Results tagged ‘ Joey Votto ’
Torii Hunter returns to his “old stomping grounds” at an interesting time, with his former team reeling and seeking answers and, perhaps, needing leadership.
As I wrote in Spring Training, others will have to step up and fill the void of Hunter, who was the Angels’ heart and soul for the last five years — the one who called the team meetings, the one who lightened the mood and the one who, if necessary, got in your face.
The Angels don’t have a Torii Hunter in their clubhouse right now, but to be fair, hardly anybody does. What they do have is a litany of esteemed, accomplished players. Problem is, the vast majority of them are introverts.
One former player told me something interesting after Tuesday’s loss, which dropped the Angels to 4-10: “This is a good night for somebody in that clubhouse to say, ‘OK, coaches, get out — we’re going to talk this thing out. Let’s sit here all night until we figure this out.’ They don’t have that guy right now.”
Now, we are only 14 games into the season. And you don’t want to project all-out panic so early, which is why it’s wise to pick and choose your spots for a team meeting. But point taken.
That brings me to this question: Do the Angels have team chemistry?
Break that thought down long enough, and you can begin pondering your own existence. Is chemistry a requirement for winning, or does winning lead to chemistry? How is chemistry even defined? And does it even matter if a team gets along?
Thing is, it’s easy to appear like you lack chemistry when you aren’t playing well. C.J. Wilson, who came from a tight-knit clubhouse with the Rangers, nonetheless believes “the ingredients are there” with the Angels …
“We do have really good team chemistry,” he said. “What we didn’t have was good luck. Look at [Joey] Votto’s game-winning hit against us. It didn’t even leave the infield. It’s just a ball that bounced weird and was unplayable. And that’s how we lost the game – on a bounce.
“All the ingredients are there. The hard thing is when you’re coming down to the last four or five days of Spring Training and the roster isn’t already set, because geniuinely there’s a couple decisions to be made. Then the team is not aware of what the team is.”
Coming together and forming that chemistry, Wilson said, is a process.
“It adds up, like bricks,” he added. “You have to put the bricks together. It’s not like some sort of bounce-house, inflatable thing, where you just hit a button. It doesn’t happen like that.”
Here’s something else Wilson scoffs at: The perception that teams have one leader. There are too many players on a baseball roster, Wilson believes, for one player (i.e., Hunter) to be the one, bona fide leader of a team.
“The reality is, every team has leaders — plural,” Wilson said. “… It’s never been just one guy. This isn’t basketball. You don’t just pass it to one guy and just let him steal the show. That’s not how it works.”
I’ll say this about the Angels so far: Despite the slow start, they seem like a loose group, from Albert Pujols to Jered Weaver to Mike Trout on down. How much impact will that eventually have? Maybe none. Maybe a lot. Impossible to say.
“At the end of the day, all you want in a teammate is a guy that delivers,” Wilson said. “That’s really all it boils down to. I would’ve loved to have a guy like Bob Gibson. People said he was mean – I’ll take a mean guy who punches 300 guys out a year any day, because you know you can count on him. That dependability is what you build those things around. The team is built around the dependable guys.”
Wilson, he said, assumes hitters are going to make adjustments on him the second time through the order and sometimes winds up complicating matters, trying to be too fine rather than going with what worked early in the game. It’s just one man’s theory, of course. But it did seem to play out that way against the Reds in the bottom of the fourth, walking Chris Heisey and Joey Votto on nine pitches before serving up a three-run homer to Brandon Phillips and a near-homer to Jay Bruce.
Last year, as Wilson struggled through the second half, the left-hander’s biggest problems seemed to come the second time through a lineup. Wilson gave up 65 runs (56 earned) in 91 innings in the second half last year, resulting in a 5.54 ERA. Thirty-five of those runs came in the second and third inning, which is when a lineup would turn over once guys start reaching base (Wilson was perfect through three on Wednesday, so it wasn’t until the fourth that he faced guys a second time).
Per Baseball-Reference.com, here’s how opposing hitters fared against Wilson the first, second and third time through last year …
Wilson (6 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 4 SO) was asked Wednesday night about his hiccup in the fourth and basically broke it down batter by batter …
“The pitch I really just whiffed on was a couple pitches to Heisey. Those were just kind of out of the zone. Just trying to make adjustments and couldn’t, and I got a little bit closer to being dialed in with Votto but still missed. And then the pitch Phillips hit was a cutter that just cut too much. It was supposed to be outside and then cut all the way across the plate and he hammered it. The at-bat with Bruce was really pivotal, though, because I had him with two strikes and couldn’t put him away. That was 100 percent on me; it didn’t have anything to do with anybody else. There was no bad hops or anything like that. I just made a bad pitch instead of making a good pitch and he hit it off the wall. So that’s kind of what turned the game around. That and me popping up the bunt [in the third] were two of the things that I’m going to be extremely upset about for a long part of the season.”
- Ryan Madson, experiencing some elbow tightness from his last session, threw 15 pitches off the mound on Wednesday afternoon, which is a step down from where he was last Wednesday — throwing 40 pitches, including changeups and letting it go on his last few throws. Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher doesn’t believe Madson is back to where he was when he first returned from missing nearly 40 days, though. “Way further along than that,” Butcher said. “This is more precautionary than anything else.”
- Everyone is available out of the bullpen for the Angels today, two days after six of their seven relievers appeared in Monday’s win (with Mark Lowe throwing two innings). The off day was big.
- Garrett Richards, 24, is the youngest member of the bullpen. And since they don’t have the pink, little-girls’ bookbag yet, Richards is carrying a WWF championship belt to the ‘pen. It’s pink.
Welcome to Great American Ball Park, home of the first ever interleague matchup on Opening Day and the scene where the Angels will kick off another highly anticipated season …
Some pregame notes …
- Chris Snyder could’ve opted out of his Minor League deal with the Angels, but the veteran catcher instead accepted his assignment to Triple-A Salt Lake, increasing the Angels’ depth behind the plate. Snyder will be on a Salt Lake Bees roster that also includes John Hester and Luke Carlin, with the three of them rotation between catcher, DH and bench duty. Snyder will also play some first base.
- Mike Scioscia, on where Garrett Richards‘ role in the bullpen is: He’s much more than just an innings-eater in the ‘pen. His power arm is something we can take a look at at any point in the game.” Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Sean Burnett are ahead of him in the depth chart, but it could change if he pitches well.
- Scioscia said he “would anticipate” that Pujols would play all three games at first base in this series. The day off certainly helps.
- Ryan Madson is away from throwing, still experiencing some tightness in his elbow, but Scioscia expects him to get back on the mound in a couple days.
- Trout has about 10 family and friends at Great American Ball Park for his first Major League Opening Day. “It a feeling you really can’t explain,” he said.
Some Opening Day numbers …
- The Angels have won eight of their last nine Opening Day games, including four straight, which ties a franchise record.
- This is Weaver’s fourth straight Opening Day start and fifth overall, joining Mike Witt as the only pitcher to start five Opening Days for the Angels. Weaver is 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA on Day 1.
- Hamilton made his debut in this stadium almost exactly six years ago (April 2, 2007, in Cincy).
- The Angels are the only team in the Majors to open the 2013 season with three straight series against playoff teams (Reds, Rangers, A’s). That actually hasn’t been done since ’07 (Giants and Orioles).
- This is the third series all-time played between the Angels and Reds, and first since 2007. The Angels have won four of six.
- Angels’ 74-34 record in Interleague Play since 2007 leads the Majors.
- Aybar and Kendrick are making their fifth straight Opening Day start together up the middle, the longest active active Opening Day start streak by a middle-infield tandem in the Majors. Today, Kendrick passed Bobby Knoop for most consecutive Opening Day starts by an Angels second baseman.
- The Angels’ first road trip has six different times (all local): 4:10, 7:10, 12:35, 1:05, 3:05, 7:05.
- Pujols’ career 143 RBIs and 46 homers against the Reds rank second among active players.
I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.
But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.
In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …
- Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
- Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
- Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
- Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
- Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
- Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
- Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
- Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
- Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
- Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
- D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
- Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
- Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
- Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
- Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524
* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized.
** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae.
KANSAS CITY — Mark Trumbo impressed a lot of people with his Home Run Derby showing on Monday night, even though he was eliminated in a tiebreaker swing-off by Jose Bautista. Asked for his favorite of the 13 through the first two rounds, Trumbo narrowed it down to two — the one that landed on the roof of the Hall of Fame building beyond the left-field bleachers (measured at a conservative 428 feet); and the smoking line drive out to straightaway center (420).
“I’d say the one on top of the roof,” Trumbo said, before backtracking — “but the one to center was impressive. I think a lot of the guys really liked the line drive.”
Trumbo’s average distance per home run — 434 feet — was the longest among the competitors, including champion Prince Fielder. He started off slow each round, then got into a little bit of a rhythm towards the middle, but felt he could’ve done better.
“I felt like I never really got into a great rhythm,” Trumbo said. “It seemed like I’d hit one, make an out, and then have to take a few pitches. Ideally, the goal is to get into an extended rhythm, kind of like Prince did, and then rattle off a better total. My biggest thing was just to have fun with it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I wanted to get one. That was the advice — don’t get a goose egg.”
Trumbo’s favorite moment?
“[David Ortiz] pulled me aside before I left yesterday and that was really cool,” he said. “He was telling me it took him three or four times of doing it to really feel like he — not had it down, but had a chance. Things move very, very quickly when you’re out there. You can’t really simulate that.”
But C.J. Wilson, at least, can capture it.
As usual, Wilson was out there with his camera and estimated taking roughly 800 photos of the Derby participants. He’ll look over them when he has time in the next few days and print them out for Trumbo to keep.
“I had my brand-new camera out there, taking some cool images that I’ll process while we’re on the road in the next couple days and see if I can come up with some winners,” Wilson said. “It’s just fun. Jered [Weaver] and Mike [Trout] and I were out there just trying to hype him up and keep him motivated and have a good time. It’s a lot of pressure out there, when you’re the only guy batting for a couple minutes at a time in front of the fans.”
Trumbo’s roommate also TiVo’d it. But many of those in attendance won’t need reminders of the show Trumbo put on. Many were impressed.
“I know my Twitter following went way up,” Trumbo said with a smile.
“Any time I’m in something, I want to win. But I’m going to take away some really cool memories from it.”
Some other pre-All Star Game notes
- Asked about their friendship in a pregame presser, Trout joked of Bryce Harper: “We don’t like each other.” Bryce: “It’s like Bird and Magic. He’s Magic, I’m Bird.”
- Maybe more LeBron and Wade? “I hope I play with [Trout] one day,” Harper said. “I think him playing center field, me playing right field, as a one-two punch, I think that’d be fun.”
- Trout was asked who wins in a footrace between him and Peter Bourjos. His response: “I think Peter’s got me around the bases in an inside-the-parker, but home to first, we were talking about it the other day, I think I have him by a couple of steps.”
- Weaver was told he’ll pitch the fifth inning tonight. As for how it affects him for the second half? It’s just like a normal bullpen session.
- Trout and Trumbo are not really sure when they’ll get in. “I have all my gloves, as usual,” Trumbo said. C.J., of course, is sitting out due to a blister he doesn’t expect to impact his second half.
- Weaver on not being named the starter for the All-Star Game a second straight year, despite leading the Majors with a 1.96 ERA: “I told you guys, whatever happens, I’m just excited to be here, be a part of it. Obviously it would’ve been cool to start back-to-back years, but I’m just excited to be able to get out there and throw an inning and just be part of this whole experience. It’s fun. It’s great to hang out with all these guys and just see who they are as a person instead of just battling against him.”
- One guy Weaver was really excited to get to know a little better here: Adam Dunn. “He’s a funny character, man.”
Some Angels All-Star Game links …
- Not surprisingly, Trout the center of attention in KC
- Futures Game story, on Jean Segura and Ariel Pena
- Blister forces Wilson to sit out All-Star Game
Some intriguing All-Star Game stories …
- Richard Justice, on Harper and Trout
- Robinson Cano didn’t have a great HR Derby experience
- R.A. Dickey, David Wright not starting despite great halves
- The Rangers have an entire caravan at the All-Star Game
- All-Stars set for Royal treatment (get it?)
The lineups …
Carlos Gonzalez, DH (COL)
Melky Cabrera, CF (SFG)
Ryan Braun, LF (MIL)
Joey Votto, 1B (CIN)
Carlos Beltran, RF (StL)
Buster Posey, C (SFG)
Pablo Sandoval, 3B (SFG)
Dan Uggla, 2B (ATL)
Rafael Furcal, SS (StL)
SP: RH Matt Cain (SFG)
SP: RH Justin Verlander (DET)
Mike Trout, CF (.343 BA, .399 OBP, 23 SB)
Rookie of the Year? How about MVP? Trout has elevated himself to that level already.
Robinson Cano, 2B (.316 BA, 20 HR, 50 RBI)
Best second baseman in baseball. And it isn’t even close.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (.323, 18 HR, 68 RBI)
Best hitter in the AL, in my mind, and better at third base than I thought he’d be.
Josh Hamilton, LF (.318 BA, 26 HR, 74 RBI)
Somebody’s going to give this guy an absurd amount of money this offseason.
Jose Bautista, RF (.911 OPS, 27 HR, 64 RBI)
As Mike Scioscia said in Toronto, “How is this guy only batting .240?” He’s as fun to watch hit as anyone.
David Ortiz, DH (.302 BA, 22 HR, 55 RBI)
Remember when we all thought he was finished?
Paul Konerko, 1B (.333 BA, 14 HR, 42 RBI)
Like fine wine, Konerko seems to get better with age.
Joe Mauer, C (.327 BA, .415 OBP, 38 RBI)
He’s only catching about half the time, but he’s healthy and back to being himself offensively. Huge sigh of relief for Twins.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (.370 OBP, 11 HR, 42 RBI)
As slick as there is with the glove and a great hitter.
SP: Justin Verlander (9 W, 2.58 ERA, 128 SO)
Weaver’s numbers are better, but the reigning MVP deserves to start one of these.
Andrew McCutchen, CF (.360 BA, 16 HR, 54 RBI)
Oh, and 14 steals. The guy does it all. An absolute freak.
Ryan Braun, LF (.309 BA, 23 HR, 59 RBI)
It was a rough offseason. Good to see him pick up right where he left off from his MVP year.
Joey Votto, 1B (.350 BA, 14 HR, 47 RBI)
Here’s all you need to know about how good a hitter Votto is: He’s hit ONE infield pop-up since ’09.
Giancarlo Stanton, DH (.364 OBP, 19 HR, 50 RBI)
Man, I sure hope he can compete in the Home Run Derby.
Carlos Gonzalez, RF (.340 BA, 17 HR, 58 RBI)
Like McCutchen, this guy does it all on the field.
David Wright, 3B (.350 BA, 10 HR, 55 RBI)
What a travesty that Pablo Sandoval is starting at third base over him.
Aaron Hill, 2B (.300 BA, 11 HR, 39 RBI)
Two cycles in one half? Yeah, he gets the nod.
Carlos Ruiz, C (.357 BA, 13 HR, 46 RBI)
Ruiz was always lost in those deep Phillies lineups. Not anymore. Without him, they have nothing this year.
Starlin Castro, SS (.291 BA, 40 RBI, 16 SB)
Tough year for NL shortstops. I’ll take the one with the most upside.
SP: R.A. Dickey (2.15 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 12 W)
Great story, great person, great season. I don’t care if he’s a knuckleballer. He deserves it.
*** I’ll be taking the Baltimore series off. Follow Joe McIntyre for Angels updates, and look for stuff on the Angels’ first half and the upcoming Trade Deadline very soon. I’ll catch up with y’all from KC.
Back on Dec. 13, 2007, a 32-year-old Alex Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $275 million contract extension with the Yankees. That contract is now the only one that trumps the one signed by Albert Pujols, which is for 10 years and $240 million and was signed about a month before his 32nd birthday.
The Angels hope to get a lot more bang for their buck than the Yankees seem to be getting.
A-Rod had a good game Friday, going 3-for-4 with a homer in New York’s 5-0 win, and is still among the best at his position. But he played in just 99 games last year and has been on a steady decline since winning his last MVP in ’07. Now, as he enters Year 5 of 10, A-Rod’s deal looks like one of the worst in baseball. The only major difference between the two contracts is that while Pujols’ is heavily back-loaded, A-Rod got most of his money up front (not sure that matters one way or the other, though).
Through the first seven games — and remember that it’s only seven games and he was bad throughout all of April before turning it around last year — Pujols is homerless while batting only .222 (6-for-27).
Pressure to live up to the contract?
“I can’t speak for Pujols or anyone else,” Rodriguez said. “I think overall, you come into a new city, big market, big expectations and big contract, and it’s natural for you to try to do a little bit too much.”
Prior to Friday’s series opener, Pujols admitted that may be the case.
“Probably; trying to do too much,” he said. “I mean, we’re human. I’m a human. Sometimes that’s going to happen, no matter how you prepare yourself. Sometimes you press a little bit and try to do too much. But I think after a week or two, everything is slowed down. Hopefully it doesn’t take that long.”
When A-Rod signed his most recent deal –which wound up being his second $200 million contract — that much money was basically an anomaly. But recently, the $200 million threshold has been broken by three first basemen — Pujols, Prince Fielder and, most recently, Joey Votto.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” Pujols said when asked of the three big contracts signed by first basemen. “All I can tell you right now is where we’re at and the contract that I signed. Take it one day at a time, and then take it 10 years from now and look at how good a contract it was.”
Leading up to Opening Day, I’ll roll out an All-Star team for each of the six divisions in baseball — that includes a manager, a starting nine (with a DH also for the National League), three starters and two relievers. One catch: Each team must have at least one representative, and the skipper doesn’t count. Feel free to submit your own lineups below. I’d love to see how yours differ.
Day 3: NL Central
Probably the most wide-open division in baseball (except you can probably count out the Astros).
Manager: Dusty Baker, CIN
Andrew McCutchen, CF (PIT)
Starlin Castro, SS (CHC)
Ryan Braun, LF (MIL)
Joey Votto, 1B (CIN)
Matt Holliday, RF (STL)
Aramis Ramirez, 3B (MIL)
Carlos Lee, DH (HOU)
Yadier Molina, C (STL)
Brandon Phillips, 2B (CIN)
Chris Carpenter, STL (if healthy)
Yovani Gallardo, MIL
Adam Wainwright, STL
Joel Hanrahan, PIT
John Axford, MIL
The Reds aren’t going with the DH, as originally planned, so Kendrys Morales will instead have the day off. He said he’s feeling a bit fatigued and expects to be in the lineup on Thursday, at home against the Royals …
Others pitching: Kevin Jepsen, Jason Isringhausen
Some notes from this morning …
- These are two really big days for Isringhausen. “Pitch well or go home.”
- It’s pretty much a sure thing by now that Michael Kohn (forearm strain) and Bobby Cassevah (labrum tear) will be starting the season on the disabled list. Kohn won’t start throwing again for another week. Cassevah threw all his pitches in a 25-pitch bullpen on Tuesday and said he “felt normal,” so he hopes to be activated as early as possible — which would be April 11.
- Ervin Santana will pitch in a Minor League game on Thursday, instead of throwing against the Royals in Tempe.
- Mike Scioscia on Magic Johnson, who he would run into periodically during his playing days and is part of the group that won the bidding for the Dodgers: “He’s always been a huge baseball fan, and I’m sure it’s going to be a positive.”
- Jered Weaver felt good while hurling six shutout innings in a Triple-A game at Talking Stick on Wednesday. Felt it was his best outing yet.
- Scoiscia on Yu Darvish, who he’s seen video of: “Obviously he has a variety of pitches, has good angle and looks like his command is good. That’s why he’s had success in Japan, that’s why he was coveted to come over here.”
- The plan for Morales is to play on Thursday and Friday, then Sunday and Monday. He’ll then pinch-hit on Tuesday and Wednesday at Dodger Stadium (where there’s no DH), and Scioscia feels that will be enough to have him ready for Opening Day.
Some links from Tuesday …
- Howie Kendrick to benefit from Albert Pujols‘ presence
- Brad Mills encouraged by his spring with new team
- Injuries create opportunities in Halos’ bullpen
- Trumbo makes good on first slow roller
- Amarista drives in the winning run
Some AL West links …
- Rangers set to name starting rotation
- Dustin Ackley, Ichiro Suzuki unstoppable in Mariners’ Opening Day win in Japan (yes, Opening Day)
- Brandon McCarthy pitches well, but gets no-decision in loss
And the Heat are in need of an energy boost. Yeah, tell me about it.