Results tagged ‘ White Sox ’
Leading 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 AL Central.
Last year’s record: 92-70, 2nd place (lost to Rays in AL Wild Card game)
Key additions: OF David Murphy, RP John Axford, RP Josh Outman, 1B David Cooper, INF Elliot Johnson, OF Nyjer Morgan, RF Jeff Francoeur, C Matt Treanor, SP Shaun Marcum
Key subtractions: SP Ubaldo Jimenez, SP Scott Kazmir, OF Drew Stubbs, CL Chris Perez, OF Jason Kubel, RP Matt Albers, RP Rich Hill, RP Joe Smith, C Kelly Shoppach
Biggest strength: Offense. The Indians ranked sixth in the Majors in runs scored last year, despite down years from Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Asdrubal Cabrera, and have replaced the strikeout-prone Drew Stubbs with righty masher David Murphy.
Biggest question: Pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Kazmir signed with the A’s and it doesn’t look like Jimenez is coming back, so it’ll be up to young guys like Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Carlos Carrasco to fill the void as starters. The bullpen no longer has Perez, Hill and Smith, so the likes of Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Vinnie Pestano have to step up.
Most important player: Salazar. The 24-year-old right-hander has the makings of a front-of-the-rotation starter and needs to emerge as one for the Indians to take the next step.
In 25 words or less: The Indians let a lot of veteran pitchers go, and now their playoff fate will rest on an assortment of young, albeit-talented arms.
Last year’s record: 86-76, 3rd place
Key additions: SP Jason Vargas, OF Norichika Aoki, 2B Omar Infante, INF Danny Valencia, SP Brad Penny, RP Jon Rauch, OF Carlos Peguero,
Key subtractions: SP Ervin Santana, 1B Carlos Pena, INF Miguel Tejada, INF/OF Emilio Bonifacio, RP Will Smith
Biggest strength: Relief pitching. Greg Holland was one of baseball’s best closers last year, with Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow helping to make up arguably the game’s best bullpen.
Biggest question: Youth in the starting lineup. If the Royals are going to make the playoffs for the first time since winning it all in 1985, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain will have to finally come into their own.
Most important player: Danny Duffy. The 25-year-old lefty missed almost 14 months due to Tommy John surgery, then posted a 1.85 ERA in five starts down the stretch. He still has upside, and could provide a huge boost to the rotation if he takes a step forward.
In 25 words or less: Aoki, Infante and Vargas could very well be the moves that push the Royals over the top and end a brutal, 28-year playoff drought.
Last year’s record: 93-69, 1st place (lost to Red Sox in ALCS)
Key additions: MGR Brad Ausmus, CL Joe Nathan, 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Rajai Davis, INF Steve Lombardozzi, RP Joba Chamberlain, RP Ian Krol
Key subtractions: MGR Jim Leyland, SP Doug Fister, 1B Prince Fielder, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Omar Infante, INF Ramon Santiago, C Brayan Pena, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Jeremy Bonderman, RP Octavio Dotel, RP Jose Veras
Biggest strength: Starting pitching. Even without Fister, the Tigers’ staff looks like the best in baseball, with the reigning Cy Young Award winner (Max Scherzer), a former MVP (Justin Verlander) and the guy with the lowest ERA in 2013 (Anibal Sanchez). And don’t forget about ground ball machine Rick Porcello pitching with a better defense behind him.
Biggest question: Ausmus, because it’s always tough for a rookie manager to take on a veteran team with World Series expectations, especially while filling the shoes of a legend (though Mike Matheny seemed to do OK). Everything else about this club is solid.
Most important player: Victor Martinez. With Fielder in Texas, it’ll probably be his job to protect Miguel Cabrera as the new cleanup hitter and get pitchers to throw the two-time MVP a strike every once in a while.
In 25 words or less: The defense is a lot better with Cabrera at first and the ninth is finally locked up with Nathan. If healthy, they’ll contend once again.
Last year’s record: 66-96, 4th place
Key additions: SP Ricky Nolasco, SP Phil Hughes, OF Jason Kubel, C Kurt Suzuki, SS Jason Bartlett, RP Matt Guerrier
Key subtractions: C/OF Ryan Doumit, SP Liam Hendriks
Biggest strength: Their farm system. Keith Law ranked them second, behind only the Astros, while center fielder Byron Buxton (first) and third baseman Miguel Sano (third) rank among MLB.com’s top three prospects.
Biggest question: Starting pitching. The Twins had by far the worst rotation in the Majors last year, with a 30th-ranked 5.26 ERA, then spent a combined $84 million to bring in Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and resign Mike Pelfrey. They’ll be better, but they’ll still be bad.
Most important player: Joe Mauer, of course. He’s signed through 2018 and is making the transition from catcher to first base in hopes of staying as healthy as possible during that time. How will he handle it defensively, and will he produce the power numbers required for that position? These are crucial questions for the Twins’ future.
In 25 words or less: They’ll take their lumps again this season, but the rotation will be better (how can it be worse?) and some very talented prospects arrive soon.
Last year’s record: 63-99, 5th place
Key additions: CF Adam Eaton, 1B Jose Abreu, 3B Matt Davidson, SP Felipe Paulino, RP Ronald Belisario, RP Scott Downs
Key subtractions: SP Gavin Floyd, CL Addison Reed, OF Brandon Jacobs, SP/RP Hector Santiago, SP Dylan Axelrod
Biggest strength: The front of the rotation. Chris Sale is up there among the best pitchers in the game, and 25-year-old Jose Quintana (3.51 ERA in 33 starts last year) has emerged as a solid No. 2.
Biggest question: The lineup. It could be solid; it could also be very bad. Eaton, Abreu, Davidson, Dayan Viciedo, Avisail Garcia, Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham, Tyler Flowers and Alexei Ramirez all bring varying degrees of questions.
Most important player: Abreu. He was given the largest ever contract for an international free agent ($68 million over six years) and has supplanted Paul Konerko as the everyday first baseman. Now we’ll see how the Cuban slugger’s power translates to the States.
In 25 words or less: The White Sox can’t contend this year, but GM Rick Hahn is doing a nice job rebuilding in hopes of getting them there soon.
Predicted order of finish …
- White Sox
On being traded for the first time in his career …
I think it’s all for the better. Hopefully for the better of all the teams and for the better of my career. It seems like the Angels are really happy to have me. And as long as they want me there, it’s nice to have that. As long as they want to have me, I’m happy to be there.
On whether it took him by surprise …
I had an idea that was going to happen, with having four lefties in the rotation. It’s the first time I’ve been traded in my career, so I really didn’t know how to react and don’t know how to go by it. But I kind of felt it coming. I heard a bunch of rumors and just people texting, like, ‘Hey, it’s possible.’ I kind of had an idea it was possible. I didn’t know if it was going to go through, especially talking to the White Sox, planning ahead, trying to get ready for 200 innings next year as a starter in the White Sox rotation. And then a week and a half, two weeks later, it was like, ‘Oh, you just got traded.’ But it’s for the better, so I’m happy.
On his comfort level in bouncing around from bullpen to rotation …
I’m really comfortable. I feel like I’ve done it all the time, through high school and college, Minor League Baseball and the big leagues. Forever. It’s to the point where it’s normal to me. Growing up as a kid in high school, playing summer ball, I would play center field for two innings and then pitch. It’s something I’ve done before, jumping all over the place. But it was definitely a fun experience, coming up from being a starter in the Minor Leagues and then the big leagues. I’ve had every role I think that you can have in the big leagues. It was definitely fun, because you came to the park not knowing what was going on. It was definitely a fun experience in coming to the field every day and not knowing what was going to happen.
On building off 2013 …
It was definitely a different year — innings-wise, strength-wise, learning how to pitch every fifth day. It was definitely a new experience. I don’t know if I made this many, but I had a bunch of starts in the Minor Leagues in 2011 and it definitely wasn’t as difficult as this, between the big league level and playing great teams every day. But I learned a lot. This year, I definitely want to improve on going after guys earlier in the count, get some earlier outs so I can get deeper in the game. It seemed like at the beginning of the game, in the first inning, I’d worry about starting the game with a zero instead of just pitching the same way later in the game. So, early in the game, if I attack the zone more, I felt like after the first, second inning, it was an easier inning for me. It was me putting pressure on myself to start off the game clean and making sure that I gave my team a 0-0 score, and hopefully we can get some runs early in the game. And I put a lot of pressure on myself with my stuff and with my command. That was a big thing of just getting used to the role of a starting pitcher. In the bullpen, you come in for one inning, so you have a little bit of leeway where you can waste a few pitches. But as a starter, you have to try to get as many early outs as you can.
On what he was told in his phone call with the Angels …
It was short, brief. [Jerry Dipoto] was just saying, ‘We’re happy to have you. We had to make a move, and I felt like you were the right move for what we needed and you fill a spot that needed to be filled.’ … They seem very excited to have me, and it seems like I’m going to hopefully be filling one of the voids that they need.
* Shortly after getting traded to the D-backs on Tuesday, Mark Trumbo reached out to the Angels’ PR department to ask about still attending the team’s annual Holiday Party at the ESPN Zone. They couldn’t believe it. And they were even more stunned when he actually showed up the next day, alongside Hank Conger, Chuck Finley, Adam Kennedy and others. (Photo on the left courtesy of Angels PR man Eric Kay.)
Angels broadcasters Jose Mota and Terry Smith left Trumbo for last during the introductions, and he got by far the loudest ovation.
“I’ve been attending these parties for as long as I’ve been here, 11 years,” Mota said, “but you know one thing — Trumbo has been going to these parties since he was in A ball, and that part doesn’t surprise me because he’s so invested in the community-outreach programs, which he’s done for so many years. And we’re talking about a guy who, because he’s local, he was accessible, good kid, the Angels felt comfortable calling him out of A ball and saying, ‘Come to this party.’ But to see a player who had just gotten traded, No. 1, putting away all the emotions, and then a guy that is not an Angel at that party, it was a bit strange.
“He didn’t put the jersey on, of course,” Mota added. “But he was Trumbo. He was just Mark Trumbo, that’s all you expected. And he had a huge ovation from the kids and all the adults that were there because they knew that this is quite a unique thing — a guy who’s not on the team, got traded, could’ve been mopy. He decided, ‘No, this is who I am.’ You talk about showing your true colors and who you really are, I don’t think it speaks any better than that action right there.”
* Trumbo, during a phone conversation with Lyle Spencer and I, admitted that he smiled when he realized he’d be ditching the Angel Stadium marine layer and was following Tuesday’s trade rumors via Twitter “more than I lead on, probably.”
“I knew that things were getting close from messages and phone calls I received,” Trumbo said, “but I did find out first on Twitter that things had become official, so that’s kind of some insight from a player’s perspective that, in this day and age, that’s how things work.”
* Spoke to yet another scout about Tyler Skaggs recently. Here’s what he said (and this guy knows him very well) …
People seem concerned about a loss of velocity. But if you go back to what you thought he was going to be, when you drafted, scouted and signed him, that’s exactly the fastball that he’s working with now. Maybe for a short time he peaked a little bit and worked at 93, 94 or whatever, but he’s 88 to 91, touches 92 occasional now. That’s plenty of fastball, when you consider his curveball and his changeup, and the belief that he’s been a strike-thrower. I know his strikeout numbers are all right. He’s got angle, he’s got plane, he’s got spin, he’s got some touch-and-feel, some back-and-forth with the changeup. This guy was well-regarded, highly regarded throughout the industry, had the numbers to match up. He had a mediocre year last year. … I think the comfort level of going back where he came from is going to help. He’s a Southern California kid. There’s going to be a comfort level, a familiarity level.
* You think coaching the Yankees, Cowboys or Lakers is a pressure-filled job? That’s nothing compared to managing winter ball, and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel experienced that recently. Ebel, promoted from third-base coach shortly after the season, was managing the Estrellas Orientales of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. But that lasted only 18 games. He went 6-12, and then was let go, done in time to join Mike Scioscia and several other members of the Angels’ coaching staff at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
* Someone who is still playing winter ball — for the Leones de Escogido in the D.R. — is C.J. Cron, who’s batting .212/.250/.364 through eight games. That’s a lot of baseball for Cron, who played a full season of Double-A (.746 OPS) and tore it up in the Arizona Fall League (1.167), but he’s a first baseman/designated hitter, so it’s not like he has to move around too much. The Angels view him as a potential option for them late in 2014.
* Some additional minutia on the Angels’ situation at the moment: Matt Garza is still “the guy they really want” a source said Friday, but the perception is that they won’t go above a four-year contract. … The Angels still aren’t expected to spend much on a bat. Right now, they’re budgeting a one-year deal worth less than $5 million. Can they get Raul Ibanez or Kevin Youkilis for that? We’ll see. … Santiago and Skaggs both have options left, but it looks like Santiago has a spot on the Major League roster (as a starter or a reliever) and Skaggs is more of a question. Either he starts in the Majors or in Triple-A. Both have options, nonetheless.
Winter Meetings stories …
Angels Notebook from Day 1, on Albert Pujols‘ health, Mike Trout extension talks and the evolving AL West
Phillip Wellman (this guy) will manage the Angels’ Double-A affiliate
Story on the three-team trade between the D-backs, White Sox and Angels
Spencer, on how the deal benefits the Angels
Trout’s cycle lands GIBBY for Hitting Performance
Trout likely to bat second again next season
Spencer, on Scioscia seeking chemistry on the field
Lefty specialist picked up in Rule 5 Draft
On what’s next, now that the Winter Meetings are over
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 …
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 FanGraphs.com, 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.
Angels first base prospect C.J. Cron laced a single to left field in the fourth inning at Citi Field on Sunday, and waiting for him at first base was his father, Chris Cron, who was coaching Team USA at the Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game.
“That was a pretty cool feeling,” C.J. (the one on the left) said, a big smile on his face after the United States defeated the World team, 4-2.
Chris manages the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate in Eerie, Penn., and was invited to take part. Sunday was the first time he had coached his son since travel ball during his high school days.
“I’m not smart enough to know the right adjective to use, but anything that happens is going to be icing on the cake,” Chris said prior to a game in which his son batted cleanup, eventually going 1-for-3. “I’m just so glad that we’re here together, doing this together. He’s sort of following in the footsteps and he’s just maturing as a young man. He’s a great kid.”
Chris was primarily a first baseman who appeared in six Major League games each with the Angels and White Sox from 1991-92. If his son keeps up his current pace, his career will span much longer.
C.J. played with a torn labrum in his shoulder for Class A Inland Empire in 2012, hitting 27 homers and driving in 123 runs – one shy of the franchise’s Minor League record – before finally going under the knife with only a handful of games left in the season. And the 23-year-old right-handed slugger hasn’t skipped a beat at Double-A this year, batting .287 with a .332 on-base percentage and, with a new sidearm motion, managing to play 80 of his 87 games at first base.
He’s hit only eight home runs, a dip in power that might’ve been a byproduct of having his shoulder surgically repaired, but he’s nonetheless been among the best producers of a depleted farm system — though he seemingly has no path to the big leagues with his current organization.
“I’m extremely proud of how he’s been able to do what he’s done in professional baseball,” Chris said. “I can’t say I’m surprised at his quick recovery or anything like that. You’re hoping that that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You just put too much trust in the medical industry nowadays that you’re going to fix people. You’re going to get a second chance. He has, and he’s obviously taken advantage of it and doing a heck of a job.”
- 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.
Angels starters put together a nice game on Thursday — perhaps the most complete game of a spring that had only produced three victories through the first 17 Cactus League contests.
The first three members of the lineup (Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick and Albert Pujols) combined to go 6-for-9 with five runs scored. The starting pitcher (Jason Vargas) gave up a run in 4 2/3 innings. And the Angels played a solid game defensively, which had eluded them most of the month.
“Some guys are starting to get into their 15th, 20th at-bat, and they’re starting to see the ball the way they should,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re swinging the bats well and running the bases well. We have to keep building from this, and as spring moves on, we have to keep building our bullpen and getting guys where they need. That’s going to be critical for us.”
Trout is in midseason form, it seems. He homered to lead off the game, just missed a homer his second time up — resulting in a double, which gave him an extra-base hit in four straight at-bats — and stole a base after reaching on a fielder’s choice in his last plate appearance. He’s batting .407 this spring.
Kendrick is on a tear, as he usually is this time a year, hitting a triple and a double to put his spring batting average at .485.
Pujols had a couple of singles in three at-bats, giving him a .429 clip, and ran for himself for the second straight day.
Vargas bounced back from a rough start against the Rockies, giving up a run on two hits while striking out five and putting his pitch count in the high 60′s in 4 2/3 innings. He liked the way his off-speed pitches were working.
Scott Downs gave up a solo homer to Dewayne Wise in the sixth, and though it was the only hit, he was hit hard in his lone frame of work.
Kevin Johnson, still vying for a bullpen spot, gave up two runs on four hits in the ninth.
Best play (that I saw)
The Angels made a couple of nifty catches on foul pop-ups to end the third inning. Hank Conger raced to the backstop, contorted his body and made the catch for out No. 2, and Alberto Callaspo reached over the dugout railing for out No. 3.
Vargas, on adjustments he made coming off an outing in which he allowed four runs in three innings to the Rockies: “I think that last start, I kept throwing fastballs and was really trying to get it down in the strike zone. I was leaving them up and getting hammered for it. We tried to work on that in the bullpen mid-week, and when the game comes it’s just trying to get them out.”
In honor of Paul Simon, who told you about the 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, below are Five Ways To Leave Vernon Wells. Not as catchy, I know. And it’s not as easy as slipping out the back (Jack), or making a new plan (Stan), or hopping off the bus (Gus) — OK, I’ll stop.
The best way to get it done may be a little bad-contract swapping.
Look, it’s no secret the Angels would prefer to part ways with Wells, who’s owed $42 million through the 2014 season. At this point, they can’t expect much salary relief (if any) in the process, but what they can do is create some breathing room in a clogged-up outfield and perhaps get a player back who can help them in an area of need. At the same time, they’d probably be helping Wells, sending him to a place where he can play more regularly. The best way to do it, perhaps, is to try and find a match with a team that has a similarly unfriendly contract. The Cubs did it in 2009, sending the volatile Milton Bradley to the Mariners in exchange for Carlos Silva. The Angels themselves tried to do it last offseason, with Bobby Abreu slated to return to the Yankees before A.J. Burnett evoked his limited no-trade clause.
Is there a similar partner for Wells this offseason? Below are some possibilities. Two things to keep in mind: 1. This is merely speculative — nothing more than my own opinion; 2. The Angels may consider the next two years of Wells’ contract a wash, so perhaps they’ll have little issue with paying the difference in a trade. The benefit for them is creating flexibility in the outfield — perhaps easing a return for Torii Hunter — while getting a player who may help them. If they can save a couple million dollars, too, even better.
BOS SP John Lackey ($30.5M thru ’14)
After winning 102 games, posting a 3.81 ERA and having a few memorable postseason moments in eight seasons with the Angels, Lackey put up a 4.40 ERA in his first year with the Red Sox, followed by a 6.41 ERA in 2011, followed by Tommy John surgery in October that knocked him out for all of this past season. But the soon-to-be 34-year-old progressed towards the end of the year, should have a normal offseason and is expected to be ready to go by the start of Spring Training. Would Boston go for it? They have Jacoby Ellsbury in center and there appears to be strong mutual interest in Cody Ross returning. Other than that, though, they have several uncertainties in Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney and Ryan Kalish. Wells, meanwhile, may be a nice fit for the Green Monster, and to them, Lackey may represent part of that toxic clubhouse they’re still trying to fumigate.
NYY 3B Alex Rodriguez ($114M thru ’17)
It’s an easy place to go these days, since A-Rod is getting benched in the playoffs while being booed mercifully by the home crowd and the Angels could use an upgrade at third base. But A-Rod’s deal extends three years longer than Wells’, at $61 million. I’m thinking one $200 million deal (Albert Pujols) is enough in Anaheim.
CWS DH Adam Dunn ($30M thru ’14)
Bringing him on board as a lefty middle-of-the-order hitter could free up a trade for Kendrys Morales, who’s heading into his final year before free agency. But Dunn turned it around in 2012, raising his OPS from .569 to .800, and may claim AL Comeback Player of the Year honors for it (Morales is also in the running). This no longer looks like a salary dump for the White Sox.
SEA UT Chone Figgins ($8M in ’13, $9M vesting option in ’14)
This is one that seems to make sense for both sides. Figgins has said he wants out of Seattle, and he’d probably embrace a return to the place he thrived from 2002-09. The Angels could use a utility man with Maicer Izturis expected to depart via free agency (though Figgins doesn’t help them at shortstop). The Mariners, meanwhile, are in desperate need of power and Wells may be a nice fit now that they’re moving the fences in at Safeco Field. One problem: The money. In case you hadn’t noticed, Figgins’ deal is a lot friendlier than Wells’. But, hey, if the Angels see Wells’ contract as a wash, that may not be an issue. By the way, Figgins’ 2014 option automatically vests with 600 plate appearances in 2013 — meaning it probably won’t automatically vest.
SFG SP Barry Zito ($20M in ’13, $18M club option — and $7M buyout — in ’14)
Another one that may fill needs on both sides. Zito would move into the Angels’ rotation — a rotation that could lose up to three-fifths of the 2012 makeup — and Wells would go to a team that, like the Mariners, is perpetually looking for offense. Plus, Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan will hit free agency this offseason. But do the Giants really benefit from this? Though obviously no longer the same pitcher, Zito had a descent year with a 4.15 ERA in 184 1/3 innings. And in their desire to upgrade the offense, the Giants, three wins away from the World Series, may have higher aspirations than Wells. Zito, by the way, has a full no-trade clause — but he is a SoCal product.
Not mentioned: CHC LF Alfonso Soriano ($36M thru ’14); NYM LF Jason Bay ($16M in ’13, $17M club option in ’14); NYM SP Johan Santana ($25.5M in ’13, $25M club option in ’14); LAD SP Josh Beckett and 3B Hanley Ramirez ($31.5M thru ’14 each); LAD LF Carl Crawford ($102.5M thru ’17); MIA RP Heath Bell ($18M thru ’14).
It’s pretty remarkable, as you digest the Angels’ up-and-down (or down-and-up) second half, how the status of their rotation has run parallel to their overall success. Yeah, most teams are predicated on starting pitching. It’s the nature of baseball — even now, with so much emphasis on pitch counts and bullpen roles. But the Angels almost live and die by the five All-Stars that reside in their staff — and will make a combined $61.45 million this season.
There have been two different Angels teams in this second half. The one that began it 14-22 (third-worst winning percentage in the AL), and the current one that has won 18 of 25 (second-highest winning percentage in the AL). Here’s a look at how their starting pitching has fared in those spans …
14-22: 5.50 ERA (28th in MLB), 1.41 WHIP (23rd in MLB), 2.2o K/BB (T-22nd in MLB).
18-7: 2.94 ERA (2nd in MLB), 1.06 WHIP (T-1st in MLB), 3.30 K/BB (7th in MLB).
Given that Mike Scioscia so-often calls starting pitching “the heartbeat of our club,” perhaps that isn’t much of a surprise.
What’s amazing, though, is that Jered Weaver, Zack Greinke, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana all seemed to hit a rough patch at about the same time, and then they all seemed to thrive again together, essentially.
“It can be any number of things,” Haren tried to explain. “It can be pressing, it can be bad luck, it can be not feeling great, or a combination of all those things. You can have a couple of bad starts in a row or a bad month or two. I just don’t think that there’s one specific thing to just put your finger on and say, ‘OK, this is why the rotation has turned it around.’ I think it was kind of inevitable given the amount of talent that we have in the rotation for us to turn it around, but just like hitting is contagious, pitching can also be that way. Being able to watch one starter after another go out there and do well, it makes it kind of like a habit.”
If the Angels are to make up the gap that resides between them and the second AL Wild Card spot — 2 1/2 games, behind the Orioles, at the start of Monday — that habit will have to continue for 15 more games. If the rotation pitches to its capability, the Angels have a very good chance to sneak into that one-game Wild Card playoff. If it doesn’t, they have little to no shot.
Over the weekend, Scioscia announced his pitching schedule for the upcoming three-game home series against the Rangers, adding that Weaver (17 wins, 2.74 ERA, Cy Young contender) and Greinke (1.70 ERA last five starts; at least 7 innings each time) will stay on normal rest for the remainder of the regular season, while the others fill in around them.
That means Weaver and Greinke are each guaranteed to pitch in both of the final series against the Rangers. It means Weaver has four starts left and is lined up to pitch the regular-season finale against the Mariners on Oct. 3. It means Greinke has three starts left and will be available to pitch either the Oct. 4 tiebreaker (he’d be on three days’ rest) or, if they don’t need it, the Wild Card game on Oct. 5 (on normal rest).
Here’s a look at the pitching schedule the rest of the way, with the ones in bold pretty much solidified and the ones in italics still TBD …
9/18 vs TEX: Weaver
9/19 vs TEX: Wilson
9/20 vs TEX: Greinke
9/21 vs CWS: Santana
9/22 vs CWS: Haren
9/23 vs CWS: Weaver
9/25 vs SEA: Greinke
9/26 vs SEA: Wilson? (6 days’ rest)
9/27 vs SEA: Santana? (5 days’ rest)
9/28 at TEX: Weaver
9/29 at TEX: Haren? (6 days’ rest)
9/30 at TEX: Greinke
10/1 at SEA: Wilson? (4 days’ rest)
10/2 at SEA: Santana (4 days’ rest)
10/3 at SEA: Weaver
The kid went to Mr. Owl to find out how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. (Big mistake.) We’ll go with Mr. History with our own inquiry.
Us: Mr. History, how many wins will it take to get the second Wild Card in the American League?
History: Let’s see … one, a-two-hoo, a-three … 88.
88. Or, more precisely, 88.24. From 1995 (the first year divisional play was actually put into practice) and 2011 (the last year before the new playoff format), that’s the average number of wins by the American League team that would’ve claimed the second Wild Card spot under this new system.
For the Angels, now a season-best 14 games over .500 while at 77-63, that means a mere 11-11 record the rest of the way. Totally do-able. But, of course, it’s not so simple. Every year, it’s different. And this year, the Orioles, Athletics and Rays — with combined payrolls of just under $200 million — have all surprised and don’t show signs of slowing down. But the Rays (tied with the Angels for third place in the AL Wild Card race) are on pace for 88 wins, the Orioles (one-game lead on the Angels for the second AL Wild Card spot) are on pace for 89 and the Athletics (2 1/2 games ahead of the Angels for the first AL Wild Card spot) are on pace for 90.
So perhaps that figure isn’t very far off.
The most wins by the team that would’ve claimed the second AL Wild Card spot over the previous 17 years is 93. For the Angels, that would mean a much more difficult 16-6 finish over their last 22 games (4 vs. OAK, 3 at KCR, 3 vs. TEX, 3 vs. CWS, 3 vs. SEA, 3 at TEX, 3 at SEA).
Here’s a year-by-year look at the above-mentioned …
2011: 90 (Red Sox)
2010: 89 (Red Sox)
2009: 87 (Rangers)
2008: 89 (Yankees)
2007: 88 (Mariners/Tigers)
2006: 90 (White Sox)
2005: 93 (Indians)
2004: 91 (Athletics)
2003: 93 (Mariners)
2002: 93 (Red Sox/Mariners)
2001: 85 (Twins)
2000: 90 (Indians)
1999: 87 (Athletics)
1998: 88 (Blue Jays)
1997: 84 (Angels)
1996: 85 (Mariners/White Sox/Red Sox)
1995: 78 (Angels)
With their 3-2 win over the Tigers on Sunday, the Angels — thanks in large part to a rotation that’s finally living up to its billing — have won six in a row, 11 of their last 12 and 15 of their last 18, after starting the second half at 14-22. Next up, they’ll face an A’s team they recently swept but is coming off its own sweep of the Mariners.
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.