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Halos Take Series From Rangers En Route to First Place

August 18th, 2014

Game 1: Angels 5, Rangers 4 | Game 2: Angels 5, Rangers 4 | Game 3: Rangers 3, Angels 2

Runs Scored = 12
Runs Allowed = 11

YTD Record: 72-50 | 1st (tied) in AL West

Up Next: Monday @ Boston

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It’s a nice view from the top.

For the first time in three years, the Angels are pacing the AL West at a meaningful point in the season. All it took was four and a half months of some of the best baseball in Angels history and a well-timed cold streak from the Athletics.

And while Sunday’s loss means that the Halos’ division hold remains a shared one, it still represents a point of celebration. With today’s postseason format, a division title means much more than it did when the Angels capitalized on a Wild Card berth in 2002 that ultimately led to a World Series victory. Teams can no longer simply waltz into October without having claimed their division crown, because the recently implemented one-game playoff between the now two Wild Card teams amounts to little more than a coin flip match. Simply put, first place means that the Angels would avoid having to play a single crapshoot game just to play a series of crapshoot games.

Sure, this may not last (the A’s still look like the superior team), as the Angels are probably still more likely to be playing in a one game playoff rather than receiving a first round bye, but it sure is nice to see the Halos atop the standings, even if it is just for the time being.

On to the recapping…

Angels Complete Season Sweep of Phillies

August 14th, 2014

Game 1: Angels 7, Phillies 2 | Game 2: Angels 4, Phillies 3

Runs Scored = 11
Runs Allowed = 5

YTD Record: 70-49 | 2nd in AL West

Up Next: Friday @ Texas

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For the second time this season, the Angels swept the Phillies in a two-game series. The Phillies, one of the worst teams in baseball, were a welcome sight for an Angels team needing to accumulate victories after a poor week against the Dodgers and Red Sox. The Angels now sit two games behind the A’s for first place as they approach the most important remaining stretch of their schedule. Over the next 17 games, the Angels will play 10 against teams with sub-.500 records and seven against Oakland. Two and a half weeks of great baseball could propel the Angels into the driver’s seat for the division crown, as September offers the Angels more losing teams until the last week. Mediocre or bad baseball, though, could dash their AL West hopes before September. Buckle up.

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The 1994 Angels and the Strike that Didn’t Matter

August 14th, 2014
The 1994 Strike was terrible for the game, but it didn't affect the Angels.

The 1994 Strike was terrible for the game, but it didn’t affect the Angels.

Twenty years ago on August 12, the most infamous labor stoppage in North American sports history began, eventually wiping out the remainder of the MLB regular season, the postseason, and a chunk of the 1995 season. On Baseball Prospectus’ excellent daily podcast Effectively Wild, Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh discussed some of the more famous events lost from that season. You’re probably familiar with the greatest hits: Matt Williams closing in on 61 homers, Tony Gwynn flirting with .400, the Expos losing a chance to perhaps save the franchise, and Chuck Knoblauch chasing the doubles record (?!?!?).

If baseball fans in general and the Expos in particular were the big losers from the ’94 strike, the Angels were the big winners. The 1994 club was miserable, finishing 47-68 and threatening to lose 100 games for the only time in franchise history. As it was, their .409 win percentage is the second worst in club history, “besting” only the 1980 squad that plummeted to 65-95 just a year after winning the AL West. Behind Tim Salmon and Chili Davis, the club’s 91 wRC+ ranked 18th in baseball, which isn’t terrible, but bad enough to score the fewest runs in the AL. Kenny Rogers took advantage of that offense and threw a perfect game on July 28 while a member of the Texas Rangers. The pitching was a joke, though, with a staff ERA of 5.43, third worst in baseball and bad for any era, even in the middle of an offensive boom. Chuck Finley and Mark Langston posted 100+ ERA+, but everyone else was bad. Joe Grahe was the closer, and he had a 6.65 ERA and 5.09 FIP, giving him the retrospective nickname “Ernesto Frieri 1.0.” Predictably, the attendance suffered, as the Halos drew only 24,010 fans per game, ninth worst in baseball. The 1994 Angels were relevant for precisely one reason: Angels in the Outfield, a film proven more prescient by the concurrent suck that was the real California Angels. Poor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The timing was perfect for the Angels. What’s the point in being good in a year that doesn’t count? Expo fans don’t have bragging rights because the season basically never happened. (Also, if you come across an Expo fan, give them a hug.) If anything, being a good team would only fill fans with “what ifs.” We almost had that scenario in 2002, when a near-stoppage threatened to wipe out the Angels’ first playoff appearance in 16 years and, eventually, a World Series title.

The Angels’ 1994 incompetence gave them the first pick in the 1995 MLB Draft, where they selected future stalwart Darin Erstad; with their second round selection, they took Jarrod Washburn. Both players were key cogs for years, particularly on the 2002 championship team. Had the Angels played better ball over the last six weeks of the season and worsened their draft position, they likely wouldn’t come up with a player as valuable as Erstad — the five players drafted after Erstad were Ben Davis, Jose Cruz Jr., Kerry Wood, Ariel Prieto, and Jaime Jones. Erstad was worth more career fWAR than all five of those players, accumulating 28.3 wins above replacement in his career. (Those five players combined for 48.6 fWAR.) Don’t forget about Washburn, either, who may have been off the board whenever they selected in the second round if they picked any lower.

It takes skill to win championships, but there’s more luck involved than fans would probably like to admit. The 2002 Angels broke the Game 6 win probability chart. The Red Sox traded Babe Ruth. Nelson Cruz had his feet stuck in quicksand against the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series. Baseball history is littered with strokes of good fortune — if the Angels win the World Series this season, we could point to the 2009 Draft and wonder how Mike Trout was even available for the Angels to select. The 1994 Expos weren’t lucky. Even if didn’t feel like it at the time, the ’94 Angels were.

Halos Paying Tribute to Jim Fregosi (Finally)

August 12th, 2014
Better late than never, I suppose.

Better late than never?

The Angels will finally honor one of their all-time greats on Tuesday, nearly six full months after his passing. Jim Fregosi, 71, died on Valentine’s Day of this year from complications following a stroke, bringing his 50+ years in Major League Baseball to a sudden and tragic end.

A member of the inaugural 1961 Angels, Fregosi is one of just three former Halos players to have his number (#11) retired by the team, and was the first manager to lead the club into the postseason, in 1979. Despite spending only 10 seasons in an Angels uniform, he remains the franchise WAR leader (45.9) among position players, more than five wins ahead of the next guy — Tim Salmon, at 40.5 WAR. He was elected into the team Hall of Fame in 1989, and had his number retired in 1998.

While the Phillies and Braves, for whom Fregosi worked after his playing and managing tenures with the Halos came to a close, honored the six-time All-Star at a Spring Training game in Florida three weeks after his death, the Angels were oddly silent on the matter. Other than this single paragraph written within hours of Fregosi’s death, the organization made no official moves toward paying tribute to its first real star. Until now.

A pre-game ceremony to honor Fregosi on Tuesday will include a video tribute, an on-field presentation to members of his family, and a first pitch thrown by his oldest son, Jim Jr. Additionally, both the Angels and Phillies will wear a Fregosi patch on their uniform sleeves, and the #11 will be stenciled into the outfield grass.

Many fans have widely expressed their disdain for how the front office has more or less ignored Fregosi this season, so while Tuesday’s tribute will likely be very nice, the ceremony is unlikely to bring an end to those feelings of contempt. Scheduling a tribute to someone half a year after they’ve gone seriously smacks of damage control, especially when said ceremony isn’t announced until the week before. There is absolutely no reason the team couldn’t have worn a memorial patch the entire season, or, at the very least, made an announcement regarding his tribute at the start of the year.

There is no word on whether the Halos plan to wear the memorial patch for the remainder of the season, but I sincerely hope they do. Fregosi meant a hell of a lot to the organization for more than a decade, so making an effort to commemorate that, even if only for a month and a half, is pretty much the least the club can do.

Halos Offense Continues to Struggle, Narrowly Avoids Sweep at Hands of Red Sox

August 11th, 2014

Game 1: Red Sox 4, Angels 2 | Game 2: Angels 5, Red Sox 4 (F/19) | Game 3: Red Sox 3, Angels 1

Runs Scored = 8
Runs Allowed = 11

YTD Record: 68-49 | 2nd in AL West

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Philadelphia

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Things just haven’t been the same since the All-Star break.

The Halos headed into the midsummer classic sporting a 57-37 record, but have gone just 11-12 since. The Angels have watched as the Athletics made a monster deadline splash, and expanded their lead in the AL West to four games, while the Mariners played well too.

Surprisingly, the root of the Angels’ struggles over the past month or so has been the offense. The Halos’ lineup has been an asset this season, ranking among baseball’s best in a number of categories, including WAR (1st), wRC+ (1st), and wOBA (4th). However, since the All-Star break, the lineup as a whole has hit just .223/.285/.339, with every position player sans Mike Trout sporting an OPS below .750. The only other Angels’ regulars with an OPS above .700 in that span are David Freese (.717) and Albert Pujols (.741).

The Angels’ troubles continued this weekend, as the Red Sox pitching staff, despite having traded Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Andrew Miller all within the past couple weeks, held the club to just eight runs. The weekend really couldn’t have gone any worse, and by series end, the Red Sox were one magical home run away from completing a sweep…

Halos Daily

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