Results tagged ‘ C.J. Wilson ’
There’s a lot to take in from the Winter Meetings, and though the Angels’ moves weren’t among the most eventful in the just-completed four-day stint in San Diego, they were active nonetheless. Jerry Dipoto acquired a left-handed bat, a backup catcher and a couple of utility infielders, and most notably, he traded the Angels’ longtime second baseman for one of baseball’s best pitching prospects.
Some of you have asked for my take, but I think it’s best to reserve judgment, because more than two months remain until Spring Training and there’s a good chance — though Dipoto has stressed how much he likes his roster as it stands — that the Angels aren’t done.
What will they do next? I don’t know. And Dipoto may not be so sure, either. I don’t think he was actively shopping Howie Kendrick; using Hank Conger to acquire Nick Tropeano in early November negated the need to part ways with a position player to acquire cost-controlled starting pitching. I think he was planning on going into Spring Training with his roster mostly intact (plus a utility infielder or two), then came the opportunity to use Kendrick to acquire Andrew Heaney and he simply couldn’t walk away from it.
Now he has plenty of starting-pitching depth (Jered Weaver, Garrett Richards, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Heaney, Tropeano, Jose Alvarez, Alex Sanabia, Drew Rucinski project to make up the Major League and Triple-A rotations, with Tyler Skaggs back in 2016) and is roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold. It’s a flexibility Dipoto didn’t foresee having, and now he’s open to where that takes him the rest of the winter.
Maybe he uses that payroll flexibility, or even that pitching depth, to get a middle-of-the-order bat.
Maybe he does nothing.
We don’t know what will happen. All we have to go on is what did happen. Below is a list of 40-man-roster players added and given up by the Angels thus far, listed with their projected cost and the cumulative amount of years they’re controllable for.
Projected cost: $11.6M
Years of control: 16
Projected cost: $6.2M
Years of control: 49
You can make two definitive statements from these moves, takeaways that really came to light with the attention-grabbing moves made late Wednesday night …
1. The Angels are better long-term, and really, that’s the whole point here. When you’re a team with so much money tied to aging players like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Weaver and Wilson, and want to stay below the luxury-tax threshold, it’s crucial to accrue players on the other side of the roster. The Angels had that, with Mike Trout (granted, now also expensive), Kole Calhoun, Mike Morin, Richards, Shoemaker and Santiago producing in the early stages of their prime last year. And now they have a lot of Major League-ready pitching depth, for the rotation and the bullpen.
2. The Angels are worse short-term, though Dipoto may argue that. Shrewd as it was to flip one year of control with Kendrick for six years of control with Heaney, there’s no discounting how difficult it will be for the Angels to make up for Kendrick’s contributions offensively and defensively. Heaney, the 18th-best prospect in baseball, has a bright future, but he hasn’t proven anything yet, and it remains to be seen if either he or Tropeano will be any better than Santiago in 2015 (the three will compete for the last spot of the rotation).
This is the Dipoto quote that summed up Wednesday’s trade best …
The goal is to figure out how to get younger, better, more cost-effective, put yourself in a situation where you can sustain winning. It’s not to get a bunch of guys that everybody has heard of all the time and run them out there and let it flame out. We’re trying to find a way to turn a veteran roster into a veteran roster that can compete now with the elements that are young and can continue to sustain moving forward. The heaviest criticism of the Angels over the last 10 years are that we’re getting older, or that we’re in a short window to win. I think we’re more sustainable than that.
But it’s all about winning the World Series. And while it’s volatile to continually spend in the free-agent market and disregard the importance of controllable, optionable assets, winning the World Series is all that matters to Arte Moreno.
What makes Dipoto so great is that he’s a visionary, is always a few steps ahead and perpetually keeps a keen eye towards the future.
But can he have the best of both worlds?
Can he have a team that’s set up to remain competitive for a long stretch of time without at least somewhat mortgaging immediate championship hopes, particularly with an Angels team that’s coming off a 98-win season and may currently look just a tad worse on the Major League side?
That’s what I’m wondering.
C.J. Wilson was a late entry into the starting-pitching market, but general manager Jerry Dipoto said the Angels aren’t shopping the veteran left-hander, or have even received calls on him.
“We haven’t discussed C.J. Wilson at all,” Dipoto said from his suite at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego on Monday, Day 1 of the Winter Meetings.
“We had one club within the week of the end of the World Series ask if we would consider moving C.J. and that was the only discussion. That discussion lasted all of 10 minutes. We moved on; never revisited it.”
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Sunday that the Angels are shopping Wilson and industry sources told MLB.com on Monday that a few teams checked in on Wilson, but were only interested if the Angels ate some of the money still owed to him.
Wilson is coming off his worst season as a starting pitcher, is owed $38 million over the last two years of his contract and can block a trade to eight different teams this offseason. Those factors, not to mention what’s still a robust starting-pitching market, make it very difficult to move him.
For the Angels, it would only make sense to move Wilson if it freed up enough payroll space so they can then sign a top-tier free-agent starter. Considering they’re less than $10 million below the luxury-tax threshold, which continues to act as their spending limit, that would probably require a team to take on all of Wilson’s remaining salary.
Nobody’s lining up to do that, and Dipoto stressed he has a lot of confidence in a bounceback year.
“He had a bad second half,” Dipoto said. “Wasn’t a great one. He’ll come back, and he’ll find a way to refocus himself. He wasn’t great in the second half of 2012. In 2013, he couldn’t have been better post to post. He was outstanding.”
Some other notes from today’s session with Dipoto …
- Dipoto is still looking to find a backup infielder, but the only free agent he’s interested in is Gordon Beckham. Dipoto said Beckham’s interest in a return is “fair,” but he’ll probably want to test the market to see if he can get an everyday job somewhere. If not Beckham, Dipoto would seek a trade, and would likely use his excess of right-handed relief pitching — Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Salas, Vinnie Pestano, etc. — to acquire it.
- The Angels could have some news on Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin on Tuesday. They’ve been waiting for the 22-year-old to obtain his visa from the Dominican Republic so he can take his physical and sign the deal.
- Dipoto would also like to add some depth at backup catcher, and will look to free agency in hopes of acquiring someone on a Minor League deal.
- As far as Major League free agents? “Right now, we’re not engaged with any free agents, and we haven’t been engaged with any free agents. And right now, as we sit here today, our intention is to avoid that. We have a shorter list of needs. We’re open to any kind of creative suggestions in terms of trades, but we’re not openly shopping players. We’re not engaged with any team on a specific discussion regarding any of our primary players, including those who I’ve heard have been heavy on the Twitter wire.”
- The Angels are waiting to finalize a Minor League deal with a lefty reliever.
- This is a normal offseason for Josh Hamilton, who spent last winter trying to regain weight while working with a functional-movement coach. “Nothing special or significant,” Dipoto said. “He’s a pro. He’ll come in, he’ll work, he’ll be ready to play. Josh, I know he left on a sour note, but I have no doubt that Josh went home and he’s getting himself prepared to play baseball. It’s what he does.”
- Dipoto also made it sound like he isn’t all that interested in trading any of his infielders.
- Is the DH spot resolved? “Yes. Our game plan going in was to use the DH position to rotate position players through. … The primary bulk of DH at-bats will go to Cron, but this [the acquisition of Marc Krauss] gives us another alternative, someone who can compete for at-bats, gives us another in-season alternative.”
The Angels figure to have less than $10 million of wiggle room below the luxury-tax threshold, which has pretty much been their spending limit the last few years, and general manager Jerry Dipoto has indicated his preference to avoid the free-agent market, particularly when it comes to starting pitchers (offseason preview here). But that doesn’t mean he’ll rule it out entirely, and it also means there are five players currently in the postseason who may be intriguing to the Angels this winter.
They’re listed below, along with a 1-through-5 score of the Angels’ potential interest (1 meaning they like him but realize they won’t stand a chance; 5 meaning they’ll go after him aggressively) …
SP James Shields (KCR): The Angels would love to get their hands on a guy like Shields, who has averaged 233 innings and a 3.17 ERA over the last four years. But he’s going to be way too expensive. C.J. Wilson‘s five-year, $77.5 million deal has been used as a comp. Even that’s too expensive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone gave him more.
Intrigue meter: 1
RP Andrew Miller (BAL): The Angels have navigated through the last couple seasons without a reliable lefty in their bullpen, and Miller, 29, has reinvented himself as one of the best lefty relievers in the game, posting a 2.02 ERA, a 14.9 strikeout rate and a 0.80 WHIP during the regular season. He’s good enough that someone will probably give him a chance to close, and if that’s the case, the Angels won’t be able to compete for his services.
Intrigue meter: 3
SP Jake Peavy (SFG): The 33-year-old right-hander is an interesting one to watch. He stayed healthy enough to throw 202 2/3 innings with a 3.73 ERA this season, and posted a 2.17 ERA in 78 2/3 innings with the Giants. He’s as fiery a competitor as they come, and he’ll be a lot more affordable than Shields.
Intrigue meter: 4
SP Ryan Vogelsong (SFG): If the Angels are looking for a cheap, back-of-the-rotation option, Vogelsong could be a perfect fit. He signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Giants for 2014, then posted a 4.00 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP and a 2.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not great, but as a fifth starter, an additional option along with Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Wilson? Not bad, either.
Intrigue meter: 3
3B/2B Kelly Johnson (BAL): The Angels need a utility infielder who can play shortstop, and Johnson can’t. He plays third and second, two positions the Angels have filled. But at some point, they may not be, if Dipoto is looking for avenues to free up payroll space. David Freese, set to make about $6 million in his last year before free agency, could be non-tendered. Same for Gordon Beckham, who plays second, third and short but will cost about $5 million via the arbitration process. Howie Kendrick, making $9.5 million in the final year of his contract, could be trade bait. And that’s when Johnson, who batted .215/.296/.362 in 106 games, could emerge as a cheap depth option.
Intrigue meter: 2
But keep this in mind: Mike Scioscia is not going to let Wilson be the reason the Angels are eliminated.
In other words, his leash will be very short.
Teams rarely carry a 12-man pitching staff in the five-game American League Division Series, but Scioscia felt he needed to because his rotation was such a big question mark heading into it. The fact he’s received good starts out of Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker means No. 4 starter Hector Santiago and long reliever Cory Rasmus are very fresh. Rasmus can go up to four innings, Santiago can throw 100-plus pitches. And at the first hint of trouble, Scioscia will no doubt go to them tonight.
“If it comes to a point where it obviously looks like he’s not getting it done, we’ll make a decision and try to get an arm in there to get us out of a jam if need be,” Scioscia said. “We’ll see. We don’t have a crystal ball for what’s going to happen, but I think we’ve all been very clear on what we’re looking for in this game, and it won’t be a game where your starting pitcher is into the second, third inning really struggling and it’s April and you’re going to let him work through some things. That’s not the time for that tactic right now.”
Some other highlights from Scioscia’s pregame press conference (lineup here) …
- Josh Hamilton is in the lineup, as expected. Asked about it again on Sunday, Scioscia said Hamilton’s defensive presence is important, too.: “He’s important, especially on a big field like at our ballpark and here. He has a presence out there, and that’s important. On the offensive side, I think that it’s definitely worth getting him the at‑bats to see if he’s going to find it because when he does find it, he’s a difference maker. Josh is helping us to win games, even though maybe it’s not happened in the batter’s box, and there’s a lot of focus on that.”
- Mike Trout is also struggling. He’s 0-for-8 with a couple of walks, and hasn’t really hit the ball hard yet. But Scioscia doesn’t believe Trout is “pressing,” saying: “There’s certainly some pitches that he’s put some good swings on and missed, and there’s some pitches that he’s taken that maybe he gets a little bit passive. He’s caught in between a little bit. Those guys have done a good job pitching against him, but I really don’t see him as tight. I just think sometimes you’re not squaring balls up like you can.”
- The current Royals look like the Angels teams Scioscia used to manage. They don’t have a lot of power, but they also don’t strike out a lot and they’re a big threat to steal bases. The Angels are the opposite. “This is definitely the team we’ve had that is most structured in batter’s box offense and built on batter’s box offense in the 15 years we’ve been here,” Scioscia said. “It doesn’t mean the offense is worse or better. We’ve scored a lot of runs with batter’s box offense this year. … The cards that you have in front of you are the ones you’re going to play, and we’re very confident in our offense. Even though maybe the straight steal isn’t there, we do have enough team speed where we led our league in first-to-thirds. I think we create a lot on the bases that scored runs with outs, and that all adds up to the type of offense that we have.”
The Angels will go with a three-man rotation for their American League Division Series matchup against the Royals, with Matt Shoemaker starting Game 2, C.J. Wilson starting Game 3 and Game 1 starter Jered Weaver coming back on short rest to start Game 4.
The setup, announced by Angels manager Mike Scioscia during a pre-workout press conference on Wednesday, gives Weaver and Shoemaker the potential to pitch twice in the five-game series. Hector Santiago, with a 3.75 ERA but a walk rate of 3.7, will be available out of the bullpen. Wilson, coming off a season in which he posted a 4.51 ERA, will only start one game.
Scioscia also announced that Josh Hamilton will start in left field and bat seventh in Game 1, after playing only one of the Angels’ last 23 games due to pain around his right shoulder and ribcage. Right-handed hitter C.J. Cron will start at designated hitter against lefty Jason Vargas, and Scioscia will have a 12-man pitching staff.
Shoemaker, who won 16 games and posted a 3.04 ERA in a surprising rookie season, has been rehabbing from a mild strain in his left oblique, but threw bullpen sessions on Sunday and Tuesday and is “doing remarkably well,” Scioscia said.
“We’re expecting Matt to be fine and pitch as deep as he can into the game,” Scioscia said. “That is one consideration. The other is we really like the matchups. We like the way Matt has been pitching, and I think Weaver getting out in Game 1, followed with Matt, gives us the best look here in the first couple games. C.J. will pitch in Kansas City [on Sunday].”
Weaver has started on three days’ rest only twice before, both times in 2011, when he gave up seven runs in six innings on Aug. 28 and two runs in six innings on Sept. 18. But his last three starts, including the ALDS opener on Thursday, will come on six days’ rest, five days’ rest and five days’ rest, respectively.
The Dodgers pitched ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest for the National League Division Series last year.
“[Pitching coach] Mike Butcher feels really good at the prospects of how Weaver was throwing his ‘pens in between starts, how he was bouncing back, and really feeling that if he had to pitch at all on three days’ rest, he’s ready for it,” Scioscia said. “Most importantly, our medical staff feels really good at where Jered is, and Jered feels 100 percent behind the fact of coming back on three days and being effective. That’s what we’ll look at doing, and we don’t have any reservations at all about wanting to get Jered out there again in Game 4.”
Matt Shoemaker said after Tuesday’s bullpen session that he has “no doubt” he’ll be available to start for the Angels in the American League Division Series – and don’t rule him out for Game 2, either.
Starting Game 2, after ace Jered Weaver, would allow Shoemaker to also pitch in a potential Game 5 and would mean C.J. Wilson starts only once, after his worst regular season as a starter. Shoemaker threw his second bullpen sessions in three days during the team’s first mandatory workout from Angel Stadium, and came out of it with no pain in the left oblique that has put him on a rehab program for the last two weeks.
“Everything felt great,” Shoemaker said. “I’d say great, but it felt normal, which is great.”
Shoemaker threw an estimated 40 pitches, with a break in the middle to simulate the time between innings in a game, and didn’t feel the slight tightness that was still present when he got off the mound from Safeco Field on Sunday.
“A few days ago, it was a little tight,” Shoemaker said. “Now, I don’t feel it at all.”
The 27-year-old rookie is coming off a surprising, breakout season that saw him go 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and a 5.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Mike Scioscia won’t reveal his rotation after Weaver until Wednesday, and he has Wilson lined up to pitch Game 2 on five days’ rest.
But Shoemaker would be their ideal choice if he’s ready. And the fact he only missed two turns through the rotation means he may still have his normal length.
“I haven’t thrown 100 pitches yet, but I definitely feel I’m capable, for sure,” Shoemaker said. “Just the way my arm feels, my body feels, definitely feels doable.”
The Angels, it seems, dodged a bullet with Shoemaker.
His left side grabbed on him in the eighth inning of yet another brilliant start against the Mariners, the day the Angels became the first team to clinch a spot in the postseason, and Scioscia feared the worst. But a next-day MRI revealed what Shoemaker said was a “very mild” strain, and he’s been making steady progress every day since.
“It’s definitely a pleasant surprise,” Shoemaker said. “But also, going in when it happened, the very positive thing, that was a blessing, was that it was just mild. It wasn’t anything more than that. Given its mild state, we were able to heal and knock it off really quick, which I’m definitely really happy with.”
The Angels’ regular season ended on Sunday, and now all that stands before the postseason are an off day and a couple of mandatory workouts from Angel Stadium. Rosters are due by Thursday morning, and before then, Matt Shoemaker (left oblique) is expected to get off a mound at least one more time and Josh Hamilton (right chest/ribcage) will have to see some velocity (latest here). Before all the ALDS madness ensues, let’s take a numerical look back at the 162-game grind. And before we get into the objective, here’s a little bit of the subjective …
MVP: Mike Trout
Gold Glove: Erick Aybar (SS), Albert Pujols (1B), C.J. Wilson (P), Kole Calhoun (RF)
Silver Slugger: Trout, Aybar
Rookie: Matt Shoemaker
Comeback Player: Pujols
Rolaids Relief: Huston Street
Executive: Jerry Dipoto
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Trout looks like almost a lock to nab the AL MVP Award, but Shoemaker probably doesn’t stand a chance to win AL Rookie of the Year over Jose Abreu. I can’t really think of a better candidate for Comeback Player of the Year than Pujols, and there’s a good chance Dipoto or Scioscia — not both — win their respective awards. I’d lean towards Dipoto, since Buck Showalter seems to be a popular pick for top AL manager (keep in mind there’s only one Executive of the Year Award, not one per league). Of the Gold Glove list, Pujols seems like the most likely to get one. Aybar had a great year at shortstop, but so did J.J. Hardy and Alexei Ramirez. Trout is a lock for his third straight Silver Slugger. Street has had a great year, but he split it within two leagues, so he’s a long shot for the Rolaids Relief Man Award.
American League Top 10s
BA: Howie Kendrick (10, .293)
OBP: Trout (T7, .377)
SLG: Trout (3, .561)
HR: Trout (T3, 36)
RBI: Trout (1, 111); Pujols (5, 105)
BB: Trout (4, 83)
SO: Trout (1, 184)
fWAR: Trout (1, 8.1)
FanGraphs defense: Aybar (T8, 14.0)
ERA: Garrett Richards (5, 2.61)
W: Jered Weaver (T1, 18); Shoemaker (T4, 16)
IP: Weaver (9, 213 1/3)
WHIP: Richards (3, 1.04)
BB: Wilson (1, 85)
MLB Team Rankings
WPCT: 1, .605
R/DIFF: 2, 143
fWAR: 2, 30.3
R: 1, 773
OPS: 7, .728
SP ERA: 13, 3.62
RP WHIP: 8, 1.22
FLG%: T3, .986
DRS: 20, -16
Angels fWAR Standings
Chris Iannetta: 3.0
David Freese: 2.2
Collin Cowgill: 2.1
Tyler Skaggs: 1.5
Joe Smith: 1.0
Top 10 Prospects
LH Sean Newcomb (Rk, A): 6.14 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 3.0 SO/BB, 14 2/3 IP
RH Joe Gatto (Rk): 5.33 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 1.78 SO/BB, 27 IP
RH Chris Ellis (Rk): 6.89 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 2.00 SO/BB, 15 2/3 IP
3B Kaleb Cowart (AA): .223/.295/.324, 6 HR, 54 RBI, 26 SB (stopped switch-hitting during season)
RH Cam Bedrosian: 6.52 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 1.67 SO/BB, 19 1/3 IP (MLB); 2.00 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 4.56 SO/BB, 45 IP (A+, AA, AAA)
LH Hunter Green: did not pitch
LH Ricardo Sanchez (Rk): 3.49 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 1.95 SO/BB, 38 2/3 IP
2B Alex Yarbrough (AA): .285/.321/.397, 5 HR, 77 RBI, 6 SB
RH Mark Sappington (A+, AA): 6.02 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 1.44 SO/BB, 113 2/3 IP (moved to bullpen during season)
RH Jeremy Rhoades (Rk): 4.42 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2.67 SO/BB, 38 2/3 IP
Team Records Set
Most strikeouts by a player: Trout tied Mark Trumbo (184 in 2013)
Most wins by a rookie: Shoemaker, 16 (previously 14 by Dean Chance, Marcelino Lopez and Frank Tanana)
Scoreless appearances in a season: Smith (67) and Kevin Jepsen (65), topping Francisco Rodriguez (63 in ’08)
Pitchers used: 31 (previously 29 in 1996)
Fewest errors: 83 (previously 85 in ’09, for a non-strike season)
Strikeouts by a pithing staff: 1,342 (previously 1,200 in 2013)
Some other interesting tidbits …
- Second time in club history that they finish the regular season with the best record and lock up home-field advantage throughout the postseason (also 2008).
- 98 wins is the third-most in club history, two shy of the club record set in ’08.
- The Angels went an entire season without being shutout on the road.
- Angels drew 3 million fans at home for the 12th consecutive season, a streak only matched in the AL by the Yankees. Their average attendance (38,221) was the highest since 2011.
- Pujols led the Majors with 33 go-ahead RBIs, finishing one shy of the club record (34, by Vladimir Guerrero in ’06).
- Trout became just the second RBI champion in team history (also Don Baylor, with 139 during his MVP season in 1979).
- Trout is the first player in Major League history to lead either league in runs scored in his first three full seasons (115 in 2014). The last player to do that at any age was Mickey Mantle (1956-58).
- Since 2011, Street has converted 126 of 136 save opportunities (93 percent), which is the best mark over that span (minimum: 50 innings).
- Pujols is the 16th player with 2,500 hits, 1,500 runs and 500 homers, all marks he accomplished this season. The only others to do it by their age-34 season are Jimmie Foxx, Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez.
- Trout is the first player since 1901 with 100 career steals and 90-plus career homers by his age-22-or-younger season.
- All eight of the Angels’ everyday position players finished with an OPS+ over 100. Only the 1973 Orioles, ’09 Angels and ’13 Red Sox had more.
- John McDonald turned 40 on Wednesday, and hit an RBI double in what could’ve been his final Major League at-bat. If it is the end, hats off to a great career by a truly great person.
The American League Division Series kicks off from Angel Stadium next Thursday, Oct. 2. Between now and then are eight days, three regular-season games and a couple of workouts in Anaheim, at which point Josh Hamilton (right ribcage) will hope to see some live pitching and Matt Shoemaker (left oblique) will hope to get off the mound. Who knows; maybe they’ll even face each other!
At any rate, games aren’t necessarily about wins and losses anymore — they’re about looking ahead to October.
With that in mind, here are some takeaways from Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the A’s …
Hector Santiago: Mike Scioscia wouldn’t commit to Santiago getting a start in the ALDS postgame, but he provided some encouraging signs while throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings after recording a combined nine outs in his previous two starts. The problem with Santiago — and C.J. Wilson, for that matter — is that you’re still not quite sure what you’ll get from start to start. But he did finish the year with a 3.81 ERA, and he did post a 2.71 ERA from June 10 to Sept. 9. That’s a very solid three-month stretch.
Howie Kendrick: Scioscia is committed to Kendrick batting cleanup, at least to start the ALDS. Part of it has to do with Hamilton not seeing much live pitching, and part of it has to do with how well Kendrick has hit there while Hamilton has been out. The veteran second baseman had a couple of key two-out hits on Wednesday and is now batting .403 (27-for-67) with 18 RBIs in 18 games behind Albert Pujols.
Joe Thatcher: It remains to be seen whether the Angels will carry their veteran lefty specialist on the postseason roster. Thatcher has a 3.41 ERA on the year, but lefties are batting .300 against him this year and the 32-year-old is still affected by the left ankle sprain that forced him to miss more than seven weeks. Said Scioscia: “I don’t think we’re seeing him at his best yet, but he’s going to get the ball, and hopefully he’ll make some pitches. He looked a little more crisp today.”
Vinnie Pestano: I didn’t list him as a candidate, but perhaps there’s a spot for the 29-year-old sidearmer, who recorded the last two outs of the sixth inning and has allowed just one run while striking out 13 batters in 9 1/3 innings with the Angels.
Gordon Beckham: He started at shortstop, ahead of the birthday boy, and has now made five appearances there this month. Beckham came in as a solid defensive second baseman and has played well at third base, and Scioscia clearly wants to give him some reps at shortstop for his forthcoming role as the Angels’ utility player in the ALDS.
It’s no secret. If the Angels — considering a three-man rotation for the American League Division Series — are to go far in the playoffs, they’ll have to rely heavily on their deep bullpen.
The question is: Will it work?
One of baseball’s dogmas says teams that are “built for the playoffs” are the ones that have dominant starting pitching. But in the Wild Card era, that hasn’t proven to be true. Consider: Since 1995, the Major League quality-start percentage has been 48.88 in the regular season, 48.88 in the postseason and 51.96 in the World Series; in terms of innings per start, it’s 5.91 in the regular season, 5.76 in the postseason and 5.88 in the World Series. That’s a very negligible difference, especially when you consider all the bad teams that are lumped into that regular-season category.
Now here’s a case-by-case look at each of the last 19 World Series champions, with the first stat being innings per start and the second being the amount of quality starts throughout the postseason …
2013 Red Sox: 5.81 IP, 8 of 16 QS
2012 Giants: 5.64 IP, 6 of 16 QS
2011 Cardinals: 5.11 IP, 7 of 18 QS
2010 Giants: 6.44 IP, 11 of 15 QS
2009 Yankees: 6.29 IP, 11 of 15 QS
2008 Phillies: 5.9 IP, 10 of 14 QS
2007 Red Sox: 6 IP, 6 of 14 QS
2006 Cardinals: 6.20 IP, 10 of 16 QS
2005 White Sox: 7.66 IP, 9 of 12 QS
2004 Red Sox: 5.61 IP, 9 of 14 QS
2003 Marlins: 5.66 IP, 8 of 17 QS
2002 Angels: 5.02 IP, 2 of 16 QS
2001 D-backs: 7.08 IP, 14 of 17 QS
2000 Yankees: 6.42 IP, 8 of 16 QS
1999 Yankees: 6.58 IP, 10 of 12 QS
1998 Yankees: 6.79 IP, 9 of 13 QS
1997 Marlins: 5.83 IP, 5 of 16 QS
1996 Yankees: 5.42 IP, 5 of 15 QS
1995 Braves: 6.64 IP, 10 of 14 QS
That’s nine of 19 champions that got less than six innings per start during the playoffs, and seven that won the World Series despite receiving a quality start in less than half of their postseason games. Look at the 2002 Angels. Stunning. Managers tend to have quick hooks in the playoffs, because it’s all hands on deck and because the off days tend to keep bullpens relatively fresh.
So, you can win in October with a deep bullpen, a good offense and a rotation that keeps you in the game. And the Angels have the potential for that. Since Garrett Richards went down, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago have allowed three earned runs or less in 20 of 23 starts (includes tonight).
Just something to think about.
Here’s what several members of the Angels had to say after clinching the American League West on Wednesday night …
Leadoff man Kole Calhoun, on popping the first bottle of champagne after the A’s lost: “I was more nervous to pop that first bottle of champagne than I was to play baseball.”
Catcher Hank Conger, on watching the game from the clubhouse: “They came back that ninth inning, and everybody was like, ‘Don’t jinx anything, don’t pop anything yet.’ As soon as they made that last out, that groundball, everyone erupted, man. Everybody was hugging each other, champagne was flowing everywhere, man, it was unbelievable.”
President John Carpino, on the fans sticking around to watch: “It’s so special. It’s so special. Look at these people. It’s 11:15 and the game has been over for an hour and a half. Angels fans have a lot of passion.”
Third baseman David Freese, on battling adversity: “You look at every team, up and down the league, and every team goes through adversity, things like that. This group just keeps plugging away. It shows. To win a division like this, it’s unbelievable. What a great group.”
Ace Jered Weaver, on coming out and seeing the fans: “Indescribable, really. This is the only reason why they’re here; they want to see us win. It’s been long overdue. Hopefully we can make a good push here in the postseason.”
Owner Arte Moreno, on his favorite part about the team: “There’s probably not one sentence you can say. They all love each other, they all like each other, they have fun together, and we have a really great mix of veterans, and we have a lot of young people. People were questioning how many young people we have in the organization, but just a lot of young guys stepped up this year.”
Manager Mike Scioscia, on returning to the playoffs after a four-year absence: “It feels great. We had gotten close, but we won our division, and we couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”
Center fielder Mike Trout, on playing in the postseason: “I’m just going to go out there, play my game and help my team win. I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I know the atmosphere is going to be awesome, and it’s going to be fun for sure.”
First baseman Albert Pujols, on the group: “Great chemistry. Like I’ve said before, you don’t just win with one or two guys. It takes 25 guys for us to accomplish our goals. We have a great group of guys, starting in Spring Training. I’ve been saying it all year long. And we believe in each other. We’re picking each other up.”
Starter C.J. Wilson, on his start: “It’s good. It’s what I need to do. If we’re going to win, I need to pitch like that.”
General manager Jerry Dipoto, on what it took to turn it all around: “It’s just a thrill. Mike and the staff had a great year. They did an unbelievable job, kept everybody together and cohesive. Obviously we made some changes along the way, but most importantly it was the character and the makeup of the guys. When the boat left the dock this spring, that’s what we talked so much about, and that’s what these guys did. They really did. They bound together. Very proud of them.”