Results tagged ‘ Mike Trout ’

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

Takeaways from a 14-inning thriller …

Collin CowgillTuesday night’s game will be remembered mostly for Collin Cowgill‘s walk-off homer, which set up the Angels’ fifth straight win and put them 2 1/2 games back in the American League West, and for Yoenis Cespdes‘ throw, one of the best anybody has ever seen. But here are some other takeaways from one of the most interesting games of the season …

  • This was the Angels’ best pitching performance of the year. Hector Santiago provided six scoreless innings in his return from Triple-A Salt Lake, scattering three hits while walking one and striking out eight. Then, six relievers (Kevin Jepsen, Mike Morin, Joe Smith, Cam Bedrosian, Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus) combined to give up one run in eight innings, scattering five hits, walking two and striking out six, going toe-to-toe with an A’s bullpen that ranks third in the Majors in relief-pitcher WHIP.
  • The Angels, as Mike Scioscia said, “were fortunate tonight.” They made two critical baserunning blunders, with Albert Pujols running through a Gary DiSarcina stop sign in the sixth to easily get thrown out at home by Brandon Moss, and Kole Calhoun trying to advance to third in the 11th on a ground ball to shortstop Jed Lowrie, who flipped to Josh Donaldson for the easy out.
  • Scioscia made a questionable decision to have Calhoun bunt in the 13th, after Mike Trout drew a leadoff walk. Calhoun did his job, which meant Trout advanced to second, but with first base open, the A’s opted to walk Josh Hamilton (even though they had a lefty, Jeff Francis, pitching). The sac bunt took the bat out of the hands of one of the Angels’ best players, and paved the way for an inning-ending double play from David Freese.
  • The Angels and A’s play a lot of extra innings. In five matchups between the two at Angel Stadium, they’ve now gone to extra innings three times. That, in addition to the 19-inning game played in Oakland on April 29 of last year.

Alden

Hamilton returns, will probably be ‘a little antsy’ …

Josh HamiltonJosh Hamilton, as expected, was activated off the disabled list after an eight-week recovery from surgery on his left thumb Tuesday, giving the Angels a full lineup for the first time since he went down on April 8. Here’s a partial transcript of what he had to say …

Did it feel like eight weeks?

No, it didn’t. If I didn’t have my family with me it would’ve probably felt really long. That was the thing that made it pass by quickly.

Any changes in your approach sliding into first base?

I’m going to give it a break for a while. … I’m not going to change the way I play. I’ll get smarter as far as trying to know when to do things and when not to do things. … Know the situation, know the importance of the game. All of those things. … You want to be here for the long haul, you want to play as many games as possible. I never thought about it as far as sliding, because I’ve never been hurt sliding.

What were your thoughts the way they played while you were out?

I told [Mike Scioscia] I’ll sit out for a while [joking]. But it’s good to see young guys come in and fill a spot and do it well enough to keep you where you are in the standings or moving forward. The guys have done a good job moving us forward. And that’s what being on a championship team is all about. You have depth and guys come in and do that.

Can you play the field every day?

I told [Scioscia], ‘When I come up, don’t be taking me out of the lineup. Just let me go out there and play.’ That’s the way I’ve always felt.

Is your rehab assignment enough time to know if your rhythm and timing are there like it was early in the year?

You go by the at-bats you had. I’ve been having good results, good swings. It felt good. I hit the ball the other way — line drives, six-hole, left field, pulled the ball, hit balls up the middle, hit changeups, fastballs, curveballs, all of the above.

Do you expect a learning curve?

I don’t know about a learning curve. Probably a little antsy. That’s the biggest thing. Because you’ve been out of the mix as far as being in the stadiums, the crowds, all of the above. So, coming back, slowing the game down and being relaxed is key.

What are your expectations on this lineup at full strength?

Just continue to build what they’ve been doing. Throwing me back in the mix should help, but as a team, collectively, you still have to produce and perform on a consistent basis. That’s what I hope and expect, as we continue to get better and perform, and the chemistry continues to get better and better. And if it does that, we’ll be right there at the end.

  • In a pretty surprising move, the Angels called up right-handed reliever Cam Bedrosian from Double-A Arkansas and optioned Michael Kohn. Bedrosian, ranked 13th in the Angels’ system by MLB.com, had a 1.12 ERA in 24 appearances for Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas this year. The 22-year-old struck out 45 batters in 24 innings. Kohn had given up six runs in his last 4 1/3 innings, walking nine batters in that stretch.
  • Mike Trout returned to the lineup after missing the Saturday and Sunday game due to a back injury. The Angels’ center fielder got some stem-cell therapy done during the team’s off day on Monday, took some early batting practice in the cage on Tuesday and “didn’t feel it at all.” “I was worried about it for a little bit,” Trout said. “But I felt good in early BP. I’m in there. That’s always good.”
  • Dane De La Rosa exceeded the maximum amount of time he can be on a rehab assignment, so the Angels activated him off the DL — then optioned him to Triple-A because they don’t deem him ready to rejoin their bullpen just yet.
  • The Yankees claimed left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who was designated for assignment on Saturday because the Angels needed some length out of the bullpen to cover them for a couple of days. That’s a tough blow to their organizational starting pitching depth, and they only ended up needing two-thirds of an inning out of Jarrett Grube.

Angels (30-26)

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

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (6-4, 3.05 ERA)

Astros (24-34)

Dexter Fowler, CF
Jose Altuve, 2B
George Springer, RF
Jason Castro, C
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Jonathan Singleton, 1B
Chris Carter, DH
Robbie Grossman, LF
Jonathan Villar, SS

SP: RH Collin McHugh (3-3, 2.80 ERA)

Alden

Trout misses second straight with back issue …

Mike TroutBack stiffness forced Mike Trout to miss his second straight game on Sunday afternoon.

Trout woke up with the stiffness around the middle of his back on Saturday morning, got scratched from the lineup after originally being slated to start at designated hitter, was laid up in the athletic trainer’s table as the Angels went about an 11-3 loss and didn’t feel quite good to play in the finale against the A’s on Sunday morning.

Trout said the back is “a lot better than yesterday,” but “I still feel a little bit in there.”

“It sucks,” Trout said about missing two games against the first-place team in the American League West. “I want to be out there. I just want to get it better.”

Trout was hooked up to a handheld electric stimulation machine pregame, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia was hopeful that he could be available to him off the bench.

“If he can swing the bat, to start at DH, we would’ve considered it,” Scioscia said. “But right now, it’s a little bit too stiff to do that four or five times. We’ll see if he’s got one [at-bat] in him. If not, hopefully he’ll be ready on Tuesday.”

Trout – batting .294/.380/.549, with 11 homers and an American League-leading 63 strikeouts – has now been out of the Angels’ lineup three times, also missing the May 21 game against the Astros out of precaution over a tight left hamstring. The Angels have an off day on Monday before starting a three-game series in Houston, and Trout isn’t concerned about the back issue lingering.

“It definitely feels better than yesterday,” he said. “But it’s still there. I don’t want it to get worse.”

  • Josh Hamilton, 4-for-9 in his last two games for Triple-A Salt Lake, is apparently done playing rehab games. He’ll work out with the Minor League team in Albuquerque, N.M., for the next two days in anticipation of being activated for Tuesday’s series opener in Houston.

Here’s the Angels lineup …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Erick Aybar, SS
Albert Pujols, DH
Raul Ibanez, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
C.J. Cron, 1B
Hank Conger, C
Collin Cowgill, CF

SP: RH Jered Weaver

Alden

Trout out of the lineup with back stiffness …

Center fielder Mike Trout was a late scratch from Saturday’s lineup due to stiffness in his upper back that was giving him a hard time rotating, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Scioscia originally had Trout in at designated hitter, then took him out entirely after he spent all of pregame laid up in the trainers’ table. The 22-year-old superstar was fine on Friday, going 2-for-5 with a homer to straightaway center field in the 9-5 loss, but woke up feeling stiff and got his second day off this season.

Trout was also bothered by a tight left hamstring earlier this week, which prompted him to start at designated hitter against the Astros on May 20 and miss the May 21 series finale for precautionary reasons.

“We were going to try to see if he could go out there and swing, but it’s just not quite loose enough to where you want him to risk any further injury,” said Scioscia, who put Grant Green in Trout’s place at the No. 2 spot. “Hopefully it’s something that quiets down and he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

Here’s the full lineup …

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

SP: LH Tyler Skaggs

For the first time in 2014, Pujols sits …

Albert PujolsAlbert Pujols won’t be playing in 162 games this season. Angels manager Mike Scioscia made sure of that on Wednesday, when he told his superstar first baseman he’d be sitting for the first time in Thursday’s series finale at Safeco Field and didn’t let Pujols talk his way out of it.

He tried though.

“Yeah, but they said no,” Pujols admitted, laughing. “They don’t even want me to hit. I’m just going to go to the cage just to get loose. I’m not taking batting practice, either.”

The primary goal – more so than having him in the lineup for every game – is to make sure they keep Pujols fresh throughout the season, especially after he missed the last two months of 2013 with a partial tear of his left plantar fascia. Pujols said his lower half is “good” and “better than it was on the last road trip,” when the hard turf at Rogers Centre took its toll on the 34-year-old.

Scioscia wanted to give Pujols the day off “just to get him to recharge.”

“Albert will go out and play till the cows come home,” Scioscia added. “It’s time for him to take a day today.”

Pujols is batting .262 with a team-leading 14 homers, but his production has dipped over the last month or so, with a .236/.298/.445 slash line, five homers and 19 strikeouts in his last 28 games. In his last at-bat against Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night, though, Pujols stayed back on a 93-mph fastball and drove it to right field for a two-out RBI double in the ninth.

“It was middle-out, and that was a ball I was pulling a little bit,” said Pujols, who has started at designated hitter 11 times this year. “I was able to stay through it. Hopefully I can take it to the next series, and hopefully I get an opportunity to play tonight.”

  • Josh Hamilton was slated to take live batting practice on the field Thursday, and if that went well, he’d re-start his rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. Scioscia is hopeful that Hamilton will return before the end of this road trip (Thursday in Houston).
  • Dane De La Rosa (right s/c joint irritation) appeared in back-to-back outings for Triple-A Salt Lake for the first time on Wednesday and Thursday, giving up a run in each one-inning outing. He isn’t ready to join the Angels just yet. Scioscia said his “stuff looked good,” but he’s “slowly making progress” and “to get the confidence to know he’s where he needs to be might take a couple more outings.”
  • Grant Green (.388/.404/.510) started over Collin Cowgill because, frankly, Scioscia wants to get him as many at-bats as possible since he’s swinging the bat so well (full lineup here).
  • Also, Kole Calhoun is back at leadoff. Scioscia: “With Albert out, we definitely want Mike [Trout] third. If you look at his ability to work counts, even though obviously he hasn’t been locked in since he came off the DL, I think hell be a positive in the leadoff spot, and with Erick [Aybar] in there, it will give us a good look before the heart of our lineup.”

Alden

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