Results tagged ‘ Tommy Hanson ’
The 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 Angels’ budget got a little clearer on Monday, upon announcing they were non-tendering Jerome Williams, Tommy Hanson, Chris Nelson and Juan Gutierrez. That clears about $10 million in projected salary, crucial to an Angels team that needs to add at least two starting pitchers while staying below the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million.
So, how much room do they have left on the budget?
Let’s have a look …
The Collective Balance Tax Payroll is the average annual value of all 40-man-roster contracts, plus benefits, pensions, bonuses, etc. First, let’s add up the AAV of the 10 players on the budget …
Josh Hamilton: $25M
Albert Pujols: $24M
Jered Weaver: $17M
C.J. Wilson: $15.5M
Erick Aybar: $8.75M
Howie Kendrick: $8.375M
Joe Blanton: $7.5M
Joe Smith: $5.25M
Chris Iannetta: $5.18M
Sean Burnett: $4M
That equals $120.56 million. Then you have to add the $18.6 million the Angels owe the Yankees for the final season of Vernon Wells’ contract, which puts the total at $139.16. Then you have to project ahead for arbitration. Below are the Angels’ five remaining arbitration-eligible players, with the projections provided by MLBTradeRumors.com …
Mark Trumbo: $4.7M
David Freese: $4.4M
Ernesto Frieri: $3.4M
Kevin Jepsen: $1.4M
Fernando Salas: $700K
That’s $14.6 million, and it puts the CBT payroll at $153.76 million.
The last part is when it gets really uncertain with more than four months left before Opening Day (keep in mind: a team’s final CBT payroll isn’t calculated until after the season). To that figure, you have to tack on all the contracts for players with zero to three years of service time (the Major League minimum in 2014 is $500,000) plus benefits. I’m told the best way to go about it is to just allocate $20 million for all of this.
That puts the Angels’ CBT payroll at roughly $174 million, which gives them about $15 million of wiggle-room before hitting the luxury tax.
That figure is nowhere near exact, but as close as you can get at this point.
The Angels’ hopes of resigning free-agent starting pitcher Jason Vargas were squashed on Thursday, when the Royals announced they have signed the veteran left-hander to a four-year contract.
The average annual value of Vargas’ new deal, a reported $32 million, is $8 million. The Angels were willing to give him that much, but they weren’t willing to go four years (it would’ve been hard for them to even give him a third year).
And so, the Angels still have at least two holes to fill in their rotation.
Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards are returning, Tommy Hanson is likely to get non-tendered in December and Joe Blanton — if not released this offseason — will not go into the season as a guaranteed member of the rotation. General manager Jerry Dipoto did not tender the $14.1 million qualifying offer to Vargas because he was almost certain Vargas would accept it, and by accepting it the Angels would already be dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold of $189 million.
Vargas was acquired in a one-for-one deal with the Mariners that sent Kendrys Morales to Seattle last December. In his first year in Southern California, where he grew up and briefly attended Long Beach State University, Vargas went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 150 innings in a season that saw him miss two months with a blood clot.
The Angels are expected to use the trade market to bolster a rotation that ranked 11th in the American League in ERA last season, but they may also turn to other free agents to fill Vargas’ void. And while they aren’t expected to go after the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, names like Phil Hughes, Dan Haren, Bronson Arroyo, etc., etc., could be enticing.
— Alden Gonzalez
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.
Angels starter Jered Weaver has been scratched from his Friday start, with Matt Shoemaker taking his place in the rotation.
The move was announced Thursday, during the Angels’ off-day, and no reason was given as to why the ace right-hander won’t be starting the series opener against the Mariners.
Weaver did experience some tightness in his right forearm during a start in Minnesota on Sept. 9, but he took his next turn against the Astros on Saturday and pitched six innings of two-run ball. The Angels could be opting to simply give Weaver some extra rest with the season winding down and the team out of the playoff race, as manager Mike Scioscia has hinted at in the past.
Jerome Williams and C.J. Wilson will start Saturday and Sunday, as previously scheduled, but the starters for the early part of next week have not yet been announced. Interestingly, the Angels opted to start Shoemaker instead of Tommy Hanson, who was recalled from Triple-A early this week, or Joe Blanton, who has been in the bullpen since late July.
Shoemaker’s start will mark his Major League debut. The 26-year-old right-hander went 11-13 with a 4.64 ERA in 29 starts for Triple-A Salt Lake this year. Weaver is 10.8 with a 3.36 ERA in 23 starts. The 30-year-old has a 3.23 ERA since returning from a broken left elbow on May 29.
The Angels are playing good baseball, with 17 wins in their last 23 games and 11 victories in their last 17 road contests. But the first-place A’s are rolling, too. They just swept the Rangers in Texas, expanding their AL West lead to 6 1/2 games, and have won eight of their last nine. Today, they got Yoenis Cespedes and Jarrod Parker back after both were scratched on Sunday. Just the Angels’ luck …
SP: LH C.J. Wilson (16-6, 3.44 ERA)
SP: RH Parker (11-6, 3.55 ERA)
- Now that the Minor League playoffs are over, the Angels were finally able to make their call-ups. Right-handers Tommy Hanson, Matt Shoemaker and Robert Coello have joined the pitching staff, with infielder Tommy Field and first baseman Efren Navarro also coming up. Surprisingly, no lefty relievers. To make room on the 40-man roster for Navarro and Shoemaker, Peter Bourjos (wrist) and Kevin Jepsen (appendicitis) were transferred to the 60-day DL.
- No decision yet on what Hanson’s role will essentially be. I’d think the Angels would like to at least get one more look at him as a starting pitcher, considering the tender decision they face with him in December, but the five starters in their rotation are pitching well and Mike Scioscia said he hasn’t really seen him put it together in Triple-A the way he did when he came off the DL on July 23, when his fastball was reaching the mid-90s. That, however, may be an unrealistic expectation.
- Coello, who hasn’t appeared in a Major League game since June 9, said his shoulder is fine now after battling some inflammation. He got a cortisone shot in the shoulder and a PRP shot in the elbow and is looking to finish strong.
- Ernesto Frieri is “most likely not available” after his six-out save against the Astros on Sunday.
- Chris Iannetta won American League Player of the Week honors, then moved to the bench. Scioscia liked Conger’s lefty bat vs. Parker.
- Jered Weaver was named the Angels nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
It’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 …
- Weaver loses a bit off his fastball every year.
- Wilson flirts with danger a lot.
- Vargas’ 3.94 ERA since the start of 2010 ranks 61st.
- Richards is 25 and has been inconsistent in the past.
- 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.)
@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.
Tuesday’s start — his first since June 20 — saw Hanson command a fastball like he hasn’t in quite some time. He only went 5 1/3 innings — giving up one run and throwing 75 pitches because he needs to ease his way back from a forearm strain — and it didn’t have much of an impact on the Angels’ 10-3 loss to the Twins in 10 innings.
But Hanson had his velocity back.
In 2012, his average fastball velocity was 89.6 mph. Heading into Tuesday’s start, it was 88.9 mph in 2013. On Tuesday, it was consistently between 92 to 94 mph, reminiscent of his first three seasons with the Braves, when Hanson established himself as one of the best young pitchers in the game.
The question is: Was this simply because his arm was fresh, or is this sustainable for the rest of the season?
“I hope it’s sustainable,” Scioscia said. “In his rehab appearance, when we got the report back, we were pleasantly surprised by just seeing him not only feel strong but get back to some of the numbers that made him one of the up-and-coming young stars in the National League when he was with the Braves. That’s the stuff he had tonight.”
A livelier fastball, which he was spotting wherever he chose, played up his slider and curveball and led to a season-high-tying eight punchouts.
“I didn’t feel like I had to force anything tonight,” Hanson said. “It was there. I felt really good, and I feel like the results were there, as well.”
What, exactly, he did to get that velocity back? Hanson isn’t sure. He said he’s been “trying to speed up to home plate, carry that momentum to the catcher, try to stay on line and try to simplify things a little bit.” But he didn’t expect to be adding at least two ticks to his fastball. Of the 43 pitches pitchF/X identified as four-seam fastballs from Hanson, four were 94 mph, 24 were 93 mph and 13 were 92 mph. Only two — both in his final inning — came in at 91 mph.
Hanson hasn’t averaged a fastball velocity higher than 91 mph since August 2011.
“I was getting a lot of swings and misses that most times I don’t get,” he said. “It was a lot of fun today. It was a lot of fun pitching. I felt really good about it.”
This is a big next two months for the 26-year-old Hanson, who entered with a 5.10 ERA in nine starts. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason, in line for a raise from his $3.725 million salary, and needs to prove himself if he wants to avoid being non-tendered this offseason.
Now, it seems, he has his stuff back.
Can he sustain it?
“I don’t know,” Hanson said. “I was throwing a little bit harder tonight, and we’ll see what happens the next time out.”
Josh Hamilton’s sore right ankle kept him out of the lineup for a second straight day on Tuesday and a follow-up MRI revealed that the Angels outfielder has some inflammation that could keep him out for one or two more games.
Hamilton doesn’t believe he’ll be out any longer than that, though.
“I don’t have any concern,” he said when asked if this could be a long-term injury. “Usually you know when something is wrong, and I don’t have any inclination that it is. It should be good in a couple of days.”
Hamilton, who says he mysteriously hurt the ankle when he got out of bed on Monday morning, will see an orthopedist later on Tuesday and may receive a shot to let the swelling go down.
Hamilton, batting .223 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs, has started 87 of the Angels’ 98 games, also missing time due to minor injuries in his right wrist and lower back, plus a bout with sinus congestion.
“He is feeling a little better than he did yesterday,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Hamilton’s ankle, “so hopefully it’ll be day to day.”
Brian Dozier, 2B
Jamey Carroll, 3B
Joe Mauer, C (SCRATCHED)
Justin Morneau, 1B
Ryan Doumit, RF
Chris Colabello, DH
Chris Herrmann, C
Clete Thomas, LF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Pedro Florimon, SS
SP: RH Kyle Gibson (2-2, 6.45 ERA)
J.B. Shuck, LF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Hank Conger, C
Collin Cowgill, RF
Erick Aybar, SS
SP: RH Tommy Hanson (4-2, 5.10 ERA)
The 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.
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.