Results tagged ‘ Jeremy Hellickson ’

The Angels’ offseason, in historical revisionism …

Everything is fuzzy this time of year, with the start of Spring Training around the corner and the regular-season grind still about six weeks away.

But looking at the Angels’ roster, two things seem certain: The offense is very potent and the starting pitching is quite questionable.

Funny thing is, it could’ve easily been in reverse, or perhaps a little more balanced. In fact, there were two instances this offseason when general manager Jerry Dipoto reached a fork in the road and made a decision that, perceivably, worked to improve the offense and sacrificed some starting pitching.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Tempe, Ariz., in three days, I thought it’d be a good time to look at those two crucial decisions. I’m not suggesting they were the wrong choices; I just feel they’re worth examining. Because depending on where the Angels are come October, they may be something to point to.

Here they are …

Josh Hamilton, KatieJosh Hamilton over Zack Greinke: When Dipoto scoffed at Greinke’s concrete contractual demands on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, we thought it signaled the return to a payroll in the $135- to $140-million range. What we didn’t find out until a few weeks later was that at a certain price point, Dipoto preferred Hamilton over Greinke, and that Hamilton — at least in the words of several members of the Angels’ front office — was the one guy owner Arte Moreno was willing to “blow up” the budget for, putting it back at about $150 million.

Greinke wound up getting an average annual value of $24.5 million on a six-year deal with the Dodgers; Hamilton got a $25 million AAV on a five-year deal. Yes, it adds up to $22 million more in total value for Greinke, but I don’t think that was the main motivating factor here. Dipoto’s thinking was that signing Hamilton was a two-for-one — it improved their offense and allowed them to improve a pitching staff that at that point could use it.

But Greinke is, in many ways, an ace; a guy who would’ve continued to form a standout one-two punch with Jered Weaver at the top of the rotation, which always sets up nicely for the playoffs.

Zack Greinke,  Magic JohnsonNot trading Mark Trumbo and/or Peter Bourjos: In some ways, this was yet another offense-for-pitching sacrifice by the Angels’ front office. By trading Kendrys Morales to the Mariners for lefty starter Jason Vargas — two pending free agents — the lineup would be more fluid. Trumbo would be the designated hitter most days, but would also readily fill in at first base and right field to give Hamilton and Albert Pujols a blow. That’s big, given the amount of money owed to those two 30-something sluggers, and it’s a big improvement over what was mostly a cluttered position-player roster last spring.

But what if trading Trumbo and/or Bourjos, two cost-controlled outfielders teams covet more than Morales, could’ve landed the Angels an even better, cost-controlled, top-of-the-rotation starter — maybe a Jeremy Hellickson-type?

Shortly after flipping Morales for Vargas, and keeping Trumbo and Bourjos, Dipoto said: “That was very much a part of the plan. Dating back to the start of this offseason, and even as we were trailing towards the end of the 2012 season, it’s been a priority for us to keep as much of our young nucleus in place as possible.”

Maybe it was, and maybe Dipoto also didn’t like the potential returns he was seeing for Trumbo/Bourjos. Whatever the case, the Angels head into the 2013 season with arguably the best lineup in baseball, but a far less heralded rotation — though, to be fair, also one that eats innings and tailors very well to its surroundings with lots of fly-ball pitchers.

Come October, we’ll know how those decisions really worked out.


What can the Angels get for Kendrys Morales? …

Kendrys MoralesThe ideal chip for the Angels’ next, seemingly inevitable trade for a starting pitcher is Kendrys Morales.

It’s hard to deny that. Morales is coming into his final season before free agency and — given his representation (Scott Boras) and his desire to be more than a full-time DH — will leave after 2013.

Trading him now would give the Angels an outfield foursome of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo (with Vernon Wells‘ contract probably still lingering). Trout, Bourjos and Trumbo are still in their pre-arbitration years and all four are under club control until at least 2016. Trout (probably left field), Bourjos (center) and Hamilton (right) would make up one of the game’s best outfields — offensively and defensively — and would give the Angels somewhat of a revolving door at DH. Trumbo would get the most reps there, but his versatility would allow Hamilton and Albert Pujols, who need to stay on the field to maximize their nine-figure contracts, can start there, too, when needed.

But what kind of starting pitcher can Morales bring back?

The Angels will seemingly be selling pretty high on the 29-year-old switch-hitter. He’s coming off his first healthy season since 2009, batting .273 with 22 homers, 73 RBIs and a .787 OPS. Morales, who missed almost two full seasons with a couple of ankle surgeries, even proved he can still handle first base. Then there’s the belief that he’ll be even better in 2013, with the motivation of an expiring contract and a full season under his belt. That’s a pretty good package for a guy who will make about $4 million next year, and teams desperate for power — particularly from the left side of the plate — would no doubt love to have him.

Still, though, his market is limited, because you’d be hard-pressed to find a National League club willing to gamble on him as their everyday first baseman and because we’re at a point in the offseason when most teams no longer have big holes to fill. Of course, the Angels would love to move Wells, but I can’t imagine them getting back any significant starter for him, even if they eat the vast majority of the $42 million owed to him the next two years. They’ll also keep listening on Bourjos and Trumbo, and may pull the trigger if blown away by a top-tier, cost-controlled starter. But as Ken Rosenthal of wrote on Twitter recently, the priority is to deal Morales for an innings-eater.

Who can they get?

Here are three potential (and purely speculative) AL fits …

Rays: I know, it’s the first place everyone goes. But Tampa Bay always seems like an ideal match because they’re (still) rich in starters and could always use offense. Right now the Rays have James Loney at first base, with somewhat of a platoon at DH with the right-handed-hitting Ryan Roberts and the left-handed-hitting Sam Fuld. Morales would give them a big upgrade, and someone who can protect Evan Longoria. But he wouldn’t get the Angels Jeremy Hellickson or Matt Moore, or probably even Alex Cobb. Maybe Jeff Niemann, who’s under club control for two more years and would cost about $3 million in arbitration in 2013? The Rays did pick up some flexibility for the rotation by signing Roberto Hernandez on Tuesday.

Orioles: They still seek a middle-of-the-order bat, have a spot open at DH and seemingly have some pitching they can afford to part ways with. Righties Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman, and lefties Zach Britton and Brian Matusz are all young with upside, but with the exception of Tillman, they all struggled last year. Would the O’s be willing to part ways with the 24-year-old Tillman, one of few bright spots in an eclectic starting staff that ranked ninth in the AL in ERA last year? And given his past inconsistencies, can the Angels do better?

Indians: They’re trying to woo free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher, but could always use more offense, and Morales could split time at DH and first base with the right-handed-hitting Mark Reynolds. What about Justin Masterson, who had a rough 2012 season but has topped 200 innings the last two years and is signed for two more years? Well, he isn’t an ace, but he’s listed as Cleveland’s No. 1 pitcher, so they’d probably be very hesitant to give him up for K-Mo. Here’s another intriguing name: Ubaldo JimenezHe’s been a shell of himself the last couple years, but he’s been relatively healthy, will make $5.75 million in 2013 and has an $8 million option for 2014. Perhaps working with his old catcher, Chris Iannetta, can get him back on track.

The important thing to ask yourself is whether any of these guys would be an upgrade over the 24-year-old Garrett Richards, who has yet to start a full season in the Majors but has a lot of upside. Adding another starter would likely push Richards to Triple-A, with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton making up the rest of the staff, and Jerome Williams likely returning to the long-relief role. The Angels’ front office will have some important decisions to make before Spring Training (and perhaps they’ll linger beyond that). Do they hold onto Bourjos and Trumbo, keeping their position-player roster deep but not improving the rotation a whole lot? Or do they trade one of those two — or both, or more — to land the impact starter they could still use?


CJ on the Rangers, Darvish & flipping the page …

C.J. Wilson has a pretty marquee matchup coming up Friday, when he returns to the ballpark he called home for the last seven years, faces the teammates he went to two straight World Series with and goes toe-to-toe the man his old club essentially chose to spend money on instead of him.

Below are some highlights of what Wilson (pictured left) told reporters about the matchup from Minneapolis. He mostly downplayed the emotions of returning to Texas and facing Yu Darvish. But he did say he expects to get booed, confirmed that the only formal offer he ever got from the Rangers was a three-year deal just a few days before Opening Day 2011, stated that he doesn’t blame the Rangers’ front office for moving in a different direction and recalled a time when he told GM Jon Daniels on a bus that he needed to make sure young guys like Derek Holland and Elvis Andrus were taken care of. 

Here goes …

On the upcoming matchup with his old ‘mates: “Obviously, when you change teams within the division, at some point you’re going to play your old team, and they’ve won the division the past two years because they’re great hitters. So that’s the objective for me, to prevent the other team from scoring runs. I have a tall task.”

On what could be an emotional Friday: “I think the biggest thing will just be that we’ll be playing in front of a huge crowd in a stadium that’s relatively hostile to our team – and I’m sure will be fairly hostile to me. I think a lot of people will boo me and stuff. It’s happened before in other stadiums, as well. Hey, some of them booed while I was there when I was a reliever, you know. The main objective is just focusing on the baseball aspect of it and preparing to get their guys out.”

On following the Rangers’ hot start: “Well, it’s on T.V. every day. ‘Oh, they can hit? I didn’t know that. They’re good hitters? Oh yeah.’ They were always good hitters. I knew that. I played with them for so many years. I know them really well.”

On facing Darvish: “I think it’s interesting, obviously, that we both kind of slotted into the rotation the way we did, that that’s the way it lines up. But it’s not the National League, so I don’t have to face him. I would be very prepared for his repertoire of fastballs and curveballs and splitters. He throws a lot of those to left-handed hitters, so I would be focusing on that if it were the National League, but it’s not. My job is to focus on facing Nelson and Michael Young and Josh Hamilton. Who I pitch against means nothing.”

On switching teams: “I’ve had a lot of time to practice different scenarios in baseball. High school – I transferred high schools. Junior college – I transferred to college. Minor leagues. Major leagues. Teammates are now opponents. Opponents are now teammates. There’s a lot of different stuff that goes along with it. But we’re just uniforms pitching against uniforms for a lot of fans. For me, it’s a much more academic pursuit than an emotional pursuit if that makes any sense. I study it, try to find a weakness, try to pitch to that weakness and then try to win the game.”

On his conversation with Daniels the night of Dec. 8: “Jon Daniels called me the night before I signed and was like, ‘Is there anything I can do to tell you not to sign with the Angels?’ I kind of laughed. I was like, ‘Well, you could make me a contract offer.’ It’s pretty simple.”

On whether he feels the Rangers wasted his time this offseason: “All I’ll say is that I had a really good relationship with a lot of guys, front office, coaches. Obviously, in any organization there’s going to be some people that maybe you don’t interact with as much. … But what it comes down to at the end of the day is you have to do what’s right for you. They moved the way they did because that’s the way Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and the ownership group wanted to go. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can never begrudge over changing directions. There’s nothing wrong with that. They have a young core of players that they want to lock up – Elvis Andrus, Neftali [Feliz], Derek, those guys. And I sat down on a bus before a game with Jon Daniels and told him, ‘Whatever happens, you have to sign Derek, you have to sign Elvis, you have to make those guys feel comfortable and make them feel like part of the future.’ And I told him that because it has nothing to do with me, it has to do with those guys, and I like those guys. At the end of the day, I’m not going to begrudge anybody for what they did or didn’t do. That quote [“the Rangers wasted my time”] was taken a little bit out of context in that I could’ve signed with the Angels right away, with how hard they were pursuing me. That’s kind of what it was all about, because I was like, ‘Whoa, they want me more than anybody else, so I’ll just go with them right now.’ That could’ve happened in November, but it didn’t because my agent and I were talking about it. There was some sort of conversation in regards to, ‘Well the Rangers want to meet with us and do this and that,’ and it just never materialized in that sense. It’s not a waste of my time baseball-wise.”

On his time in Texas: “I had a lot of fun. That was a great team. We had more fun playing baseball the last two years with that team than any team I’ve ever played on, even junior college. … The guys are great, the guys are fun, and that’s why people love watching them. Adrian Beltre’s head-touch thing, the deer and the antlers, and I was a big part of that. I enjoyed that. So it was fun living that, and I’m trying to bring that over here, that fun, extroverted thing. So I learned a lot. But there was never a case of me wanting to leave or anything like that. So I just want that to be clear.”

On staying in touch with his old teammates: “Some guys, yeah, but that’s a two-way street. I have five years with these guys, trying to get to know [Mark] Trumbo and [Peter] BourjosColby Lewis I’ve known since 1999, we exchange text messages, but for the most part, we’re trying to beat those guys, therefore, our wins come at their expense and their wins come at our expense. That’s why you play, to win. So that’s a very weird grey area for a lot of guys.”

On how his old team’s hot start, and his new team’s slow one: “The guys are loose and they play good baseball. There are a lot of teams that have got off to hot starts. We’ve gotten off to a pretty poor start because we were out of sync. Some games are pitching wasn’t good, some games our hitting wasn’t good, some games we did both of those and played bad defense. If you fire on all cylinders, it doesn’t really matter what your roster consists of, you’re going to win the game. If we play the way we have been, we have a lot better chance of winning than we did in the first 10 games of the season.”

And, finally, on his impressions of Darvish: “He’s on TV every time he pitches. He’s tall. Has a really tight uniform. He’s a right-handed guy with 95-mph fastball, couple different breaking balls, like A.J. Burnett a couple years ago stuff-wise, he’s 6-foot-5, tall, lanky, long arm, hip turn, from a scout standpoint, that’s what you see, though he’s got two extra pitches. But like I said, I don’t bat off him. If I did, I know exactly what I’d be looking for, but I don’t talk about that. It’s none of your business.”

Some links …


Game 18: Angels-Rays …

Angels (6-11)

Bobby Abreu, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Torii Hunter, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Maicer Izturis, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C

Pitching: LH C.J. Wilson (2-1, 2.37 ERA)

Rays (10-7)

Desmond Jennings, LF
Ben Zobrist, RF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Jeff Keppinger, 2B
B.J. Upton, CF
Luke Scott, DH
Sean Rodriguez, SS
Chris Gimenez, C

Pitching: RH Jeremy Hellickson (2-0, 3.26 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Angels manager Mike Scioscia called talk of Mike Trout coming up “premature,” but added: “Obviously when you’re playing that well, you tend to push a door open for yourself.” Here’s more from the skipper (with more on the site later): “Obviously if stuff continues to be stagnant, you’re going to put more on weight on some of those decisions. But right now, I think we’re trying to find an identity to this team, and we’re just not quite there yet.”
  • Catching prospect Hank Conger is on the 10-day Minor League disabled list with what the club believes is a non-serious elbow injury. An MRI revealed no structural damage, so for now he’ll just rest it. John Hayes, who the Angels just signed to a Minor League deal, will split the Triple-A Salt Lake catching duties with Robinzon Diaz until Conger returns.
  • Izturis’ stolen base on Tuesday was the Angels’ first since April 15, and the Angels have just nine on the year (tied for 22nd in the Majors). “Sometimes the matchups aren’t there,” Scioscia said. “It’s nothing you can really force. But if the matchups are there, you’re going to try to take advantage of them. I think we have team speed, which we can try to create in some situations. … I think we’re going to steal our share of bases.”
  • Can Pujols’ struggles just be a matter of not being used to the guys he’s facing? Here’s a look.

Some links from Tuesday …

Some AL West links …

And the Heat lost to the Celtics, but everyone’s just resting for the playoffs right now.


Game 17: Angels-Rays …

If the Angels are looking for their power, this may not be the place to find it. The Angels came in tied for last in the American League in homers (11 — and zero by their Nos. 3 and 4 hitters today). David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore — the three starters they’ll face in this series — have combined to give up seven in nine starts.

On to the lineups (No. 15 in 17 games), with Kendrys Morales getting the day off against a southpaw starter (one of two in this series), Torii Hunter getting in his first game at DH (he got 81 plate appearances there last year), Maicer Izturis getting his third start at the hot corner and Mark Trumbo getting the nod in right field (the second of his career) …

Angels (6-10)

Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Albert Pujols, 1B
Hunter, DH
Trumbo, RF
Vernon Wells, LF
Izturis, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Peter Bourjos, CF
Pitching: RH Ervin Santana (0-3, 6.75 ERA)

Rays (9-7)

Desmond Jennings, LF
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Luke Scott, DH
Matt Joyce, RF
B.J. Upton, CF
Jose Molina, C
Sean Rodriguez, SS
Pitching: LH Price (2-1, 4.20 ERA)

Some notes from pregame …

  • Mike Scioscia, on Hunter’s DH days this year compared to last year: “He’s going to definitely DH today because of the turf, and we’ll see how the rest of this series goes. I don’t know if it’s going to be greater, but we’re going to pick our spots. At times, he’s going to get a chance to just rest, and he’ll get days off, too.”
  • If you’re scoring at home (and I know a lot of you are), Trumbo has now made starts at five different positions — first base, third base, left field, right field and DH — and has made just one at the hot corner since April 13. “It’s a work in progress,” Scioscia said of where Trumbo stands at third. “I think in spring he showed the skill set to do what we feel a third baseman needs to do. It’s just that he had a couple of bumps in the road early, but we’re still working on it. He played third the other night, and we’re going to still mix it in there.”
  • You want some good news? OK, here goes: The Rangers have lost two of their last three, and the Angels have won their first game in four of their first five series. They’ve also won five of their last six games in St. Pete. (Sorry, best I can do on short notice.)
  • Wait, here’s something better: The rotation has looked more like what we would’ve expected these last seven games, posting a 2.92 ERA with six quality starts, a 0.91 WHIP and a 41/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio (credit: Stats LLC).

Some links from the last couple days …

Some AL West links …

And Mike Miller‘s minutes with the Heat are rising.


My predictions for the 2011 season …

I was asked recently by the higher-ups at my company to submit my predictions for the 2011 season in several different categories, which was tallied up among several others to produce this. With Opening Day here, I thought I’d share my specific picks with a short explanation.

Here it is …

AL East: Red Sox (too good — everywhere)

AL Central: White Sox (great offense; but Jake Peavy needs to be good)

AL West: Athletics (great pitching and defense)

AL Wild Card: Tigers (solid at every aspect)

AL champion: Red Sox (again, too good)

NL East: Phillies (rotation enough to make up for injuries)

NL Central: Brewers (solid everywhere, but can’t afford injury)

NL West: Rockies (most well-rounded club in the division)

NL Wild Card: Braves (probably most well-rounded team in MLB)

NL champion: Braves (if young guys come through — which they should — they’ll prevail)

World Series champion: Red Sox (Braves have no lefty starters, Sox have great lefty hitters — Boston has the edge)

AL surprise team: Athletics (young, dynamic pitching staff and great defense on low payroll)

NL surprise team: Marlins (their rotation and offense can compete with anybody’s)

AL surprise player: A.J. Burnett (looked great this spring, and health wasn’t a factor in rough 2010 season)

NL surprise player: Juan Miranda (forgotten in Yankees system, but has good power and showed good signs this spring)

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera (he’s motivated and is the best hitter in the AL; he’ll prove it)

NL MVP: Albert Pujols (easy — best player in baseball is in a walk year)

AL Cy Young: Jon Lester (this is the year he takes it to the next level — especially with that defense and offense behind him)

NL CY Young: Cliff Lee (happy and motivated)

AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson (can’t wait to see him in a full season)

NL Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman (everybody absolutely raves about this kid)

AL Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen (has a great team, peace with Ken Williams and contract stability)

NL Manager of the Year: Charlie Manuel (yes, he has a great team, but he’ll get them through injury woes)

Breakout Player of the Year: Mike Stanton (almost won Rookie of the Year in 100 games last season; now the world will see how special he truly is)

Executive of the Year: Billy Beane (“Money Ball” at its finest playing out right now)

— Alden

* Here’s my Opening Day preview and the nine storylines I have my eye on this season.

** Other stuff to get you primed for the start of the season: A look at first-year managers in the Grapefruit League; previews for the AL East and NL East; and a glimpse at five players we can’t wait to see.

‘Year of the Pitcher’ indeed

If you didn’t want to admit it before, perhaps Sunday afternoon — when Brandon Morrow was one out away from the sixth no-hitter of the season and fourth against the Rays in just over one calendar year — finally made you come to grips with the fact that this is indeed “The Year of the Pitcher.”
Personally, and I don’t think I’m alone here, I love the dominance displayed on the mound recently. I’d much rather see a 3-2 nail-biter than a 10-8 slugfest, and I think most baseball purists would agree. 
This season, you’re a lot more likely to see the former. 
Want proof? 
Well, five no-hitters — two of them perfect games — have been fired this season, and two others (Armando Galarraga‘s near-perfecto on June 2 and Morrow’s near-no-no) came down to the last out. Since 1900, only three other seasons in Major League Baseball included five no-hitters (1973, 1968 and 1962) and five others had more (six in 1968, 1917 and 1908, and a record seven in 1990 and 1991). 
There have already been 37 1-0 games this season, which matches the total from all of last season. 
And several rookie pitchers have made top-notch debuts, like the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson, the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg, the Indians’ Jeanmar Gomez and the Reds’ Mike Leake
Entering Wednesday’s games, 17 starting pitchers who qualified had ERAs under 3.00 this season. Last year, there were 10, and in 2008, there were eight. 
Many believe a more-strictly-enforced drug program has vastly diminished the use of performance-enhancing substances and led to the re-emergence of the pitcher’s dominance. 
Recent numbers seemingly point to that. 
Heading into Monday’s slate of games, the cumulative MLB batting average was .259, and the cumulative ERA was 4.13. Both are the lowest since 1992 — when there was a .256 batting average and a 3.74 ERA — according to STATS LLC. 
Here’s a look at the recent year-by-year MLB batting averages and RBIs, courtesy of STATS … 
* 2000: .270 BA, 4.76 ERA
* 2001: .264 BA, 4.41 ERA
* 2002: .261 BA, 4.27 ERA
* 2003: .264 BA, 4.39 ERA
* 2004: .266 BA, 4.46 ERA
* 2005: .264 BA, 4.28 ERA
* 2006: .269 BA, 4.52 ERA
* 2007: .268 BA, 4.46 ERA
* 2008: .264 BA, 4.32 ERA
* 2009: .262 BA, 4.31 ERA
* 2010: .259 BA, 4.13 ERA (entering this week)
That’s a pretty steady decline over the last five years. Could we be witnessing a new era, and not just a different year? 
— Alden Gonzalez 

Thumbnail image for MorrowStretch-thumb-439x268-2322231.jpg
Above, Morrow, pictured while pitching against the Rays on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre in Toronto, had a no-hitter until there were two outs in the top of the ninth. Then, Evan Longoria singled just out of the range of second baseman Aaron Hill. Morrow finished with nine shutout innings, one hit, two walks and 17 strikeouts in a 1-0 complete-game win. 
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