Results tagged ‘ Mike Trout ’

‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ …

Josh Hamilton, Mike TroutThe Angels’ impressive four-game sweep of the A’s put them 30 games above .500, five games up in the American League West and 3 1/2 up (on the Orioles) for the best record in baseball. They’ll start September with five more wins than they had all of last year and a realistic chance of capturing the franchise record in wins. They’d have to play .692 ball over the season’s final month; they’ve played .610 ball through the season’s first five months.

Here’s a look at how the Angels have to fare in September for certain milestones.

90 wins: 7-19
95 wins: 12-14
100 wins: 17-9
101 wins (club record): 18-8

This is the ninth time the Angels have held sole possession of first place in the AL West to start September. On five of the previous eight occasions, they went on to win the division. They blew 2 1/2-game leads in 1985 and ’98, and epically blew a 7 1/2-game lead with one month left in ’95.

So Angels manager Mike Scioscia has good reason to not look ahead.

“I know a lot of people are counting down, under 30 games — not us,” he said. “We know we have a long way to go. You want to ask me [about the standings] in about three weeks, we’ll sit down and talk. Right now, we are still in the heart of the pennant race. We need to chew this off one inning, one pitch, one game at a time.”

The Angels are off on Monday, then start a bizarre 10-game, four-city road trip through Houston (two games), Minnesota (four games), Cleveland (one game) and Arlington (three games). The Angels’ bullpen will continue to do some heavy lifting in September.

Some additional tidbits from Sunday …

  • Angels pitchers had a streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings snapped in the eighth inning. It was tied for the longest in team history. … Sunday marked the fourth four-game sweep by the Angels this season, the most in their history. … Nineteen wins in August matched a franchise best (also done in 1986 and 2004). … This is the Angels’ largest division lead and their most games above .500 since the end of the 2009 season (10 games up, 32 games over). … At 83-53, the Angels have matched the best pace in club history after 136 games.
  • Mike Trout hit his 31st homer on Sunday and drove in three runs, giving him 97 on the year. All of those home runs and all but two of those RBIs have come from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Among No. 2 hitters throughout history, the 23-year-old center fielder heads into September tied for ninth in homers (Eddie Mathews leads with 46 in 1959) and 10th in RBIs (Mathews and Alex Rodriguez in 1998 each had 114).
  • Matt Shoemaker is the first rookie with 14-plus wins and 115-plus strikeouts before September since CC Sabathia in 2001. He’s been a great story.
  • Chris Iannetta now leads the Angels in on-base percentage at .380 — six points higher than Trout.
  • Erick Aybar‘s hitting streak is now at a career-high 16 games. The veteran shortstop is batting .458 (27-for-59) during that span.

Alden

Trout on Dodger Stadium boos: ‘It pumps me up’ …

Mike Trout, Dee GordonMike Trout was asked about the loud boos he heard from the Angels’ crosstown rival on Monday night, and the star center fielder couldn’t help but smile.

“It’s how baseball should be, you know?” Trout said after the Angels’ 5-0 win at Dodger Stadium. “Little rivalries, cross-town. It’s fun for me.”

Asked how he takes it when fans — in this case, 53,166 — boo him in an opposing ballpark, Trout said: “Oh, it pumps me up. Definitely. When you hear them, that means they’re paying attention to the game and they’re in the game. It’s pretty cool.”

Trout had some fun with it, too. Particularly in the sixth, when he made a couple of running catches, noticed that his face was on the Jumbotron and playfully grinned at Dodgers fans, igniting more boos for a player who’s revered throughout baseball.

“I’m just having fun out there,” Trout said. “That’s why we play the game; have fun. Fans out there bring excitement to you. A lot more boos, but I expect that at Dodger Stadium. It’s going to be a fun next couple of days, for sure.”

Alden

For Morin, trip to the beach is a trip to the DL …

Mike MorinMike Morin was walking on the beach in St. Petersburg, Fla., with a couple of friends Saturday night and cut the bottom of his foot on an unknown object, prompting four stitches and a trip to the disabled list for the Angels’ rookie reliever.

The 23-year-old right-hander – with a 2.36 ERA in 41 appearances – doesn’t require a walking boot and expects to return by the time his disabled-list stint is up in a couple weeks.

But the nature of the ailment made it a difficult one to come to grips with.

“This is pretty tough, especially because this is such an important time for us right now,” Morin said. “It’s something that I need to move forward from, and just try to help this team in other ways. I’m staying positive.”

Some other notes for the Freeway Series opener …

  • Tyler Skaggs got another MRI, this one with a contrasting agent, that confirmed he has a strain in his flexor tendon. “Very happy,” Skaggs said. The 23-year-old isn’t sure when he’ll be back, but he’s confident it’ll happen before the end of the regular season.
  • Collin Cowgill was activated off the disabled list, as the corresponding move for Morin landing on the DL, and feels no restrictions with his right thumb.
  • Joe Thatcher got an MRI on Monday that confirmed a ligament sprain in his left ankle. He’s in a walking boot now, but expects to be back in three to four weeks.
  • The Angels have not lost a season series to the Dodgers since 2006. They’re 15-7 in their last 22 games against the Dodgers.
  • Tommy Lasorda made sure he got a picture with Mike Trout pregame. The Hall of Fame manager previously took a pic with the 22-year-old phenom at a basketball game, but never got it, so he made sure to pose with him Monday. “Keep playing how you’re playing; keep talking how you’re talking,” Lasorda told Trout.

Alden

As Trout goes, so does the offense …

Mike TroutThe Angels have a deep offense; one of the deepest in the game. They have Albert Pujols, a Hall of Famer if he retired today. They have Josh Hamilton, one of the most dynamic players in the game (at least that’s what he was in Texas). They have Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Kole Calhoun, David Freese, etc. — all solid hitters in their own right. They’re more than just Mike Trout.

But even they struggle to produce when the game’s best all-around player isn’t right.

The Angels — losers of back-to-back games after a 4-3 defeat on Wednesday — have averaged 3.25 runs per game since the start of the second half, all while Trout has found himself in the midst of a rare (and perhaps short) slump.

“We have to be more than Mike,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “and we know we are.”

But here’s a breakdown of how the team has fared along with Trout so far this season (Trout’s slash line is in parenthesis, followed by the Angels’ runs per game and their record during that stretch) …

March 31 to April 28 (.327/.391/.606): 5.44 RPG; 12-13
April 29 to May 19 (.164/.314/.358): 4.21 RPG; 12-7
May 20 to July 13 (.356/.440/.701): 5.24 RPG; 33-17
July 18 to July 30 (.220/.304/.420): 3.25 RPG; 6-6

The league average for runs per game this season is 4.11, so the Angels still manage to do pretty well when Trout struggles from the No. 2 spot. Clearly, though, they’re at a completely different level when he’s on point. And luckily for them, his hot streaks tend to last a lot longer than his cold ones.

Asked how he feels at the plate these days, Trout said: “Timing’s a little late right now. Just picking the ball up late. Ones that I should be hitting I’m seeing late and I’m rushing my swing. That’s a little fix; nothing to worry about.”

Alden

Scioscia wouldn’t change playoff format …

Mike SciosciaA lot of season remains and a lot can still happen, but if the schedule ended today, the Angels would easily have the second-best record in the Majors – they were five games better than the third-place Tigers when play began Tuesday – and still their season would come down to one game.

It’s the misfortune that comes with playing in the same division as baseball’s best team – the A’s, who the Angels trail by 1 1/2 games – and it’s the bad timing of playing in an era with two Wild Card teams in each league.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has long been a proponent of divisional play, believing teams that win their division should have clear advantages over those that make the playoffs as a Wild Card. And the fact that his club is on the other side of that isn’t making him change his stance.

“I think the weight that is on winning a division is warranted,” Scioscia said prior to the series opener from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “I think that if you’re going to have divisional baseball, you have to really make winning a division the first objective of any team that’s contending. And if you don’t quite reach that goal, and you play well enough, then you have the opportunity to work your way into the playoffs.”

One alternative to a team running into the scenario the Angels are currently in is to extend the Wild Card into a three-game series, but Scioscia said that would penalize the division winners because “you will lose your edge, no doubt about it, with that much time off.”

Another would be to eliminate divisional play, which the Angels’ long-time skipper doesn’t like. And a more unconventional one would be to have four divisions, something Scioscia floated out as a possibility if more expansion takes place.

The ladder isn’t necessarily feasible right now, which makes the current goal pretty simple.

“Win your division,” Scioscia said. “Let’s just put it that way.”

Some notes from today …

  • C.J. Wilson gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Double-A Arkansas on Monday, scattering four hits, waling two and striking out seven. His ankle feels good, and he should be lined up to start this weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla., but Scioscia wants to wait until Wilson gets through his bullpen to make any determinations. Wilson also discovered some tightness in his left hip that was limiting a flexibility, a problem he fixed and an issue he believes will get him back on track.
  • Josh Hamilton moved from left field to designated hitter, but it wasn’t injury related. Hamilton didn’t get much sleep while flying to North Carolina to deal with a family emergency in his native North Carolina.
  • Grant Green (lower back) and Collin Cowgill (thumb, nose) stayed in Arizona rehabbing.
  • Mike Trout is currently in Baltimore, which is about a two-hour drive from his hometown of Millville, N.J., but he doesn’t expect a huge crowd. Trout said he left like 15 tickets.

Lineup …

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

SP: RH Jered Weaver (11-6, 3.36 ERA)

Alden

Trout has yet to figure out Scherzer …

Max ScherzerMike Trout has now faced Max Scherzer on 16 occasions, and he’s struck out 10 times.

The only pitchers who have struck out Trout more often are Mariners ace Felix Hernandez and Rangers ace Yu Darvish. Both have fanned him 11 times. But both are division rivals who face him a lot more frequently (Trout has 40 career plate appearances against Darvish and 52 against Hernandez), and Trout has actually hit them well (1.063 OPS against Hernandez, 1.076 OPS against Darvish).

After Thursday’s 4-2 loss against the Tigers, Trout is now 3-for-16 in his career against Scherzer (albeit with a home run). Among the 16 other pitchers who have faced him more than 15 times, only six (Joe Saunders, A.J. Griffin, Matt Harrison, Dallas Keuchel, Tommy Milone and Hisashi Iwakuma) have held the Angels’ phenom to a batting average below .290. And none have come anywhere close to striking him out as frequently as the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner.

The biggest reason, perhaps: Scherzer is as good as anyone at changing the eye level of hitters, and is particularly dominant in the upper half of the strike zone. Trout’s weakness comes in the upper half of the zone. And though Scherzer hasn’t necessarily attached Trout chest-high, the threat is always there, and it’s hard to hit his fastball-changeup combination when you can’t sit on a particular zone.

Scherzer’s response, when asked about his approach against Trout …

“Attack him. You have to go after him. I absolutely respect everything he does on a baseball field and what he does at the plate. But when you face really good hitters, the elite hitters, like that, you have to be even more aggressive with them. You have to go right after them and make your pitches. He’s hit a home run, he’s had success off me, but when I have success against him is when I take the aggressive approach with him.”

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

Do the Angels need to answer the A’s? …

Arte Moreno, Jerry Dipoto, Mike SciosciaAngels general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept his focus on the bullpen. He wants to acquire a situational lefty, and he wants to get another potential closer to solidify a game’s last nine outs. But the Angels haven’t seemed willing to part ways with a package of prospects — what little they have in a farm system they’re still trying to cultivate — and they haven’t sounded like an organization that wants to take on a high-salaried pitcher, a la Cliff Lee and David Price, because it would kill their payroll flexibility and leave them little or no room to address the ‘pen the way they want.

Did that thinking change on Independence Day?

As the Angels were wrapping up the second of a four-game series against the Astros at home on Friday night, the division-rival A’s set off fireworks, acquiring starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs for pitcher Dan Straily, a couple of nice prospects (shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney) and a player to be named later. A team that leads the Majors in winning percentage and run-differential just got a whole lot better. A pitching staff that’s second in the American League in ERA and WHIP got a whole lot stronger.

The Angels are playing very solid baseball lately, winning 11 of 14 after Mike Trout‘s walk-off homer and trailing the A’s by 3 1/2 games for the best record in the AL. But the A’s seemingly took a few more steps forward on Friday, and winning your division is crucial with the expanded playoffs that now include a Wild Card game; the last thing you want is for a 162-game season to ultimately come down to one elimination game.

So do the Angels need to scrap their initial Trade Deadline plans and go after an elite starting pitcher? Do they need to fortify their rotation — one with a solid 3.70 ERA, but also some uncertainties — to keep up with the A’s?

Arte Moreno, Mike Scioscia and Dipoto have some thinking to do.

***

I’ll be taking some vacation time these next couple of weeks. Matthew DeFranks will cover for me at home July 5-9 and 18-20, Lyle Spencer will cover for me in Texas July 10-13, and I’ll be back at it July 21, for the series opener against the Orioles. Be well.

Alden

How many All-Stars are on the Angels? …

The Angels passed the halfway point of their season on Tuesday, and did so emphatically with their first doubleheader sweep since 2009.

It’s perhaps as good a time as any to see how many All-Stars they have.

They produced their most All-Stars in 1979, when Rod Carew, Bobby Grich, Brian Downing, Don Baylor, Nolan Ryan and Mark Clear were all chosen for the Midsummer Classic. They probably won’t have that many going to Target Field this year, but they’ll have a few. Below are some names worth mentioning, with statistical comps to those who play their positions in the American League (I excluded Josh Hamilton because he missed so much time) …

OF Mike Trout

BA: .315 (T-1st)
OBP: .410 (2nd)
SLG: .617 (1st)
WAR: 5.0 (1st)
HR: 19 (2nd)
SB: 10 (12th)

Chances: He’s a sure thing. Trout ranks second in the AL in fan votes, trailing only Jose Bautista and already notching more than 4 million, and will start his second straight All-Star Game at 22 years old.

1B Albert Pujols

BA: .257 (8th)
OBP: .312 (10th)
SLG: .467 (6th)
HR: 17 (4th)
WAR: 1.5 (7th)

Chances: He looked like an All-Star again in April, but has dropped off ever since and now there are a handful of other first basemen putting up better numbers. His reputation will have to carry him. If it doesn’t, it will be three straight All-Star Game absences for Pujols.

SS Erick Aybar

BA: .277 (4th)
OBP: .316 (9th)
SLG: .419 (2nd)
HR: 4 (T-4th)
SB: 8 (6th)
WAR: 2.9 (1st)

Chances: Tough to say. Aybar has had a terrific first half, but Derek Jeter is going to start his final All-Star Game, and Aybar typically loses the popularity contests. Alexei Ramirez is also deserving.

SP Garrett Richards

ERA: 2.81 (8th)
WHIP: 1.07 (5th)
W: 9 (T-5th)
SO: 108 (8th)
IP: 109 (14th)

Chances: In my opinion, he should. But like Aybar, he’s just not as big a name — yet. I still think Richards finds a way onto the staff, especially when you consider that so many pitchers back out every year. Winning AL Player of the Month for June wouldn’t hurt, either.

SP Jered Weaver

ERA: 3.56 (20th)
WHIP: 1.16 (T-9th)
W: 9 (T-5th)
SO: 92 (T-12th)
IP: 116 1/3 (5th)

Chances: Like Pujols, he’ll need his track record to carry him to his fourth All-Star Game. Solid year so far, but by no means great.

Alden

Trout still has ‘mixed feelings’ on HR Derby …

Mike TroutMike Trout still hasn’t been asked, and he still doesn’t know if he would.

“It’s kind of a weird topic for me right now,” Trout said of participating in the Home Run Derby. “I have mixed feelings. I want to do it, and I don’t want to do it.”

Trout, who’s primed to make his second straight All-Star Game start, acknowledged the Derby is “something I definitely want to do later in my career” and said, “I don’t think it would mess up my swing or anything.” But the Derby requires a lot of max-effort swings, which tends to wear guys out and is the main reason Mike Scioscia would prefer that his players not participate.

“Not only that,” Trout said. “All-Star break is time to relax, come take BP and enjoy the Derby. I enjoy watching it.”

Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista was named the American League captain for the Derby, which will take place July 14 in Minnesota. Bautista must pick four American League teammates — Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will do the same for the National League — and the tournament will have a new, bracket-style format that may lessen the amount of swings necessary.

Five players from each league will bat in the opening round, with seven outs instead of the usual 10. The player who hits the most homers in each league will automatically receive a bye to the third round (semifinals).

The next two players with the most homers from each league will square off against one another in a head-to-head matchup in the second round. The winners of those matchups will then advance to the third round to compete against the league’s top seed. The final round will feature the winners of the AL and NL semifinals going head-to-head to decide a winner.

Scioscia hasn’t necessarily talked to Trout about the Derby this year. The Angels’ manager reiterated Monday that participating in the event is the players’ decision, but continues to hold firm on his stance against it — not because of how it can affect his players’ swing, but because of how the heavy workload can affect their bodies.

“As a fan, you’re interested in it, it’s a fun part of the All-Star experience,” Scioscia said. “But I know the grind it takes to go through that, and it’s affected more players’ second halves than helped players.”

Alden

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