Results tagged ‘ Cardinals ’
Opening Day is finally here, and Safeco Field seems like a fitting place to start. It’s home to the team many have picked to win the American League West. And it kicks off with a matchup between Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, the two guys who have made the most consecutive Opening Day starts in the Majors (Hernandez at seven, Weaver at six).
But Opening Day is only a ceremonial thing. “One of 162,” as many say. The season is long and arduous. And by the end of it, what happens on Opening Day or even in the first series will be nothing but a distant memory (like last year, when the Mariners embarrassed the Angels with a lopsided sweep in Southern California at the start of April).
If the Angels want to win another division title, they’ll have to answer several questions over the course of these next six months. And below are the seven most prominent …
1. What becomes of Josh Hamilton?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the Angels aren’t necessarily in a welcoming mood with Hamilton, who’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse. The tone of their statements after news broke — and what they’ve said privately leading up to it — made you wonder if they even want him around. He’s a very likable guy, but he hasn’t lived up to his massive contract and his latest relapse struck a nerve with the Angels’ brass (make of that what you will). He won’t be going away, though. He’s owed $83 million over the next three years, so the Angels have to see what they get out of him. How does he fit into the roster? What type of production does he provide in his age-34 season? And how does he mesh with a team that may be better off without him? It’ll be the most fascinating storyline this season.
2. How good is Garrett Richards?
Richards has yet to allow a run in three Minor League outings and could return to the rotation by April 19 if all goes well, which means he basically misses only two starts. How good will he be upon returning, though? As good as he was leading up to the season-ending left knee injury he suffered Aug. 20? If so, this Angels rotation — with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago set to open the season — is more dangerous than people think. If not, they’re very vulnerable. A lot rides on Richards’ 26-year-old right arm (not to mention that left knee).
3. What will the Angels get out of second base?
They aren’t fooling themselves into thinking they’ll replicate the production of Howie Kendrick. If C.J. Cron takes the next step in his maturation process (see: patience), David Freese stretches his last four months into a full season and Albert Pujols continues to look as good as he did this spring, they won’t need it. But replacement level production would be nice. Johnny Giavotella will get the first crack, but we may see many guys play second base this year.
4. Who gets the lefties out?
The Angels haven’t had a true lefty specialist since the 2012 version of Scott Downs, and Downs wasn’t really used as a lefty specialist. Last year, the Angels’ go-to reliever to get lefty hitters out was the right-handed Fernando Salas, who has a nice changeup that darts away from left-handed hitters. Ideally, they’d have that traditional left-on-lefty guy. Mike Scioscia has mentioned Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez as possibilities, but they’re multi-inning relievers who don’t have the big stuff that plays in that role. The next hope would be Santiago, but that would hinge on Andrew Heaney or Nick Tropeano developing well enough to warrant Santiago’s current rotation spot.
5. How do they upgrade the roster?
Even without saving any money on Hamilton’s contract, the Angels enter the season with $10 to $15 million of wiggle room. That’s what Arte Moreno said early in camp. It’s more payroll flexibility than they’ve had in a while, and they plan to use it. Question is, how? Do they get a second baseman, even though there aren’t many of them out there? (Chase Utley looks like a long shot, because of how intimidating his contract is and because of his no-trade clause). Do they get an outfield/DH bat? Do they get a starting pitcher (a lot of big names are entering their walk years)? Or do they add more bullpen pieces, like they did last year? June/July should be very eventful.
6. What kind of year does Mike Trout have?
You could reasonably expect a great one, considering he stays healthy. But how does he follow up a season that saw him win the AL MVP unanimously? We saw Trout transition into more of a power game last year, hitting more home runs and stealing fewer bases. But he’s only 23 years old, scary as that seems, and he’s still figuring out who he’s going to be in this game. My guess is he cuts down those strikeouts — I don’t know anyone who truly believes Trout is a 180-strikeout-a-year player — but doesn’t increase his stolen-base total by much. The Angels seem content with how often they sent Trout last year. Teams watch him closely and, far more relevant in this matter, steals cause a lot of wear and tear on the body.
7. Are the Angels better than the Mariners?
That’s probably what it’s going to come down to. The Mariners are a popular pick to win the division, because their rotation could be something fierce, their bullpen was one of the best in the game last season and their lineup got a big missing piece they needed in power hitter Nelson Cruz. But the Angels return the core group of a team that led the Majors in wins and finished second in run-differential last year. They’re starting a season with what should be a reliable bullpen for the first time since Jerry Dipoto came on board in October 2011 and they carry the confidence of succeeding with this group.
It should be interesting.
And to get you ready, here’s a look at our Opening Day content, in case you missed anything …
- Anticipated Angels-Mariners clash kicks off Opening Day
- Weaver, the forgotten ace, starts another Opening Day
- The simple question nobody can answer: What does Trout mean to the Angels?
- Kendrick is gone, Hamilton is a mystery — is the offense still elite?
- Scioscia, baseball’s longest-tenured manager, talks about his latest team
- Hamilton won’t be punished, and now the Angels have to see how he fits in
MORE LINKS! An updated depth chart is here, injury updates are here, pitching probables are here and a look at the top 30 prospects is here. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe to my weekly Angels podcast with Richard Justice here.
MLB.com compiled dozens of predictions on who will win each division, how the postseason will play out and where all the major individual awards will go. Below were my picks, if you’re interested …
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Angels
NL Wild Cards: Marlins, Pirates
AL Wild Cards: Mariners, Indians
NL champion: Nationals
AL champion: Angels
World Series champion: Nationals
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL Rookie of the Year: Steven Souza
Feliz Opening Day!
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
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.
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)
Albert Pujols hit home run Nos. 499 and 500 last night, as you know by now. He’s the 26th member of the 500-home run club, the third-youngest player to reach the milestone and the first to hit 499 and 500 in the same game. And he called his shot, too. Pujols’ homers came in a win, and he got the balls back from a couple of classy Angels fans. Perhaps the best part is that it comes as he’s proving to the world that he’s got a lot of game left, with a Major League-leading eight home runs to go along with a .274/.337/.619 slash line.
Pujols is signed for eight more years (including this one), through 2021. Here’s a look at where he’d finish up, if he plays through that contract, given certain home-run averages …
30-homer average: 732
25-homer average: 692
20-homer average: 652
15-homer average: 612
That’s pretty impressive, that Pujols could average a mere 15 homers for the life of his contract and still become only the ninth player ever to reach the 600-homer milestone. To catch Willie Mays‘ 660, he’d have to average 21 homers from 2014-21; to catch Babe Ruth‘s 714, he’d have to average nearly 28 homers; to catch Hank Aaron‘s 755, he’d have to average nearly 33 homers; to catch Barry Bonds‘ 762, he’d have to average nearly 34 homers.
But the most impressive thing about Pujols is that he isn’t defined by the home run.
He’s simply been a great hitter.
Consider: Pujols is only the ninth member of the 500-home run club with a career batting average of at least .300. And only three members have a higher one than Pujols’ current .321 clip — Ted Williams (.344), Babe Ruth (.342) and Jimmie Foxx (.325).
Yes, the general public has soured a bit on 500 homers, with Pujols becoming the 10th new member of the club in the last 15 years. But power numbers have gone down considerably in recent years, thanks in large part to tougher testing for performance-enhancing substances, and the 500-homer club — almost like the 300-win club, but not as drastic — could go a long time without a new member.
Here’s a look at the active home run leaders, beyond Alex Rodriguez (654) and Pujols, with their ages in parenthesis …
Adam Dunn (34): 444
Jason Giambi (43): 438
David Ortiz (38): 435
Paul Konerko (38): 434
Alfonso Soriano (38): 410
Adrian Beltre (35): 376
Carlos Beltran (37): 363
Aramis Ramirez (36): 357
Mark Teixeira (34): 341
Torii Hunter (38): 317
Besides maybe Dunn — and that’s still a big “maybe” — I don’t see anyone on that list who stands a chance at reaching 500. We may have to wait on the likes of Miguel Cabrera (367 at age 31) or Prince Fielder (287 at 29), or perhaps even Mike Trout (67 at 22) or Giancarlo Stanton (123 at 24).
And after Pujols — if he gets there — when’s the next time we’ll see 600?
“When you look at how great he’s been for the last 14 years, and you start averaging out what that meant to hit 500 home runs, it’s just an incredible feat,” Raul Ibanez said of Pujols. “Combine that with the lifetime batting average, the on-base percentage, it’s just extraordinary.”
Last year’s record: 74-88, 4th place
Key additions: SP Matt Garza, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, RP Will Smith, 1B Lyle Overbay
Key subtractions: 1B/RF Corey Hart, OF Norichika Aoki, INF Yuniesky Betancourt, RP Mike Gonzalez, 1B/3B Mat Gamel
Biggest strength: Starting pitching, though it’s all relative. The Brewers came out of nowhere to sign Garza to a four-year, $50 million contract, adding him to what looks like a stable rotation with Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Without Garza, that foursome helped the Brewers rank fourth in the Majors in starting-pitcher ERA in the second half.
Biggest question: First base. Overbay and Reynolds have been added on Minor League deals to compete with the free-swinging Juan Francisco, so as of right now, the Brewers have a lot of uncertainty at a position that requires steady production.
Most important player: Ryan Braun. Duh. He’s signed through 2020, is entering his age-30 season, is coming off his first non-great year (.298/.372/.498 line in 61 games) and, most importantly, just finished serving a 65-game suspension for violating MLB’s anti-drug agreement. Braun needs to repair his image on the field, and the Brewers need a big year from him in order to move this franchise forward.
In 25 words or less: The farm system is weak, the Major League club is full of holes and the star player is tainted. Tough time for Brewers fans.
Last year’s record: 97-65, 1st place (lost to Red Sox in World Series)
Key additions: CF Peter Bourjos, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Mark Ellis, RP Angel Castro
Key subtractions: OF Carlos Beltran, 3B David Freese, INF Rafael Furcal, SP Chris Carpenter, SP Jake Westbrook, RP Edward Mujica
Biggest strength: Young pitching. Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, etc., should make the Cardinals title contenders for years to come.
Biggest question: The middle of the lineup. Beltran has departed to the Yankees, and so it’ll be mainly up to Allen Craig and Matt Adams to protect Matt Holliday.
Most important player: Craig. Many forget just how good a hitter he is when healthy, with a .312/.364/.500 slash line the last three years. If he can fully recover from the right foot injury that prompted him to miss 23 regular-season games and the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cardinals may not miss Beltran all that much.
In 25 words or less: John Mozeliak made a lot of savvy moves this offseason, and may have made the defending NL champs even better.
Last year’s record: 66-96, 5th place
Key additions: MGR Rick Renteria, CL Jose Veras, RP Wesley Wright, INF Ryan Roberts, OF Justin Ruggiano, C Eli Whiteside, C John Baker, OF Chris Coghlan, SP Jonathan Sanchez
Key subtractions: MGR Dale Sveum, SP Scott Baker, C Dioner Navarro, RP Kevin Gregg, RP Matt Guerrier, SP Liam Hendricks, OF Brian Bogusevic
Biggest strength: Hitting prospects. Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara should be up and contributing soon.
Biggest question: Money. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been handcuffed on what they can spend to make this Cubs roster better. Their Opening Day payroll projects to be lower than $80 million for the first time since 2003.
Most important player: Starlin Castro. The 23-year-old shortstop went from .283/.323/.430 in 2012 to .245/.284/.347 in 2013. He needs to cut down his strikeouts, eliminate his occasional mental lapse on defense and get back to being the potential face of the franchise.
In 25 words or less: They have some nice prospects on the way, but the Cubs won’t get over the hump until they’re allowed to spend like a big-market team.
Last year’s record: 94-68, 2nd place (lost to Cardinals in NLDS)
Key additions: SP Edinson Volquez, INF Robert Andino, C Chris Stewart, OF Chris Dickerson, RP Daniel Schlereth, RP Cody Eppley
Key subtractions: SP A.J. Burnett, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Marlon Byrd, C John Buck, SP Jeff Karstens, RP Kyle Farnsworth, 1B Garrett Jones
Biggest strength: Bullpen depth. They ranked third in the Majors in bullpen ERA last year and practically return everybody, with Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Tony Watson a very formidable back-end group.
Biggest question: Right field and first base. Byrd and Morneau were two big in-season acquisitions and now they’re gone, replaced in-house. Jose Tabata (.771 OPS in 2013) and Gaby Sanchez (.762) are once again set to take over two power positions.
Most important player: Wandy Rodriguez. He is, believe it or not, the Pirates’ highest-paid player and hasn’t pitched since early June because of forearm arthritis. If he rebounds, it’ll go a long way in easing rotation concerns in Pittsburgh. If he doesn’t, the Pirates may have to eat the $7.5 million they owe him (the Astros are covering the other $5.5 million).
In 25 words or less: The Pirates had a breakthrough season in 2013, but the front office simply hasn’t done enough to build on that for 2014.
Last year’s record: 90-72, 3rd place (lost to Pirates in NL Wild Card game)
Key additions: MGR Bryan Price, C Brayan Pena, 2B/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Ramon Santiago, SP/RP Jeff Francis, RP Pedro Beato
Key subtractions: MGR Dusty Baker, SP Bronson Arroyo, OF Shin-Soo Choo, INF Cesar Izturis, SP Zach Duke, RP Nick Masset
Biggest strength: Pitching, even without Arroyo. If Johnny Cueto can stay healthy and top prospect Tony Cingrani can step up, the Reds’ rotation will be a force. Their bullpen remains one of the best in the National League.
Biggest question: Feeding Joey Votto. The Reds’ first baseman had an NL-leading .435 on-base percentage but drove in only 73 runs last year. Votto needs the guys in front of him to get on base, and now that Choo (.423 on-base percentage last year) is gone, that’s a big concern. Zack Cozart (.284 OBP), Brandon Phillips (.310 OBP) and rookie Billy Hamilton are the candidates to make up the first two spots of the lineup.
Most important player: Hamilton. We know he can run, and he’s come a long way defensively in center field. Now, can he hit at the leadoff spot, and can he make Reds fans forget about Choo? It’s a big year for the 23-year-old.
In 25 words or less: The Cardinals are tough, but the Reds are good enough to contend. Can Price, the ex-pitching coach, pull a John Farrell?
Predicted order of finish …
The Angels have hired former All-Star Don Baylor as their new hitting coach.
Baylor, who won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award with the Angels in 1979, spent the last three years as a hitting coach with the Diamondbacks and has been a big league manager for nine years, with the Rockies from 1993-98 and with the Cubs from 2000-02.
Baylor replaces Jim Eppard, who was dismissed along with bench coach Rob Picciolo on Oct. 8. He is the club’s third hitting coach in the last 17 months, dating back to Mickey Hatcher’s dismissal on May 15, 2012.
“Don enjoyed a distinguished playing career, highlighted by his tenure with the Angels during their first two division championships,” Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “As a coach, he brings us tremendous expertise in the areas of hitting, communication and presence. It’s nice to have him home.”
Dipoto spent time with Baylor when the Angels’ general manager played for Baylor in Colorado in the late 1990s and had him in his staff when he was an executive in Arizona.
Baylor will be entering his 22nd season in either a managing or coaching capacity in 2014. Along with his managerial tenure and his time with the D-backs, Baylor has been a hitting coach with the Brewers (1990-91), Cardinals (’92), Braves (’99), Mariners (’05) and Rockies (2009-10). He was also the Mets’ bench coach from 2003-04 and compiled a 627-689 record as skipper, earning National League Manager of the Year honors in 1995.
Before that, Baylor – a member of the Angels Hall of Fame – was a former All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner during a 19-year career as an outfielder that spanned from 1970-88. He joined the Angels as a free agent in November 1976 and posted a .262/.337/.448 slash line in a six-year career in Anaheim, adding 141 homers and 523 RBIs while leading them to their first playoff appearance in 1979.
The Angels are still searching for a new third-base coach and an additional coach.
The following is a statement from Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, released by his agent at MVP Sports Group, regarding the lawsuit he filed against Jack Clark in St. Louis County Circuit Court on Friday …
Today, I have filed a lawsuit against Jack Clark for defamation because of comments he made on his radio program earlier this year, falsely accusing me of using performance enhancing drugs. My lawyers have told me that the upcoming legal fight will not be an easy one, and that in cases like this even a liar can sometimes be protected under the law. But as a man of faith, I have never shied away from standing up for the truth, and I believe that the principles at stake are too important to sit back and do nothing. I believe we are all accountable for the things we do and say, and it was important for me to stand up for what was right against those who would seek to drag me down to try and build themselves up. I have always believed in the principles of honesty and accountability, and will continue to fight for them here.
Athletes are judged every day by their comments and actions off the field as well as their performance on it. When we fail or make mistakes, we face consequences. I believe members of the media should be held to the same standard. When they lie, make false accusations, and outrageous claims of “fact” to try and drive ratings or make a name for themselves, they should have to face up to the damage and injury they cause to an innocent person’s reputation. Whether or not I am successful in accomplishing that here, I can sleep at night knowing I have done the right thing in pursuing this case to fight for the truth of my innocence.
This year, triple-digits in that category may be even more impressive.
In Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Blue Jays, Trout scored two runs to give him 101 on the season, making him only the seventh player in Major League history to notch 100-plus runs in his age-20 and age-21 season.
In 2012, a year in which he led the Majors with 129 runs scored, Trout reached No. 100 in his 481st plate appearance. That gave him an astounding 44 percent run-scoring percentage, tied with Desmond Jennings for first among American League players with at least 500 plate appearances.
In 2013, a year in which he trails only the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter (114) in runs, he did it in his 641st plate appearance. Entering Wednesday, Trout’s run-scoring percentage was way down to 30 percent. The reason is two-fold: (1) He’s stealing less bases (49 to 32) because pitchers are watching him a lot more closely; (2) he hasn’t had much consistency behind him, with Albert Pujols hurt and Josh Hamilton struggling.
That’s OK, Trout has made up for that with an on-base percentage that’s 38 points higher than last year’s (.399 to .437).
And somehow, he still managed to score 100 runs.
“Last year was incredible because he did it minus 100 at-bats that he didn’t have in the month of April,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And that’s off the charts what he did last year. I think this year his numbers are going to be terrific. He’s having an incredible year. And I don’t think it’s under the circumstances where teams know what he can do. I mean he’s running into a lot of 1.15, 1.2 times to the plate, which he didn’t see as much of last year. It’s impacting his ability to steal, but it’s also giving guys at the plate a better look where pitchers are a little more uncomfortable staying in a slide step. So he still brings a presence there.”
Here’s a list of the six others who notched back-to-back 100-run campaigns in their age-20 and age-21 seasons …
John McGraw (1893-94)
Mel Ott (1929-30)
Buddy Lewis (1937-38)
Ted Williams (1939-40)
Vada Pinson (1959-60)
Alex Rodriguez (1996-97)
It’s an impossible question to answer because so many factors surround it, like what bullpen additions are made, or what’s done about third base, or how the bench is upgraded, or who the fifth starter becomes, or even how Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton fare.
But it’s pretty simple in a vacuum: Do you feel good about the Angels’ rotation if Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and Jason Vargas are the four best members of it?
For the vast majority of you on Twitter, the answer was a pretty resounding yes.
Recent memory no doubt played a big factor in that, because we’re finally starting to see some consistency out of the Angels’ rotation now that Weaver and Vargas are a part of it at the same time. Since Aug. 15, Angels starters have posted the fourth-best ERA in the Majors at 3.35 — and that was before Jerome Williams pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball against the Rays. Vargas (8-6, 3.80 ERA) has a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts despite giving up five runs in four innings to the Rays on Tuesday; Weaver (9-8, 3.33 ERA) has given up four runs in his last 21 innings; Wilson (14-6, 3.35 ERA) is 7-1 with a 2.67 ERA since the 30th of June; and Richards (5-6, 4.06 ERA) has a 3.21 ERA in eight starts since taking Joe Blanton‘s spot in the rotation.
Kind of makes you wonder how things would’ve gone if Vargas (blood clot) and Weaver (broken non-pitching elbow) hadn’t missed a combined 18 or so starts due to fluky injuries. How different is the dynamic of this season? Heck, how different is the narrative regarding Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto?
Regardless of what happens this offseason, the Angels will no doubt have non-tender decisions regarding Williams (slated to make about $3 million) and Tommy Hanson (roughly $4.5 million), and they may ponder whether or not to release Blanton (with $8.5 million remaining on his contract). But it’s one thing to try and acquire a fifth starter and additional depth, and it’s a whole other thing to try to acquire a mid-rotation starter that you truly feel comfortable sliding between Wilson and Vargas. Given the state of the Angels’ farm system, the dearth of starting pitching talent in free agency and the lack of payroll flexibility available for 2014 to begin with, it’s probably the difference between giving up a major offensive piece (Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, what have you) and not having to do so.
Having said all that, my opinion — while borrowing a line from George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven — is they need one more.
Weaver, Wilson, Vargas and Richards can be as good as anyone in the league if right, but …
- Weaver loses a bit off his fastball every year.
- Wilson flirts with danger a lot.
- Vargas’ 3.94 ERA since the start of 2010 ranks 61st.
- Richards is 25 and has been inconsistent in the past.
- Here are the top five starting-pitcher ERA teams in baseball, respectively: Dodgers, Reds, Pirates, Tigers, Cardinals. What do they all have in common? Yep, they’re probably all going to the playoffs.
The Angels tried this year to counter a patchwork rotation with what they thought would be a deeper bullpen and a crazy-good offense. Perhaps if everyone stays healthy and Hamilton hits like himself, it works out. But it’s a risky proposition; a lot riskier than making starting pitching priority 1, 2 and 3. I think they need to get back to that this winter, and I think they need to do whatever it takes to beef up their rotation, even if it means sacrificing a little offense.
(Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to point out that resigning Vargas is no slam dunk. Both sides are interesting in a return, but the Angels will have competition and don’t have the means — or desire, really — to overpay.)
@LAANGELSINSIDER: I think they would. Those 4 can got 7 solid most games. If the bullpen improves #Angels will be better overall.
@TurbosLady9493: Yes, if Richards can show a bit more consistency and less walks.
@memphiscds: Could live with it if we had young #5 and decent bullpen
@GareGare84: yes. At least they can hold the other team. Give our offense a chance to score.
@AJTheDon_: would’ve liked it alot more if that’s what it would’ve looked like at the start of the year
@Tanner_Shurtz: so much inconsistency for Richards, torn between 5th starter and RP… See what works out in ST
@SportsChicken: If they’re trying to compete for a championship, [heck] no. Otherwise, meh.
@JcHc3in1: I’d like to see them land a #2/#3 besides Vargas, or in addition to Vargas
@CJWoodling: Richards has Weaver-like elements in him. I could see him being as high as number 3 with a little work.
@DickMarshall: think Richards needs to start as #5. Need a solid (little risk- re: anti Hanson/Blanton) #3 or #4.
@OSBIEL: very satisfied. If they fix up the bullpen they should be fine w/ those four.
@anthony_mateos: yes. They give you a chance to win, that’s all you want.
@kwelch31: yes very. Plus a solid pitcher in a howie trade. That would work. Maybe hellikson or phil hughes.
@CDHartnett: he needs to be a 5th starter so he doesn’t have any pressure and can have a FULL season as a starter. No short leash.
@Brush_Ryan: perfectly happy with those 4 provided the add a legit #3 starter.
@pippin38: sign Garza or Kuroda and have Weaver Wilson Varges Garza/Kuroda Richards
@natetrop: In my opinion they need a solid #3 or top of the rotation arm to contend. Can’t have Richards as anything other than #5
@chrispower82: A decent 5th is still needed, but those 4 are a good start (and should’ve been our top 4 to start this year)
@CalderonEder: I’d say go after Kuroda or maybe find a trade partner for Trumbo for another legit starter
@AlexPVegas: If the Angels had the current rotation that they have now all year. We aren’t talking about the future.