Results tagged ‘ Pirates ’

Angels swap Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli …

Jason GrilliThe Angels took a step – and it’s probably only the first step – in trying to shore up the back end of their bullpen on Friday, sending struggling closer Ernesto Frieri to the Pirates for struggling closer Jason Grilli in what general manager Jerry Dipoto called “a classic change of scenery that I think will be good for all parties.”

Grilli, 37, posted a 2.74 ERA and saved 36 games for the Pirates from 2011-13, but has hit a rough patch this year, posting a 4.87 ERA, a 1.62 WHIP and a 1.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio while saving 11 games in 15 opportunities.

Frieri, 28, had a 3.07 ERA and 60 saves from 2012-13, but has struggled through a 6.39 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and a 4.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2014, which has seen him blow three of his 14 save chances.

Frieri is owed $3.8 million in 2014 and was arbitration-eligible for two more seasons, while Grilli is owed $4 million and is a free agent at the end of the year.

“At the end of the day, sometimes these types of address changes are just good for everybody,” Dipoto said in a phone interview. “Obviously, over the last couple weeks, it’s been a mighty struggle for Ernie. And he just needed a chance to clear himself out. This is probably best in that regard.

“We’re encouraged to get the opportunity to work with Jason Grilli, and see if we can’t get him back to where he needs to be. He still has the velocity, he still has the slider, he still has the ability to be the dominant ninth-inning presence that he was a year ago.”

But will he be the closer, like he was during that All-Star season in 2013?

“We’ll sort that through as he gets in,” Dipoto said of Grilli, who’s expected to join the Angels in time for Saturday’s game against the Royals.

“We’ll see where he fits in,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia added. “He’s pitched in the back end of games and has done a very good job in that role. We’re going to get his feet on the ground here, and then we’ll see where he fits.”

The Angels head into a weekend series at Kauffman Stadium on a six-game winning streak that has put them a season-best 11 games over .500. But they’ve suffered through 12 blown saves, tied with the Astros for the American League lead, and entered Friday ranked 26th in the Majors in ERA (4.46) and tied for 23rd in WHIP (1.38) from their bullpen.

Dipoto would still like to add a situational left-hander and perhaps another option for the ninth inning, which would free Scioscia up to use current closer Joe Smith in a more versatile role.

“We’re still open to improving and adding to our team in any way that will help us win,” Dipoto said. “We understand that the bullpen is something that needs to be addressed. I think this is a step in trying to address some of our needs down there, but I’d be surprised if it’s the only step.”

Grilli – a product of Tommy John surgery in 2002 – was originally taken with the fourth overall pick in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft but didn’t come into his own until spending the entire 2010 season recovering from a torn quadriceps muscle, when he joined the Pirates as a 35-year-old who had already spent time in five different organizations.

Grilli broke out in 2013, posting a 2.70 ERA and 33 saves while converting each of his first 25 opportunities.

His fastball velocity is basically the same this year – in the 92- to 93-mph range – but he missed 27 games because of an oblique strain earlier this season and has yet to see consistent results.

“He’s ready for a new challenge,” Pirates GM Neal Huntington said. “Jason has responded very well to a number of challenges in his life. He had a good run here, loves the city and the team, but he’s ready for a new challenge.”

The Angels believe the same can be said for Frieri, the affable right-hander who shined upon being acquired from the Padres in May 2012 but has been demoted twice from his role as closer this season.

“Ernie’s a tremendous young man,” Scioscia said. “He became part of our family. It’s tough to let go of a piece like that. Hopefully in the long run it’ll be better for Ernie to go there and get a fresh start.”

Alden

Division-by-division: NL Central …

World Series Cardinals Red Sox BaseballLeading up to Spring Training, I’ll take a look at each of the six divisions in hopes of providing an overview for what to expect this coming season. Next up, the NL Central.

Brewers
Last year’s record: 74-88, 4th place
Key additions: SP Matt Garza, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, RP Will Smith, 1B Lyle Overbay
Key subtractions: 1B/RF Corey Hart, OF Norichika Aoki, INF Yuniesky Betancourt, RP Mike Gonzalez, 1B/3B Mat Gamel
Biggest strength: Starting pitching, though it’s all relative. The Brewers came out of nowhere to sign Garza to a four-year, $50 million contract, adding him to what looks like a stable rotation with Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Without Garza, that foursome helped the Brewers rank fourth in the Majors in starting-pitcher ERA in the second half.
Biggest question: First base. Overbay and Reynolds have been added on Minor League deals to compete with the free-swinging Juan Francisco, so as of right now, the Brewers have a lot of uncertainty at a position that requires steady production.
Most important player: Ryan Braun. Duh. He’s signed through 2020, is entering his age-30 season, is coming off his first non-great year (.298/.372/.498 line in 61 games) and, most importantly, just finished serving a 65-game suspension for violating MLB’s anti-drug agreement. Braun needs to repair his image on the field, and the Brewers need a big year from him in order to move this franchise forward.
In 25 words or lessThe farm system is weak, the Major League club is full of holes and the star player is tainted. Tough time for Brewers fans.

Cardinals
Last year’s record: 97-65, 1st place (lost to Red Sox in World Series)
Key additions: CF Peter Bourjos, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Mark Ellis, RP Angel Castro
Key subtractions: OF Carlos Beltran, 3B David Freese, INF Rafael Furcal, SP Chris Carpenter, SP Jake Westbrook, RP Edward Mujica
Biggest strength: Young pitching. Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, etc., should make the Cardinals title contenders for years to come.
Biggest question: The middle of the lineup. Beltran has departed to the Yankees, and so it’ll be mainly up to Allen Craig and Matt Adams to protect Matt Holliday.
Most important player: Craig. Many forget just how good a hitter he is when healthy, with a .312/.364/.500 slash line the last three years. If he can fully recover from the right foot injury that prompted him to miss 23 regular-season games and the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cardinals may not miss Beltran all that much.
In 25 words or less: John Mozeliak made a lot of savvy moves this offseason, and may have made the defending NL champs even better.

Cubs
Last year’s record: 66-96, 5th place
Key additions: MGR Rick Renteria, CL Jose Veras, RP Wesley Wright, INF Ryan Roberts, OF Justin Ruggiano, C Eli Whiteside, C John Baker, OF Chris Coghlan, SP Jonathan Sanchez
Key subtractions: MGR Dale Sveum, SP Scott Baker, C Dioner Navarro, RP Kevin Gregg, RP Matt Guerrier, SP Liam Hendricks, OF Brian Bogusevic
Biggest strength: Hitting prospects. Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara should be up and contributing soon.
Biggest question: Money. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been handcuffed on what they can spend to make this Cubs roster better. Their Opening Day payroll projects to be lower than $80 million for the first time since 2003.
Most important player: Starlin Castro. The 23-year-old shortstop went from .283/.323/.430 in 2012 to .245/.284/.347 in 2013. He needs to cut down his strikeouts, eliminate his occasional mental lapse on defense and get back to being the potential face of the franchise.
In 25 words or less: They have some nice prospects on the way, but the Cubs won’t get over the hump until they’re allowed to spend like a big-market team.

Pirates
Last year’s record: 94-68, 2nd place (lost to Cardinals in NLDS)
Key additions: SP Edinson Volquez, INF Robert Andino, C Chris Stewart, OF Chris Dickerson, RP Daniel Schlereth, RP Cody Eppley
Key subtractions: SP A.J. Burnett, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Marlon Byrd, C John Buck, SP Jeff Karstens, RP Kyle Farnsworth, 1B Garrett Jones
Biggest strength: Bullpen depth. They ranked third in the Majors in bullpen ERA last year and practically return everybody, with Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Tony Watson a very formidable back-end group.
Biggest question: Right field and first base. Byrd and Morneau were two big in-season acquisitions and now they’re gone, replaced in-house. Jose Tabata (.771 OPS in 2013) and Gaby Sanchez (.762) are once again set to take over two power positions.
Most important player: Wandy Rodriguez. He is, believe it or not, the Pirates’ highest-paid player and hasn’t pitched since early June because of forearm arthritis. If he rebounds, it’ll go a long way in easing rotation concerns in Pittsburgh. If he doesn’t, the Pirates may have to eat the $7.5 million they owe him (the Astros are covering the other $5.5 million).
In 25 words or less: The Pirates had a breakthrough season in 2013, but the front office simply hasn’t done enough to build on that for 2014.

Reds
Last year’s record: 90-72, 3rd place (lost to Pirates in NL Wild Card game)
Key additions: MGR Bryan Price, C Brayan Pena, 2B/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Ramon Santiago, SP/RP Jeff Francis, RP Pedro Beato
Key subtractions: MGR Dusty Baker, SP Bronson Arroyo, OF Shin-Soo Choo, INF Cesar Izturis, SP Zach Duke, RP Nick Masset
Biggest strength: Pitching, even without Arroyo. If Johnny Cueto can stay healthy and top prospect Tony Cingrani can step up, the Reds’ rotation will be a force. Their bullpen remains one of the best in the National League.
Biggest question: Feeding Joey Votto. The Reds’ first baseman had an NL-leading .435 on-base percentage but drove in only 73 runs last year. Votto needs the guys in front of him to get on base, and now that Choo (.423 on-base percentage last year) is gone, that’s a big concern. Zack Cozart (.284 OBP), Brandon Phillips (.310 OBP) and rookie Billy Hamilton are the candidates to make up the first two spots of the lineup.
Most important player: Hamilton. We know he can run, and he’s come a long way defensively in center field. Now, can he hit at the leadoff spot, and can he make Reds fans forget about Choo? It’s a big year for the 23-year-old.
In 25 words or less: The Cardinals are tough, but the Reds are good enough to contend. Can Price, the ex-pitching coach, pull a John Farrell?

Predicted order of finish …

  • Cardinals
  • Reds
  • Pirates
  • Brewers
  • Cubs

Previous entries: NL East | AL East

Alden

Is Weaver/Wilson/Richards/Vargas enough? …

Jered WeaverIt’s an impossible question to answer because so many factors surround it, like what bullpen additions are made, or what’s done about third base, or how the bench is upgraded, or who the fifth starter becomes, or even how Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton fare.

But it’s pretty simple in a vacuum: Do you feel good about the Angels’ rotation if Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and Jason Vargas are the four best members of it?

For the vast majority of you on Twitter, the answer was a pretty resounding yes.

Recent memory no doubt played a big factor in that, because we’re finally starting to see some consistency out of the Angels’ rotation now that Weaver and Vargas are a part of it at the same time. Since Aug. 15, Angels starters have posted the fourth-best ERA in the Majors at 3.35 — and that was before Jerome Williams pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball against the Rays. Vargas (8-6, 3.80 ERA) has a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts despite giving up five runs in four innings to the Rays on Tuesday; Weaver (9-8, 3.33 ERA) has given up four runs in his last 21 innings; Wilson (14-6, 3.35 ERA) is 7-1 with a 2.67 ERA since the 30th of June; and Richards (5-6, 4.06 ERA) has a 3.21 ERA in eight starts since taking Joe Blanton‘s spot in the rotation.

Kind of makes you wonder how things would’ve gone if Vargas (blood clot) and Weaver (broken non-pitching elbow) hadn’t missed a combined 18 or so starts due to fluky injuries. How different is the dynamic of this season? Heck, how different is the narrative regarding Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto?

Regardless of what happens this offseason, the Angels will no doubt have non-tender decisions regarding Williams (slated to make about $3 million) and Tommy Hanson (roughly $4.5 million), and they may ponder whether or not to release Blanton (with $8.5 million remaining on his contract). But it’s one thing to try and acquire a fifth starter and additional depth, and it’s a whole other thing to try to acquire a mid-rotation starter that you truly feel comfortable sliding between Wilson and Vargas. Given the state of the Angels’ farm system, the dearth of starting pitching talent in free agency and the lack of payroll flexibility available for 2014 to begin with, it’s probably the difference between giving up a major offensive piece (Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, what have you) and not having to do so.

Having said all that, my opinion — while borrowing a line from George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven – is they need one more.

Weaver, Wilson, Vargas and Richards can be as good as anyone in the league if right, but …

  1. Weaver loses a bit off his fastball every year.
  2. Wilson flirts with danger a lot.
  3. Vargas’ 3.94 ERA since the start of 2010 ranks 61st.
  4. Richards is 25 and has been inconsistent in the past.
  5. Here are the top five starting-pitcher ERA teams in baseball, respectively: Dodgers, Reds, Pirates, Tigers, Cardinals. What do they all have in common? Yep, they’re probably all going to the playoffs.

The Angels tried this year to counter a patchwork rotation with what they thought would be a deeper bullpen and a crazy-good offense. Perhaps if everyone stays healthy and Hamilton hits like himself, it works out. But it’s a risky proposition; a lot riskier than making starting pitching priority 1, 2 and 3. I think they need to get back to that this winter, and I think they need to do whatever it takes to beef up their rotation, even if it means sacrificing a little offense.

(Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to point out that resigning Vargas is no slam dunk. Both sides are interesting in a return, but the Angels will have competition and don’t have the means — or desire, really — to overpay.)

Jason VargasHere are some of your Twitter responses to whether you’d be satisfied with a front four of Weaver/Wilson/Richards/Vargas. My apologies if I didn’t get yours in …

@LAANGELSINSIDER: I think they would. Those 4 can got 7 solid most games. If the bullpen improves #Angels will be better overall.

@TurbosLady9493: Yes, if Richards can show a bit more consistency and less walks.

@memphiscds: Could live with it if we had young #5 and decent bullpen

@GareGare84: yes. At least they can hold the other team. Give our offense a chance to score.

@AJTheDon_: would’ve liked it alot more if that’s what it would’ve looked like at the start of the year

@Tanner_Shurtz: so much inconsistency for Richards, torn between 5th starter and RP… See what works out in ST

@SportsChicken: If they’re trying to compete for a championship, [heck] no. Otherwise, meh.

@JcHc3in1: I’d like to see them land a #2/#3 besides Vargas, or in addition to Vargas

@CJWoodling: Richards has Weaver-like elements in him. I could see him being as high as number 3 with a little work.

@DickMarshall: think Richards needs to start as #5. Need a solid (little risk- re: anti Hanson/Blanton) #3 or #4.

@OSBIEL: very satisfied. If they fix up the bullpen they should be fine w/ those four.

@anthony_mateos: yes. They give you a chance to win, that’s all you want.

@kwelch31: yes very. Plus a solid pitcher in a howie trade. That would work. Maybe hellikson or phil hughes.

@CDHartnett: he needs to be a 5th starter so he doesn’t have any pressure and can have a FULL season as a starter. No short leash.

@Brush_Ryan: perfectly happy with those 4 provided the add a legit #3 starter.

@pippin38: sign Garza or Kuroda and have Weaver Wilson Varges Garza/Kuroda Richards

@natetrop: In my opinion they need a solid #3 or top of the rotation arm to contend. Can’t have Richards as anything other than #5

@chrispower82: A decent 5th is still needed, but those 4 are a good start (and should’ve been our top 4 to start this year)

@CalderonEder: I’d say go after Kuroda or maybe find a trade partner for Trumbo for another legit starter

@AlexPVegas: If the Angels had the current rotation that they have now all year. We aren’t talking about the future.

Alden

 

Question of the Day, 7/9 …

Why is Joe Blanton STILL in the rotation? — @pattimelt95

I’ll spin this question back at you: Who would you like in the rotation instead of Blanton? … Still waiting. … In short, the Angels don’t have many options at this point. Not with Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson on the DL. Not with Jerome Williams struggling of late (and he’s already in the rotation). And not with their farm system barren, particularly in the way of pitching. Blanton is who he is. He’s going to get hit around. Problem is, he’s been hit around a lot more than the Angels would’ve expected. He went into his Tuesday outing with six quality starts in his previous eight turns, but then he gave up four home runs in five-plus innings, and his numbers are still unseemly: 2-11, 5.40 ERA and a Major League-leading 143 hits allowed (in 108 1/3 innings).

This prompts the obvious question: Could the Angels have signed someone better for what they gave Blanton (two years and $15 million?

Everything’s a lot easier in hindsight, obviously, but here’s a look at the notable free-agent pitchers who signed for a similar or lower AAV …

Brandon McCarthy (2 years, $15.5M): 2-4, 5.00 ERA, 11 GS, on the DL for D-backs
Shaun Marcum (1 year, $4M): 1-10, 5.29 ERA, 14 G (12 GS), having season-ending surgery with Mets
Jeff Francis (1 year, $1.5M): 2-5, 6.58 ERA, 11 GS, currently in AAA for Rockies*
Jeremy Guthrie (3 years, $25M): 8-6, 4.12 ERA, 18 GS for Royals*
Bartolo Colon (1 year, $3M): 12-3, 2.69 ERA, 18 GS — and an All-Star! — for the A’s*
Scott Feldman (1 year, $6M): 7-7, 3.87 ERA, 17 GS for the Cubs and O’s
Hisashi Iwakuma (2 years, $14M): 7-4, 2.60 ERA, 18 GS and an All-Star for the Mariners*
Scott Baker (1 year, $5.5M): Has yet to pitch for the Cubs
Joe Saunders (1 year, $7M): 7-8, 4.51 ERA, 18 GS for the Mariners
Francisco Liriano (2 years, $13M): 8-3, 2.20 ERA, 11 GS for the Pirates

* = resigned with 2012 club 

Alden 

Vargas has blood clot; Hamilton nursing wrist issue

Angels left-handed starter Jason Vargas was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of a blood clot in his left armpit area. Billy Buckner was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake to take Vargas’ place on the roster and will serve as a swing man. Jerome Williams will start in Vargas’ spot on Saturday, opposite Francisco Liriano. And Vargas himself won’t pick up a baseball for a minimum of two weeks.

At 1 p.m. PT on Monday, he’ll see a doctor at UCLA to get a second opinion and ultimately determine whether or not he needs surgery.

“I started to feel a difference in the way my [left] middle finger felt three or four days before my last start [on Monday],” Vargas said. “It didn’t really affect anything; we just treated it as it was. It didn’t really get a whole lot better, so we decided to take a look at it and found a blood clot in there. It’s good that we got it recognized early.”

Blood clots, of course, can be scary. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it’s something the medical staff believes can be addressed “in a short amount of time.” How long, exactly? That’s still up in the air.

Vargas, who’s never previously had a blood clot, said the issue didn’t affect him in his last start, when he pitched seven innings of two-run ball in a win over the Mariners. He was playing catch on Thursday just fine when informed of the diagnosis.

On a starting rotation that ranks 21st in ERA, and has already seen Jered Weaver miss seven weeks because of a broken left elbow, Vargas had been the most productive member, going 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 14 starts.

“There’s no doubt he can go and pitch with it right now if he had to,” Scioscia said, “but along the lines of a person’s well-being, and as further tests were done just to see what was causing the sensation he had, they discovered something there that needs to be addressed. He was throwing the ball great. But that’s not the issue. His issue is trying to take care of this so he can keep going forward.”

Hamilton out with right wrist injury

Josh Hamilton was out of the starting lineup against right-hander Gerrit Cole because of what Scioscia said was a sore right wrist that has been bothering him “on and off” for “the last 10 days or so.” Hamilton will not start at all in this three-game series against the Pirates — though Scioscia said he’ll be available off the bench “in a limited capacity” — and the Angels will see how he feels coming off the Monday off-day.

Hamilton is batting .171/.200/.343 in June and .207/.262/.378 for the season. He’s been getting treatment on the wrist the last three or four days and originally tweaked it while swinging a bat, according to Scioscia.

Asked how much the wrist issue might have affected his hitting, Scioscia said: “It’s probably less any kind of a wrist issue that’s causing a mechanical issue and more of a rhythm and timing issue and a comfort level in the box.”

Alden

Game 34: Astros-Angels …

The Angels can’t get swept by the Astros, can they? We shall see …

Angels (11-22)

angelslogo2Erick Aybar, SS
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Josh Hamilton, RF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
J.B. Shuck, LF

SP: LH Jason Vargas (1-3, 3.72 ERA)

Astros (10-24)

HOU2Robbie Grossman, LF
Jimmy Paredes, RF
Jose Altuve, 2B
J.D. Martinez, DH
Jason Castro, C
Chris Carter, 1B
Ronny Cedeno, SS
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Brandon Barnes, CF

SP: RH Lucas Harrell (3-3, 5.03 ERA)

  • Jered Weaver threw his first bullpen today (28 pitches) and felt really good. Mike Scioscia said he’ll need about four more, thrown with one day in between if Weaver continues to feel good, before venturing out on a rehab assignment.
  • Ryan Madson threw 20 pitches in an intrasquad game in Arizona today and, as planned, will pitch there again on Saturday.
  • If the Angels make the playoffs this year, they’ll become only the fourth team in history to do it despite starting off the season 11-22. Per Elias, the only other teams to start a season 11-22 or worse and play in the postseason were the 1914 Braves, the 1974 Pirates and the 1981 Royals. To be fair, though, there was no second wild card — or even first wild card — back then.
  • The last time the Angels were 11 games below .500: May 22, 2006. They haven’t been 9 1/2 games back this early in a season since 2002 — when they were 9 1/2 games back on April 22, 10 1/2 games back on April 23 and (lo and behold!) World Series champs on Oct. 27.
  • Eleven of the Angels’ 22 losses have come by two runs or less.

Alden

Minutiae from a wild, 19-inning night …

APTOPIX Angels Athletics BaseballSome additional tidbits from Monday night’s 19-inning, 10-8 loss to the A’s, courtesy of the Angels’ PR department …

  • At six hours and 32 minutes, it was the longest game in Angels history, surpassing the six-hour, six-minute game played on April 13, 1982 against the Mariners (20 innings).
  • Innings-wise, it was the third-longest in Angels history. The Angels have played 20 innings twice, on the above-mentioned game against Seattle and July 9, 1971, against the A’s. That means two of the three 19-inning games in Angels history have been walk-off losses to the A’s.
  • It was the longest MLB game since the Pirates beat the Cardinals, 6-3, in 19 innings on Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis; it was the longest AL game since the White Sox beat the Red Sox, 6-5, in 19 innings on July 9, 2006, in Chicago.
  • The 18 runs scored were the fourth-most in 19-inning, Major League history.
  • The two clubs used a combined 16 pitches (eight each) and threw a combined 597 pitches. The 297 pitches the Angels threw were the most since at least 1988.
  • Howie Kendrick and Brendan Harris each went 2-for-9, becoming the second and third Angels players to log nine at-bats in a game. The first was Don Baylor, who went 5-for-9 on 4/13/82. It was the first game since 1993 to have three players (also Jed Lowrie) log nine at-bats in a game.
  • Six different Angels pitchers allowed a run for the fifth time in team history, and first time since Sept. 30, 2000.
  • Four players (Peter Bourjos, Luis Jimenez, Coco Crisp, Chris Young) exited early with injuries.
  • Seven of the Angels’ nine position players went the full 19 innings, including catcher Chris Iannetta, who worked 18 2/3 innings behind the plate. The last American League catchers to be behind the plate for more than 18 innings in a game were A.J. Pierzynski and Jason Varitek in 2006, in a game between the White Sox and Red Sox that ended with one out in the bottom of the 19th.

Alden

Angels in search of a backup catcher …

The Angels, feeling a little uneasy about Hank Conger‘s throwing woes, are in search of a veteran backup catcher as Spring Training winds down, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com on Saturday. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com first reported the Angels’ interest.

Conger, 25, came into camp as the clear-cut favorite to back up catcher Chris Iannetta and has hit well, batting .381 with two homers and 11 RBIs. The Angels like the switch-hitting Conger — who has always hit and has come a long way with his footwork and receiving skills behind the plate — but they need him to correct his throwing issues, which led to three errant throws on Sunday to up his spring total to at least five.

With rosters being pared down this time of year, the Angels will look to the waiver wire to add a steady, inexpensive, veteran presence behind the plate. They have an open spot on the 40-man roster after slipping Bobby Cassevah, now with the Rockies, through waivers. They’ll have some competition, though, with the Phillies, Pirates and Rays also looking for catching help, according to MLB.com’s Peter Gammons.

The Angels still believe in Conger. So in the event of an acquisition, they’re likely to option him to Triple-A to start the season so he can find the consistent release point that has eluded him. Conger has one option year left. John Hester (on the 40-man) and Luke Carlin (a non-roster invitee) are the other two catchers technically vying for the backup job, but both have had very inconsistent time in the Majors throughout their careers.

Alden

How Angels’ ‘Big 3′ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 

Alden 

Mike Trout is finally 21 years old …

Mike Trout is still a kid in some ways. He’s still among the youngest in baseball, is still a rookie and still spends his offseasons living out of his parents’ house in Millville, N.J., where he’s turned the basement into what he calls his “own little Man Cave.” “It’s awesome,” he said. “I’ve got a ping-pong table, dart board, huge flat screen. My friends love it.”

But on Tuesday, Aug. 7, Trout finally turned 21. He can now legally drink, which in this country is basically the final stage before full-on adulthood, even if only in a logistical sense.

They grow up so fast, don’t they?

Well, Trout grew up faster than most. Because before turning 21, he already looked like the best player in the Majors, was a favorite to be the youngest Most Valuable Player ever (you can already give him the Rookie of the Year Award) and was mentioned among the likes of Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr., Eric Davis, Bo Jackson and Mickey Mantle. Not fair, of course. He’s still so young, so early in his baseball career, with so much left to accomplish.

But it’s hard not to make comparisons like that when you consider …

  • Since his April 28 callup, Trout is batting .348 (1st in the AL) with 19 homers (1st among Major League rookies), 59 RBIs (ditto), 36 stolen bases (1st in the Majors), 86 runs (1st in the Majors), a .411 on-base percentage (3rd in the AL) and a .598 slugging percentage (2nd in the AL).
  • No player has ever hit .340 with 40 stolen bases in one season — and all of that is easily within reach for Trout.
  • His 6.9 WAR leads the Majors, according to FanGraphs.com, with Andrew McCutchen ranking second at 6.0. Among outfielders, he’s ninth in UZR, at 7.8.
  • He robbed J.J. Hardy of a home run with a ridiculous catch in Camden Yards on June 27. It’s been the reigning Web Gem for over a month.
  • He then did it again, this time to Gordon Beckham, on Saturday. According to ESPN, he’s the only player in the Majors to rob two homers this year.
  • Trout went into August with a .353 batting average, 18 homers and 31 steals. The only other player in Major League history to hit at least .350 with 15 homers and 30 steals before Aug. 1 was Henderson, who batted .352 with 16 homers and 47 steals during the first four months of his 1985 season with the Yankees.
  • He’s the first AL player ever to win Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month in the same month.
  • He also won Rookie of the Month honors three times in a row (May, June and July). The only other player to do that was Ichiro Suzuki in April, May and June in 2001.
  • With 32 runs in July, Trout tied Hal Trosky (Indians, 1934) for the all-time MLB rookie runs record for July.
  • Trout set the AL record for July home runs by a rookie, with 10. It also tied the Angels’ club record for rookie homers in any month (Wally Joyner, May 1986).
  • In his first 81 games, Trout scored 80 runs and drove in 55, combining for 135 runs plated. The last rookie to have that many through his first 81 games was Joe DiMaggio in 1936 (87 runs, 83 RBIs).
  • The only other player since 1920 to have as many hits (116), RBIs (55) and stolen bases (31) in his first 81 games of a season as Trout was George Sisler in 1922.
  • He’s swiped 27 consecutive bases and counting, building on a club record that was previously held by Gary Pettis in 1985 (22 straight). The last time Trout was caught stealing was June 4.
  • On May 1, Trout got a bunt single and ran a 3.53 from home to first — and he started from the right side of the batter’s box. That’s scary fast. Watch it here.
  • On May 18, Trout hit a triple on a ball down the left-field line.
  • Since May 1, Trout leads the Majors in runs (86) and times on base (163), and second in hits (122).
  • From July 5-23, Trout scored a run in 15 consecutive games. That streak tied the modern Major League rookie record, set a new AL rookie mark and established an Angels franchise record.
  • The only two players in the last 63 years who have led a league in batting average and stolen bases are Ichiro (2001) and Jackie Robinson (1949).
  • As part of a 4-for-6 game against the Tigers on July 17, Trout hit this long homer to the right-center-field portion of the massive Comerica Park. That homer traveled 442 feet, making it the second-longest opposite-field homer this year, according to ESPN.
  • He also hit one into downtown Cleveland on July 3.
  • In July, he became the 20th player in Major League history to be selected to the All-Star Game before his 21st birthday.
  • Then, with a clean single up the middle off the Mets’ R.A. Dickey, Trout — at 20 years, 338 days old — became the youngest player to record a hit in the All-Star Game since Detroit Hall of Famer Al Kaline in 1955, and third-youngest overall.
  • He has a 1.027 OPS against righties and a .964 OPS against lefties. His batting average is .293 when behind in the count, .377 with runners in scoring position and .392 versus Texas.
  • The Angels went 6-14 before Trout joined them on April 28. Since then, they’re 52-37, which is second-best in the AL.

Cheers, to 21 years.

 — Alden 
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