Results tagged ‘ Ryan Madson ’

The Angels’ uncertain, costly future …

dipotoThe Draft starts today, and after going heavy-handed on pitching the last two years, the Angels are expected to target position players this time around. They — like any other team — want to set themselves up so that every time there’s a need on the Major League club, there’s a player in their farm system ready to take over. It’s too risky, not to mention expensive, to rely on the free-agent market to fill holes. Look no further than that brutal offseason heading into 2013, which saw the Angels sign Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett. Ouch.

The Cardinals are the gold standard when it comes to organizational depth, as evidenced by a Major League-leading plus-70 run-differential without Adam Wanwright or Matt Adams.

The Angels? Well, they’re working on it.

Their farm system was in need of a major replenishment right around the time Jerry Dipoto took over as general manager after the 2011 season, but major free-agent signings stripped the Angels of early-round picks and new CBA regulations limited how much teams can spend on amateur talent. It’s been a slow process. But over time, the Angels have at least done a good job of building some respectable starting-pitching depth. Some notables …

Triple-A: Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano
Double-A: Nate Smith, Kyle McGowin
Class A Advanced: Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, Victor Alcantara
Class A: Jeremy Rhoades, Jake Jewell
Lower levels: Joe Gatto, Hunter Green

That brings us to the upcoming offseason, and why that starting-pitching depth could be so important. The Angels — losers of five straight games — could have up to five holes in their lineup once this season ends: catcher, second base, third base, left field, designated hitter. In the majority of those spots — perhaps all of them, if you’re being really cynical — the Angels don’t have players in their organization ready to come up and take over. And their big financial flexibility won’t come after the 2016 season, when C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and Erick Aybar, among others, come off the books.

Dipoto, with a contract that carries a lingering club option for 2016, knows he’ll eventually have to part ways with some of the precious starting-pitching depth he’s worked so hard to compile. He may have to trade some of it within these next two months, with his club in desperate need of some offense. And he’s almost certain to do so over the winter, given all their upcoming needs.

Here’s a snapshot …


Current option: Chris Iannetta, in the final season of a three-year, $15.55 million extension
In-house replacement(s): Carlos Perez, Jett Bandy
Free-agent options: Iannetta, Alex Avila, John Jaso, Dioner Navarro, Jeff Mathis (!), Matt Wieters
Probable outcome: The rest of this season could play a big part in deciding how the Angels handle this position. They need to find out if Perez, basically a throw-in in the deal that sent Hank Conger to the Astros for Tropeano, is capable of being a semi-regular. Bandy has made some pretty big strides in the last year and is solid defensively, and that free-agent list is pretty compelling. But I’d guess that if the Angels splurge on a free agent, it’s an outfielder, not a catcher.


Current option: David Freese, making $6.425 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kyle Kubitza
Free-agent options: Freese, Aramis Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Casey McGehee, Alberto Callaspo (!)
Probable outcome: The hope – the initial plan – is that Kubitza is ready to be the everyday third baseman in 2016. The likely scenario is that Kubitza is paired with a right-handed-hitting veteran who doesn’t mind sharing the job and can help Kubitza make the transition to the big leagues. I think it’s unlikely that they make a run at resigning Freese, especially since he’ll probably make good money given the lack of talent in the free-agent pool at third base.


Current option: Johnny Giavotella, controllable through 2019
In-house replacement(s): Giavotella, Josh Rutledge, Grant Green, Taylor Featherston, Alex Yarbrough
Free-agent options: Howie Kendrick (!), Ben Zobrist, Daniel Murphy
Probable outcome: Giavotella has been a revelation of sorts and is out of options. None of the other in-house options are all that appealing, as Spring Training might have shown, but the free-agent market isn’t deep here, either. The Angels don’t really do reunions, but Kendrick was huge for their lineup these last few years and he loves playing in Southern California. This is a position where they may ultimately have to get creative again.


Current option: Matt Joyce, making $4.75 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill, Efren Navarro, Alfredo Marte
Free-agent options: Joyce, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, Torii Hunter (!), David Murphy, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Shane Victorino
Probable outcome: As you can see, this is a major, major problem. Outfield is by far the Angels’ biggest organizationally need and they’ll most certainly have to get somebody from the outside. That may happen before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, though. Dipoto has been looking for a left-handed-hitting left fielder for quite a while, and for obvious reasons, he’d like to get someone who’s controllable beyond this season. Upton would be a very appealing option, though.


Current option: C.J. Cron, controllable through 2020
In-house replacement(s): Cron, Marc Krauss
Free-agent options: Chris Davis, Mike Napoli (!), Delmon Young
Probable outcome: This situation is strikingly similar to left field. For the last two years, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been scrounging for that ninth bat, going from Raul Ibanez to Cron to Navarro to Krauss to Green to Cron again. Most teams have this problem, though. Perhaps the Angels remain patient with Cron, but I see them getting two bats before August.


The nine stats that plagued the ’13 Angels …

Mike Scioscia, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton

There are pretty numbers, like .323, .432 and .557 — that’s Mike Trout‘s 2013 batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, respectively.

And then there are ugly ones, like the ones below — the nine stats that plagued the Angels in 2013 and, ultimately, may cost Trout another AL MVP Award …

(In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the Angels’ 2013 season and a look at what’s ahead.)

150: That’s the amount of double plays the Angels grounded into. It’s a franchise record, two more than the 1996 team, and third in the Majors. Albert Pujols (in only 99 games) and Mark Trumbo tied for the team lead with 18, while Howie Kendrick (a notorious GIDP’er) and Josh Hamilton each had 16. Speedster (and non-walker) Erick Aybar followed with 14.

26: That’s the number of pitchers the Angels used this season, three shy of the club record set in 1999. In April alone — a month when the bullpen compiled 95 innings, fifth-most in the Majors — they used 18 (!). It’s a sign of the lack of quality pitching depth the Angels had beyond the Opening Day roster, but also of the injuries they faced, like …

18: That’s the amount of starts Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas missed due to fluky injuries. Weaver fell at the Rangers Ballpark mound on April 7, suffered a fractured left elbow and didn’t return until May 29. Vargas was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left arm pit area shortly after his June 17 start, had invasive surgery and didn’t return until Aug. 13. Down the stretch, the Angels started to see what kind of continuity they can get from Weaver and Vargas being productive and in the rotation at the same time. But it was too little, too late.

13: That’s the combined appearances made by the two new relievers, Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson. Burnett made all of them — 11 in April, a couple in late May — before getting shut down with a torn flexor tendon. Madson missed a second straight year after Tommy John surgery and was released on Aug. 5. Together, Burnett and Madson were supposed to make the Angels’ bullpen a strength. Together, they came up with 13.

32: That’s the combined amount of April losses for two star-studded teams in back-to-back years. In 2012, the Angels started 6-14, roared back into relevance shortly after Trout’s callup and faded down the stretch. In 2013, they dropped 17 of 26 in the season’s first month and never even got back to .500. The Angels had a great Spring Training in 2012, a not-so-great one in 2013. Why the bad early starts — in addition to perhaps a flawed club — is hard to put your finger on.

-63: That’s the amount of runs the Angels didn’t save on defense. In other words, it was their DRS score — 27th in the Majors. And it’s pretty inexplicable considering their DRS was plus-58, tied for second in the Majors, just last season. Yeah, Pujols played only 99 games and Alberto Callaspo  was traded in late July, but the personnel was basically the same. And definitely not enough for a 121-run difference (!). Everyday players Trout (-9), Hamilton (-8), Chris Iannetta (-7) Aybar (-7), Kendrick (-3), J.B. Shuck (-1) and Trumbo (-1) had negative scores. The Angels were 19th in UZR, tied for 27th in fielding percentage and 28th in caught-stealing percentage. So, yeah, it’s not just that one sabermetric stat. The Angels were not a very good defensive team this season.

2.6: That’s the combined Wins Above Replacement, per, for Pujols and Hamilton. That’s actually higher than I expected, but obviously nowhere near what the Angels hoped for. In other words, two guys making a combined $33.4 million (or nearly 25 percent of the entire payroll) contributed three wins, if you round up. Pujols didn’t play past July 26, was severely hobbled when he did, and finished with a .258/.330/.437 slash line. Hamilton slumped up until the final five weeks of the season and finished at .250/.307/.432. You can talk about the pitching problems all you want — and I agree, it was the No. 1 issue in 2013 and is the No. 1 concern right now — but perhaps the Angels make a playoff run if they get normal years from Pujols and Hamilton.

66: That’s the amount of outs the Angels made on the bases, more than anyone in baseball — for a second straight year. Last season, they led with 72 outs on the bases. Kendrick (10), Aybar (7), Shuck (7) and Hank Conger (6) had the most.

22: I saved this one for last because I thought it was the most telling. It’s the amount of losses the Angels suffered in games during which they scored at least five runs. That’s the second-most in the Majors in 2013. The only team that lost more of those games was the Astros — the 111-loss Astros. Team Nos. 3-10: Twins, White Sox, Brewers, Orioles, Blue Jays, D-backs, Padres, Rockies. None of them made the playoffs, and the vast majority of them were never close. Nothing says pitching problems like losing a game in which you get five or more runs from your offense — 22 times.


What if they both stayed? …

Jerry Dipoto, Mike SciosciaSometimes the highest degree of accountability isn’t altogether prudent.

The Angels are wrapping up a season in which they were never really in the playoff mix, about to make it four consecutive postseason absences despite back-to-back marquee signings, and the prevailing sentiment – in the media and within the organization – is that either Jerry Dipoto or Mike Scioscia will be dismissed by owner Arte Moreno when it’s all set and done. They haven’t worked well together, the team has disappointed, and you can’t have another season like this, on a team with a payroll this high, and not make organizational changes.

But would that really make the Angels better?

What if the perceivably impossible scenario took place?

What if they both did stay?

Replacing Scioscia means eating the roughly $27 million that’s owed to him over the course of a contract that runs through 2018, not to mention parting ways with one of the most accomplished and respected managers in all of baseball. Parting ways with Dipoto means starting all over again – for the second time in three years – with an entire front-office team, from scouts to execs, all over the country and in Latin America.

This is too important an offseason to be transitioning to a new front office, or assembling a new coaching staff, or structuring new organizational philosophies. This team needs to worry about its on-field roster, one that needs to get back into contention quickly because (A) the Angels can’t reload, (B) Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are only getting older – and more expensive – and (C) the farm system needs to keep cultivating.

The best course for the Angels may be to give Dipoto and Scioscia another chance to foster a productive working relationship and actually use their differing views for the betterment of the organization.

Dipoto loves new-aged statistics, Scioscia is of the old-school mentality. Dipoto doesn’t have the autonomy to decide on Scioscia’s employment, making it difficult to establish any authority, and Scioscia is used to being more heavily involved in baseball-operations decisions. They “get along to get along,” as one person said. The Mickey Hatcher dismissal put a significant strain on their relationship last year and they’ve bumped heads on several quandaries this season, from Ernesto Frieri‘s recent demotion to Garrett Richards‘ role to Grant Green‘s upside.

But their relationship isn’t considered to be so fractured that they can’t work together (though solidifying a hierarchy might be necessary). For what it’s worth, they’ve been said to be just fine lately.

That’s what winning can do.

“Winning changes everything,” one player said of outside speculation regarding Dipoto and Scioscia. “If we were winning, none of this would be going on.”

If Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas didn’t combine for 18 missed starts due to fluky injuries, or if Pujols weren’t limited to 99 games because of plantar fasciitis, or if Hamilton hadn’t struggled so mightily in his first season in Anaheim, the Angels would be much better off and the narrative would be completely different.

And that’s what we have to keep in mind in this situation.

Yes, Dipoto and Scioscia both shoulder plenty of blame for what has taken place in 2013.

Dipoto was unsuccessful at turning limited funds into necessary pitching depth, with Joe Blanton (2-14 with a 6.04 ERA), Tommy Hanson (5.66 ERA in 70 innings), Sean Burnett (limited to 13 games) and Ryan Madson (released after missing a second year post-Tommy John surgery) all flopping in 2013.

Scioscia’s teams have started slow each of the last two seasons – 27-38 in 2013, 18-25 in 2012 – and up until their recent, too-late run, had done little right. They’ve been one of the worst defensive teams in baseball (26th in Defensive Runs Saved), they’re tied with the Rangers for the most outs made on the bases and are 16th in the Majors in run-differential, despite winning 22 of their last 31 games.

But Dipoto is the savvy GM the organization wanted after parting ways with Tony Reagins two Octobers ago; one who would prioritize the farm system and is well-thought-of throughout baseball and isn’t afraid to express his own opinions. And simply put, the Angels aren’t really going to find a better, more respected field manager than Scioscia.

Would replacing one of them move this organization forward in 2014, or would it actually set them back — only to create the illusion of accountability?

That’s the question.


It’s time to start thinking about Michael Kohn

Michael KohnMichael Kohn appeared in his 52nd game of the season on Monday night, if you count the Minor Leagues. That’s 13 off his career high, with six weeks left to go in the season, for a guy who’s fresh off Tommy John surgery.

The Angels are mindful of that, of course. Which is why at some point, it’ll be time to pull back the reigns and give him more time between appearances.

Right now, though, they really can’t.

“After Sept. 1, we’re going to have more options to monitor some guys,” Mike Scioscia said. “Right now, there’s really no roster flexibility. We have [Mike] Trout who’s down; it’s tough to get another pitcher here. [Pitching coach Mike Butcher] is really diligent about just the day-to-day monitoring of these guys. There’s some guys, as we said, that are tired. As far as Michael Kohn coming off Tommy John, it is something we have given consideration to and will continue to give consideration.”

Kohn — who, if you’ll recall, had Tommy John surgery one day after Ryan Madson — is probably the Angels’ Comeback Player of the Year, with a 3.79 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 40 1/3 innings after a scoreless seventh in Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Indians. But he has a 7.20 ERA since July 5 and has been charged with six earned runs in 6 1/3 innings this month. Ten times this season, he’s appeared in back-to-back games. And three of those times, it’s been three in a row.

Scioscia said the Angels won’t completely shut Kohn down if he’s healthy, but they’ll “monitor him a little bit and see how it goes towards this last month of the season.”

The Angels need to preserve as many viable bullpen options as possible heading into 2014 — but Kohn is also in his first full season in the big leagues.

“He’s still developing,” Scioscia said of the 27-year-old right-hander. “The thing about Michael is he’s not the finished product. So, every day you go out there to prove yourself, you gain a little more experience. And you’re seeing him develop more of an off-speed pitch, like he used tonight that helped him. You’re seeing him move forward with some things. To artificially truncate that development doesn’t make sense, but it does make sense to monitor just where he is on his innings and appearances and try to contain that as much as you can.”


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.


Game 85: Cardinals-Angels …

Cardinals (50-33)

STLMatt Carpenter, 2B
Carlos Beltran, RF
Matt Holliday, DH
Allen Craig, LF
Yadier Molina, C
Matt Adams, 1B
David Freese, 3B
Daniel Descalso, SS
Jon Jay, CF

SP: RH Adam Wainwright (11-5, 2.22 ERA)

Angels (40-44)

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

SP: RH Joe Blanton (2-10, 5.07 ERA)

  • Mike Scioscia still won’t reveal who the Saturday starting pitcher is, but it’s still leaving heavily towards left-hander Michael Roth. Roth, once again, was not listed in the lineup sheet under the bullpen. He threw one inning on Wednesday, which would qualify as his bullpen day, and Scioscia said they won’t be calling someone up from Triple-A to make that start. “We have a couple contingencies we’re looking at,” Scioscia said, “but we’ll have a group of guys we can choose from for Saturday.” Billy Buckner worked 4 1/3 innings in Wednesday’s 12-2 loss, throwing 71 pitches, so no chance he gets the start. Garrett Richards pitched two innings, throwing 40 pitches. He could be a candidate, but Richards hasn’t been stretched out past three innings since moving back to the bullpen. Roth’s last seven appearances in Class A have been starts.
  • Conger is starting back-to-back games. He and Chris Iannetta now have the same amount of starts since June 12: 10.
  • Ryan Madson threw another bullpen session today. This is his fourth since he began getting off a mound every three days after a long stint of merely playing catch. Asked how many more bullpen sessions he needs before venturing out on a rehab assignment, Scioscia said: “It’s tough to say. We’ve tried to guess along the way and I think we’re past that. We just have to see how he comes out of it and we’ll go from there.”
  • Scioscia has been in awe of what Yasiel Puig has done with the Dodgers. He’s in agreement with a lot of others in that Puig many not have as much time in the big leagues to be All-Star worthy, but believes he may get in anyway, saying: “I think he’s got to go a little further to earn it. I don’t think Major League Baseball will discount what he’s done, even though it’s a limited amount of at-bats. There’s a pool now to bring the best talent into that game because of the bearing it has on getting home-field advantage for the World Series. That’s going to give him a deeper look than maybe it would’ve been in any other situation.”
  • Trout had 290 plate appearances in the first half last year; Puig has 116 with 11 games left. As for how their situations compare, Scioscia said: “These guys are doing things you very rarely see young players come up and do. He’s played to his potential at a young age. A lot of parallels you can draw in that regard.”
  • In case you hadn’t noticed, Trout has been wearing a shinguard on his left foot during plate appearances after fouling a ball off there on Tuesday. He said the shin is fine now, but he’s wearing the guard for extra protection because it doesn’t bother him when he hits.


Dipoto: ‘We are not a buyer, we are not a seller’

Jerry DipotoThe Angels notched a season-high 14 runs, cranked out 16 hits and beat the first-place Tigers on Tuesday night. But one win can do very little to alter the harsh reality that still faces the Angels, at nine games below .500 and 10 1/2 games out of first place. Asked in a small media scrum on Wednesday about the most frustrating part of these first 12 weeks, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto couldn’t pinpoint one.

“It’s a compilation of events, truthfully,” he said. “We have not performed to our ability in a lot of different ways, and we have a half-season to turn it around. And whether that affects 2013, ’14 or beyond, we need to correct, or adjust, in the areas that we’ve struggled. And that goes for a lot of different elements of the game. It’s the way we’ve run the bases, it’s the way we’ve picked up the ball and thrown it over, it’s the way we’ve pitched the ball, it’s the way we’ve executed offensively and the inconsistencies. All those things. We have to get better at them.”

Here are some more notes from our conversation with the second-year GM …

  • The non-waiver Trade Deadline looms. It’s still exactly five weeks away, but the Angels could seemingly take two very drastic paths. If they go on a long winning streak, maybe they’re “buyers.” If they continue to struggle, or even stay the course, perhaps they’re “sellers.” Dipoto, however, intimated that neither would be the case, saying: “I don’t see drastic paths. We have a roster of veteran players, most of whom are under club control, a very talented offensive club, pitching staff is evolving, some pending free agents, many others under club control. We’ll assess as we go.”
  • More on the July 31 Deadline: “We are not a buyer, we are not a seller. We’re the Angels, who are sitting here trying to win a game today. Our sense of urgency has to be today, tomorrow and every day.”
  • On whether at some point he needs to start thinking about 2014 and beyond, Dipoto said: “I’m always thinking about 2014 and 2015. There is no dramatic point in time, there is no single day. That’s how I think every day — how can we maximize our talent level today and for years to come?”
  • On his confidence that Josh Hamilton (.214/.269/.382) can bounce back: “The back of his baseball card says there’s a pretty good chance that will happen, so my confidence level is really good.”
  • Asked about extending Mike Trout to a long-term contract, Dipoto side-stepped, saying only: “Mike has been a stud.”
  • On whether he expects Ryan Madson, still limited to throwing off flat ground, to be a contributor this season: “I have no idea. It’s rehab. He’s rehabbing from surgery. This is our exposure to Ryan Madson, three or four months of his rehabilitation. I don’t know I could bet on any one of the thousands of players who have had Tommy John surgery to come back with 100 percent certainty to look like how they did before or contribute. There is risk, for elements of upside. It remains to be seen whether well see that upside, but we are confident Ryan is working hard and doing the things he needs to do to maximize his changes of providing that for us.”
  • On whether he’ll reassess signing players to big contracts in the future: “There’s risk involved in every deal you do. The additions that we’ve made, we’re glad we’ve made. We’ll have the opportunity over time to watch this play out. We’ve had a disappointing first half, no doubt about it. Everybody here is frustrated by the performance to date. Our challenge is now to move forward, and like I said, we have an awful lot of talent in that clubhouse. I’m not going to sit here and assess future offseasons. You don’t know what opportunities are going to be in front of you. At the time, you measure the risk and make the right decisions. There are no black and white answers in this game, or in life.”
  • Jason Vargas‘ surgery to remove his blood clot was “successful.” He’ll be shut down from throwing for two weeks, as expected, and then will start building back arm strength thereafter.
  • In other news, Howie Kendrick has his first day off of the season and Peter Bourjos is not in the lineup, still battling a swollen left thumb. Mike Scioscia expects him back on Wednesday.


Game 67: Yankees-Angels …

Yes, the Angels — 10 games below .500, 12 games back in the AL West, 9 1/2 games back of the final Wild Card spot — haven’t had much luck with injuries this season, particularly with their highest-paid player (Albert Pujols) and the two guys they were counting on to turn their bullpen around (Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett). You know who has been hit with more injuries? The Yankees team they’ll now face. I mean, just look at their lineup. And yet, they kept on rolling, while the Angels are in need of an amazing run to get back in the race.

“A lot of the things we see are very tangible, a lot of the things we see are reversible,” Mike Scioscia continues to say. “That has to be our goal, to get these guys out there playing consistent baseball and bringing the talent on the field, because we have the potential to have a terrific team.”

Yankees (37-29)

NYYBrett Gardner, CF
Jayson Nix, 3B
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, DH
Vernon Wells, LF
Thomas Neal, RF
David Adams, 2B
Reid Brignac, SS
Austin Romine, C

SP: LH Andy Pettitte (5-3, 3.82 ERA)

Angels (28-38)

laaMike Trout, LF
Josh Hamilton, RF
Pujols, DH
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS
Peter Bourjos, CF

Pitching: LH C.J. Wilson (4-5, 4.05 ERA)

  • Starting rotation-wise, we know Tommy Hanson and Jered Weaver are starting the other two games in this series, respectively. And now, we know Jason Vargas will start Monday, with the order resetting again on Wednesday and Thursday. Who’s starting on Tuesday? That’s a decision that will perceivably come down to Joe Blanton and Jerome Williams, and Scioscia didn’t reveal anything on Friday. “Let’s get through this weekend,” he said. You have to figure, that if Blanton were starting Tuesday, he’d simply be listed as the starter by the team. The fact he isn’t makes me believe it’s going to be Williams, as long as he isn’t needed out of the bullpen in some crazy long game (like the 18-inning game the Yankees played against the A’s last night). Just an educated guess, though.
  • Robert Coello, placed on the disabled list with what the team called right shoulder inflammation, will be shut down from throwing for a minimum of four weeks. Coello’s elbow is also hurting.
  • The Angels will honor Mariano Rivera on Saturday.
  • The Angels have signed 34 of their 39 Draft picks. Among those remaining are their first selection, lefty Hunter Green, who was taken in the second round.
  • Sicoscia, on his biggest takeaway from his time with Wells: “He worked very hard at the game. You could tell that his non-performance is something he did not take in stride. I mean he felt it. And whether he had a rough day the night before, he came out with a positive frame of mind and said, ‘I’m going to help us win today.’ Maybe fans don’t see that side of him, but he didn’t take it easy when he was struggling, and he knows that he’s a better player than what he showed when he played with us.”
  • Wells, by the way, has cooled off considerably since his hot start. Over his last 40 games, he has a .182/.209/.284 slash line. He comes in batting .229/.274/.386, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs.


Game 58: Astros-Angels …

Astros (20-37)

HOU2Brandon Barnes, CF
Jose Altuve, 2B
Jason Castro, C
J.D. Martinez, LF
Carlos Pena, DH
Chris Carter, 1B
Jimmy Paredes, RF
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Marwin Gonzalez, SS

SP: LH Erik Bedard (0-2, 5.32 ERA)

Angels (25-32)

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

SP: RH Joe Blanton (1-8, 5.94 ERA)

  • Josh Hamilton, in case you hadn’t noticed, has the day off today. He isn’t hurt. Angels manager Mike Scioscia wanted to give him a “a recharge day” (and the fact their facing a lefty made this a good opportunity). Hamilton probably won’t be available to pinch-hit, either. It’s only expected to be for one day. “We need him to get into his game, and I think we’ve been trying to grind it and get him there and it’s just not quite getting far enough where we’d want him to. And so we’re going to take a day, take that half-step back and get him to take two steps forward.”
  • Garrett Richards, who left Sunday’s game with a mild left ankle sprain, “feels a little better today,” Scioscia said. They’re not sure if he’ll be available tonight, though.
  • Scott Downs will get in a game either today or tomorrow. He hasn’t pitched in a game in eight days, mainly because he’s the only lefty currently in the ‘pen and Scioscia wants to make sure he gets the most out of him.
  • Ryan Madson played catch today, but he still has a ways to go before hopping back up on a bullpen. Yep.
  • Peter Bourjos will start in center field for Class A Inland Empire on Monday night, as expected.
  • A bunch of content on the site already from earlier today, on Trout topping AL outfielders in All-Star votes, Jason Vargas winning AL Pitcher of the Month, a look at the upcoming Draft, and the reason why the Angels haven’t played to their potential.


Waiting on Albert and Josh …

Albert Pujols, Josh HamiltonSince beginning the season at a glacial pace, the Angels have made strides in a lot of areas. And yet, they’re still nowhere near playing to their full potential.

The reason is very, very simple: They’re still waiting for Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to get going.

The starting pitching (particularly Jason Vargas) has been much better. The bullpen (minus Ryan Madson) has some depth again. Mike Trout (.327/.409/.664 in May) has rounded into form. And several guys (Jered Weaver, Tommy Hanson, Kevin Jepsen, Sean Burnett, Peter Bourjos) have either made their way back or are seemingly on the brink.

But Pujols and Hamilton still haven’t hit full stride just yet. There have been times — Pujols’ four-hit, two-homer, 19-inning game on April 29; Hamilton’s four-hit game on April 22 — when you thought, “OK, here it comes.” And then they just go back to being, well, quite average.

When will it finally happen? And when it does — if it does — will it be too late?

Right now, neither Pujols (105th) nor Hamilton (141st) even rank in the top 100 in OPS in the Majors through the team’s first 57 games.

Pujols, with a .248/.320/.416 slash line, isn’t healthy. The plantar faciitis in his left foot and his surgically repaired right knee have prompted him to start 28 of his 55 starts at designated hitter and forced him out of the lineup on Friday. It’s a testament to his toughness that he’s even out there, frankly. But it’s hard to drive the ball with much force when your lower body ails like that, and we’re seeing it.

Hamilton, .216/.277/.380,can’t use injuries as an excuse. He just isn’t right; hasn’t been since the start of the season. He’s already struck out 61 times –on pace for a career-high 173 — and has yet to establish any sort of consistent rhythm.

You can lament the starting pitching acquisitions the Angels didn’t make, or pray Madson’s elbow fully heals, or even curse Mike Scioscia. But this is a team built around Pujols and Hamilton, the two big-ticket signings that brought with them championship aspirations.

Without them at their best, the Angels will go nowhere.

“Those two guys are critical for us,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re seeing Albert hopefully start to get more comfortable. As his base, when he hits, feels stronger, you’re going to see him get where he needs to be. And Josh is really important to what we need to do. You have to keep playing ball, though. We just won eight in a row without those guys doing what they can do, so it’s not that your whole season is contingent on what those two guys can do. But they are really important to us, no doubt about that.”

Below is a statistical comparison between the Angels in April and May. As you’ll notice, it’s just the offense that basically stayed the same …


April: 9-17
May: 16-13

Starting pitching

April: 5.26 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 1.62 SO/BB, 5.73 IP/GS
May: 3.85 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.63 SO/BB, 6.13 IP/GS

Relief pitching

April: 4.26 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 1.88 SO/BB, 3-8 SV
May: 3.97 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 2.30 SO/BB, 11-12 SV


April: .262/.321/.402/.723, 4.27 R/G, .92 HR/G, 10-16 SB
May: .259/.326/.443/.769, 4.69 R/G, 1.28 HR/G, 13-23 SB


April: .81 E/G
May: .48 E/G

Times using the DL

April: 7
May: 1

Here’s a quick look at who’s hot, and who’s not, in the Minor Leagues …


1B/OF Brad Hawpe (AAA): .303/.336/.422, 6 HR, 26 RBI
1B C.J. Cron (AA): .314/.356/.479, 5 HR, 30 RBI
SP Mark Sappington (A+): 5-2, 3.97 ERA, 12 GS


SP A.J. Schugel (AAA): 2-4, 7.46 ERA, 12 GS
3B Kaleb Cowart (AA): .218/.283/.330, 3 HR, 14 RBI
RP Nick Maronde (AA): 5.12 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 14 G


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