 1st place (lost to Tigers in ALDS)
Key additions: SP Scott Kazmir, CL Jim Johnson, RP Luke Gregerson, RP Fernando Abad, INF Nick Punto, OF Craig Gentry, SP Drew Pomeranz, SP Phil Humber
Key subtractions: C Kurt Suzuki, OF Chris Young, SP Bartolo Colon, RP Grant Balfour, OF Michael Choice, SP Brett Anderson, RP Pedro Figueroa, 2B Jemile Weeks
Biggest strength: Pitching, as usual. Colon is a big loss — literally and figuratively — but with Johnson and Gregerson, the A’s could have one of the deepest and most dominant bullpens ever. Seriously. And if Sonny Gray is the same guy we saw down the stretch and in the playoffs, the rotation — with Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily, A.J. Griffin and Kazmir also in it — looks outstanding once again.
Biggest question: Second base. Weeks didn’t necessarily pan out, Alberto Callaspo is out of position there, and it looks like it’ll be Punto and Eric Sogard in some sort of platoon.
Most important player: Kazmir. The 30-year-old left-hander parlayed a miraculous comeback season into a two-year, $22 million contract with a team that can’t afford bad contracts. If he’s the guy he was with the Indians last year (4.04 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 9.2 K/9 in 158 innings) the A’s will be in great shape. If he reverts to the guy who was out of baseball for a year, they could be in trouble.
In 25 words or less: They’ve won back-to-back AL West titles, only to be eliminated by the Tigers in back-to-back first rounds. They seem primed to take the next step.
Last year’s record: 71-91, 4th place
Key additions: 2B Robinson Cano, CL Fernando Rodney, 1B/OF Corey Hart, 1B/OF Logan Morrison, C John Buck, INF/OF Willie Bloomquist, SP Scott Baker, OF Travis Witherspoon
Key subtractions: 1B Kendrys Morales, OF Raul Ibanez, SP Joe Saunders, RP Oliver Perez, RP Carter Capps, OF Carlos Peguero
Biggest strength: Second base. Well, they seem to have that position figured out pretty well. They better, with a $240 million investment for Cano.
Biggest question: Protecting Cano. Right now, they have Hart coming off knee surgery that put him out for all of 2013, which is no sure thing. If you spend that much money on someone like Cano, you ought to make sure someone actually throws him a strike every once in a while. Nelson Cruz could be a big help in the cleanup spot.
Most important player: Taijuan Walker. The Mariners already have a dynamic one-two punch in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. If Walker — 21 and the fourth-ranked prospect in the Majors by MLB.com — steps up, Seattle’s rotation can compete with some of the best teams in the American League.
In 25 words or less: It’s great to see them make a splash, but it’ll take lots more than Cano to take this from a 91-loss team to the playoffs.
Last year’s record: 91-72, 2nd place (lost to Rays in Wild Card tiebreaker)
Key additions: 1B Prince Fielder, LF Shin-Soo Choo, C J.P. Arencibia, OF Michael Choice, 3B/1B Kevin Kouzmanoff, INF/OF Brent Lillibridge, SP Armando Galarraga, RP Jose Contreras, RP Daniel Bard
Key subtractions: C A.J. Pierzynski, DH Lance Berkman, RF Nelson Cruz, OF David Murphy, SP Matt Garza, CL Joe Nathan, 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Craig Gentry
Biggest strength: Offense. With an on-base machine in Choo at the top and Fielder protecting Adrian Beltre in the middle — not to mention giving them that left-handed power bat they lost with Hamilton — the Rangers’ lineup is a guaranteed juggernaut.
Biggest question: Health, particularly of their pitching staff. Opening Day starter Matt Harrison is coming off two back surgeries and an additional procedure to treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in his right shoulder. Colby Lewis is coming off hip surgery. Derek Holland won’t be ready until midseason because of knee surgery. And Neftali Feliz is coming off Tommy John surgery.
Most important player: Feliz. The Rangers no longer have a closer now that Joe Nathan is in Detroit, but Feliz was their guy when they went to the World Series in 2010 and ’11. If he can get back to being that, Texas is set for the ninth inning.
In 25 words or less: The Rangers look very good on paper once again, but that’s given the health of Harrison, Lewis, Holland and Feliz. And that’s a big question.
Predicted order of finish …
Here’s how it stacked up in combined wins …
AL East: 433
NL Central: 421
AL Central: 400
NL West: 399
NL East: 391
AL West: 387
And here’s where it ranked in run-differential …
AL East: 235
NL Central: 219
AL Central: 0
NL West: -137
AL West: -138
NL East: -179
But AL West teams have been particularly aggressive in the early portion of this offseason — and yes, it’s worth reminding all of you that it is, indeed, still early — which could make for an interesting dynamic in 2014, and should make the Angels’ return to the postseason that much tougher.
The Mariners just reeled in the biggest free agent of the offseason, snatching Robinson Cano from the Yankees via a reported 10-year, $240-million, Albert Pujols-like contract. No, they aren’t an instant contender. And as the Angels themselves have shown, throwing the most dollars at the best free agent in no way guarantees success. But this is an important building block for a Mariners team that has always struggled to land the big names (see: Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder). At some point, you have to overpay to lay a foundation (the Mets thought the same thing with Curtis Granderson). This reminds me of the Jayson Werth deal the Nationals made three offseasons ago. It was a vast overpay at seven years and $126 million. But at that time, it was the only way the Nats were going to land a premier free agent. Adding Werth — even if he isn’t a star to the magnitude of Cano — changed the expectations in Washington and ultimately helped make it a place where free agents wanted to play. Same can happen in Seattle, where the Mariners are showing a willingness to spend. And if they trade for David Price — they have the prospects to do it — watch out.
In the words of one executive, “The A’s may have one of the best bullpens in history.” It’s not much of an exaggeration when you consider that they added Luke Gregerson to a group that includes Jim Johnson, Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Sean Doolittle, etc. Their rotation — Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, Sonny Gray, in whatever order — is darn good, as well. But here’s the most important part about the current A’s: After back-to-back exits in the Division Series, they’re going for it. You don’t trade for one season of Johnson, flip a talented prospect (Michael Choice) for Craig Gentry or give Kazmir a two-year, $22 million contract if you aren’t.
Then there are the Rangers, who you just know have another big more or two in them. I actually liked the Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler deal for them (and loved it for the Tigers). They’re paying Fielder $138 million over the next seven years, which is very reasonable for a guy whose home-run rate will inflate in Texas and who gives them the middle-of-the-order bat they’ve been missing since Hamilton left. Over the last four years, the Rangers have the third-best regular-season winning percentage in the Majors (.570, trailing only the Yankees and Braves) and have been to the World Series twice. They had the 10th-best staff ERA in baseball last year, and they surely aren’t done.
Even the Astros have made some moves. They reached agreement on a three-year, $30 million deal with starter Scott Feldman — a guy the Angels would’ve liked, but not for three years — and previously traded for former Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler. They were easily dead last in 2013 in winning percentage (.315) and run-differential (minus-238), so they’re a ways away. But they have the second-best farm system in the Majors, per Baseball America, and they’re on their way.
What does all this mean for the Angels?
Well, nothing. At least not now.
They have about $15 million and some trade chips — Howie Kendrick still chief among them — to fill two spots in their starting rotation. They still have baseball’s best player in Mike Trout, two premier superstars in Pujols and Hamilton, two legit starters at the top of their rotation in Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and a bullpen that can be among the deepest in baseball if Sean Burnett returns to full health. If they can sign someone like Matt Garza, they’re no doubt a legit playoff contender, regardless of how bad this past season turned out for them.
But their competition just keeps getting better.
MLB.com reached out to the 30 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America regarding their ballots for the AL MVP Award, which saw Mike Trout finish a distant second to Miguel Cabrera for a second straight year. Below were their explanations for why they sided where they did in the seemingly-never-ending Trout vs. Miggy debate (their full ballots can be seen here; * denotes those who voted on the AL MVP a second straight time) …
Evan Grant* (Dallas Morning News): 1 Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Josh Donaldson
My feeling was that Cabrera and Trout stood above the field. Cabrera changed the way opponents approached entire games. Trout was a great offensive player, the better defender and the better fielder. In the end, after looking more at advanced stats than at traditional ones, I was left with two guys who I thought were pretty dead-even as I believed Cabrera’s offensive game-changing ability made up for what he lacked on defense and on the bases. And, so, I could consider WAR and take the formula’s word for it that Trout theoretically meant more to the Angels than Cabrera did to the Tigers or I could look at the standings and see actual wins and losses. So, yes, in that regard, I guess some folks could say I penalized Trout for playing for a bad team. I prefer to look at this way: In a close race, I rewarded Cabrera for helping his team realize its goals.
Ken Rosenthal (FOX Sports): 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson
I’m just wondering, what is it going to take for Trout to win an MVP? Another writer said it well — he is this generation’s Mantle. I generally prefer my MVP to come from a contender, but why should Trout be held responsible for the failings of his owner, general manager, manager and teammates? I love Cabrera, but Trout is far superior as an all-around player and, when you put it all together, more valuable.
Tim Brown (Yahoo! Sports): 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson
In its simplest terms, my first-place vote went to the most complete player in the game. While Mike Trout did not necessarily hit with Miguel Cabrera, he was so far superior outside the batter’s box that I believed it more than covered that ground. The issue of “value” continues to be kicked around. My view is this: The best player carries the most value.
Bob Dutton* (Kansas City Star): 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson
Tough choice — just like last year when I voted for Cabrera. I cover the Royals and few people punish them on a regular basis like Cabrera, but I saw him a lot down the stretch, and he just wasn’t the same. I know he finished with great numbers, maybe better overall than last year, but Trout does so many other things. It came down to this: If we were picking teams based solely on this season, and I had the first pick, who would I pick? For me, the answer was Trout.
Jeff Wilson* (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): 1. Cabrera, 2. Chris Davis, 3. Trout
Mike Trout can do things on a baseball field that Miguel Cabrera can’t. I’m not that blind. But for a second straight year, Cabrera posted fabulous offensive numbers, ones that please the traditional baseball crowd and ones that even Sabermatricians agree are pretty impressive. And he did so for a contender. I recognize that Trout wasn’t the least bit responsible for the Angels’ lousy season. Injuries, questionable signings and an owner who doesn’t get it doomed them. But he also didn’t play in meaningful games for all but a week or two in May. Cabrera’s Tigers won the AL Central, and he hit more homers and drove in more runs against their main rival, Cleveland, than any other team. I also believe, as do many baseball people, that Cabrera isn’t the defensive lump at third base that he’s perceived to be. Add it all up, and Cabrera was my MVP. The man who kept him from a second straight Triple Crown, Chris Davis, also played meaningful games all season and was my second pick. I had Trout third, though not without considerable thought of placing him higher.
Susan Slusser* (San Francisco Chronicle): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Donaldson
Cabrera was again the best hitter in the league and helped get his team to the postseason while playing through a significant injury. Despite the injury (later revealed to be a sports hernia that required surgery), Cabrera won the batting title again and topped the league in OPS. Trout is the best all-around player in the league, I agree — but I weigh offensive output higher than defensive metrics for MVP candidates, and Cabrera remains the better hitter. I do always consider how teams finish as a factor, too. It’s not always the deciding factor, but it’s a big consideration.
Phil Rogers (MLB.com): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Donaldson
You wouldn’t think somebody could be better than they were during a Triple Crown season but Miguel Cabrera found a way to raise his game, maybe because he had a little more help in the Detroit lineup. He was an easy choice over Mike Trout for me, in large because I think that the MVP should come from a playoff team, especially now that we’re in an era in which one of every three teams goes to the playoffs. Winning matters but records being equal I still probably would have taken Cabrera over Trout. You can’t replace a guy who hits day in and day out like this guy, even if he does have some rough edges.
Joe Posnanski (NBC Sports): 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson
I voted for Mike Trout first, Miguel Cabrera second. I should say that, in my opinion, the MVP should be player who had the best season so other factors — such as how well the team played, which team was in contention, who played in more important games in September — do not factor into my decision. Cabrera had a fantastic offensive season and led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage for the first time. I think he’s the best hitter in the game. But you know, Trout is an amazing hitter himself. And when you take into account the rest — defense, baserunning, the various contextual differences of their ballparks — it seemed pretty clear to me that Trout had the better season.
Jeff Fletcher (Orange County Register): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis
I was a supporter of Trout over Cabrera last year, but this year I felt like the offensive gap was even wider, too big for Trout to overcome with his advantages defensively and on the bases. Also, I was impressed by Cabrera’s 1.311 OPS with runners in scoring position. (Trout’s was .993.) Regardless of the different number of opportunities each had, that’s a big gap in production at the times when games are won. While I don’t believe “clutch performance” is a skill or predictive, the MVP is about what you did, not what you can do again.
Jon Morosi (FOX Sports): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis
I’m very sympathetic toward the argument that Trout shouldn’t be penalized for the fact that his team had a losing record. But I don’t see this vote as penalizing Trout, so to speak. This is more rewarding Cabrera for what he did. He put together one of the best offensive seasons we’ve seen in generations, he did it while playing hurt for the past two months, and he was the difference in his team winning the division. To me, that’s what “most valuable” means.
John Hickey (Oakland Tribune): 1. Donaldson, 2. Cabrera, 3. Davis (Trout 4th)
To me, the key part of the award is “Valuable.” It’s not Most Outstanding Player, it’s not Player of the Year, in which case(s) Trout and Cabrera would dead heat. Both were terrific. As good as Trout was, the Angels finished 18 games out. There’s not much value in finishing third. Cabrera’s value was that the Tigers won their division. My first place vote went to the A’s Josh Donaldson, even over Cabrera, because Cabrera was surrounded by a much superior lineup than was Donaldson. Such was Donaldson’s value, in my mind, that without him Oakland would have been a middle-of-the-road finisher. Donaldson wasn’t the best player. He was the most valuable.
Wallace Matthews (ESPNNewYork.com): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Max Scherzer
As long as the word “valuable” remains in the name of the award, I’m always going to factor in how well a player’s team performed and how integral the player was to that performance. Both Cabrera and Trout had outstanding seasons, but you could make the argument that the Angels could just as easily have finished 18 games out without Trout in the lineup. Cabrera, on the other hand, played for a divison winner that relies heavily on his offensive contributions. And even if you want to go strictly by the numbers, with the value factor removed, Cabrera had better numbers in just about every category with the exception of runs and walks. So really, it wasn’t that tough a call for me.
Chad Jennings (Journal News): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis
Oddly enough, I think I would have voted for Trout last year. This year, I was simply overwhelmed by Cabrera’s offensive production. In my mind, the most important thing a position player does is hit, and Cabrera is the game’s best hitter coming off a remarkably productive year. Whether his hitting outweighs his lack of speed and his defensive struggles is hard to say. I believe it does. I also put less emphasis on his defense because he’s clearly playing out of position, and doing so strictly because it makes the Tigers better. The fact he played hurt and helped keep the Tigers in the division lead played some part in my decision, but a relatively small part. Ultimately, I’m glad my vote isn’t the only one that counts. I can’t pretend I have this figured out. I simply have an opinion. I’m skeptical of defensive metrics, and although I give the WAR stat significant consideration, I think it’s flawed and can’t be the end of the discussion. I guess the decision of Cabrera vs. Trout depends on what you value and how you view the award. I don’t think there’s a slam-dunk choice one way or the other.
Jose de Jesus Ortiz (Houston Chronicle): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Donaldson
I weighed the stats and seriously considered Trout at the top of my ballot. I used analytics for the first time since I’ve voted, but I also added extra points for playing on a playoff team. In that process, Cabrera barely edged out Trout on my ballot.
Tom Verducci (SI.com): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis
Mike Trout had such an amazing season it took another historic one to be considered a bit better. Miguel Cabrera’s overall and clutch hitting numbers were too good to deny. He became the first right-handed hitter to win the MLB slash triple crown (batting, on base, slugging) since World War II.
Bill Ballou (Worcester Telegram & Gazette): 1. Davis, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson (Trout 7th)
I am a strict constructionist re: “valuable”. If the award were Player of the Year, Trout would get my vote. I’m of the school that in order to have “value” you have to help your team be good, at least to the point of contending. The Angels didn’t truly contend. To fully develop that logic, players from non-contenders should not be listed on the ballot at all, but the BBWAA insists that we fill out all 10 slots, so I did, even though I did not think there were 10 worthy candidates from contending teams.
Lynn Henning (Detroit News): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis
My choice was weighted by the division title, and 93 victories, and by Cabrera’s unswerving importance to a team’s playoff presence. He is the best hitter in baseball. He plays a critical position. But the transcendent value of his bat makes him, for me, the MVP. Trout is the best player in the league. Cabrera was, in 2013, in my view, the most valuable player.
The Angels are on the verge of falling out of the playoffs for the fourth straight season, but it looks the organization will extend its streak of consecutive years drawing three million fans to the ballpark.
The announced attendance for Friday’s game against the Mariners was 39,469, putting Angel Stadium at 2,823,874 for the season with five home games remaining (two against the Mariners, three against the Athletics). That means the Angels would have to average more than 35,225 the rest of the way to reach 3,000,000 fans for an 11th straight season.
Their average for the season: 37,125 (eighth in the Majors).
The last time the Angels didn’t draw three million fans during their 81 home dates was 2002, when they won the World Series and elevated the interest level of baseball in Orange County. When you consider how difficult it is for playoff teams like the Rays, A’s and Indians to draw 20,000 a night, it’s pretty impressive that the Angels would reach three million fans when they’ve been out of the playoff mix for basically the entire year.
But that’s four straight years without a playoff gate, after back-to-back blockbuster offseasons. And keep in mind that the attendance figures are bloated because of the season tickets that were purchased before the start of the season (that’s why paid attendance and actual attendance doesn’t always seem to match up). Next year is when the Angels could really see a drop-off.
Here are the year-to-year averages during the three-million-fans-a-year streak, with the Major League rank in parenthesis …
2003: 37,791 (5th)
2004: 41,675 (3rd)
2005: 42,033 (4th)
2006: 42,059 (5th)
2007: 41,551 (5th)
2008: 41,194 (6th)
2009: 40,004 (5th)
2010: 40,133 (5th)
2011: 39,090 (5th)
2012: 37,799 (7th)
Yeah, the Angels lost — 2-1 on a walk-off — but it’s been all about the future for a long time now.
And Garrett Richards continues to be a reason for optimism in 2014.
On Tuesday night, he limited the A’s — with their .280 batting average and 55 homers in their previous 37 games — to just one run in seven-plus innings, putting his ERA at 2.90 in 11 starts since taking Joe Blanton‘s spot in the rotation. He scattered seven hits, walked two, struck out six and made a pitch every time he really needed to.
With Brandon Moss on second after a two-out, RBI ground-rule double in the first, he used a cutter to force Yoenis Cespedes into a groundout. With men on first and second and two outs in the fourth, he got Alberto Callaspo to chase a 3-2 slider in the dirt for a punchout. With runners on the corners and two outs in the fifth, he struck eventual hero Josh Donaldson out with a cutter. And after giving up a leadoff double to Moss in the sixth, he retired Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Callaspo in order to keep the score knotted at 1.
The A’s had eight at-bats with runners in scoring position against the 25-year-old Richards, and they got only one hit.
“I’m just worried about the next pitch and one pitch at a time,” Richards said of his approach with runners in scoring position. “Just trying to execute pitches. I don’t really get discouraged when guys get on base. I believe in myself and know that I can work through it.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked if he’s noticed a “tougher” Richards this season, particularly in his third stint as a Major League starter.
“I don’t think ‘tough’ is the right word,” Scioscia said. “He’s maturing. He was tough last year. He goes after guys. But the confidence keeps building as you have success. He understands if a guy gets on, he walks a guy, if they find a hole, he can still make pitches and minimize damage and get out of a jam. He gave up a two-out hit to Moss in the first and outside of that, when guys were in scoring position, he made pitches. It’s not so much about him being tough; its his confidence level.”
And his repertoire.
Richards relies heavily on his fastball-slider mix and goes from there. Today, he scrapped his changeup — even though it felt good coming out of his hand in the bullpen — and threw a lot more breaking balls than usual. Per pitchF/X, 11 percent of Richards’ pitches (11 of 100) were that nasty, 12-to-6, mostly-high-70s breaking ball — and a lot of them came in critical situations. Heading in, only 3.7 percent of his pitches this season had been curveballs.
Just another example of how Richards continues to evolve.
“I feel like I made some major strides this year in a positive way,” Richards said. “That comes with just getting experience up here and working with [pitching coach Mike Butcher]. I feel good about where I’m at right now.”
SP: RH Garrett Richards (7-6, 3.91 ERA)
SP: RH Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.63 ERA)
- Chris Nelson‘s season looked finished when he suffered a strained hamstring on Aug. 28. Today, he was activated off the disabled list. Mike Scioscia said he’ll initially be available as a defensive replacement and pinch-hitter, and may work his way back towards playing third base regularly. “With hamstrings you never know,” Scioscia said. “But when he came off the field, you were thinking man, this is not good on the timing of the season, how long it will take. He’s worked really hard; definitely available to play defense and ran well enough that hopefully he’s day-to-day before he can get out there and start playing and get some at-bats.”
- Luis Jimenez, however, is still “a ways away” from getting back, Scioscia said. His right shoulder remains sore, and he has a ways to go before being able to throw again. So, he’s probably done for the year.
- Trout’s home run was initially thought to be 420 feet. But after coming back up from the clubhouse, ESPN’s Home Run Tracker put it at 452 feet. That distance was still not enough for Scioscia. “At 452, that ball is still in the air past that fence. I’m sorry. That ball is 500 feet.”
- Cool stat from the game notes: Trout is one double and one triple shy of being the first ever member of the 10-20-30-40 club (10 triples, 20 homers, 30 steals, 40 doubles) in Major League history. Trout is at 9-24-33-39.
Let’s just say the term “421″ wasn’t a popular one in the Angels’ victorious clubhouse on Monday night.
That was the original, very-unofficial, estimated distance of Mike Trout‘s eighth-inning two-run homer. Which, when you think about it, was actually quite silly. The ball didn’t just clear the “400″ sign in straightaway center field; it bounced off the window of luxury suites way above the fence. (video)
When Angels players heard “421,” they laughed.
“Seems a little light,” Mark Trumbo said.
Turns out, they had reason.
ESPN’s Home Run Tracker eventually estimated it at 452 feet, which doesn’t even crack Trout’s three longest this season (it’s fourth) but is still a very long way.
“I really didn’t feel it off the bat,” Trout said. “It’s one of those ones where I’m looking for one pitch, got it, put a good swing on it and hit it over the fence.”
Asked if it was the longest ball he’s seen hit at O.co Coliseum, A’s manager Bob Melvin said: “It’s got to be right up there. I think Yoenis [Cespedes] hit a ball off the glass last year. I’d have to think a little longer about it, but he hit it a long way.”
The latest shot gave Trout 24 homers, 89 RBIs and 183 hits on the year, with 12 games left to notch three very reachable round numbers.
“That ball was properly hit,” Mike Scioscia said. “That’s got to be 500 feet.”
Here are the three balls Trout has hit longer this season, per ESPN’s Home Run Tracker …
Some additional notes from Monday’s 12-1 win …
- Howie Kendrick‘s removal from the game after six innings was strictly precautionary. The Angels had a big lead and are bringing him back slowly from a sprained left knee.
- Trumbo, who followed Trout with a two-run homer in the eighth, has now notched new career-highs with 34 homers and 99 RBIs. With his first-inning double, he became the 13th player in Angels history to record 30 doubles and 30 homers in a season.
- Kole Calhoun (3-for-5 with a run scored and three RBIs) has driven in 30 runs since being called up on July 28, the most among AL rookies.
- C.J. Wilson (seven innings of one-run ball) is 9-0 in his last 13 starts and 13-1 over his last 18. He’s second in the AL with 17 wins, which tops his previous career-high (set in 2011).
The Angels are playing good baseball, with 17 wins in their last 23 games and 11 victories in their last 17 road contests. But the first-place A’s are rolling, too. They just swept the Rangers in Texas, expanding their AL West lead to 6 1/2 games, and have won eight of their last nine. Today, they got Yoenis Cespedes and Jarrod Parker back after both were scratched on Sunday. Just the Angels’ luck …
SP: LH C.J. Wilson (16-6, 3.44 ERA)
SP: RH Parker (11-6, 3.55 ERA)
- Now that the Minor League playoffs are over, the Angels were finally able to make their call-ups. Right-handers Tommy Hanson, Matt Shoemaker and Robert Coello have joined the pitching staff, with infielder Tommy Field and first baseman Efren Navarro also coming up. Surprisingly, no lefty relievers. To make room on the 40-man roster for Navarro and Shoemaker, Peter Bourjos (wrist) and Kevin Jepsen (appendicitis) were transferred to the 60-day DL.
- No decision yet on what Hanson’s role will essentially be. I’d think the Angels would like to at least get one more look at him as a starting pitcher, considering the tender decision they face with him in December, but the five starters in their rotation are pitching well and Mike Scioscia said he hasn’t really seen him put it together in Triple-A the way he did when he came off the DL on July 23, when his fastball was reaching the mid-90s. That, however, may be an unrealistic expectation.
- Coello, who hasn’t appeared in a Major League game since June 9, said his shoulder is fine now after battling some inflammation. He got a cortisone shot in the shoulder and a PRP shot in the elbow and is looking to finish strong.
- Ernesto Frieri is “most likely not available” after his six-out save against the Astros on Sunday.
- Chris Iannetta won American League Player of the Week honors, then moved to the bench. Scioscia liked Conger’s lefty bat vs. Parker.
- Jered Weaver was named the Angels nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Albert Pujols, with a walking boot in his severely injured left foot, was in good spirits on Thursday, his first day at Angel Stadium since suffering the partial tear of the left plantar fascia that put the rest of the 2013 season in serious jeopardy.
The Angels’ slugger, though, wants to be back before the end of the season.
Pujols will not have surgery on the foot; the tear naturally accomplished what the surgical procedure would’ve done invasively. He expects to be off the boot in three weeks — around Aug. 20 — and will take it from there.
“I’ll see how I feel [after three weeks],” Pujols said. “But it’s still a long way until the season is done, so I don’t want to say that I’m done for the season. This is something that I’m going to take day-by-day. The way I feel right now, with no pain, I can say that I can go out there and play. But I need to put that weight on my heel and that’s going to take some time. I feel really good, to tell you the truth. I don’t feel any pain at all. I think after that tear, it kind of released the pain, which is good.”
The sentiment around the organization is generally that there’s little need for Pujols to come back this year. The Angels entered Thursday 11 games back of the final playoff spot in the American League and — barring a miracle comeback with a now-limited roster — won’t be playing any meaningful games in September. The silver lining in that is Pujols — making $212 million from 2014-21 — can finish out the regular season rehabbing the foot, then have a normal offseason and be fully healthy for the start of next year.
But Pujols said he “would have a normal offseason no matter what.”
He wants to play this year. Though he added he’s “not going to rush anything. I’m going to let it heal, take the time that the doctor is saying that I have to take, because obviously they have more experience in that than myself.”
“I’m certainly not in a position to make that decision,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “That’s going to come from Albert and the medical department. We’ve got great doctors that know what they’re doing. Albert is going to get the best advice possible and we’re going to take this one step at a time.”
Asked if the standings would impact his decision to come back, Pujols said: “That’s a selfish question. I don’t look at it like that. I get paid to play this game. … I was already playing 45 percent this year. Even if I feel 55 percent that I can come back and play, I’m going to be out there and playing because I love this game and I grew up playing this game and I’m going to do the best I can to help this organization win. Whether that’s two games out, 20 games out, if I feel good, ready to play, I’m going to be out there playing the field.”
Pujols had dealt with spurts of plantar fasciitis throughout his career, but it had never been this severe or prolonged. It crept up in March and never went away, prompting him to start 65 of his 99 games at designated hitter, severely impacting his ability to run and sapping his power, limiting him to a .258/.330/.437 slash line with 17 homers and 64 RBIs.
Pujols — eight homers away from 500 for his career, two RBIs away from 1,500 — partially tore the connective tissue on the arch of his foot on a ninth-inning, two-out, two-run single off Grant Balfour in Oakland on Friday night.
“That’s not the way you want to shut things down,” Pujols said. “Obviously that’s the chance I knew that I was taking from Day 1. It was really disappointing because I wished it would’ve happened on the last day of the season.”
The next day, he went back to Southern California for an MRI that confirmed the partial tear and put his season in jeopardy. And on Monday, he saw a foot specialist who said, in Pujols’ words: “Congratulations, you just did the surgery yourself.”
In the meantime, Pujols can lift weights and do swimming exercises in the pool; basically anything besides cardio to keep his blood flowing. In the meantime, he said: “I’m going to try to be the best cheerleader I can be.”
Pujols estimated to playing at “45 percent” this season, and on a scale of 1 to 10 — with 10 being severe pain and 1 being none — he said he’s at 1 now and was playing “at 7 or 8.”
Pujols has a pain threshold unlike few others. It was clear this year, and it was especially clear in 2011, when a wrist injury that carried a six-to-eight-week recovery only kept him out for 15 days. Pujols mentioned that on Thursday, while thinking positively of returning this season.
“If I’m ready, that’s my goal,” Pujols said. “But we still have a long way. I still need to do my therapy and my rehab. We’ll see how it goes. It’s less than a week. Tomorrow will be a week since I did it. It feels really good every day, and it’s a process. It’s frustrating. Trust me. There’s nobody who wants to be out there on the field more than me. That’s hwy I never want to take any time off. I grew up playing the game, and that’s what I love to do. It’s going to be hard, but it’ll go quick.”