Results tagged ‘ Joe Blanton ’
We don’t have the depth for a big trade come July. What, if anything, is going to save this team? – @angelfan91
Performing to expectations and staying healthy. That simple.
For as star-laden and expensive a team as this is, it’s not a club that can really absorb an inordinate amount of injuries. Their farm system is barren, and their bench looked pretty weak once Vernon Wells was dealt to the Yankees. Look no further than the three starts Tommy Hanson (restricted list) has missed. Each of those nights — especially the latest one — the opposing team has batted around in an inning, basically because the Angels are left with nowhere to turn for additional starting pitching help. There are some teams (Yankees?) that can withstand using the disabled list seven times in the first six weeks. The Angels, apparently, aren’t one of them.
More than that, though, guys are simply under performing, as this Baseball Prospectus article evidenced by deploying PECOTA projections. Joe Blanton (0-7, 6.46 ERA, 1.87 WHIP) has taken the brunt of the criticism. But just as crippling, if not more so, is the fact that the three big signings of the last two offseasons — Albert Pujols (.248/.328/.418), Josh Hamilton (.214/.264/.358) and C.J. Wilson (3.88 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) — are simply not living up to their track records. Add that to all those who have been on the DL since April 1 (Jered Weaver, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett, Kevin Jepsen, Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar) and you have a problem.
The good news: Three-quarters of the season remains.
I’ll be away from the team for a little while moving forward, while trying to juggle a bunch of other things I have going on. William Boor is your man for the rest of this homestand.
Joe Blanton perpetually gets hit around and Tommy Hanson continues to be away from the team because of a family issue, but the other rotation newcomer, Jason Vargas, has pretty much provided what the Angels would’ve expected lately.
On Tuesday night, he bounced back from a dud against the Astros, limiting a pretty dangerous Royals lineup to five hits and one walk while striking out seven batters in seven-plus innings of two-run ball. Vargas, acquired in exchange for Kendrys Morales in December, hasn’t allowed a first-inning run in either of his first eight starts, is 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA at home and, most importantly, has pitched seven or more innings in four of his last five outings.
“I try to go out there every time and keep the team in the ballgame, be consistent out there and try to execute,” Vargas said.
His ERA, at 6.75 after his April 16 start, is now at 4.03. He’s responsible for both of the Angels’ complete games (though one was eight innings of a loss on the road). And though he began the season in the fourth spot of the rotation, he’s clearly the Angels’ third-best starter (perhaps even second, depending on how you feel about C.J. Wilson).
“If you look at Jason, you look at his track record, this guy pitches deep into games,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Vargas, who posted a 3.96 ERA and compiled 611 innings his previous three years in Seattle. “It’s one thing saying ‘gives innings,’ but this guy gives you good innings and that’s what’s important to us is these guys getting into the seventh, possibly the eighth, giving those good innings and giving our offense a chance to do what it did tonight.”
Series No. 2 between the bitter AL West rivals, with both teams coming off weekend sweeps (the Angels over the Tigers, and the Rangers over the Mariners) …
SP: LH Derek Holland (1-1, 1.64 ERA)
SP: RH Joe Blanton (0-3, 8.59 ERA)
- It sounds like Mike Scioscia putting Hamilton in the No. 5 spot may be a platoon situation, at least for now, with Hamilton batting fifth against lefties and fourth against righties. The Rangers have back-to-back righties in this series (Alexi Ogando and Yu Darvish). “I think against a lefty, you get Trumb in there behind Albert right now until Josh finds his stride,” Scioscia said. “Against righties, we’ll put Josh back in there to see if he can stay in the middle and help Albert to take advantage of what Albert can do.”
- Hamilton (.176/.247/.324) has no issue with the move: “If I was hitting ninth, I’d be OK with it. I’d be happy not getting a hit ever again as long as we’re winning. I’m that guy.”
- Erick Aybar (left heel) ran today for the first time and is eying a return to the lineup by Thursday’s series opener against the Mariners, the first day he’s eligible to come off the DL. … Ryan Madson was scheduled to throw off flat ground on Monday and Scioscia said he’s slated to throw in another sim game before the end of this homestand. … Alberto Callaspo (right calf) continues to hit and take grounders, but still isn’t running. He’s thinking he can be back by the end of the week.
What can fix the Angels???? — @VivaJRC
I hate for the first QOTD of the season to come under such tumultuous times, but, well, this is probably as good a time as any.
The answer to that question is very simple: The starters need to be better. They have a Major League-worst 6.07 ERA and have pitched into the seventh inning only once all season, putting the offense behind early on an almost-nightly basis and gutting a bullpen that’s already thin.
The solution? It has to come in-house, at least for now. The Angels have some payroll flexibility after trading Vernon Wells, but teams don’t make trades in April — not for big-name players, anyway. It’s too early. Newcomers Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton may not boast the resumes of, say, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, but they have reputations for pitching deep into games, and they’re simply not doing that. The three of them are a combined 1-6 with a 7.36 ERA in 40 1/3 innings so far. They simply have to be better.
I’ve been getting a lot of the predictable, fire-and-brimstone tweets and e-mails recently — FIRE BUTCHER!!! FIRE SCIOSCIA!!! — and if this team continues to underachieve, there’s no telling what Arte Moreno will do.
But would that actually solve anything right now?
Perhaps it’s too early for urgency. We are, in fact, just seven games into a 162-game season. But these are the Angels — the much-hyped Angels, with a $150-plus million payroll, tons of stars and the desire (necessity?) to get off to a much better start this year. As one player told me pregame, “We need an easy win today.”
SP: Tommy Milone (1-0, 2.57 ERA)
SP: Joe Blanton (0-1, 7.20 ERA)
- It doesn’t look good for Erick Aybar, who’s out of the lineup one day after exiting the game in the third inning with a left heel contusion. He’s in even more pain today than he was yesterday, and given his overall toughness, that isn’t a good sign. The Angels still haven’t received results of his examinations earlier today, so they’re still treating it as a day to day situation. But he appears headed for the DL.
- Mike Scioscia was asked about last night’s confusion, when he said Sean Burnett couldn’t go more than one inning because of a blister and Burnett said he could and the blister was already gone. The Angels’ skipper got pretty defensive, saying: “We’re totally on the same page. We are absolutely on the same page. I think he was talking about his performance and his pitching … Sean Burnett, part of what came up was he was used a lot in the first week of the season, he pitched a lot of baseball and not wanting to really repeat that I think there are some things you have to really be mindful of.”
- Ryan Madson felt good after his 30-pitch bullpen on Tuesday and will play catch with a softball, because it helps him get on top of the ball.
- Jered Weaver is off the sling and could be playing catch pretty soon. The timeline hasn’t changed, and he’ll still have to build back his length before returning, but it’s good for him to trigger the arm.
- Here’s what Scioscia said about using Harris over Andrew Romine: “Brendan, with his experience, is probably a little stronger in the batter’s box and he played good shortstop in the spring. [Andrew's] a terrific defender. With Milone actually he has that change-up so he is tough on righties, too. We feel good about Brendan, where he is, and he had a good game last night for us.”
- Pujols is at DH to give him a chance to regroup. It’s his third time in four games there.
- The Angels signed first baseman/outfielder Brad Hawpe to a Minor League deal. He’ll report to extended Spring Training in Tempe, Ariz., for four or five days, then head to Triple-A Salt Lake, providing coverage for Kole Calhoun (broken hamate bone).
- Bill Hall, resigned by the club, has already reported to extended spring. He’ll be there a little longer because he barely had a Spring Training while recovering from a quad and calf injury.
Come Monday, Jered Weaver will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start, Josh Hamilton‘s reunion tour will begin and the Angels will (once again) try to cash in on the grand expectations they carry into the season.
Before that happens, here’s a station-to-station look at where they stand heading into what should be a very fun 2013 …
Position players: I don’t see a way this team won’t be among the top three in runs scored in the American League this season. From mid-May to the end of the season last year, when Mike Trout arrived in more ways than one and Albert Pujols remembered he’s Albert Freakin’ Pujols, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game. And that was without Hamilton, mind you. The Angels have three dynamic speed guys (Peter Bourjos-Trout-Erick Aybar) and three lethal power hitters (Pujols-Hamilton-Mark Trumbo) all conveniently lining up together. The rest of the guys (Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta) don’t need to be anything more than themselves for the Angels to be an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, Trout-Bourjos-Hamilton could be the best defensive outfield in baseball (which tailors perfectly to their flyball-heavy pitching staff) and the infield is solid at every position.
Starters: Angels starters got their necessary work this spring, but just barely. Spring Training may not teach us much, but it certainly didn’t quell any apprehensions about this rotation. Everyone except the no-walks Joe Blanton struggled at some point, with Weaver, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson all bringing temporary concerns that they wouldn’t have enough stamina heading into the regular season. But they do, and most importantly, they’re all healthy. Are they good enough to match one of the best offenses in baseball? No. Will they be adequate enough to eat innings (so the ‘pen doesn’t get worn out) and keep the Angels in games (with the lineup taking care of the rest)? That’s the plan. The key: C.J. Wilson, the $77.5 million No. 2 starter who should be a lot better than his 2012 second half.
Relievers: The Angels are deeper here, with or without Ryan Madson (who is still on track to return in late April or early May, barring another setback). They’ve added arguably the best free-agent lefty available in Sean Burnett, will have a full season of Ernesto Frieri, are banking on Kevin Jepsen‘s last three months being no fluke and, along with Scott Downs, seemingly have four formidable options to protect leads late in games. There’s also the high-upside Garrett Richards, coming off a great spring, the hard-throwing Mark Lowe, who the Angels have targeted since November, and the veteran Jerome Williams. Many will point to last year’s 22 blown saves as the biggest reason the Angels ultimately missed the playoffs, and this year, they’re better in the ‘pen. But that’s on paper. Relievers are a very unpredictable species.
Reserves: If all their everyday players stay healthy, this won’t be much of a factor, particularly in the AL. Chances are, though, injuries will happen. And given that, the Angels took a step back with regards to their bench (though if you’re going to pick one area to downgrade, this would be it). Without Vernon Wells, they don’t have any real power threat in reserve — besides Hank Conger, but he’s the backup catcher — and are pretty darn young. Andrew Romine takes over for the seasoned Maicer Izturis and Conger, awfully talented but coming off a spring soured by throwing woes, has spent most of the last three years in Triple-A. Contact-hitting lefty outfielder J.B. Shuck is the third player on this bench making his first Opening Day roster. The last reserve, veteran infielder Brendan Harris, hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2010.
Depth: The Angels’ farm system is dead last in all of baseball, according to ESPN and Baseball America. But those in the organization will tell you that mostly has to do with pitching; their position-player talent is just fine. Furthermore, the Angels’ front office is confident they’ve built more depth in the upper levels to serve as insurance in 2013. The Triple-A roster has several players with Major League experience, such as Luis Rodriguez, Tommy Field, Scott Cousins, Trent Oeltjen, Chris Snyder (possibly), John Hester, Luke Carlin, Mitch Stetter and Fernando Cabrera. But with Richards’ length shortened in the ‘pen, and Williams’ workload unpredictable as a swing man, where do the Angels turn if something happens to one of their starters? Barry Enright, Billy Buckner, Matt Shoemaker and the young A.J. Schugel figure to make up the Salt Lake Bees’ rotation.
Financials: The Angels’ payroll sits under $150 million, thanks to the Yankees taking on $11.5 million of Wells’ 2013 salary in the recent trade. The deal also bought them some luxury tax flexibility. Prior to the deal, the Angels’ Competitive Balance Tax payroll — which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season — was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball. Now, it’s about $172M, giving them some flexibility to take on salary in an in-season trade. Last year, after acquiring Zack Greinke, their CBT payroll was at $178 million, which affected their pursuit of some necessary relief-pitching help.
Underlying theme: Expectations can do some funny things, and it’ll be interesting to see how the magnitude of it all will play into how the Angels go about — and react to — their second year under the microscope. Will it affect them out of the gate? Will it bring turmoil in the clubhouse, especially now that Torii Hunter is gone? Can it cause more tension between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, who have their philosophical differences and were at odds at times last season? And what will it lead Arte Moreno to do if they miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season?
In addition to Trumbo at DH, how much time do you think he will get a first base and right field, giving Pujols and Hamilton a day to rest their legs? (Stephen H., San Luis Obispo)
Plenty. And if I had to pin a number on it, I’d say there’s a very good chance — even if everyone stays healthy — that Trumbo spends about half his time playing the field. If he’s hitting, he’ll be in the lineup for all the Angels’ Interleague games. For a good chunk of April, with Pujols in the early stages of his return from offseason knee surgery, he figures to play plenty of first base. With Wells gone, he’s also the fourth outfielder. And fundamentally, with so much money tied to Hamilton and Pujols long-term, Scioscia will get them off their feet as often as necessary now that he has a revolving door at DH (that wasn’t very feasible with Kendrys Morales there last year).
Do you see the day when the Angels move Trout down in the batting order and put Bourjos, if he can cut it, in the leadoff spot? (Albert H., Los Angeles)
I do. Scioscia continues to say Trout profiles better in the middle of the order, the reason being that you want your best hitter to be in as many RBI situations as possible. The makeup of the Angels’ lineup right now — with Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo in the middle of the order, and no clear solution in the leadoff spot just yet — means Trout is the best fit to bat first. You can argue that the Angels’ everyday lineup doesn’t figure to change much any time soon, with almost everyone in the books long term. But Trout is the kind of player you construct a lineup around, and his bat figures to eventually become too potent to not put in the 3 spot.
Is this the year the Angels finally get back to the playoffs and make a deep run? (Samuel M., Tempe, Ariz.)
Who knows. I do think that, on paper, they are the best team in the AL West and should win the division. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. The sample size is too small. But 162 games is not a small sample size, and if the Angels stay healthy, there is no excuse for not taking the division crown. The Rangers’ lineup took a step back, replacing Hamilton with Lance Berkman, and the pitching staff won’t have Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis or Joakim Soria to start the season. The A’s are deep, but will need a lot of guys to over-perform again. It’s nice to see the Mariners spending money, but they still have holes and concerns all over the place. And the Astros are a last-place team. But who am I kidding — predicting a baseball season is a foolish act.
Now, at last, we can see how it all plays out on the field.
Jered Weaver gave up eight runs in two innings against the A’s in his last Cactus League start — then threw in an intrasquad game five days later — Tommy Hanson has an 8.25 ERA in 12 innings, Jason Vargas has given up at least four runs on eight hits two of his last three times out, long reliever Jerome Williams was charged with seven runs on 11 hits in 1 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Thursday and, on Friday, C.J. Wilson gave up seven runs in a third inning he didn’t finish. That leaves Joe Blanton (3.86 ERA in seven frames) as the most impressive starter so far.
The Angels’ starting-pitcher ERA this spring: 8.21, dead last in the Majors. The A’s are 29th, at 6.85.
“I sure hope that as we get to the latter stages of our work in Arizona and into the Freeway Series, we’ll see some guys come alive and repeat some pitches,” Mike Scioscia said.
Asked how much more important these last 10 days are for the starters, the Angels’ skipper added: “To be honest with you, if we could get them at least lengthened out and get them deep into games, you’re not going to read as much from your performance as you are getting into their length. … I think just making pitches. That’s how we’re trying to evaluate these guys.”
Some notes from today …
We know the Angels can score runs, at least. One day after notching a four-homer, six-run fourth inning, they pounded out seven runs against James Shields in the first two innings.
Mike Trout hit two doubles to center field, scored two runs and was robbed of a hit. Albert Pujols scored from first base on an opposite-field triple. Josh Hamilton hit an opposite-field triple. Vernon Wells went 2-for-3, putting his spring batting average at .394. Mark Trumbo went 2-for-2 with a couple of RBIs. Alberto Callaspo had two hits and has his average at .317.
Sean Burnett pitched a clean fifth inning, one outing after giving up three runs and recording one out. Kevin Jepsen, out since March 9 with a triceps injury, gave up a run in an inning during a Minor League game.
Wilson gave up eight runs (six earned) on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings in what was his first dud of the spring. One of those runs came on a home run by Jeff Francoeur that’s still orbiting the solar system. First, it cleared the 30-foot-tall batting eye that sits behind the center field fence, which is already 420 feet from home plate.
Fernando Cabrera gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in his first outing since returning from the World Baseball Classic.
Howie Kendrick went 0-for-3, ending his 16-game spring hitting streak — it’s 21 if you go back to last spring — and putting his batting average at .490.
Best play (that I saw)
In the bottom of the fifth, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas dove full extension to his left to snare a bullet off the bat of Trout.
Wilson, on Frenchy’s home run: “That was the furthest home run I’ve given up in a couple years. … It was wind-aided, though, I will say that.”
The first time he pitched, he worked through hitters so quickly he had to finish it up in the bullpen. The second time, rain and hail came down at Tempe Diablo Stadium, prompting Blanton to hurry through three frames and, once again, finish up in the bullpen. On Wednesday, against the Padres at Peoria Sports Complex, Blanton finally got a full, healthy outing in, giving up a couple of runs on five hits in five innings, striking out two and throwing 55 pitches.
It didn’t really feel like a big jump in workload to Blanton, though.
“When you get hitters in there, it doesn’t really feel like as much,” he said. “You’re focused on making pitches, getting hitters out and what you’re working on. You’re not really thinking, ‘That’s a lot more pitches than I’m used to throwing.’ You just get in the groove of the game and go.”
Some more notes on the Angels’ 11th loss in 19 Cactus League games …
Mike Trout went off, legging out a double and a triple, walking and scoring two runs.
Peter Bourjos did, too, with a long two-run homer and a single in three plate appearances.
Albert Pujols ran for himself on the bases for the first time — though he jogged lightly and didn’t have to do much. He grounded out, flied out to deep right field and hit a stand-up RBI double in three plate appearances, while serving as the designated hitter again.
Sean Burnett got hit around in his spring debut, giving up a couple runs on four singles and retiring only one of the five batters he faced.
Michael Kohn walked three batters and gave up four unearned runs in the eighth, getting charged with the loss and the blown save. His last time out, Kohn gave up four runs (three earned) in one third of an inning, with pitching coach Mike Butcher saying he was overthrowing.
Angels starters were sloppy on the field. Trout lost a fly ball in the sun, Josh Hamilton had a base hit go by him and Alberto Callaspo booted two grounders.
Best play (that I saw)
Padres center fielder Jaff Decker battled the tough Arizona sun and made a nice catch up against the wall in right-center field to end the fourth inning and rob Chris Iannetta of extra bases.
Burnett, making no excuses for his rough spring debut: “I don’t care if it’s Spring Training or a pick-up game in the driveway. You want to do your best and put up zeroes. Today just wasn’t acceptable.”
The Angels avoided arbitration with reliever Kevin Jepsen on Tuesday, signing the 28-year-old right-hander to a $1.81 million contract and essentially putting a bow on Jerry Dipoto‘s financial obligations.
So, with help from the folks at Cot’s Contracts, here’s a look at the Angels’ financial obligations for 2013 …
Vernon Wells: $24,642,857
Josh Hamilton: $17,400,000
Jered Weaver: $16,200,000
Albert Pujols: $16,000,000
C.J. Wilson: $11,500,000
Howie Kendrick: $9,100,000
Erick Aybar: $8,750,000
Jason Vargas: $8,500,000
Joe Blanton: $6,500,000
Chris Iannetta: $5,050,000
Scott Downs: $5,000,000
Alberto Callaspo: $4,500,000*
Tommy Hanson: $3,725,000
Sean Burnett: $3,625,000
Ryan Madson: $3,500,000**
Jerome Williams: $2,000,000
Those 17 contracts add up to $147,174,107.
Left are eight players in the 0-3 service-time range. The Major League minimum, per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, is $490,000 in 2013. It’s up to the club, but some players — most notably Mike Trout, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year — will probably be given more than that.
If we average it out and say the remaining eight players will each make $500,000, that’s $4 million, putting the Angels’ payroll at roughly $151,00,000. Though, as mentioned below, there are some conditions …
* Callaspo’s two-year deal is for exactly $8.975M, though I’m not sure how much of that he’ll make this season.
** Madson’s contract could reach up to $7 million with incentives.
*** Bonuses will be added based on All-Star Game appearances, awards, etc.
I wrote Wednesday about the Angels’ rotation, which is seemingly the only uncertain, less-than-stellar department of the 2013 team. The down-the-stretch trio of Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana is being replaced by Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton, a new trio that costs less but should put more pressure on the revamped bullpen and a stellar offense.
But here’s one other thing worth noting about this less-sexy rotation: It’ll absorb a plentiful amount of innings, perhaps more so than that of any other club in the American League.
Consider the averages of each of the five starters …
- Jered Weaver (2007-12): 200 IP
- C.J. Wilson (2010-12): 210 IP
- Vargas (2010-12): 204 IP
- Hanson (2010-12): 169 IP
- Blanton (05-12): 178 IP
Put another way: The Angels have a realistic chance of having five starters throw at least 170 innings in 2013. No other AL team was able to boast that in 2012. In fact, nine of the 14 clubs didn’t have more than two starters account for 170-plus frames (the Twins and playoff-bound Orioles only had one; the Angels, Rays and Yankees were the only ones with four).
Weaver (6.4), Wilson (6.1), Vargas (6) and Blanton (6.2) have each averaged at least six innings per start throughout their careers, while Hanson is at 5.9. So, if the quintet of Weaver, Wilson, Hanson, Vargas and Blanton stay healthy all year (a big “if” in every circumstance, of course), Angels starters will have absorbed about 991 innings combined, based on each of their career track records.
In 2012, 991 innings from a starting rotation would’ve ranked seventh in the Majors and fourth in the AL, behind only the Mariners, Yankees and Rays.
Yes, the Angels currently have just one — maybe two, if Wilson regroups — ace-like starter capable of single-handedly halting losing streaks and altering a short playoff series. But there’s something to be said about starters consistently pitching deep into games. It repeatedly gives an offense as potent as the Angels’ a chance to win, and it means a strong bullpen won’t have to account for so many innings.
It’s why Blanton doesn’t find the term “innings-eater” insulting.
“I’m fine with that, honestly,” said Blanton, who has actually averaged 198 innings since ’05 if you discount an injury-riddled 2011.
“In my personal opinion, I don’t feel like you throw 180, 190, 200 innings without being able to go deep into games. Just taking the ball every fifth day, if you weren’t getting the job done, you’d be done every five innings, and in 30 starts, that’s 150 innings. So you still have to go deep into games, and be successful enough and keep a team in the game enough to be able to rack up those innings.”
The Angels also have a little more overall starting-pitching depth than they entered with last season.
The high-upside Garrett Richards and the capable Jerome Williams, both of whom were competing for the fifth spot last spring, are now insurance policies; as are the likes of Brad Mills, Barry Enright and the two Minor League signings, Jo-Jo Reyes and Billy Buckner.
“The likelihood of having five starters go post-to-post and not miss a day is unlikely; it doesn’t happen very often,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “So you want to have that depth.”
Whatever the Angels’ rotation lacks in prestige is made up for in numbers — as in the number of innings absorbed and the number of viable arms.