Friday, April 27, 2012

In Downs We Trust

For whatever reason, when it comes to closers (not named Brian Fuentes), Mike Scioscia seems to have them on a very short leash.  After allowing to Tampa Bay Rays to come back and win in the 9th inning last night, Scioscialism seems to have pulled the plug on Walden being our full time closer (for now).  He said today that the closer of the immediate future will be Scott Downs, who has easily been our most reliable arm out of the bullpen the last two seasons.

But is this the right move?  Not only is it completely stunting the growth of Jordan Walden (who might never be the same after losing his job like this), but is the role right for Downs?  He seemed very comfortable over the last few seasons as a lefty specialist and set-up man, but not everyone can make the transition from the 8th to the 9th.  We know Downs is clutch, but it takes a special kind of player to get the hardest three outs of a ballgame.

Starting him off as the Closer in Cleveland is a very smart idea, its a lineup of predominately left-handed hitters, so any situation he might find himself in late in the game, he will likely see at least one left handed hitter.  This is also the right time of the season to make changes like this.  We just have to wait and see if its actually the right move for the Angels.


It was also announced today that Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals super prospect and former #1 overall pick in the draft) was going to get called up to the Majors on Saturday and would make his major league debut.  My only problem with this?  He is off to a cold start in AAA.

In only 82 Plate Appearances, Harper is hitting an incredibly average .250 with 1 home run, 3 RBI's and a few doubles.  He is slugging only .355, which is an Ecksteinien number.  The Washinton Nationals need this kid to be the next Ryan Braun, not the next David Eckstein.  I have him in 2/3rds of my fantasy leagues, so I'm happy about that, but I still think the call-up is too soon for the blossoming star.


Just an observation I made yesterday that I didn't vocalize on Twitter (@Angels-nation): Angels radio announcer Terry Smith made a very solid call on the Walk-Off Home Run yesterday by the Rays.  He almost sounded excited that he was there to be a part of it.  Clearly not as excited as he would have been had the Angels been the ones walking off, but still happy for the Rays, none the less.  Some might not care for that in their hometown announcer, but a bit of neutrality is good for announcers, even if they aren't on National TV/Radio.  He just sounded happy to be witnessing a great baseball moment, no matter the team.  I appreciate that, and there are few in the league as good as Smith.  We are lucky fans.


This is from, and is awesome:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Players

It's not the most interesting thing in the world, but lets take a look at some stats, shall we?  (Stats taken from 2011 and first 10 games of 2012)

Player A: .219 Average, 27 Home Runs, 70 RBI, 94 K's, Grounded into 9 Double Plays, Makes $21 Million Dollars Per Year.

Player B: .263 Average, 22 Home Runs, 85 RBI, 136 K's, Grounded into 24 Double Plays, Makes $18 Million Dollars Per Year.

Player A gets booed by the home town fans, gets ripped apart by local and national baseball blogs, and is said to have the worst contract in sports history.

Player B is beloved by the home town fans, fans of other teams, and just about everyone in the sports media.

Now, as many of you have figured out, Player A is Vernon Wells and Player B is Torii Hunter, and yes, while Hunter hits for a higher average and has more RBI's for 3 Million fewer dollars per year, he also strikes out a ton and grounds into more double plays (almost 3 times as many).  I get that a big part of this is that Torii Hunter is an extremely nice and funny guy, who often interacts with the media and fans, while Vernon Wells is more the quiet type, and is much more reserved around the few media outlets he speaks to.

At the same time, both are getting paid like they are top 10 outfielders, while neither is putting up the numbers.  Both have won Gold Gloves for their defense, and while maybe Wells has lost a step or two, Hunter continues to have great success after making the move from Center Field to Right Field.  I do think that over the last 172 games, Hunter has been the more valuable player, and is a super nice and personable guy who deserves all the praise he gets from the fans.... but, Vernon Wells doesn't strike out as much as we think he does, hardly ever grounds into double plays, and is far less of a liability out in Left Field than, say, Bobby Abreu.

Next time you think about booing Vernon Wells when he steps up to the plate (just a few minutes after you cheered for Hunter, who ended up striking out), maybe consider that if a few more balls found some grass (or the marine layer didn't knock down a few balls headed for the seats), that Vernon Wells would have numbers incredibly similar to Hunter, who we pay almost as much to do just as average of a job at the plate.


-Also, congrats to Jered Weaver for reaching 1000 career strikeouts last night against the Oakland A's.  That is no easy task, especially in the AL, where you don't get to face the opposing pitcher 2-3 times a game.

-Another congrats goes out to Kendrys Morales, who hit his first home run since the Walk-Off Grand Slam (and resulting celebration, which took him out of the game for nearly 2 years).  Got his first 4 RBI's of the season last night in a huge 6-0 win.

-Dan Haren looks to rebound tonight from a rough couple of outings against the same Oakland team.  He will face-off against Tyson Ross, a 24-year-old right-hander who has a career 4.18 ERA in 35 Games.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blowpen Issues Aside, Halos Need New-Look Lineup

Yes, yes, its a bit silly to argue for a re-arranged lineup after a 9-run outing against the Minnesota Twins, but there is still so much room for improvement in that area.  I'm going to go down the lineups and examine the problems with where guys are hitting, and try to figure something else out.

Leadoff - Erick Aybar
If you have been reading this blog for longer than a few weeks, you know my sour opinion of our gold-glove shortstop.  Since his outrageous 2009 season, he has cooled off quite a bit at the plate.  A .266 Batting Average, a .313 On-base Percentage, and an average of 75 strikeouts (already has 3 this season in 5 games).  Those aren't good numbers for a lead-off hitter on an elite team (for example, Ian Kinsler has a .366 OBP and averages about 10 few strikeouts, plus more power, per season in that span), and Aybar has never been the most patient hitter, and when he tries to be, he ends up striking out even more.  The Angels don't really have a true option here (Peter Bourjos is also a bit of a free-swinger, but has better speed).

2nd - Howie Kendrick
Yeah, this is about as appropriate a spot as any in the Angels Lineup.  Kendrick has a good mix of speed, power and patience to be a perfect 2-hole hitter on this club.  It's pretty clear now he won't be winning any batting titles in the near future, but he is still a great guy to have on a club, and hitting in this spot.

3rd - Albert Pujols
The best hitter in baseball should probably hit where the best hitter on your team is supposed to hit.  Especially with the early power outage, if Pujols can just get on for Hunter and Morales behind him, this is going to be his best spot.

Clean-up - Torii Hunter (Lefties)/Kendrys Morales (Righties)
Here is my problem with the current Angels lineup, they have 3 #5 hitters, and a guy who gets paid like a Clean-up Hitter, but hits like a #8 hitter.  Hunter shouldn't be the source of power and protection for Pujols. There is nothing that strikes fear into a pitchers eyes about Hunter.  I love having him on the team, and he is a great clubhouse guy, but he should never be the clean-up guy, especially at his age.  Morales seems like the clear choice here, but his struggles against lefties can be a concern.  I say leave him in to clean-up against everyone, and on his day's off, have Trumbo DH and hit clean-up, just to see what he can do in that spot.

5th - Vernon Wells/Mark Trumbo/Torii Hunter/Kendrys Morales
Vernon Wells should never see the top half of the lineup ever again, even with his solid game offensively today.  If you've been watching him all season, you know that is going to be the exception, not the rule.  Mark Trumbo seems like a natural fit to hit 5th in any lineup with that mammoth power (and tendency to strike-out).  My problem with Hunter hitting here is that, again, he doesn't quite have the power to put any fear into the pitcher.  You can just put Morales on and wait for Hunter to strike out or ground into a double play.

6th - Mark Trumbo/Vernon Wells/Kendrys Morales
This spot can go a number of ways, the Angels haven't been getting a ton of production out of the 6 spot (with the exception of the few times Morales has been there), and that could change if you slip Torii Hunter down here.  He isn't going to win any batting titles or silver sluggers, but Hunters still a solid hitter who could give you .275/20 HR/75 RBI hitting in the right situation, I think that situation is 6th.

7th - Alberto Callaspo/Mark Trumbo/Vernon Wells
If you are going to have Callaspo in the lineup, this is the perfect place to have him.  The Angels likely want to continue to use him on a pretty regularly basis, and with good reason (Trumbo has had his fair share of struggles defensively at third base).  His bat can be a bit streaky, but knows how to hit with guys on base.  Vernon Wells should probably hit here if Callaspo is getting the night off.

8th - Chris Iannetta
Yeah, this seems pretty perfect.  Iannetta isn't going to rock anyone's world, but he has probably been our best hitter with RISP this season, and hitting 8th, there is a good chance you will have plenty of guys on base throughout the course of the season.

9th - Peter Bourjos
Again, I can't complain too much here.  He had 124 strikeouts this year, but he also can also round the bases in 14 seconds (in a home run trot from home to first, mind you).  He has the speed of a lead-off hitter, but until he learns the patience of one, he is perfectly suited in the 9th spot.

Now, in a perfect world, here is what he Angels lineup will look like when take on the Minnesota Twins again in the beginning of May:

SS - Erick Aybar
2B - Howie Kendrick
1B - Albert Pujols
DH - Kendrys Morales
3B - Mark Trumbo
RF - Torii Hunter
CF - Peter Bourjos
C - Chris Iannetta
LF - Mike Trout

Yeah, that would be pretty outstanding.  The Angels will have cut or traded Bobby Abreu, moved up Mike Trout from AAA (where he is hitting over .400 with a Home Run, a Triple, 4 RBI and gets on base in nearly half his plate appearances.), and have him in the starting lineup over Wells, who becomes the new 4th outfielder.  Bourjos moves up thanks to his ability to hit into the gaps (and occasionally out of the park) and Trout will hit 9th until he shows he can put up those all-star numbers in the bigs.

Now, if we can get a decent bullpen, we might actually be able to hold the leads that amazing lineup would put up.


Things might be getting worse for the Bullpen.  Scott Downs, who left today because of an injury to his left ankle, and is one of our more consistent relievers, might be missing some time.  Nothing wrong internally (so it seems so far), but he was walking around with crutches.  Likely will be seeing some time on the 15-Day DL.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Give The People What They Want: Rally Monkey Races

Did I just blow your mind?  I know I did.  Much like the popular sausage races in Milwaukee, and the president races in Washington, the Angels need to continue to capitalize on the Rally Monkey.

The idea came to me the other day while at the game, and the Monkey was being used improperly.  We were down 5 with no one on going into the 8th.  Hell, he was busted out in the 6th, which is far too early if you follow the Rally Monkey rules put in place way back in 2000 (no earlier than the seventh inning, at the start of an inning or during a pitching change, and only when the score is tied or the Angels trail by no more than four runs.)

So, if the Angels and its fans are going to continue to drive the Monkey into the ground, why not liven him up a little bit and have Rally Monkey races.  It will rejuvenate the Rally Monkey brand, and will be a far more entertaining mid-inning festivity than the pre-rendered Chevron Car races or tickets-in-a-box slight-of-hand videos.  You can sell t-shirts (for kids and adults) representing each of the participating Monkeys, you can sell stuffed versions of each of the participants, and if things really take off, a series of straight-to-dvd kids movies featuring the monkeys getting into crazy shenanigans.

You can have a few different monkeys and apes represented as dudes in costumes.  The Gorilla, the Orangutan, the Chimp, the Capuchin (the proper Rally Monkey) and a Baboon or something (kids will think the bright red ass will be hilarious, trust me).  In the middle of the 4th inning, you have them race down the third base line (they come out from the Angels dugout and leave through the tunnel next to the bullpens), and everyone goes nuts for those 45 seconds, cheering on their favorite monkey.

I know we have a REALLY good product on the field this year with our Angels, and that isn't really the time you come up with silly stuff like this to bring people out to the park, but this is a free idea Arte.... just go with it.

Vernon OhWells

Its the second week of April, which can only mean one thing: It's time to overreact to how well/poorly your favorite baseball team/players are doing!  Here are a few of mine:

- The Kansas City Royals are clearly the best team in the AL Central.
- Bruce Chen and Luke Hochever are clearly early Cy Young favorites.
- Yoenis Cespedes is going to break Mark McGwire's Rookie Home Run Record.
- Barry Zito = All-Star Game?!?!
- Kendrys Morales is probably going to hit .400 this year.
- Vernon Wells might be going for the strikeout record if he doesn't lose his job to Mike Trout in a month.

Actually, that last one might not be too far off base.  In 14 plate appearances this season, Wells only has 2 hits (one of those being a meaningless solo home run in garbage time of Sunday's loss to the Royals) but already has 5 strikeouts to his name.   They aren't pretty either.  The Royals were throwing eye level pitches that Wells was swinging at.  It's kind of a bummer.  I was actually rooting for Wells.  I wanted him to do well this season, now that Morales and Pujols are in the linuep, he wouldn't have hardly any pressure, but he keeps finding ways to disappoint.

Should Vernon continue to struggle, its very likely that his tenure as the starting left fielder could be very short, and that the Angels will either bring up Mike Trout, or risk Bobby Abreu's poor fielding for a better OBP in the lineup (Abreu, as much as I wanted to see him go, has a .429 OBP and 3 RBI in two starts this season).

If you are going to start Abreu, you need to have Bourjos in center field as a bit of a crutch for the aging slugger.  That game on Saturday with Bobby in left and Vernon in center was a disaster waiting to happen.  If Abreu continues to produce like he has the first couple games this season, I don't mind seeing him in the lineup everyday, but if he goes back to the old Walk-or-Strikeout-Looking Abreu of 2011, I'd rather take my chances with the youngster.