Results tagged ‘ Mariners ’

The tougher AL West …

canotroutThe American League West was tough last year — by a very reliable measure, it was the toughest by a wide margin — and it should be even more difficult for the Angels to capture a division title in 2015.

In a nutshell, three of their competitors should be better and one of them could be just as good.

The Mariners added Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith to a club with an outstanding rotation and a bullpen that had the fourth-lowest WHIP in baseball last year. The Astros have added Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis, Hank Conger, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to an emerging young core. The Rangers added Carlos Corporan and Yovani Gallardo to a star-studded roster that will be healthier. (I mean, they can’t get any more injured, right?) The A’s have shuffled the deck, and while they parted ways with Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris in prospect-laden deals, they also added Billy Butler, Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard, and now — amazingly — figure to be just as much of a threat in 2015.

The Angels’ offseason could best be described by some imagery general manager Jerry Dipoto recently used, while talking about the industry in general: “The beautiful thing about baseball is that it’s kind of like the ocean. It looks the same, but it changes every millisecond.”

On the outside, the Angels’ Major League roster essentially looks the same, minus Howie Kendrick and Kevin Jepsen but with Matt Joyce and Cesar Ramos. Their biggest change came in their farm system, as Dipoto continued to build layers of depth to make the Angels more sustainable moving forward. In other words, they’re definitely better for the future, but they may not be better — and may even be worse — for 2015.

The AL West ranked second in combined win-loss records last year …

AL East: +12
AL West: +10
NL Central: +8
AL Central: +4
NL East: -2
NL West: -32

But was easily No. 1 in run-differential …

AL West: +140
AL East: +29
NL East: +21
AL Central: -62
NL Central: -63
NL West: -65

That was with the Rangers ranking dead last at minus-136 and the Astros 27th at minus-94. It’s a pretty safe bet that both Texas teams will be better than that; probably way better than that.

It’s impossible to predict what will happen in 2015, of course, but we can sure try. I used Steamer’s Wins Above Replacement projections for each AL West team’s starting lineup, top four starters and best three relievers. Below is the projected fWAR for each team’s 16 most important players (for the Angels I included Garrett Richards; for the Rangers I included Jurickson Profar; for the A’s I included A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker) …

Mariners: 33.4
Angels: 32.6
A’s: 29.2
Rangers: 27.7
Astros: 23.4

Steamer can’t account for any freak injuries that may occur, or in-season additions that can be made, or all sorts of other randomness that occurs throughout every baseball season. But I think it’s a pretty good general overview of where teams stand.

It’ll be interesting.

If you’re curious, here’s what Steamer projected for each Angels player, ordered by highest fWAR: Trout (8.7), Aybar (3.1), Calhoun (3.1), Pujols (3), Iannetta (2.7), Richards (2.3), Freese (1.8), Hamilton (1.7), Wilson (1.4), Shoemaker (1.3), Joyce (1.2), Rutledge (1.1), Weaver (0.8), Smith (0.3), Morin (0.1), Street (0).

Alden

The Angels and the Hall of Fame …

Vladimir GuerreroNine Hall of Famers have played for the Angels at some point in their careers — sometimes for pretty long stretches — but none have gone into Cooperstown with an Angels hat. Nolan Ryan pitched in Anaheim for eight years, from 1972-79, but went in with a Rangers cap. Rod Carew spent his last seven seasons with the Angels, from 1979-85, but went in as a member of the Twins. Reggie Jackson spent five of his twilight years here, from 1982-86, but alas, he’s a Yankee.

So basically the Angels have zero representation in the Hall of Fame. Seven other current teams are in the same boat, but that can change soon for the D-backs (Randy Johnson), Mariners (Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr.) and Astros (Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell). The others are the Rockies, Marlins, Rays and Nationals, four teams that didn’t exist as recently as 1992.

The Angels have had some very notable representation on the ballot. Darin Erstand, Troy Percival and Tim Salmon have recently received token Hall of Fame votes, but have dropped off the ballot because they didn’t get the required five-percent support. Jim Edmonds, Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson, David Eckstein and Bengie Molina will debut in the next ballot, but four of them probably don’t have a shot and the other (Edmonds) would probably go in as a member of the Cardinals if elected.

I recently wrote about why Bobby Grich may have deserved more love from Hall of Fame voters, and how he could’ve been the first Angels representative in the Hall, but it looks like he’ll never get in.

At some point, though, the Angels will have their Hall of Famer.

Question is: Who?

Maybe it’s Vladimir Guerrero, whom Pedro Martinez vouched for recently, but Guerrero — eligible for the 2017 class — spent his first eight years with the now-defunct Montreal Expos.

Maybe it’s Albert Pujols, who should definitely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer but will have always put up his greatest numbers in St. Louis.

Maybe it’s Mike Scisocia, who’s building a Hall of Fame resume as a manager.

Or maybe it’s Mike Trout, who is on a path to becoming one of the greatest players in baseball history but, you know, is only 23 years old.

Class of 2035?

Vote below on who you think it will be and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Alden

McDonald’s potential last AB: An RBI double …

John McDonaldJohn McDonald is open to playing next season, but he also understands that it’s hard to get a job at his age. So he kept the ball from his ninth-inning RBI double in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

“Just in case,” said McDonald, fighting back tears at his Safeco Field locker postgame. “You never know. You have to be prepared. That’s what my career has been about more than anything.”

McDonald, who seems unlikely to crack the Angels’ postseason roster because Gordon Beckham fills a similar role, turned 40 on Wednesday. On Saturday, he got his first at-bat as a 40-year-old and flied out, just a few feet in front of the left-field warning track.

“We credited him with a home run on that at-bat because that’s about as far as he can hit a ball,” Mike Scioscia cracked. “We credited him with a home run in our hearts.”

McDonald got another chance, though, with two outs and Brennan Boesch on second, and he lined a Danny Farquhar offering down the left field line, ensuring that the Angels would go an entire season without getting shutout on the road.

“It’s a good feeling to get one more hit,” said McDonald, who carved out a 16-year career mostly as a backup infielder. “It might have more meaning later.”

Alden

Weaver scratched vs. Felix, LeBlanc to start …

One night after clinching the American League West title, the Angels scratched Jered Weaver from his Thursday start against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, opting to go with left-hander Wade LeBlanc, instead.

The Angels also have an open spot on Saturday because Matt Shoemaker is nursing a strained left oblique. Weaver could presumably fill that spot, then start on five days’ rest in the last Friday of the regular season – against the Mariners at Safeco Field – and then be on five days’ rest again for Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Thursday, Oct. 2.

LeBlanc, 30, has gone 20-33 with a 4.60 ERA while accumulating 434 innings in the big leagues from 2008-14. With the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate this season, he posted a 4.43 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and a 2.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 128 innings.

Alden

Sound bites from the Angels’ clincher …

Jered WeaverHere’s what several members of the Angels had to say after clinching the American League West on Wednesday night

Leadoff man Kole Calhoun, on popping the first bottle of champagne after the A’s lost: “I was more nervous to pop that first bottle of champagne than I was to play baseball.”

Catcher Hank Conger, on watching the game from the clubhouse: “They came back that ninth inning, and everybody was like, ‘Don’t jinx anything, don’t pop anything yet.’ As soon as they made that last out, that groundball, everyone erupted, man. Everybody was hugging each other, champagne was flowing everywhere, man, it was unbelievable.”

President John Carpino, on the fans sticking around to watch: “It’s so special. It’s so special. Look at these people. It’s 11:15 and the game has been over for an hour and a half. Angels fans have a lot of passion.”

Third baseman David Freese, on battling adversity: “You look at every team, up and down the league, and every team goes through adversity, things like that. This group just keeps plugging away. It shows. To win a division like this, it’s unbelievable. What a great group.”

Ace Jered Weaver, on coming out and seeing the fans: “Indescribable, really. This is the only reason why they’re here; they want to see us win. It’s been long overdue. Hopefully we can make a good push here in the postseason.”

Owner Arte Moreno, on his favorite part about the team: “There’s probably not one sentence you can say. They all love each other, they all like each other, they have fun together, and we have a really great mix of veterans, and we have a lot of young people. People were questioning how many young people we have in the organization, but just a lot of young guys stepped up this year.”

Manager Mike Scioscia, on returning to the playoffs after a four-year absence: “It feels great. We had gotten close, but we won our division, and we couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”

Center fielder Mike Trout, on playing in the postseason: “I’m just going to go out there, play my game and help my team win. I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I know the atmosphere is going to be awesome, and it’s going to be fun for sure.”

First baseman Albert Pujols, on the group: “Great chemistry. Like I’ve said before, you don’t just win with one or two guys. It takes 25 guys for us to accomplish our goals. We have a great group of guys, starting in Spring Training. I’ve been saying it all year long. And we believe in each other. We’re picking each other up.”

Starter C.J. Wilson, on his start: “It’s good. It’s what I need to do. If we’re going to win, I need to pitch like that.”

General manager Jerry Dipoto, on what it took to turn it all around: “It’s just a thrill. Mike and the staff had a great year. They did an unbelievable job, kept everybody together and cohesive. Obviously we made some changes along the way, but most importantly it was the character and the makeup of the guys. When the boat left the dock this spring, that’s what we talked so much about, and that’s what these guys did. They really did. They bound together. Very proud of them.”

Alden

Shoemaker ‘still a little sore,’ but feeling ‘better’ …

Matt Shoemaker sat in his locker early Wednesday afternoon with a giant ice pack bandaged along his left side, feeling slightly better about his left oblique strain but still unsure on his timeline.

“I’m still a little sore,” Shoemaker said, “but it feels better than yesterday, which they said is really positive. So I’ll just keep doing everything I can to knock it out quickly.”

The only thing the Angels know right now is that Shoemaker will not make his next scheduled start on Saturday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn’t say who will take Shoemaker’s spot, but did confirm that it’ll be someone currently in his clubhouse — eliminating right-hander Drew Rucinski and providing a strong indication that it’ll be lefty Wade LeBlanc.

That hardly matters, though.

The Angels may have already wrapped up the division by then, and bigger goals lie ahead. They need Shoemaker for the American League Division Series of early October, and nobody knows if he’ll be ready by then.

“We’re not going to know,” Scioscia said. “I guess it’s always encouraging when he comes in and feels a little better as opposed to this thing going in another direction, but there are a lot of hurdles that Matt’s going to have to cross before he’s out there pitching again, and we’re not going to have that answer in 24, 48 hours. We’re not. It’s going to take time. It’s still open-ended, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

A couple of other notes …

  • Josh Hamilton was out of the lineup on Wednesday, one day after he made his return after an 11-game absence because of stiffness in his right shoulder. Scioscia said it was a “matchup” situation, with the Mariners starting lefty James Paxton. Hamilton should return on Thursday, against Felix Hernandez, and will start at designated hitter. There’s still no date for when he can get into defense.
  • The Angels’ magic number is two, as you probably already know. But clinching a division title could turn into an awkward scenario. If they win, they could be waiting on the A’s game to finish up. Or, even worse, they could find out they clinched after the A’s lose on Thursday, which would take place before their game even begins. If that’s the case, they’d celebrate postgame, win or lose.

Lineup (Mariners lineup here) …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
C.J. Cron, 1B
Collin Cowgill, LF

SP: LH Paxton (6-2, 1.83 ERA)

Alden

Shoemaker has ‘very mild’ left oblique strain …

Matt ShoemakerTuesday’s MRI revealed what Matt Shoemaker said was a “very mild” strain in his left oblique, an injury that occurred while facing his final hitter in 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Mariners on Monday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Shoemaker will miss his next scheduled start on Saturday, with yet another bullpen game likely taking place.

Everything else, including Shoemaker’s availability for the postseason, is up in the air.

“The good thing about it is they said it’s mild, so we’re going to literally take it day-by-day,” Shoemaker said. “It’s all by feel. I feel better than I did yesterday, which is a good thing. It’s just soreness, which is to be expected.”

Scioscia isn’t addressing any questions about the Angels in the playoffs because, in his mind, they haven’t clinched a postseason berth until they nail down the American League West title and thus avoid a do-or-die Wild Card game (the Angels’ magic number is three heading into Tuesday). Asked if he’s at least been assured that he can be ready to pitch in the playoffs, Shoemaker said: “Very optimistically, yeah. There’s not been one thing set in stone that says you’re going to be ready in one week, you’re going to be ready in two weeks. There’s none of that. I’m going to show up tomorrow, do more treatment and see how it feels. So, we’ll know something each day.”

The Angels’ standing allows them to rest Shoemaker as long as possible, and they can back him up as deep as Game 4 of the AL Division Series, which would be slated for Oct. 6. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago would start the first three games.

Shoemaker suffered the injury while throwing a couple of sliders to Mariners catcher Humberto Quintero with two outs in the eighth inning at Angel Stadium on Monday, ultimately forcing him into an RBI groundout and then exiting with 96 pitches under his belt. The 27-year-old rookie, now 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 136 innings, only feels the oblique injury when he does “abnormal movements,” and was encouraged by the fact he already feels better than he did on Monday night.

“The news,” Scioscia said, “could’ve been much worse.”

But oblique strains are tricky. Their time frames can vary, and sometimes, when players think they’ve fully recovered from them, they creep back up. Shoemaker will continue to get treatment and right now, Scioscia said, “it’s open-ended” as to when he can pick up a baseball again.

“You never know where these things go with pitchers,” Scioscia said. “Like hamstring injuries, they have a life of their own, can go a lot of different ways. But Matt does feel that there’s not that much discomfort today. We’ll monitor it these next few days and see where it goes.”

The Angels have already lost two key starters in Garrett Richards (left knee surgery) and Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) since the start of August, and don’t have a fifth starter to take the ball on the days Richards’ spot comes up (reliever Cory Rasmus will start in his place for the fourth straight time, with Scioscia hopeful of getting the usual three to four innings).

Shoemaker’s absence would be crippling in October.

“Unfortunately, right now, you’re talking about three-fifths of your rotation you’re depending a lot on that are out,” Scioscia said. “But you have to move forward, you have to keep pitching, you have to keep getting outs, and we’re confident we will. It just might be a little bit unconventional right now how we do so.”

Additional injury notes …

  • After missing the last 11 games with stiffness near his right shoulder, Josh Hamilton returned to the Angels lineup on Tuesday, batting sixth and serving as the designated hitter. The 33-year-old had what Scioscia hoped was a “breakthrough” workout on Monday, taking batting practice on the field and running the bases. He planned to return on Wednesday, but Scioscia said he “felt great after working in the cage.”
  • Albert Pujols exited Monday’s game in the third inning because of a cramp in his left hamstring, but was right back in the lineup and starting at first base the following day. “Albert is adamant that there’s no pull,” Scioscia said. “The medical staff feels there’s nothing there but a cramp that, really, was gone after the game. We just wanted to err on the side of caution last night. We’ll monitor him in pregame closely today, but right now he feels good to go.”

Angels (94-56)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Pujols, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Hamilton, DH
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Collin Cowgill, LF

SP: RH Rasmus (3-1, 2.80 ERA)

Alden

Pujols exits with left hamstring injury …

Albert Pujols lined a three-run double against Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma on Monday, but hobbled into second base and came right out of the game with what the Angels later deemed a cramp in his left hamstring.

Facing an 0-2 count, with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, Pujols fouled off four straight pitches before lining a low splitter over the head of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, giving the Angels a 3-0 lead. But the 34-year-old limped into second, was checked on by the Angels’ training staff and then was removed from the game (video here).

The unusually warm weather – game-time temperatures were 91 degrees – could’ve forced Pujols’ muscles to tighten up. Pujols now has 1,595 career RBIs – and 97 on the season – to tie him with Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt for 35th on the all-time list.

Alden

Hamilton has ‘incredible’ workout …

Josh HamiltonJosh Hamilton finally took a turn in a positive direction early Monday afternoon, when he took batting practice on the field and ran the bases prior to the series opener against the Mariners.

Hamilton, out since Sept. 4 with stiffness that began in his right AC joint and moved to the area around his trapezius muscle, could return to the Angels’ lineup as soon as Wednesday.

“Hopefully this is a breakthrough day for him as far as his health,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “His workout was incredible.”

Hamilton took swings off the tee in the batting cage, then three rounds of early BP on the field. There was “no pain, no soreness, just a little tightness,” Hamilton said.

“If I do what I did today tomorrow,” Hamilton added, “and you come back the next day feeling like I came in today, then I wouldn’t see a problem with at least DHing the first couple of games. I hadn’t picked up a glove since Texas because I hit in Texas [on Tuesday], it tightened up a little bit and I started throwing and just the movement of the glove fired it up. That’ll be something to work in here in the next couple of days.”

Hamilton has taken two rounds of cortisone shots and eight days ago received some trigger-point injections to relieve some of the knots in his muscle. Lately, though, they’ve backed up on a lot of the treatment to “let the body try to heal itself,” Hamilton said.

The 33-year-old — batting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 88 games — made a link to 2010, when he missed 24 games with a rib injury and didn’t return until the start of October, playing three games against the Angels and then finding his timing again in the postseason.

“I talked to Scioscia about, even before this injury, kind of having the same approach of Spring Training — have good at-bats, see pitches, barrel balls up,” Hamilton said. “During the season, you kind of get caught up in the numbers aspect of things. I’m at that point in the season now that I’m coming back and it’s going to be like Spring Training.”

Hamilton won’t bat cleanup when he returns, with Scioscia saying he’ll “most likely get in the lineup in a spot where he can get some at-bats without carrying the burden of hitting in the middle of the lineup.” The question is whether Hamilton will be the cleanup hitter once the postseason begins.

That’ll depend on how he looks over these next couple weeks.

“At some point,” Scioscia said, “we know our lineup needs him in the middle.”

Here’s the lefty-stacked lineup against Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma, who’s 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 49 1/3 career innings against the Angels (Mariners lineup). With a win, the Angels clinch a playoff berth …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
David Freese, 3B
Brennan Boesch, DH
Hank Conger, C
Efren Navarro, LF

SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (15-4, 3.16 ERA)

Alden

To catch A’s, Angels must overcome schedule …

Albert Pujols, Mike TroutThe Angels and A’s are each playing their 100th game tonight, and when the day began, Oakland’s lead in the American League West remained at two. The Angels have been one of baseball’s best teams for most of the season, currently sporting the second-best record in the Majors, but they have the misfortune of playing in a division with the best team. And of playing in an era when winning your division is crucial (nobody wants their season to be decided by a singular Wild Card game, especially if that game comes against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez).

So it goes without saying that the Angels’ goal is to catch the A’s, who only got stronger by adding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to their rotation. To do that, they’ll have to continue to make up ground.

And they’ll have to overcome a far less favorable schedule.

Below is a categorical look at the remaining games for each team, starting Thursday. The first line is the amount of games each has against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today, the second is the amount of games against teams with records above .500, the third is the amount of home games left, and the fourth is the combined number of games above/below .500 from each of their remaining 62 opponents.*

The Angels and A’s play each other 10 more times — Aug. 22-24 in Oakland, Aug. 28-31 in Anaheim and Sept. 22-24 in Oakland, making up the second-to-last series of the regular season. The A’s lead the season series, 6-3.

Athletics

Playoffs: 19
Above-.500: 19
Home: 30
Combined: 246 games below .500

Angels

Playoffs: 28
Above-500: 29
Home: 28
Combined: 2 games below .500

* a few teams hadn’t finished their Wednesday games by the time I tallied this

Alden

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