Results tagged ‘ Hank Conger ’
Dane De La Rosa‘s forearm injury, which caused a rough outing against the Dodgers on Thursday and prompted him to leave the game early, was diagnosed as a sprain, an MRI confirmed, and the Angels’ power reliever doesn’t believe he’ll start the season on the disabled list.
“I doubt it,” a relieved De La Rosa said Friday morning, while hooked up to an electronic muscle massager.
“I should be fine. I’m not sure about the timeline, I can’t really say, but it won’t be too long.”
Starting the sixth inning from Tempe Diablo Stadium, De La Rosa — the journeyman 31-year-old coming off a breakout season in 2013 — allowed five of the seven batters he faced to reach and served up a grand slam to Scott Van Slyke. With two outs in the inning, he was checked on by the Angels’ medical staff and removed from the game.
“I just didn’t feel the ball,” De La Rosa said. “There were a few times when I just had no idea where it was going. I just couldn’t feel fingertips. If you can’t feel your fingertips when you’re pitching, it’s not a good thing.”
De La Rosa said he and the Angels will “attack [rehab] pretty aggressively,” but he didn’t have a gauge on a timeline because he hasn’t visited with the team’s medical staff yet. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said a return by Opening Day, on March 31, is “still realistic because he’s a bullpen guy, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
De La Rosa earned the nickname “Everyday Dane” last season for the frequency of his usage. He pitched in 75 games, fifth-most in the American League, while posting a 2.86 ERA and emerging as the team’s setup man down the stretch.
Asked if all those appearances have caught up with De La Rosa, Scioscia said: “I mean, his bullpens have been great. He didn’t show any signs of anything last year. But I don’t know if you ever really know.”
- C.J. Wilson on Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away on Thursday: “The pitcher’s elbow is like Humpty Dumpty, and he figured out how to put it back together again.” The Angels left-hander, like many, believes guys like Dr. Jobe and Dr. Lewis Yocum, who passed away last year, should be enshrined in Cooperstown.
- The Angels will meet with Major League Baseball at some point in the next week, where they’ll look at video of Thursday’s play at home plate. Scioscia said the meeting was pre-planned and not a reaction to yesterday’s play. Mike Trout was looking at pictures of his slide on his phone in the clubhouse and said he’s still confused about Rule 7.13 on home-plate collisions. Many are. “Guess I have to do my homework,” he said.
- Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is in full uniform today and was chatting up with Trout during warmups. He’ll shag fly balls and take batting practice. Albert Pujols has played golf with him several times and, not surprisingly, says he can drive the ball a long, long way.
- Catcher John Hester is fine after taking a fastball to his left wrist in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game. He didn’t require X-rays and may even play against the Rockies today.
- Today is the Angels’ first split-squad game of the spring. Triple-A manager Keith Johnson will focus on the offense, player information coach Rick Eckstein will handle the defense and Erik Bennett will be the pitching coach.
- Some notes for the game against the Cubs in Tempe today: Kole Calhoun has led off in six of the Angels’ seven Cactus League games, so, yes, he’ll be the leadoff hitter this year. “You kind of get caught in the middle, I guess, because I do like to be aggressive but right now you kind of have to take a step back and see some more pitches,” Calhoun said. … Trout, Pujols, David Freese, Howie Kendrick, J.B. Shuck, Hank Conger and Erick Aybar are also in that lineup, with Hector Santiago starting.
- Some notes for the game against the Rockies at Salt River Fields: Grant Green will get his first spring start at third base. … Bench competitors Andrew Romine (shortstop), Ian Stewart (first base), Collin Cowgill (center field) and Brennan Boesch (left field) are also in the lineup, with Joe Blanton starting.
Most important thing: The Angels got their first taste of expanded instant replay. Angels manager Mike Scioscia used it to challenge a botched hit-and-run that saw Luis Jimenez get thrown out at second. Scioscia thought Aaron Hill missed the tag after fielding Bobby Wilson‘s high throw, but umpires upheld the call and Scioscia couldn’t challenge anything the rest of the day. The Angels have 14 more of these “replay games.”
Second-most important thing: Garrett Richards looked really good, breezing through three scoreless innings while giving up just two hits, walking none and striking out two. The 25-year-old right-hander looked great last spring, too, with a 1.45 ERA in 18 2/3 Cactus League innings.
Third-most important thing: Ernesto Frieri made his spring debut, after temporarily leaving the team while his wife gave birth on Friday, and pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning.
Fourth-most important thing: Jimenez and outfielder Collin Cowgill, both competing for spots off the bench, each had two hits.
Fifth-most important thing: Only two regulars were in the Angels starting lineup (Kole Calhoun and platooning catcher Hank Conger). Most of the rest of the everyday players took part in a scrimmage at Tempe Diablo Stadium in the morning.
Best defensive play (that I saw): Hill smoked a line drive off Frieri to start the fourth, but Jimenez extended to his left and snared what looked like a sure single.
Best quote: Richards, when asked whether not having to fight for a job will alter his approach this spring: “These last two years, I’ve competed for a spot, so I know what it’s like to be on that end of the stick. I try keep the same mentality I’ve had every spring. Just because I’m in the rotation right now doesn’t mean I’ll be in the rotation at the end of the year. I have to stay sharp and improve.”
Most important thing: They got to play a little bit. Given the storms hitting Arizona in the morning, it almost seemed foolish for the Angels to take the 40-minute bus ride from Tempe to Peoria. But with storms shading north, there was a window to get at least some of Saturday’s game in. They ultimately played six and a half innings, with C.J. Wilson, four relievers and everyone in the starting lineup getting their full-day’s work before the heavy rain came down.
Second-most important thing: Wilson looked sharp while striking out the side in the first, but got hit around in the second, facing seven batters, giving up two smoking line drives to center field — one of which would’ve gone out for a home run if not for a giant fence — and allowing two runs to come across. The 33-year-old left-hander called his April last year “average,” and felt his season would’ve gone from good to great if he had started off the season a little bit better. So he’s looking to be more aggressive out of the gate this spring. In his first Cactus League start, he threw all of his offspeed pitches.
Third-most important thing: Seven of those in the Angels’ starting lineup — J.B. Shuck, Ian Stewart, Hank Conger, Carlos Pena, Chad Tracy, Collin Cowgill, Andrew Romine and John McDonald — are among those competing for three bench spots. Grant Green, Luis Jimenez, Tommy Field and Brennan Boesch were folded in later, an indication that they’re on the outside looking in — which is no surprise. Green was the only player to have a multi-hit game, going 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI.
Fourth-most important thing: Mike Morin, ranked eighth in the Angels’ system and coming off a very solid year at Class A Advanced and Double-A, was hit hard while coming in relief of Wilson in the third, putting four consecutive runners on and allowing two runs to score.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): For the second straight day, it’s a tie between two guys battling for a spot. With two outs in the third, Shuck leaped up against the left-field fence to rob Mike Zunino of extra bases and save Morin from further damage. To start the fourth, Cowgill dived forward full extension to snare a hard line drive off the bat of Carlos Triunfel.
Best quote: Wilson, on pitchers being pushed harder this spring: “It sends a good message when you get a phone call in the offseason and they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to expect a little bit more out of you this year in Spring Training.’ I think the average guy comes in in better shape because of that. The one thing that we haven’t had the last couple years is durability out of the starters as a whole. That’s the goal, obviously, is to get more durability out of the starters.”
On being traded for the first time in his career …
I think it’s all for the better. Hopefully for the better of all the teams and for the better of my career. It seems like the Angels are really happy to have me. And as long as they want me there, it’s nice to have that. As long as they want to have me, I’m happy to be there.
On whether it took him by surprise …
I had an idea that was going to happen, with having four lefties in the rotation. It’s the first time I’ve been traded in my career, so I really didn’t know how to react and don’t know how to go by it. But I kind of felt it coming. I heard a bunch of rumors and just people texting, like, ‘Hey, it’s possible.’ I kind of had an idea it was possible. I didn’t know if it was going to go through, especially talking to the White Sox, planning ahead, trying to get ready for 200 innings next year as a starter in the White Sox rotation. And then a week and a half, two weeks later, it was like, ‘Oh, you just got traded.’ But it’s for the better, so I’m happy.
On his comfort level in bouncing around from bullpen to rotation …
I’m really comfortable. I feel like I’ve done it all the time, through high school and college, Minor League Baseball and the big leagues. Forever. It’s to the point where it’s normal to me. Growing up as a kid in high school, playing summer ball, I would play center field for two innings and then pitch. It’s something I’ve done before, jumping all over the place. But it was definitely a fun experience, coming up from being a starter in the Minor Leagues and then the big leagues. I’ve had every role I think that you can have in the big leagues. It was definitely fun, because you came to the park not knowing what was going on. It was definitely a fun experience in coming to the field every day and not knowing what was going to happen.
On building off 2013 …
It was definitely a different year — innings-wise, strength-wise, learning how to pitch every fifth day. It was definitely a new experience. I don’t know if I made this many, but I had a bunch of starts in the Minor Leagues in 2011 and it definitely wasn’t as difficult as this, between the big league level and playing great teams every day. But I learned a lot. This year, I definitely want to improve on going after guys earlier in the count, get some earlier outs so I can get deeper in the game. It seemed like at the beginning of the game, in the first inning, I’d worry about starting the game with a zero instead of just pitching the same way later in the game. So, early in the game, if I attack the zone more, I felt like after the first, second inning, it was an easier inning for me. It was me putting pressure on myself to start off the game clean and making sure that I gave my team a 0-0 score, and hopefully we can get some runs early in the game. And I put a lot of pressure on myself with my stuff and with my command. That was a big thing of just getting used to the role of a starting pitcher. In the bullpen, you come in for one inning, so you have a little bit of leeway where you can waste a few pitches. But as a starter, you have to try to get as many early outs as you can.
On what he was told in his phone call with the Angels …
It was short, brief. [Jerry Dipoto] was just saying, ‘We’re happy to have you. We had to make a move, and I felt like you were the right move for what we needed and you fill a spot that needed to be filled.’ … They seem very excited to have me, and it seems like I’m going to hopefully be filling one of the voids that they need.
* Shortly after getting traded to the D-backs on Tuesday, Mark Trumbo reached out to the Angels’ PR department to ask about still attending the team’s annual Holiday Party at the ESPN Zone. They couldn’t believe it. And they were even more stunned when he actually showed up the next day, alongside Hank Conger, Chuck Finley, Adam Kennedy and others. (Photo on the left courtesy of Angels PR man Eric Kay.)
Angels broadcasters Jose Mota and Terry Smith left Trumbo for last during the introductions, and he got by far the loudest ovation.
“I’ve been attending these parties for as long as I’ve been here, 11 years,” Mota said, “but you know one thing — Trumbo has been going to these parties since he was in A ball, and that part doesn’t surprise me because he’s so invested in the community-outreach programs, which he’s done for so many years. And we’re talking about a guy who, because he’s local, he was accessible, good kid, the Angels felt comfortable calling him out of A ball and saying, ‘Come to this party.’ But to see a player who had just gotten traded, No. 1, putting away all the emotions, and then a guy that is not an Angel at that party, it was a bit strange.
“He didn’t put the jersey on, of course,” Mota added. “But he was Trumbo. He was just Mark Trumbo, that’s all you expected. And he had a huge ovation from the kids and all the adults that were there because they knew that this is quite a unique thing — a guy who’s not on the team, got traded, could’ve been mopy. He decided, ‘No, this is who I am.’ You talk about showing your true colors and who you really are, I don’t think it speaks any better than that action right there.”
* Trumbo, during a phone conversation with Lyle Spencer and I, admitted that he smiled when he realized he’d be ditching the Angel Stadium marine layer and was following Tuesday’s trade rumors via Twitter “more than I lead on, probably.”
“I knew that things were getting close from messages and phone calls I received,” Trumbo said, “but I did find out first on Twitter that things had become official, so that’s kind of some insight from a player’s perspective that, in this day and age, that’s how things work.”
* Spoke to yet another scout about Tyler Skaggs recently. Here’s what he said (and this guy knows him very well) …
People seem concerned about a loss of velocity. But if you go back to what you thought he was going to be, when you drafted, scouted and signed him, that’s exactly the fastball that he’s working with now. Maybe for a short time he peaked a little bit and worked at 93, 94 or whatever, but he’s 88 to 91, touches 92 occasional now. That’s plenty of fastball, when you consider his curveball and his changeup, and the belief that he’s been a strike-thrower. I know his strikeout numbers are all right. He’s got angle, he’s got plane, he’s got spin, he’s got some touch-and-feel, some back-and-forth with the changeup. This guy was well-regarded, highly regarded throughout the industry, had the numbers to match up. He had a mediocre year last year. … I think the comfort level of going back where he came from is going to help. He’s a Southern California kid. There’s going to be a comfort level, a familiarity level.
* You think coaching the Yankees, Cowboys or Lakers is a pressure-filled job? That’s nothing compared to managing winter ball, and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel experienced that recently. Ebel, promoted from third-base coach shortly after the season, was managing the Estrellas Orientales of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. But that lasted only 18 games. He went 6-12, and then was let go, done in time to join Mike Scioscia and several other members of the Angels’ coaching staff at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
* Someone who is still playing winter ball — for the Leones de Escogido in the D.R. — is C.J. Cron, who’s batting .212/.250/.364 through eight games. That’s a lot of baseball for Cron, who played a full season of Double-A (.746 OPS) and tore it up in the Arizona Fall League (1.167), but he’s a first baseman/designated hitter, so it’s not like he has to move around too much. The Angels view him as a potential option for them late in 2014.
* Some additional minutia on the Angels’ situation at the moment: Matt Garza is still “the guy they really want” a source said Friday, but the perception is that they won’t go above a four-year contract. … The Angels still aren’t expected to spend much on a bat. Right now, they’re budgeting a one-year deal worth less than $5 million. Can they get Raul Ibanez or Kevin Youkilis for that? We’ll see. … Santiago and Skaggs both have options left, but it looks like Santiago has a spot on the Major League roster (as a starter or a reliever) and Skaggs is more of a question. Either he starts in the Majors or in Triple-A. Both have options, nonetheless.
Winter Meetings stories …
Angels Notebook from Day 1, on Albert Pujols‘ health, Mike Trout extension talks and the evolving AL West
Phillip Wellman (this guy) will manage the Angels’ Double-A affiliate
Story on the three-team trade between the D-backs, White Sox and Angels
Spencer, on how the deal benefits the Angels
Trout’s cycle lands GIBBY for Hitting Performance
Trout likely to bat second again next season
Spencer, on Scioscia seeking chemistry on the field
Lefty specialist picked up in Rule 5 Draft
On what’s next, now that the Winter Meetings are over
There are pretty numbers, like .323, .432 and .557 — that’s Mike Trout‘s 2013 batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, respectively.
And then there are ugly ones, like the ones below — the nine stats that plagued the Angels in 2013 and, ultimately, may cost Trout another AL MVP Award …
150: That’s the amount of double plays the Angels grounded into. It’s a franchise record, two more than the 1996 team, and third in the Majors. Albert Pujols (in only 99 games) and Mark Trumbo tied for the team lead with 18, while Howie Kendrick (a notorious GIDP’er) and Josh Hamilton each had 16. Speedster (and non-walker) Erick Aybar followed with 14.
26: That’s the number of pitchers the Angels used this season, three shy of the club record set in 1999. In April alone — a month when the bullpen compiled 95 innings, fifth-most in the Majors — they used 18 (!). It’s a sign of the lack of quality pitching depth the Angels had beyond the Opening Day roster, but also of the injuries they faced, like …
18: That’s the amount of starts Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas missed due to fluky injuries. Weaver fell at the Rangers Ballpark mound on April 7, suffered a fractured left elbow and didn’t return until May 29. Vargas was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left arm pit area shortly after his June 17 start, had invasive surgery and didn’t return until Aug. 13. Down the stretch, the Angels started to see what kind of continuity they can get from Weaver and Vargas being productive and in the rotation at the same time. But it was too little, too late.
13: That’s the combined appearances made by the two new relievers, Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson. Burnett made all of them — 11 in April, a couple in late May — before getting shut down with a torn flexor tendon. Madson missed a second straight year after Tommy John surgery and was released on Aug. 5. Together, Burnett and Madson were supposed to make the Angels’ bullpen a strength. Together, they came up with 13.
32: That’s the combined amount of April losses for two star-studded teams in back-to-back years. In 2012, the Angels started 6-14, roared back into relevance shortly after Trout’s callup and faded down the stretch. In 2013, they dropped 17 of 26 in the season’s first month and never even got back to .500. The Angels had a great Spring Training in 2012, a not-so-great one in 2013. Why the bad early starts — in addition to perhaps a flawed club — is hard to put your finger on.
-63: That’s the amount of runs the Angels didn’t save on defense. In other words, it was their DRS score — 27th in the Majors. And it’s pretty inexplicable considering their DRS was plus-58, tied for second in the Majors, just last season. Yeah, Pujols played only 99 games and Alberto Callaspo was traded in late July, but the personnel was basically the same. And definitely not enough for a 121-run difference (!). Everyday players Trout (-9), Hamilton (-8), Chris Iannetta (-7) Aybar (-7), Kendrick (-3), J.B. Shuck (-1) and Trumbo (-1) had negative scores. The Angels were 19th in UZR, tied for 27th in fielding percentage and 28th in caught-stealing percentage. So, yeah, it’s not just that one sabermetric stat. The Angels were not a very good defensive team this season.
2.6: That’s the combined Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs.com, for Pujols and Hamilton. That’s actually higher than I expected, but obviously nowhere near what the Angels hoped for. In other words, two guys making a combined $33.4 million (or nearly 25 percent of the entire payroll) contributed three wins, if you round up. Pujols didn’t play past July 26, was severely hobbled when he did, and finished with a .258/.330/.437 slash line. Hamilton slumped up until the final five weeks of the season and finished at .250/.307/.432. You can talk about the pitching problems all you want — and I agree, it was the No. 1 issue in 2013 and is the No. 1 concern right now — but perhaps the Angels make a playoff run if they get normal years from Pujols and Hamilton.
66: That’s the amount of outs the Angels made on the bases, more than anyone in baseball — for a second straight year. Last season, they led with 72 outs on the bases. Kendrick (10), Aybar (7), Shuck (7) and Hank Conger (6) had the most.
22: I saved this one for last because I thought it was the most telling. It’s the amount of losses the Angels suffered in games during which they scored at least five runs. That’s the second-most in the Majors in 2013. The only team that lost more of those games was the Astros — the 111-loss Astros. Team Nos. 3-10: Twins, White Sox, Brewers, Orioles, Blue Jays, D-backs, Padres, Rockies. None of them made the playoffs, and the vast majority of them were never close. Nothing says pitching problems like losing a game in which you get five or more runs from your offense — 22 times.
Pitching: RH Yu Darvish (10-5, 2.66 ERA)
Pitching: RH Garrett Richards (3-4, 4.18 ERA)
- An MRI on Howie Kendrick‘s left knee revealed only a sprain, and no structural damage. The Angels are still unsure if he’ll have to go on the disabled list, but they’ll give it four or five days to see.
- In the meantime, the Angels called up Green, who was acquired from the A’s in exchange for Alberto Callaspo last week. It looks like he’ll get the majority of his playing time at second base, where he’s most comfortable. Right-hander Daniel Stange was optioned to Triple-A, bringing the Angels back to 12 pitchers and 13 position players.
- Peter Bourjos is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday (the same day Jason Vargas will throw five innings/75-80 pitches). He still has pain in his right wrist, so he just figures he’ll have to play through it and maybe have a minor surgical procedure in the offseason. He can’t make it any worse, so it basically comes down to how much pain he can tolerate.
- Sean Burnett is slated to have the surgical procedure to fix his torn flexor tendon on Wednesday, performed by Dr. James Andrews. He’s expected to be fully healthy and ready to go for the start of Spring Training.
- As you probably noticed, Iannetta is starting again, against a right-hander. That makes just one start for Hank Conger in the last eight games. Here’s what Mike Scioscia said about the catching situation: “Hank’s going to get time. Chris’ defense is starting to play a lot more, and that’s important. At the plate, he’s been pretty consistent with what he’s done. He’s taken his walks, I think he’s starting to feel a little more comfortable in the batter’s box. But I think primarily on the defense side, he’s doing a good job. And if he matches up on the offensive side, he’ll get some playing time. Hank’s going to play. At times, one guy is going to do it more than the other. And right now, Chris is feeling a little more comfortable right now.”
- In case you were wondering about Robert Coello, who’s been nursing right shoulder inflammation since June 9 … he isn’t expected back this year. He’s still rehabbing in Arizona and hasn’t played catch in like two months.
SP: RH Jerome Williams (5-6, 4.73 ERA)
SP: RH Bartolo Colon (13-3, 2.52 ERA)
- Howie Kendrick had a day off, but the Angels’ second baseman said he’s fine and Mike Scioscia said he’s just giving him a break. “He’s been playing a lot,” Scioscia said. “He’ll be back in there tomorrow.”
- Dane De La Rosa has become an overnight sensation after saving a pigeon. He gained about 300 more Twitter followers and was mentioned on SportsCenter, Sports Nation and Deadspin. Initially, he thought it was a rat. “It just was not trying to fly at all. I didn’t want to cause a pitching delay in the outfield, so I just grabbed it. It was obviously trying to get somewhere.” So he walked out to the player’s parking lot and dropped it off. He said goodbye. And he named it Randy. But not after Randy Johnson, who famously did this. “He just looked like a Randy,” De La Rosa said.
- The Bay Bridge was closed this afternoon because a suspicious package was found, and those who didn’t take the early bus were forced to ride B.A.R.T., the public transportation from San Francisco to Oakland. That included Josh Hamilton, who rode with his accountability partner Shayne Kelley but went the entire ride without being recognized. “It’s the little things,” he said.
- Infielder Brendan Harris, recently DFA’s by the Angels, signed a Minor League deal with the Yankees and will report to Triple-A. Clearly he saw a better chance to get playing time on an injury-riddled team.
Welcome to the start of what could be a season-defining seven-game road trip, with four against the A’s and three against the Rangers …
SP: LH C.J. Wilson (10-6, 3.15 ERA)
SP: RH Dan Straily (6-3, 4.14 ERA)
- In order to create a spot for right-handed reliever J.C. Gutierrez, who was claimed off waivers from the Royals on Wednesday, the Angels designated Billy Buckner for assignment.
- The Angels sent international slot bonus to the Mets in exchange for two Minor Leaguers, outfielder Julio Concepcion and right-hander Andres Perez. Concepcion will be assigned to rookie-level Orem and Perez goes to the Arizona Summer League. The Mets essentially get an extra $360,000 to spend in this international signing period.
- Mike Scioscia, on Joe Blanton‘s role in the bullpen: “There’s no doubt we all feel Joe needed to be taken off that treadmill, he was banging into a wall, and maybe just exhale a little bit. If he throws strikes and has the ability to get strikeouts with his other pitches, we’ll see how his stuff plays out in the bullpen. … We’ll let the flow tell us what his best role would be.”
- Blanton didn’t want to speak to the media today.
- Asked the amount of time Garrett Richards will be in the rotation, Scioscia said it’ll be “start to start.” Jason Vargas‘ return — he still needs some time before starting a rehab assignment — could make things interesting.
Josh Hamilton’s sore right ankle kept him out of the lineup for a second straight day on Tuesday and a follow-up MRI revealed that the Angels outfielder has some inflammation that could keep him out for one or two more games.
Hamilton doesn’t believe he’ll be out any longer than that, though.
“I don’t have any concern,” he said when asked if this could be a long-term injury. “Usually you know when something is wrong, and I don’t have any inclination that it is. It should be good in a couple of days.”
Hamilton, who says he mysteriously hurt the ankle when he got out of bed on Monday morning, will see an orthopedist later on Tuesday and may receive a shot to let the swelling go down.
Hamilton, batting .223 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs, has started 87 of the Angels’ 98 games, also missing time due to minor injuries in his right wrist and lower back, plus a bout with sinus congestion.
“He is feeling a little better than he did yesterday,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Hamilton’s ankle, “so hopefully it’ll be day to day.”
Brian Dozier, 2B
Jamey Carroll, 3B
Joe Mauer, C (SCRATCHED)
Justin Morneau, 1B
Ryan Doumit, RF
Chris Colabello, DH
Chris Herrmann, C
Clete Thomas, LF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Pedro Florimon, SS
SP: RH Kyle Gibson (2-2, 6.45 ERA)
J.B. Shuck, LF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Hank Conger, C
Collin Cowgill, RF
Erick Aybar, SS
SP: RH Tommy Hanson (4-2, 5.10 ERA)
The good news for the Angels is that they expect to get a handful of key players back shortly after the All-Star break, including Peter Bourjos, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas; perhaps even Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson.
But, as Mike Scioscia intimated, that’s not really anything they can hang their hat on right now.
“I don’t think our struggles correlate to guys being out,” he said during Thursday’s voluntary workout. “It’s not like saying, ‘Well, we’ve been banged up and now we’re going to be healthy.’ … We need guys to get in their game more than getting back from the DL.”
There’s no sugarcoating where the Angels find themselves right now. They’re 44-49, 11 games back of first place in the AL West and nine games back of the second Wild Card spot. It’s the most games under .500 that the Angels have been at the All-Star break since 1994 and the largest divisional deficit since 2001. They didn’t make the playoffs either of those years, and only one team — the 2003 Twins — has done so after entering the All-Star break five or more games under .500.
To win 93 games — the minimum amount required to make the playoffs in the AL last year — they’ll have to go 49-20. That’s .710 baseball. The best winning percentage in the Majors right now is .613 (by the Cardinals).
But nearly 43 percent of season remains, so hope does, too.
And with the All-Star break finished, here are the main storylines from here ’til the offseason (click here for my first-half story, with video of the Top 5 moments) …
The July 31 crossroads.
As of now, the best bet here is that the Angels don’t do anything major before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They’re too dangerously close to the threshold at which teams get taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball — something the Angels’ brass doesn’t seem willing to take on — and it’s hard to really be sellers, per se, when Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are on your payroll. But these next couple of weeks could have a big impact on this topic, which brings me to the next storyline …
The next 20 games.
Thirteen of them are against the A’s and Rangers, two teams that are a combined 30 games over .500 and two teams ahead of the Angels in the AL West. This is a stretch that can have them looking towards 2014 or maybe — just maybe — eyeing a playoff spot this fall. In total, 26 of the Angels’ 69 remaining games will come against Oakland and Texas. That’s a lot. Almost 40 percent.
Pujols and The Foot.
At what point does Pujols finally relent and have surgery on the plantar fasciitis that’s been ailing his left foot — and his entire game — all season? He’s determined to play through it all year, and if the Angels stay somewhat relevant, I have every reason to believe he will. If they fall out of it, though, perhaps he shuts it down. Still, 500 homers is only 10 away. And Pujols is adamant about not missing time.
Hamilton and The Numbers.
He hasn’t hit any better than .237 in any month this season, and he has a .224/.283/.413 line for the season. His OPS (.696) is tied for 122nd in the Majors, with Brian Dozier, and his FanGraphs-calculated WAR (0.8) is fourth among Angels position players. To finish with 30 homers, he needs to average a home run every 4.3 games (assuming he doesn’t miss any time). He was able to do that in 2012 (3.4) and 2010 (4.2). To reach triple-digit RBIs, he needs to drive in a run every 1.13 games. The closest he got to that rate was last year, at 1.16. If Hamilton averages four at-bats per game the rest of the way — it’ll likely be lower than that, given walks and inevitable time off — that totals 276. If he gets 110 hits in that span, that’s a .399 batting average. And that would put his average on the season at .302. Amazing to think he even has a remote chance to get to 300-30-100.
Trout’s MVP chances.
Chris Davis (.315/.392/.717) and Miguel Cabrera (.365/.458/.674) are having absurd seasons, making Mike Trout only a fringe candidate for the AL MVP. But don’t sleep on him. He’s at .322/.399/.565 through 92 games. Through 92 games last year (a year he should’ve been the MVP), he was at .340/.402/.592. Not too far off. And if Davis and Cabrera slip, Trout may find himself in the conversation once again. (Sidenote: Trout’s strikeout and walk rates have actually improved from last year, a sign he’s only improving as a hitter. He struck out 21.8 percent of the time and walked 10.5 percent of the time last year. This year, he’s striking out 16.4 percent of the time and walking 11 percent of the time.)
Jered Weaver’s stock.
Somewhat lost amid the struggles of Pujols and Hamilton is that Weaver hasn’t really been, well, Weaver. He missed more than seven weeks with a broken left elbow, struggled upon coming back, went on a very good three-start stretch — two runs in 20 2/3 innings — and then gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Mariners to close out the ceremonial first half. He’s now 3-5 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 starts this season, with a fastball velocity that continues to decline (90.1 in 2010, 89.2 in 2011, 88.0 in 2012, 86.8 in 2013). Weaver will make $54 million from 2014-16, and the Angels don’t figure to get a better starting pitcher during that time. A strong second half would ease a lot of concerns.
If the Angels do fall out of it, it’ll be interesting to see how they look ahead to 2014 and beyond. This is not a roster you can really rebuild with. This is a roster you can only continue to add pieces to in hopes of winning a championship. And if the Angels don’t make the playoffs, I expect them to try to contend again in 2014. But come August and September, if they’re far back, how do they start planning for next year? Does Garrett Richards go back to the rotation (perhaps bumping Joe Blanton or Tommy Hanson)? Does Hank Conger become the everyday catcher? (Since June 12, he’s had the exact amount of games — 17 — and at-bats — 47 — as Chris Iannetta.)
And what’s the fallout from owner Arte Moreno for missing the playoffs a fourth consecutive year, and after back-to-back December blockbusters?
We may have to wait until the offseason for that one.