Results tagged ‘ Joe Blanton ’
The Angels’ budget got a little clearer on Monday, upon announcing they were non-tendering Jerome Williams, Tommy Hanson, Chris Nelson and Juan Gutierrez. That clears about $10 million in projected salary, crucial to an Angels team that needs to add at least two starting pitchers while staying below the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million.
So, how much room do they have left on the budget?
Let’s have a look …
The Collective Balance Tax Payroll is the average annual value of all 40-man-roster contracts, plus benefits, pensions, bonuses, etc. First, let’s add up the AAV of the 10 players on the budget …
Josh Hamilton: $25M
Albert Pujols: $24M
Jered Weaver: $17M
C.J. Wilson: $15.5M
Erick Aybar: $8.75M
Howie Kendrick: $8.375M
Joe Blanton: $7.5M
Joe Smith: $5.25M
Chris Iannetta: $5.18M
Sean Burnett: $4M
That equals $120.56 million. Then you have to add the $18.6 million the Angels owe the Yankees for the final season of Vernon Wells’ contract, which puts the total at $139.16. Then you have to project ahead for arbitration. Below are the Angels’ five remaining arbitration-eligible players, with the projections provided by MLBTradeRumors.com …
Mark Trumbo: $4.7M
David Freese: $4.4M
Ernesto Frieri: $3.4M
Kevin Jepsen: $1.4M
Fernando Salas: $700K
That’s $14.6 million, and it puts the CBT payroll at $153.76 million.
The last part is when it gets really uncertain with more than four months left before Opening Day (keep in mind: a team’s final CBT payroll isn’t calculated until after the season). To that figure, you have to tack on all the contracts for players with zero to three years of service time (the Major League minimum in 2014 is $500,000) plus benefits. I’m told the best way to go about it is to just allocate $20 million for all of this.
That puts the Angels’ CBT payroll at roughly $174 million, which gives them about $15 million of wiggle-room before hitting the luxury tax.
That figure is nowhere near exact, but as close as you can get at this point.
The Angels’ hopes of resigning free-agent starting pitcher Jason Vargas were squashed on Thursday, when the Royals announced they have signed the veteran left-hander to a four-year contract.
The average annual value of Vargas’ new deal, a reported $32 million, is $8 million. The Angels were willing to give him that much, but they weren’t willing to go four years (it would’ve been hard for them to even give him a third year).
And so, the Angels still have at least two holes to fill in their rotation.
Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards are returning, Tommy Hanson is likely to get non-tendered in December and Joe Blanton — if not released this offseason — will not go into the season as a guaranteed member of the rotation. General manager Jerry Dipoto did not tender the $14.1 million qualifying offer to Vargas because he was almost certain Vargas would accept it, and by accepting it the Angels would already be dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold of $189 million.
Vargas was acquired in a one-for-one deal with the Mariners that sent Kendrys Morales to Seattle last December. In his first year in Southern California, where he grew up and briefly attended Long Beach State University, Vargas went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 150 innings in a season that saw him miss two months with a blood clot.
The Angels are expected to use the trade market to bolster a rotation that ranked 11th in the American League in ERA last season, but they may also turn to other free agents to fill Vargas’ void. And while they aren’t expected to go after the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, names like Phil Hughes, Dan Haren, Bronson Arroyo, etc., etc., could be enticing.
– Alden Gonzalez
Every article or blog post or tweet regarding the Angels’ offseason strategy — whether it’s the pursuit of starting pitcher or the scenario at third base or the situation regarding Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia — tends to be followed by a response very similar to this:
WHO CARES, JUST LOCK UP MIKE TROUT NOW!!!
It’s understandable, given the fact that Mike Trout is the unquestioned best player on the star-laden Angels and, at 22, may already be the best in all of baseball. The Angels, however, have not begun extension talks with Trout, sources confirmed, and were never expected to with arbitration still a full year away.
It’s all about the Competitive Balance Tax payroll.
Let me try to explain. There are two different types of payroll. There’s the actual team payroll, which is what the active players are making in that season. And then there’s the CBT payroll, which is the payroll Major League Baseball uses to tax teams that go over a certain threshold. For the Angels — and the Yankees, and all of the teams that spend big on their roster — the latter is the most important.
The CBT payroll is calculated as the average annual value of all player contracts on the 40-man roster, plus benefits.
So, for example: Albert Pujols is making $16 million in 2013, which counts towards the Angels’ payroll figure. With regards to the CBT, though, he’s making $24 million — the average annual value of the 10-year, $240 million contract he signed in December 2011.
How does this relate to Trout?
Well, let’s say the Angels sign him to a 10-year, $300 million deal (that’s just a number I’m throwing out, basically because it’s easy to divide — and perhaps because I’m thinking of Robinson Cano). Even if in that contract, Trout is making only $1 million in 2014, the figure for the CBT payroll would be the AAV of that: $30 million.
And by that point, you can forget about adding any pitching to the roster.
The CBT threshold — the number at which first-time offenders are charged a tax of 17.5 percent — is going up from $178 million to $189 million this offseason. That buys the Angels a little extra wiggle room, but they’re still awfully close to that figure. So close, in fact, that it’ll affect whether or not they extend the qualifying offer to Jason Vargas, a figure that’s close to $14 million and would allow the Angels to receive Draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. If Vargas takes it, they’d basically already be over the luxury-tax threshold.
Here’s what’s in the books for the Angels in 2014 (the first number is what the player will make that season and the second is the AAV that counts towards the CBT payroll) …
Albert Pujols: $23M, $24M
Vernon Wells (to the Yankees): $18.6M, $18.6M
Josh Hamilton: $17.4M, $25M
C.J. Wilson: $16.5M, $15.5M
Jered Weaver: $16.2M, $17M
Howie Kendrick: $9.7M, $8.375M
Erick Aybar: $8.75M, $8.75M
Joe Blanton: $7.5M, $7.5M
Chris Iannetta: $4.975M, $5.18M
Sean Burnett: $3.875M, $4M
That adds up to $126.5 million in payroll commitments, and just under $134 million for the CBT. But we’re not done. Not even close. There’s also the pending arbitration cases for eight players: Peter Bourjos, Ernesto Frieri, Juan Gutierrez, Tommy Hanson, Kevin Jepsen, Chris Nelson, Mark Trumbo and Jerome Williams.
A rough — very rough — estimate for what that would amount to: $25M (though Hanson, Williams, Nelson and Gutierrez are all non-tender candidates).
Then there’s the 25 or so other players on the 40-man roster that you have to pay (a little more than $500K each), and then there’s the benefits and bonuses for all of them, which is a rough estimate of $10M. And that puts the Angels pretty close to that $189M figure.
If you add a Trout extension, to a payroll in which Wells will be the second-highest-paid player, then they’ll have to shed payroll.
So, the logical question is: What’s the rush?
* thanks to Cot’s Contracts for providing all the info
The Angels are wrapping up a season in which they were never really in the playoff mix, about to make it four consecutive postseason absences despite back-to-back marquee signings, and the prevailing sentiment – in the media and within the organization – is that either Jerry Dipoto or Mike Scioscia will be dismissed by owner Arte Moreno when it’s all set and done. They haven’t worked well together, the team has disappointed, and you can’t have another season like this, on a team with a payroll this high, and not make organizational changes.
But would that really make the Angels better?
What if the perceivably impossible scenario took place?
What if they both did stay?
Replacing Scioscia means eating the roughly $27 million that’s owed to him over the course of a contract that runs through 2018, not to mention parting ways with one of the most accomplished and respected managers in all of baseball. Parting ways with Dipoto means starting all over again – for the second time in three years – with an entire front-office team, from scouts to execs, all over the country and in Latin America.
This is too important an offseason to be transitioning to a new front office, or assembling a new coaching staff, or structuring new organizational philosophies. This team needs to worry about its on-field roster, one that needs to get back into contention quickly because (A) the Angels can’t reload, (B) Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are only getting older – and more expensive – and (C) the farm system needs to keep cultivating.
The best course for the Angels may be to give Dipoto and Scioscia another chance to foster a productive working relationship and actually use their differing views for the betterment of the organization.
Dipoto loves new-aged statistics, Scioscia is of the old-school mentality. Dipoto doesn’t have the autonomy to decide on Scioscia’s employment, making it difficult to establish any authority, and Scioscia is used to being more heavily involved in baseball-operations decisions. They “get along to get along,” as one person said. The Mickey Hatcher dismissal put a significant strain on their relationship last year and they’ve bumped heads on several quandaries this season, from Ernesto Frieri‘s recent demotion to Garrett Richards‘ role to Grant Green‘s upside.
But their relationship isn’t considered to be so fractured that they can’t work together (though solidifying a hierarchy might be necessary). For what it’s worth, they’ve been said to be just fine lately.
That’s what winning can do.
“Winning changes everything,” one player said of outside speculation regarding Dipoto and Scioscia. “If we were winning, none of this would be going on.”
If Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas didn’t combine for 18 missed starts due to fluky injuries, or if Pujols weren’t limited to 99 games because of plantar fasciitis, or if Hamilton hadn’t struggled so mightily in his first season in Anaheim, the Angels would be much better off and the narrative would be completely different.
And that’s what we have to keep in mind in this situation.
Yes, Dipoto and Scioscia both shoulder plenty of blame for what has taken place in 2013.
Dipoto was unsuccessful at turning limited funds into necessary pitching depth, with Joe Blanton (2-14 with a 6.04 ERA), Tommy Hanson (5.66 ERA in 70 innings), Sean Burnett (limited to 13 games) and Ryan Madson (released after missing a second year post-Tommy John surgery) all flopping in 2013.
Scioscia’s teams have started slow each of the last two seasons – 27-38 in 2013, 18-25 in 2012 – and up until their recent, too-late run, had done little right. They’ve been one of the worst defensive teams in baseball (26th in Defensive Runs Saved), they’re tied with the Rangers for the most outs made on the bases and are 16th in the Majors in run-differential, despite winning 22 of their last 31 games.
But Dipoto is the savvy GM the organization wanted after parting ways with Tony Reagins two Octobers ago; one who would prioritize the farm system and is well-thought-of throughout baseball and isn’t afraid to express his own opinions. And simply put, the Angels aren’t really going to find a better, more respected field manager than Scioscia.
Would replacing one of them move this organization forward in 2014, or would it actually set them back — only to create the illusion of accountability?
That’s the question.
Angels starter Jered Weaver has been scratched from his Friday start, with Matt Shoemaker taking his place in the rotation.
The move was announced Thursday, during the Angels’ off-day, and no reason was given as to why the ace right-hander won’t be starting the series opener against the Mariners.
Weaver did experience some tightness in his right forearm during a start in Minnesota on Sept. 9, but he took his next turn against the Astros on Saturday and pitched six innings of two-run ball. The Angels could be opting to simply give Weaver some extra rest with the season winding down and the team out of the playoff race, as manager Mike Scioscia has hinted at in the past.
Jerome Williams and C.J. Wilson will start Saturday and Sunday, as previously scheduled, but the starters for the early part of next week have not yet been announced. Interestingly, the Angels opted to start Shoemaker instead of Tommy Hanson, who was recalled from Triple-A early this week, or Joe Blanton, who has been in the bullpen since late July.
Shoemaker’s start will mark his Major League debut. The 26-year-old right-hander went 11-13 with a 4.64 ERA in 29 starts for Triple-A Salt Lake this year. Weaver is 10.8 with a 3.36 ERA in 23 starts. The 30-year-old has a 3.23 ERA since returning from a broken left elbow on May 29.
Yeah, the Angels lost — 2-1 on a walk-off — but it’s been all about the future for a long time now.
And Garrett Richards continues to be a reason for optimism in 2014.
On Tuesday night, he limited the A’s — with their .280 batting average and 55 homers in their previous 37 games — to just one run in seven-plus innings, putting his ERA at 2.90 in 11 starts since taking Joe Blanton‘s spot in the rotation. He scattered seven hits, walked two, struck out six and made a pitch every time he really needed to.
With Brandon Moss on second after a two-out, RBI ground-rule double in the first, he used a cutter to force Yoenis Cespedes into a groundout. With men on first and second and two outs in the fourth, he got Alberto Callaspo to chase a 3-2 slider in the dirt for a punchout. With runners on the corners and two outs in the fifth, he struck eventual hero Josh Donaldson out with a cutter. And after giving up a leadoff double to Moss in the sixth, he retired Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Callaspo in order to keep the score knotted at 1.
The A’s had eight at-bats with runners in scoring position against the 25-year-old Richards, and they got only one hit.
“I’m just worried about the next pitch and one pitch at a time,” Richards said of his approach with runners in scoring position. “Just trying to execute pitches. I don’t really get discouraged when guys get on base. I believe in myself and know that I can work through it.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked if he’s noticed a “tougher” Richards this season, particularly in his third stint as a Major League starter.
“I don’t think ‘tough’ is the right word,” Scioscia said. “He’s maturing. He was tough last year. He goes after guys. But the confidence keeps building as you have success. He understands if a guy gets on, he walks a guy, if they find a hole, he can still make pitches and minimize damage and get out of a jam. He gave up a two-out hit to Moss in the first and outside of that, when guys were in scoring position, he made pitches. It’s not so much about him being tough; its his confidence level.”
And his repertoire.
Richards relies heavily on his fastball-slider mix and goes from there. Today, he scrapped his changeup — even though it felt good coming out of his hand in the bullpen — and threw a lot more breaking balls than usual. Per pitchF/X, 11 percent of Richards’ pitches (11 of 100) were that nasty, 12-to-6, mostly-high-70s breaking ball — and a lot of them came in critical situations. Heading in, only 3.7 percent of his pitches this season had been curveballs.
Just another example of how Richards continues to evolve.
“I feel like I made some major strides this year in a positive way,” Richards said. “That comes with just getting experience up here and working with [pitching coach Mike Butcher]. I feel good about where I’m at right now.”
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.
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.
Joe Blanton‘s next turn through the rotation will come on Saturday. Will he take the ball that day? Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn’t say on Monday night, after Blanton gave up four runs in a 3 2/3-inning outing to move to 2-13 with a 5.66 ERA — but he also didn’t say Blanton would make that start.
Here’s what we do know about that turn through the rotation …
1. Somebody has to take the ball. The Angels are four games into a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, so they need a fifth starter.
2. It won’t be Jason Vargas, who’s still recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot. He hopes to start throwing bullpens Tuesday or Wednesday and return two weeks later. And obviously, Jerome Williams is already in the rotation.
It’s easy to say Blanton is having a bad season — easily the worst of his career — and that he should be at least temporarily removed from the rotation. It’s a whole other thing to replace him. First off, I don’t think Blanton would be much help out of the bullpen. The best bet would be to get him to agree to go to the Minor Leagues to iron out some things and hopefully come back in mid- to late-August. And no, you don’t release him. He’s owed $7.5 million in 2014 (plus a team option for 2015), so it’d be senseless to just eat it and give up on him for next season.
But, of course, here’s the most important part: The options to replace Blanton are slim, at best.
Here they are, perceivably …
Garrett Richards: He hasn’t started a game since April 30. Heck, he hasn’t thrown more than 3 2/3 innings in that span. And he has a 4.92 ERA in 16 career starts.
Michael Roth: He was starting in the Minor Leagues, but that was a month ago — and, you know, this is his first full season of pro baseball. Roth was optioned after Monday’s game.
Billy Buckner: He’s probably the likeliest candidate, if there is one at all at this point. But since pitching 4 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on July 3, he’s pitched one inning. And he has a 6.41 ERA in 23 career Major League starts.
Someone in Triple-A: Matt Shoemaker (5.10 ERA), A.J. Schugel (7.05) and Barry Enright (7.13), Jarrett Grube (4.24) and Dustin Richardson (eight earned runs last time out) have all struggled.
Brandon Hynick: Never heard of him? Well, he’s a 28-year-old Minor League journeyman who’s having a nice season in Double-A — 2.68 ERA in 16 starts — so that’s good.
Mark Sappington: He’s probably the Angels’ best pitching prospect right now and he’s 10-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 20 starts this season. But, um, that’s in A ball.
See what I mean?
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.