Halos Daily

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Fear Thy ALDS Opponent: Kansas City

September 16th, 2014

James Shields is tough, but no other Royal starter inspires the same fear.

 

The Angels will now officially participate in the postseason for the first time under Jerry Dipoto’s leadership and hopefully clinch the AL West in a day or so. With a four-game lead over Balitmore and only 12 games to go, it also appears likely the Angels will earn homefield advantage throughout the postseason. Locked into the #2 slot, Baltimore’s ALDS opponent is limited to the AL Central winner. But with all the Wild Card ramifications, there are four clubs the Angels could realistically play in the first round.

Over the course of the next few days, I’ll take a look at those four clubs to see which I least want to play in the postseason. Picking postseason series is meaningless, of course — the worst team in baseball could beat the best in a best-of-five series and nobody would be surprised. Even if I may prefer certain opponents, that hardly means I’m comfortable facing any of these teams.

For the sake of brevity and realism, I’m leaving out the Indians, Blue Jays, and Yankees from this exercise. Their playoff odds on Baseball Prospectus aren’t quite 0% yet, but it would take a minor miracle for any of these teams to reach the ALDS. Let’s start with the team I most want to face, then work our way up the perceived difficulty ladder. Today, the Royals.

Halos Hammer Houston at Home

September 15th, 2014

Game 1: Angels 11, Astros 3 | Game 2: Angels 5, Astros 2 | Game 3: Astros 6, Angels 1

Runs Scored = 17
Runs Allowed = 11

YTD Record: 93-56 | 1st in AL West | Magic Number: 4

Up Next: Monday vs. Mariners

AstrosSeries2

In case you haven’t been paying attention for the past five-and-a-half months, the Angels’ offense is really, really good. Ranking first in the majors in a plethora of offensive categories including wRC+ (113), runs scored (728), and WAR (29.9), the Halos’ lineup is much more than Mike Trout. In fact, the Angels have 10 players with over 200 plate appearances and an above-average OPS+ (better than 100). The aging corpses of Josh Hamilton (115 OPS+) and Albert Pujols (129), once thought to be lost to oblivion, are now providing ample support to Trout’s MVP-caliber bat; Howard Kendrick (115) and Erick Aybar (107) are both enjoying seasons that rank among the best of their careers; David Freese (101) has performed significantly better after a poor start; Kole Calhoun (130) is among the best leadoff hitters in the game; Chris Iannetta’s (129) offense and Hank Conger’s (76) spectacular glove have formed a top-notch tandem behind the plate; Meanwhile, CJ Cron (121) and Collin Cowgill (108) have both been spectacular support pieces. Simply put, the Angels have quite a lineup.

The Angels took two out of three from the Astros this weekend, with the offense coming through in both victories. Only a masterful performance from Dallas Keuchel stood in the way of an Angels sweep.

Angels Sweep Texas (Again), on Brink of Division Title

September 12th, 2014

Game 1: Angels 9, Rangers 3  | Game 2: Angels 8, Rangers 1 | Game 3: Angels 7, Rangers 3

Runs Scored = 24
Runs Allowed = 7

YTD Record: 91-55 | 1st in AL West | Magic Number: 7

Up Next: Friday vs. Astros

RangersSeries2

The Angels swept Texas in their third and final trip to Arlington this summer, improving their record in the former house-of-horrors to 9-1, the lone loss courtesy of Huston Street’s first Angel blown save last month. All the wood has been knocked on and all the jinxes have been unjinxed, so it feels safe to finally say the AL West race is over. With 16 games remaining, the Halos lead the hard-luck A’s by 10 games and the Mariners by 11. My favorite quirk of the Angels’ eight-game win streak and general dominance the last several weeks: the A’s have not gained a game on the Angels since August 25, when they defeated Seattle and the Halos lost to Miami. I’d say we should be more worried about Seattle than Oakland because they have more remaining games against the Angels, but even if Seattle won all seven games they would still need to make up four games in the standings in the Angels’ other nine games.

Baseball Prospectus and even the less bullish FanGraphs both give the Angels a 100% chance to win the division. That’s, like, the highest percentage or something. With the magic number sitting at seven, the chances are pretty good the Angels will clinch the division sometime over the 10-game homestand that begins tonight, especially when three of those games come against Houston and three are against this Ranger team the club just pounded. The last remaining playoff race to pay attention to for the Angels is the race for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs (thanks American League All-Stars!). Entering Friday, the Angels lead the Orioles for that honor by 4-1/2 games. On the Franchise Milestone front, the Angels can set the team record for wins at 101 if they finish 10-6.

Santiago’s Short Leash Makes Sense

September 10th, 2014
Less of this has been good.

Less of this has been good.

Hector Santiago has been surprisingly great for the Angels over the past few months. He owns a 2.71 ERA in 79⅔ innings since returning to Anaheim on June 10, with all but five of those innings coming as a starting pitcher.

As Alden Gonzalez points out over at MLB dot com this morning, Santiago has come to much of this success on a rather short leash. The right-hander has exceeded 100 pitches in only one of his 14 starts since returning from Triple-A Salt Lake, and has gotten the hook at 90 pitches or fewer in five of them. As you’d expect from any human, Santiago has expressed some frustration at not having the opportunity to go deeper into games, but seems to ultimately understand his role. Per Gonzalez:

“I feel like I can go more, but hey, who am I?” Santiago said. “I’m just out here to give us a chance to win; that’s what I’m doing right now…

“It’s frustrating … I want to go six or seven innings, and it hasn’t been seven all year. You just go inside and get your work done, and get ready for the next one.”

All that is well and good, and exactly the kind of quote you’d expect and hope for from a player. Where the hubris starts to creep in, and the whole reason for this post, is in what he says next:

“The longer I go, the stronger I get.”

Oh boy.

Pitchers, as a whole, do not get better the longer they go. On the contrary, they fall victim to something called the Times Through the Order Penalty (TTOP), which shows pitchers are slightly less effective each time they cycle through a lineup due to some combination of fatigue and familiarity. Santiago is no exception to this rule, and is even a bit of an extreme case.

Gonzalez points to hitters having just a .190/.306/.357 slash line against Santiago at 101 pitches or more as evidence that he does improve as the game goes on, but overlooks that those numbers are the result of only 49 plate appearances. If we look instead at Santiago’s effectiveness in his third turn through a lineup, which has a much bigger sample of 253 plate appearances, a very different story is borne out. Hitters hold a .290/.368/.522 career slash line against Santiago when facing him for a third time. That not only represents a more than 200-point jump in OPS from his first two times through an order, it’d also probably earn someone MVP runner-up honors in the AL this year.

Those alarming numbers in mind, the reasons for his short leash seem to get a bit clearer. Pitch count and fatigue have probably played some factor in Santiago not reaching the seventh inning in several months, but I’d be surprised to find they were the deciding ones. It seems more likely, to me at least, that Mike Scioscia (or some higher-up) is paying more attention to the number of batters Santiago has faced, which probably has as least some correlation with his recent success on the mound. Santiago has faced 23 batters or fewer in 10 of his 14 starts since returning to the team, allowing just nine earned runs in 53⅓ innings (1.52 ERA) in those outings. In the four other starts, the 24+ group, he’s allowed 15 ER in 21⅓ IP (6.23 ERA). Now, obviously some of those runs came early in games and had nothing to do with the TTOP, but a good portion do, including last week’s three-run home run to Eduardo freaking Nunez, of all people.

Santiago might not be a fan of the short leash, but he probably should be–it’s giving him the best chance to succeed.

Angels Rock Cleveland in Make-Up Game

September 8th, 2014
TroutDestroysCleveland

Boom Goes the Dynamite

The Angels traveled back in time Monday morning to finish up a four-game series in Cleveland they started back in June. If given the opportunity to travel in time, I’m not sure Ohio would be my first (or last) stop, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do, I guess. When this series was first played out in C-Town, things did not end well, resulting in an 8 on the Pain Scale. You may remember it as “the time Nick Swisher hit a walk-off grand slam,” or what years from now baseball historians will fondly refer to as Frieri’s Final Fiasco.

Luckily for the Halos, this time they were allowed to bring their blazing hot offense with them in the DeLorean. The club followed a 14-run, 19-hit shellacking in the rubber game of the Twins series on Sunday morning with a 12-run, 16-hit effort on Monday, giving them 26 runs and 35 hits across two Midwest states in a little under 24 hours. That’s probably a first.

Kole Calhoun, Howie Kendrick, and Albert Pujols again led the offensive attack, each tallying three hits (including a homer) in the game. The trio is now a combined 18-for-40 with five home runs over the last three games, driving in 18 of the club’s 34 runs. Josh who?

Mike Trout also had himself a multi-hit game Monday, churning out two hits (for the third time in the last four days) and scoring twice. Trout now has six runs in his past three games, pushing him up to 99 on the year and into a tie for the AL lead with Brian Dozier. With one more run, Trout will become just the sixth player ever to tally 100+ runs thrice before his age-23 season. The other five? Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Vada Pinson (?), and Buddy Lewis (??).

Jered Weaver pitched well even to earn his 16th win, but that doesn’t really say much when the team’s put a 12-spot on board. The Weavemeister got himself a quality start by going six frames and allowing “only” three runs, but he again struggled with his control as the game went on. He used just 49 pitches to get through the first four innings but needed 47 for the fifth and sixth, forcing Mike Scioscia to go to the bullpen for the final three frames.

The somewhat early call to the ‘pen combined with the rout did reap a reward, however, as big right-hander Jairo Diaz got the opportunity to make his MLB debut in the ninth. The 23-year-old was understandably nervous on the hill, resulting to several erratic pitches, but the stuff was still electric. His radar gun readings:

Two two breaking pitches thrown in the inning — 89 and 88(K), above — were beautiful to watch. Indistinguishable from his fastball until about 10 feet in front of the plate, gravity finally kicked in and dropped them into the dirt. Both resulted in a flailing swing-and-miss, earning Diaz one of his two Ks in the inning. The dramatic lean to the glove side he employs during his motion is sure to give him continued control issues to some degree, but if he can put up at least a league-average walk rate, his killer two-pitch combo could make him a huge asset for years to come.

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Final Score: Angels 12, Cleveland 3

Adjusted Pain Scale: 5

Up Next: Tuesday @ TEX

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Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top notch Angels analysis!