Results tagged ‘ Miguel Cabrera ’

Where will Albert Pujols end up? …

Albert Pujols,

Albert Pujols hit home run Nos. 499 and 500 last night, as you know by now. He’s the 26th member of the 500-home run club, the third-youngest player to reach the milestone and the first to hit 499 and 500 in the same game. And he called his shot, too. Pujols’ homers came in a win, and he got the balls back from a couple of classy Angels fans. Perhaps the best part is that it comes as he’s proving to the world that he’s got a lot of game left, with a Major League-leading eight home runs to go along with a .274/.337/.619 slash line.

Pujols is signed for eight more years (including this one), through 2021. Here’s a look at where he’d finish up, if he plays through that contract, given certain home-run averages …

30-homer average: 732
25-homer average: 692
20-homer average: 652
15-homer average: 612

That’s pretty impressive, that Pujols could average a mere 15 homers for the life of his contract and still become only the ninth player ever to reach the 600-homer milestone. To catch Willie Mays‘ 660, he’d have to average 21 homers from 2014-21; to catch Babe Ruth‘s 714, he’d have to average nearly 28 homers; to catch Hank Aaron‘s 755, he’d have to average nearly 33 homers; to catch Barry Bonds‘ 762, he’d have to average nearly 34 homers.

But the most impressive thing about Pujols is that he isn’t defined by the home run.

He’s simply been a great hitter.

Consider: Pujols is only the ninth member of the 500-home run club with a career batting average of at least .300. And only three members have a higher one than Pujols’ current .321 clip — Ted Williams (.344), Babe Ruth (.342) and Jimmie Foxx (.325).

Yes, the general public has soured a bit on 500 homers, with Pujols becoming the 10th new member of the club in the last 15 years. But power numbers have gone down considerably in recent years, thanks in large part to tougher testing for performance-enhancing substances, and the 500-homer club — almost like the 300-win club, but not as drastic — could go a long time without a new member.

Here’s a look at the active home run leaders, beyond Alex Rodriguez (654) and Pujols, with their ages in parenthesis …

Adam Dunn (34): 444
Jason Giambi (43): 438
David Ortiz (38): 435
Paul Konerko (38): 434
Alfonso Soriano (38): 410
Adrian Beltre (35): 376
Carlos Beltran (37): 363
Aramis Ramirez (36): 357
Mark Teixeira (34): 341
Torii Hunter (38): 317

Besides maybe Dunn — and that’s still a big “maybe” — I don’t see anyone on that list who stands a chance at reaching 500. We may have to wait on the likes of Miguel Cabrera (367 at age 31) or Prince Fielder (287 at 29), or perhaps even Mike Trout (67 at 22) or Giancarlo Stanton (123 at 24).

And after Pujols — if he gets there — when’s the next time we’ll see 600?

“When you look at how great he’s been for the last 14 years, and you start averaging out what that meant to hit 500 home runs, it’s just an incredible feat,” Raul Ibanez said of Pujols. “Combine that with the lifetime batting average, the on-base percentage, it’s just extraordinary.”

Alden

Harper, Trout together again …

troutdc

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will play against one another in a regular-season game today for the first time on Monday, the start of a three-game Interleague series between the Angels and Nationals in Washington, D.C. Before first pitch, Trout took part in a press conference to talk about his link to the Nats’ star outfielder. Here’s what he had to say …

Any family here?

Yeah, actually I do. Baltimore’s closer, but this is the most tickets I’ve ever left today (15).

How do you handle the comparisons, be it with Harper or Miguel Cabrera?

It’s not like we really compete against each other. We’re both trying to get hits, obviously. For me, if I try to do too much, that’s when I get in trouble. I’m just trying to win ballgames.

Appreciate interest fans have for this matchup?

Yeah, it’s good. We have some young talent in the league, [Manny] Machado, Harper, me. I can name a bunch of guys. To be a part about it, and playing on the same day in the same city, it’s pretty cool. It’s good for the fans.

Talking to him near the batting cage?

Yeah. It was the first time I’ve seen him in a while. It was just pretty cool to see him. We were just talking about some stuff; talking baseball.

Is it distracting to play close to home?

Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming because you want to see everybody and talk to everybody. But sometimes it’s tough. You have a lot of things to do, and you have to prepare for the game, obviously. But it’s cool when you’re in the outfield and stuff, or you’re on deck and you see some friends you haven’t seen in a while. I think it’s pretty cool.

Is it strange to also be linked to Cabrera?

I’m just trying to have good years, and it just so happened that at the end of my first two we were 1-2 in MVP. Just being linked with him makes me feel good. He’s a great player, obviously. Just being compared with him and other guys, that makes you feel good.

Do you like being compared to Harper ever since you both entered the league?

I kind of figured it. Ever since we were in the Fall League. … People are always going to get compared. It’s pretty cool being compared, not just Harper but the Hall of Fame guys like [Mickey] Mantle, guys like growing up, you watched them play. Guys that I haven’t seen play because I was born in ’91.

Ever catch yourself peeking at Harper’s stats?

Not really. I’m a guy that looks up friends. … All the guys. After the game, go on the MLB app or whatever and check out some highlights when I have a little downtime in the hotel.

What was your relationship like with Harper during the 2011 Arizona Fall League?

There was a lot of hype, but we were terrible. It’s just one of those things. I’m sure if you gave us that team again the year after that, we would’ve done better. There was just a lot of great players coming in from other organizations and playing on one team. … I made a lot of new friends there. It was cool.

What about Harper’s game impresses you?

He plays the game hard. He’s max-effort every time — besides that lack of hustle the other day. That’s the way they have it over there. If you don’t obey the rules, you’re going to pay the price. … I talked to him about it; he [knows] what he did wrong. We’re both trying to have fun and win ballgames.

Do you and Harper keep in touch during the season?

We’re not texting each other saying, ‘Keep your front side open’ or anything like that. If he does something good — like the other day, I shot him a text just messing around like, ‘A couple of guys in the clubhouse are wondering if you got jammed on that ball you hit down the line, the one that went in the third deck.’ Just small talk. Nothing crazy.

Alden

Door is open for a fast Angels start …

A strong belief in one’s roster is usually followed by a phrase like “as long as we stay healthy.”

Well, the American League West is anything but to start the season. The Rangers are littered with injuries, with starter Derek Holland (right knee), second baseman Jurickson Profar (right shoulder) and catcher Geovany Soto (knee) all out until midseason and Yu Darvish (neck) starting the year on the disabled list. A’s Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker will miss all of 2014 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery and A.J. Griffin (right flexor muscle strain) is on the shelf. And the Mariners — in town the next three days — have two starters on the DL in Hisashi Iwakuma (right middle finger) and Taijuan Walker (right shoulder).

The door is wide open for the Angels.

Mike Scioscia, Jerry DipotoThey’ve had the fourth-worst April winning percentage the last two years, crippling any chances they had of reaching the playoffs. But of the Angels’ 27 games through the month of April this year, only nine will come against teams that made the playoffs in 2013. Four will come against an Astros team that has lost 100 games three straight years (though, granted, they won 10 of 19 games against the Angels last year), and three will come against the Mets, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. But there’s one really tough swing — a three-city trip from April 18-27, which will see the Angels visit the Tigers, Nationals and Yankees.

The Angels will also be off in each of their first six Thursdays. Yes, you’d rather have the days off at the end of the year, but a fast start is crucial this year, and those off days certainly won’t hurt that cause.

In hopes of facilitating a better start, the Angels tweaked their Spring Training program. Position players took more swings and focused more on situational hitting. Starting pitchers were stretched out earlier. Relievers attacked their bullpens more aggressively. Live BP was re-introduced after a one-year hiatus. And more shifting is taking place defensively, after the Angels went from 2nd to 27th in Defensive Runs Saved over the course of one season.

One year after having by far the worst Spring Training record and ERA in the Majors, the Angels had a much better camp. Here’s a look at the numbers …

Record: 19-11-2, 2nd in the Cactus League
Runs: 190, 4th in MLB
OPS: .803, 3rd in MLB
SP ERA: 4.01, 11th in MLB
RP WHIP: 4.20, 4th in MLB

Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Kole CalhounPositives from camp: Albert Pujols looked light on his feet around the bag and on the bases. … Josh Hamilton quickly got his timing back after missing time with a strained left hamstring. … Tyler Skaggs was mostly sitting at 95 mph, after having a hard time touching 90 mph last year. … Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun — batting ninth and first, respectively, and ahead of Mike Trout — drew a combined 21 walks. … C.J. Wilson had a 1.88 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. … Ernesto Frieri didn’t allow a run in 10 outings. … Trout batted .414/.460/.828. … The Angels rid themselves of two potential distractions, releasing Joe Blanton and signing Trout to the much-talked-about extension. … Out-of-options infielder Andrew Romine was turned into much-needed starting-pitching depth in Jose Alvarez.

Negatives from camp: Sean Burnett is still working his way back from August surgery, but he’s expected to face hitters for the first time in a sim game on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Dane De La Rosa is starting the season on the DL with a right forearm strain, but he could be back as soon as the weekend series in Houston. … Brian Moran is working his way back from left elbow inflammation, leaving Nick Maronde (1.89 Cactus League WHIP) as the only lefty in the bullpen to start the year. … Skaggs and Hector Santiago had their occasional long innings, an indication that there will be some growing pains. … Newcomers David Freese (one extra-base hit) and Raul Ibanez (.218 batting average) didn’t have great results at the plate, but both were happy with the way they were driving the ball.

Now, what does all this mean for the regular season?

I have no idea.

***

The Angels’ depth chart can be found here.

Now, if you’ve followed baseball long enough you know that a team never goes an entire season with the same 25-man roster (or even the same five-man rotation). So, here’s a look at who’s next in line at every position …

Catcher: Luis Martinez
Third base: Luis Jimenez
Shortstop: Tommy Field
Second base: Grant Green
First base: C.J. Cron
Left field: J.B. Shuck
Center field: Matt Long
Right field: Brennan Boesch
Starter: Wade LeBlanc or Alvarez
Reliever: Brandon Lyon

***

Mike TroutOn that Trout contract

For months, many wondered how much Trout would be worth in the open market and speculated what it would cost to lock up the best all-around player in baseball. They put his three arbitration years at upwards of $60 million, had him pegged as a $35 million free agent and believed he could be baseball’s first $300-million player.

But three are three important things to keep in mind about Trout’s situation …

1. He isn’t in his free-agent years yet. He still needed to get through three arbitration years, which greatly limits how much a player can make.

2. Being a $300-million player would’ve probably required a 10-year, contract, and that wouldn’t have been ideal because Trout wants to cash in on another monster contract by hitting the open market before age 30.

3. There’s just as much incentive for Trout as there is for the Angels, no matter how great he is. Why? Because free agency is a whole four years away, a lot can happen in four years, and it’s hard to turn down that much financial security so early.

So, Trout’s contract is $144.5 million over the course of six seasons, from 2015-20 (with a full no-trade clause, basic incentives and no additional option years or opt-outs). And I think it gives both sides what they want. It gives the Angels three additional years of Trout and some cost-certainty. It gives Trout a chance to be a free agent again at age 29 and makes him the highest-paid player relative to service time at every juncture.

Here’s a look at the year-by-year breakdown, and who Trout surpasses …

2014: $1M (Pujols in 2003 and Ryan Howard in ’07 with $900K for a pre-arbitration player)*
2015: $10.25M (Howard, $10M in ’08 for first-year arbitration)**
2016: $15.25M (Howard, $15M in ’09 for second-year arbitration)
2017: $19.25M (Howard, $19M in ’10 for third-year arbitration)
2018-20: $33.25M (Miguel Cabrera, $31M AAV in ’14 for a free agent)

* the $1M compensation was done before the contract
** $5M of that will be paid to Trout in 2014, as part of a signing bonus

***

Jered WeaverSome questions, answered …

Can the Angels stay competitive for the next seven seasons to keep Trout’s interest in the team? (@ryanwjsmyth)

One of the reasons Trout felt comfortable staying with the Angels long term is because he knows the owner, Arte Moreno, isn’t afraid to put his money into making this team competitive. One thing is for sure: The Angels will not be in rebuild mode over the life of Trout’s contract, or even while Moreno is around. But it’ll be harder and harder to stay below the luxury tax and put a World Series-contending product on the field as Hamilton and Pujols naturally decline. Jerry Dipoto has a tough task at hand — continue to build a contending team while also developing young pitching. Getting Santiago and Skaggs is a good start, though. Also, keep in mind: Trout’s decision to stay will be based more on how good the Angels can be after 2020, not necessarily what they’ve done leading up to it.

Will Albert Pujols hit 30+ home runs this season? (@adreamersview)

If healthy, I think you can bank on that. He hit 30 in 2012 even though he went a month and a half without hitting his first (and I don’t expect that to happen again). Plantar fasciitis didn’t just limit his defense and baserunning. It made his right knee, surgically repaired the previous offseason, swell up. And it sapped his power because a hitter is nothing without a healthy base. I’m never going to doubt Pujols’ ability to hit. He’s proven it long enough.

If the Angels make a run for the postseason what do you see them doing at the trade deadline? (@gizmosol)

Trying to get their hands on more starting pitching. Justin Masterson and Max Scherzer are heading into their final seasons before free agency, Cliff Lee and David Price may get shopped, and all sorts of other starters could become available in July. The Angels still have roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold that they’re willing to use. Yes, the farm system is still pretty barren. But the list of teams in the market for a starting-pitching rental in July is usually very short, and the Angels could dangle Cron or Taylor Lindsey or Kaleb Cowart or some of their (few) good pitching prospects if they feel they’re close (and hope for a better result than the 2012 trade for Zack Greinke).

***

Here are some links to our Opening Day coverage …

The Angels 2014 Season preview
Jered Weaver gets franchise-record sixth Opening Day nod
Ibanez reflects on what Opening Day means to him
Broadcaster Jose Mota talks about the upcoming season

Some feature stories from earlier in the spring, in case you missed them …

Weaver leads rotation’s quest for redemption
Pujols, Hamilton facing more doubt than ever
Mike Scioscia eager to reclaim winning formula
John McDonald “a magician” with the glove
The odyssey of De La Rosa, and a lesson in never giving up
Trout can’t believe how fast this is all happening

Alden

Angels, Mike Trout agree on six-year deal …

The Angels and superstar center fielder Mike Trout are close to finalizing a six-year contract extension that’s worth slightly more than $140 million, industry sources told MLB.com on Friday.

The deal, which would buy out Trout’s three arbitration years and his first three years of free agency, includes no additional option years.

The Angels have not confirmed.

Trout, 22, established himself as the best all-around player in baseball the last two seasons, posting a .324/.416/.560 slash line with 57 homers, 238 runs scored, 82 stolen bases and a Major League-best 20.4 Wins Above Replacement, as calculated by FanGraphs.com.

In 2012 and ’13, Trout finished second in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, who just signed an eight-year, $248 million extension of his own.

In late February, the Angels and Trout agreed on a $1 million contract for 2014 – the highest ever for a pre-arbitration player. His extension will make him a free agent again at age 29 and doesn’t kick in until the start of the 2015 season.

Alden

Voters chime in on their AL MVP ballots …

MLB.com reached out to the 30 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America regarding their ballots for the AL MVP Award, which saw Mike Trout finish a distant second to Miguel Cabrera for a second straight year. Below were their explanations for why they sided where they did in the seemingly-never-ending Trout vs. Miggy debate (their full ballots can be seen here; * denotes those who voted on the AL MVP a second straight time) …

Evan Grant* (Dallas Morning News): 1 Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Josh Donaldson 

My feeling was that Cabrera and Trout stood above the field. Cabrera changed the way opponents approached entire games. Trout was a great offensive player, the better defender and the better fielder. In the end, after looking more at advanced stats than at traditional ones, I was left with two guys who I thought were pretty dead-even as I believed Cabrera’s offensive game-changing ability made up for what he lacked on defense and on the bases. And, so, I could consider WAR and take the formula’s word for it that Trout theoretically meant more to the Angels than Cabrera did to the Tigers or I could look at the standings and see actual wins and losses. So, yes, in that regard, I guess some folks could say I penalized Trout for playing for a bad team. I prefer to look at this way: In a close race, I rewarded Cabrera for helping his team realize its goals.

Ken Rosenthal (FOX Sports): 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson

I’m just wondering, what is it going to take for Trout to win an MVP? Another writer said it well — he is this generation’s Mantle. I generally prefer my MVP to come from a contender, but why should Trout be held responsible for the failings of his owner, general manager, manager and teammates? I love Cabrera, but Trout is far superior as an all-around player and, when you put it all together, more valuable. 

Tim Brown (Yahoo! Sports): 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson

In its simplest terms, my first-place vote went to the most complete player in the game. While Mike Trout did not necessarily hit with Miguel Cabrera, he was so far superior outside the batter’s box that I believed it more than covered that ground. The issue of “value” continues to be kicked around. My view is this: The best player carries the most value.

Bob Dutton* (Kansas City Star): 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson

Tough choice — just like last year when I voted for Cabrera. I cover the Royals and few people punish them on a regular basis like Cabrera, but I saw him a lot down the stretch, and he just wasn’t the same. I know he finished with great numbers, maybe better overall than last year, but Trout does so many other things. It came down to this: If we were picking teams based solely on this season, and I had the first pick, who would I pick? For me, the answer was Trout.

Jeff Wilson* (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): 1. Cabrera, 2. Chris Davis, 3. Trout

Mike Trout can do things on a baseball field that Miguel Cabrera can’t. I’m not that blind. But for a second straight year, Cabrera posted fabulous offensive numbers, ones that please the traditional baseball crowd and ones that even Sabermatricians agree are pretty impressive. And he did so for a contender. I recognize that Trout wasn’t the least bit responsible for the Angels’ lousy season. Injuries, questionable signings and an owner who doesn’t get it doomed them. But he also didn’t play in meaningful games for all but a week or two in May. Cabrera’s Tigers won the AL Central, and he hit more homers and drove in more runs against their main rival, Cleveland, than any other team. I also believe, as do many baseball people, that Cabrera isn’t the defensive lump at third base that he’s perceived to be. Add it all up, and Cabrera was my MVP. The man who kept him from a second straight Triple Crown, Chris Davis, also played meaningful games all season and was my second pick. I had Trout third, though not without considerable thought of placing him higher.

Susan Slusser* (San Francisco Chronicle): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Donaldson

Cabrera was again the best hitter in the league and helped get his team to the postseason while playing through a significant injury. Despite the injury (later revealed to be a sports hernia that required surgery), Cabrera won the batting title again and topped the league in OPS. Trout is the best all-around player in the league, I agree — but I weigh offensive output higher than defensive metrics for MVP candidates, and Cabrera remains the better hitter. I do always consider how teams finish as a factor, too. It’s not always the deciding factor, but it’s a big consideration.

Phil Rogers (MLB.com): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Donaldson

You wouldn’t think somebody could be better than they were during a Triple Crown season but Miguel Cabrera found a way to raise his game, maybe because he had a little more help in the Detroit lineup. He was an easy choice over Mike Trout for me, in large because I think that the MVP should come from a playoff team, especially now that we’re in an era in which one of every three teams goes to the playoffs. Winning matters but records being equal I still probably would have taken Cabrera over Trout. You can’t replace a guy who hits day in and day out like this guy, even if he does have some rough edges.

Joe Posnanski (NBC Sports): 1. Trout, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson

I voted for Mike Trout first, Miguel Cabrera second. I should say that, in my opinion, the MVP should be player who had the best season so other factors — such as how well the team played, which team was in contention, who played in more important games in September — do not factor into my decision. Cabrera had a fantastic offensive season and led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage for the first time. I think he’s the best hitter in the game. But you know, Trout is an amazing hitter himself. And when you take into account the rest — defense, baserunning, the various contextual differences of their ballparks — it seemed pretty clear to me that Trout had the better season.

Jeff Fletcher (Orange County Register): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis

I was a supporter of Trout over Cabrera last year, but this year I felt like the offensive gap was even wider, too big for Trout to overcome with his advantages defensively and on the bases. Also, I was impressed by Cabrera’s 1.311 OPS with runners in scoring position. (Trout’s was .993.) Regardless of the different number of opportunities each had, that’s a big gap in production at the times when games are won. While I don’t believe “clutch performance” is a skill or predictive, the MVP is about what you did, not what you can do again.

Jon Morosi (FOX Sports): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis

I’m very sympathetic toward the argument that Trout shouldn’t be penalized for the fact that his team had a losing record. But I don’t see this vote as penalizing Trout, so to speak. This is more rewarding Cabrera for what he did. He put together one of the best offensive seasons we’ve seen in generations, he did it while playing hurt for the past two months, and he was the difference in his team winning the division. To me, that’s what “most valuable” means.

John Hickey (Oakland Tribune): 1. Donaldson, 2. Cabrera, 3. Davis (Trout 4th)

To me, the key part of the award is “Valuable.” It’s not Most Outstanding Player, it’s not Player of the Year, in which case(s) Trout and Cabrera would dead heat. Both were terrific. As good as Trout was, the Angels finished 18 games out. There’s not much value in finishing third. Cabrera’s value was that the Tigers won their division. My first place vote went to the A’s Josh Donaldson, even over Cabrera, because Cabrera was surrounded by a much superior lineup than was Donaldson. Such was Donaldson’s value, in my mind, that without him Oakland would have been a middle-of-the-road finisher. Donaldson wasn’t the best player. He was the most valuable.

Wallace Matthews (ESPNNewYork.com): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Max Scherzer

As long as the word “valuable” remains in the name of the award, I’m always going to factor in how well a player’s team performed and how integral the player was to that performance. Both Cabrera and Trout had outstanding seasons, but you could make the argument that the Angels could just as easily have finished 18 games out without Trout in the lineup. Cabrera, on the other hand, played for a divison winner that relies heavily on his offensive contributions. And even if you want to go strictly by the numbers, with the value factor removed, Cabrera had better numbers in just about every category with the exception of runs and walks. So really, it wasn’t that tough a call for me.

Chad Jennings (Journal News): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis

Oddly enough, I think I would have voted for Trout last year. This year, I was simply overwhelmed by Cabrera’s offensive production. In my mind, the most important thing a position player does is hit, and Cabrera is the game’s best hitter coming off a remarkably productive year. Whether his hitting outweighs his lack of speed and his defensive struggles is hard to say. I believe it does. I also put less emphasis on his defense because he’s clearly playing out of position, and doing so strictly because it makes the Tigers better. The fact he played hurt and helped keep the Tigers in the division lead played some part in my decision, but a relatively small part. Ultimately, I’m glad my vote isn’t the only one that counts. I can’t pretend I have this figured out. I simply have an opinion. I’m skeptical of defensive metrics, and although I give the WAR stat significant consideration, I think it’s flawed and can’t be the end of the discussion. I guess the decision of Cabrera vs. Trout depends on what you value and how you view the award. I don’t think there’s a slam-dunk choice one way or the other.

Jose de Jesus Ortiz (Houston Chronicle): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Donaldson

I weighed the stats and seriously considered Trout at the top of my ballot. I used analytics for the first time since I’ve voted, but I also added extra points for playing on a playoff team. In that process, Cabrera barely edged out Trout on my ballot.

Tom Verducci (SI.com): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis

Mike Trout had such an amazing season it took another historic one to be considered a bit better. Miguel Cabrera’s overall and clutch hitting numbers were too good to deny. He became the first right-handed hitter to win the MLB slash triple crown (batting, on base, slugging) since World War II. 

Bill Ballou (Worcester Telegram & Gazette): 1. Davis, 2. Cabrera, 3. Donaldson (Trout 7th)

I am a strict constructionist re: “valuable”. If the award were Player of the Year, Trout would get my vote. I’m of the school that in order to have “value” you have to help your team be good, at least to the point of contending. The Angels didn’t truly contend. To fully develop that logic, players from non-contenders should not be listed on the  ballot at all, but the BBWAA insists that we fill out all 10 slots, so I did, even though I did not think there were 10 worthy candidates from contending teams.

Lynn Henning (Detroit News): 1. Cabrera, 2. Trout, 3. Davis

My choice was weighted by the division title, and 93 victories, and by Cabrera’s unswerving importance to a team’s playoff presence. He is the best hitter in baseball. He plays a critical position. But the transcendent value of his bat makes him, for me, the MVP. Trout is the best player in the league. Cabrera was, in 2013, in my view, the most valuable player. 

Alden

Josh Hamilton is even hitting lefties …

Josh HamiltonOne of the biggest indicators that Josh Hamilton is finally right at the plate is his recent success against left-handed pitchers.

Southpaws have given the Angels’ left-handed slugger fits all year. Over his first 60 games, he had a .165/.192/.281 slash line against southpaws. But since Aug. 9, a stretch that has seen him bat .339 with 14 walks to get his batting average up to a season-high .243, he’s been a lot better.

Hamilton has 15 hits in 44 at-bats vs. lefties in that span. Over the last six games, he’s gone 3-for-3 with a homer against Mark Buehrle, 1-for-2 with a walk against Derek Holland and 2-for-3 against David Price.

“Staying square has been the biggest thing,” Hamilton said. “I’ve talked about it all year. And the last few, I would say, couple of weeks, I’ve been better off lefties. If I can stay square on them, then I know I can on righties also.”

Hamilton — at .243/.302/.429, with 20 homers and 67 RBIs on the year — says it’s “the [lefties] that are erratic” that give him the most trouble.

“Guys that are more established and know how to pitch the game, know how to play the game, like Price or Buehrle or [Andy] Pettitte, guys like that [are the ones he's more comfortable against],” Hamilton said. “But once you start seeing them, getting comfortable, that carries over to guys who are erratic.”

Some additional notes from Tuesday’s 12-6 win over the Blue Jays

  • Hamilton is now one of seven players with at least 20 homers and 25 doubles in each of the last four seasons, joining Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Alfonso Soriano, David Ortiz, Prince Fielder and Robinson Cano.
  • Five hits and four extra-base hits in one game are each career-highs for Mark Trumbo. His three doubles tied a single-game franchise record, and he became the first Angels player ever to notch five hits and five runs scored in one game. Four extra-base hits in one game ties a franchise record, done nine other times and last by Erick Aybar in 2011.
  • Mike Trout, who has hit safely in 12 straight games, is now the third Angels player to have 180 hits in back-to-back seasons.
  • Kole Calhoun, who hit an RBI double in the fifth, has an RBI in 13 of his last 14 starts and leads all rookies with 22 RBIs since joining the Angels on July 28.

Alden

Mark Trumbo slugs into rare Angels company …

Mark TrumboMark Trumbo sometimes gets a bad rap by the sabermetric community, and he’s always hard on himself. But he’s already one of the top home-run hitters in Angels history. And that’s a fact. On Friday night, with two on and one out in the fourth, he laced a three-run homer deep into left-center field to give the Angels a 5-3 lead off Matt Garza. The shot came on the heels of a 7-for-50, 21-strikeout, no-walk stretch.

Most notably, it gave him 30 homers in back-to-back seasons.

Here’s a list of the guys who have accomplished that in Angels history (their averages from that stretch are in parenthesis) …

Don Baylor, 1978-79 (35)
Tim Salmon, 1995-97 (32)
Mo Vaughn, 1999-2000 (34)
Troy Glaus, 2000-02 (39)
Vladimir Guerrero, 2004-06 (35)
Trumbo, 2012-13 (31)

Here are the Major Leaguers who have hit 30 or more homers each of the last two seasons (their totals are in parenthesis) …

Miguel Cabrera: 87
Chris Davis: 80
Edwin Encarnacion: 78
Adam Dunn: 71
Pedro Alvarez: 62
Adam Jones: 62
Trumbo: 62

Trumbo also joins Salmon and Glaus as the only Angels players to have back-to-back 30-homer seasons before age 28. Since the start of 2011, he ranks tied for 42nd in the Majors in slugging percentage (.472).

Alden

93 down, 69 left — & lots of ground to make up …

Mike Scioscia, Mike TroutThe 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.

Advanced planning?

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.

Alden

Game 77: Angels-Tigers …

Angels (33-43)

laaJ.B. Shuck, LF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Josh Hamilton, RF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Hank Conger, C
Erick Aybar, SS

Pitching: LH C.J. Wilson (6-5, 3.61 ERA)

Tigers (42-32)

DET2Austin Jackson, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 3B
Prince Fielder, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Omar Infante, 2B
Avisail Garcia, LF
Bryan Holaday, C

Pitching: RH Rick Porcello (4-4, 4.74 ERA)

  • After seeking a second opinion, Jason Vargas will indeed undergo surgery for the blood clot in his left armpit area. He’ll be away from throwing for two weeks and will start a rehab program thereafter, which could have him back by the end of July.
  • Peter Bourjos sustained no structural damage in his left thumb, an MRI confirmed. He’s not in the lineup today, but is available to pinch-run and play defense. Bourjos is hopeful of returning on Tuesday.
  • Hamilton, as you might have noticed, is back in the lineup after missing the weekend series against the Pirates with a sore right wrist. The wrist still bothers him when he slows down his swing, but it’s manageable.
  • Both teams canceled pregame batting practice today due to a threat of rain, and now, at 5:35 p.m. ET, it’s starting to come down a little bit. Stay tuned …

Alden

Protecting Josh Hamilton …

Josh HamiltonThere was a point in the offseason, immediately after he was signed, when placing Josh Hamilton in the No. 2 spot made some sense.

Less than a week later, though, that went out the window.

“When Josh was originally signed and we had Kendrys Morales, who’s a bat we felt was going to be there, I think there was definitely some lineups that looked like it worked with Josh in the 2-hole,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, referencing an eventual trade that sent Morales to the Mariners for Jason Vargas on Dec. 19, four days after Hamilton was signed to a five-year, $125 million contract.

“It might evolve to adjusting it a little bit here or there. But right now the way we line up, and wanting to take advantage of Albert’s on-base percentage, where you project it to be, Josh hitting behind him makes sense right now both from a balance and production perspective.”

Pujols’ career on-base percentage is .414; Hamilton’s is .363. It makes sense to bat Albert third and Hamilton fourth, for the simple fact that he’d get more chances throughout the course of a season. For the Tigers, Prince Fielder started all 162 games last year in the cleanup spot and got 690 plate appearances; Miguel Cabrera started one less game in the No. 3 spot and finished with 697 plate appearances.

Subtle difference, sure, but you’re usually going to want the better hitter getting those extra 10 or 15 plate appearances.

Albert PujolsAs a whole, though, would the Angels’ lineup be better off if Pujols and Hamilton flip-flopped in the middle of the order, simply because of what it would mean for Hamilton?

Consider: Nobody in baseball saw fewer fastballs than Hamilton last year (44.6 percent) and nobody swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone (45.4 percent). With Pujols in the on-deck circle, and Mike Trout frequently on base, Hamilton only figures to see more fastballs and more strikes if he’s batting third rather than fourth.

But would pitchers really attack him much different — significantly different than they would if Hamilton batted fourth and Mark Trumbo was behind him?

Scioscia doesn’t think so, pointing to the fact Adrian Beltre was protecting him in Texas and Hamilton still saw an inordinate amount of breaking balls out of the strike zone. So, for now at least, he’s sticking to Hamilton as his cleanup hitter.

“I think it’s just a function of how Josh was pitched,” Scioscia said. “Sometimes the pitches [hitters] see is not going to be contingent on who’s behind him, it’s just going to be how guys are trying to pitch to them. And with Josh, I think it was more that case than anything else.”

Alden

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