Halos Daily

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Francisco Rodriguez Back With The Halos

January 30th, 2012

Today is shaping up to be another uninspiring day in the world of Angels new, but we do have something to talk about. According to Alden Gonzalez and Spencer Fordin, the team has agreed to a minor league contract with Francisco Rodriguez. Yes, we’re talking about the Francisco Rodriguez made famous by his string of mediocre relief appearances for the Halos in 2010.

Rodriguez struggled in 2011, plagued by shoulder issues throughout the season. He’s a solid up-and-down middle relief candidate for the team next season if he can stay healthy. His value is minimal even if he stays healthy, but he is a guy with a place on a 25-man roster somewhere.

Hudson Belinsky can be followed on Twitter at @hudsonbelinsky.

SABR Day in New York City

January 30th, 2012

Billy Blitzer and Cesar Presbott both scouted Yankees' prospect Dellin Betances significantly before he became one of the better pitching prospects in the game.

This past summer I had the privilege of joining the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) and attending the organization’s annual conference in Long Beach. The trip was incredibly validating; I realized that there were tons of baseball nerds just like me. Most outsiders think of SABR as a group of stat geeks, but the reality is that the geekdom knows no limits (Geekdom is a word. Look it up. Or don’t). SABR has a ton of people with a variety of interests in the game: there are folks who visit players’ grave sites; there are folks who try to determine which scouts signed which players; then there are the folks who love their stats.

Sabermetrics isn’t a term I much care for. It just doesn’t really capture what SABR is. I try to stay away from the word because what we’re really talking about when we use it is analytics. If analytics are what you’re looking for, you can absolutely find them with SABR, but the organization is a great fit for anyone who has an unhealthy obsession with the game.

Every year in late January, SABR has a national event called SABR Day. Chapters all across the country meet and celebrate the game with panels on various topics. I had the chance to attend my first SABR Day this past weekend, and I had a fantastic day.

The closest (or most accessible) chapter for me is the New York City chapter – the Casey Stengel Chapter. The Casey Stengel chapter’s rendition of SABR Day included two panels and a speaker. The panels were on the Mets and scouting, and the speaker was George Vecsey, the author of Stan Musial: An American Life and sports columnist for various prestigious publications.

The Mets panel was moderated by Billy Altman and included Bud Harrelson (former Mets shortstop and manager), Harvey Poris (lifelong Mets fan and memorabilia collector), Ben Baumer (Statistical Analyst, Mets Baseball Operations), and TJ Barra (Minor League Video Coordinator, Mets Baseball Operations). The panel discussed an array of subjects, from Harrelson’s fight with Pete Rose in 1973 to the Mets’ statistics database and use of analytics.

The scouts panel was my favorite part of the day. Moderated by Lee Lowenfish, author of Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman, the panel included Billy Blitzer (Pro Scout, Chicago Cubs) and Cesar Presbott (Area Scout, New York Yankees). The scouts shared anecdotes of scouting players that made it and stories of their starts in scouting.

George Vecsey was the final act. He discussed the life and career of Stan Musial, the subject of his most recent book. I haven’t read the book yet, but I can say that Vecsey is a tremendous journalist and I’m excited to see how his voice comes accross on paper.

SABR Day was a fantastic experience and I encourage any interested party to give SABR a shot. It’s an amazing organization and a great place for the obsessed fan of the game.

Hudson Belinsky can be followed on Twitter at @hudsonbelinsky.

In Trout We Trust: Making Sense of Mike Trout and the Service Time Issue

January 26th, 2012

Mike Trout made his major league debut as 19-year-old in 2011

Before I tell you why Mr. Trout should or should not spend some time in Triple-A in 2012, I’ve got a couple administrative things to discuss. As much as I’d love to, I’m just not going to be able to post new articles on the Angels every day. I hope to get something out every week day, but sometimes even that may be too much. So I can’t promise a new article or post everyday, but what I can promise is that I’m going to do my very best to put out quality stuff as often as possible. I’m currently negotiating for the rights to HalosOccasionally.com.

Now, this is going to be the first piece at Halos Daily related to prospects. Regardless of how long he’s a prospect, Mike Trout’s glorious one-syllable last name will grace all prospect-related articles. Before anyone flips out about me using Trout’s name in place of God, please realize that I’m not comparing him to God, but rather poking fun at the fact that we as a blogosphere seem to idolize prospects these days. If it upsets you, I’m sorry, but we’ve got more pressing matters at hand right now…SOPA!

A few months ago we were uncertain of a few things in the game; expansion of instant replay was on the table; changing the draft was on the table; the playoffs might have been expanding. There’s one issue that not only remains unresolved, but was actually only made worse by the new collective bargaining agreement: the Super Two issue.

I’m going to try to explain the issue, but comment if you don’t fully understand it. Under the current system, all players with between three and six years of service time are eligible for arbitration. These players typically get a significant raise from their third season to their fourth, their fourth to their fifth, and so on. A small number of players are eligible to go to arbitration after two plus seasons. We call these players Super Twos. It’s easy to see why being a Super Two is great for a player and not so great for a team; going to arbitration one more year will lead to a larger payout over the six-year period.

To become eligible for arbitration after before accumulating three years of service time, a player must be amongst the top 22% in service time amongst players between two and three seasons. That’s a bit wordy, but basically we’re dealing with the players who are closest to three years of service time. The 22% is a 5% bump over the previous agreement’s number of 17%, which means that even more players will be eligible for Super Two status every year.

Teams try to avoid Super Two status with their top prospects by keeping them in the minors longer into seasons. Stephen Strasburg is a perfect example of this. Few would argue that Strasburg was not ready for the majors when he made his professional debut in 2010, but the Nationals kept him in the minors until June, with the idea being that they’d save themselves a hefty chunk of change down the line if and when Strasburg was coming off his 5th straight Cy Young season in 2016. Really this concept should apply to any prospect a team feels is going to become an impact player.

In addition to holding a player back from going to arbitration, a team needs to decide if bringing a player up can help the team win in the short term. If the answer is yes, then the team should obviously bring the player up, but if it isn’t then the team should obviously wait on the player. Additionally, studies have shown that players tend to peak near their age-27 season. Ideally, a team would have a player during his peak.

So this brings us to Mike Trout, the Angels #1 prospect and the best or second best prospect in baseball, depending upon who you ask. Trout is absolutely oozing with tools and it’s quite difficult to imagine him failing. He has the hit tool, speed tool, defense, average power, and a fringy arm. Add it all together and we should have a superstar centerfielder.

The Angels, at least under Tony Reagins last season, assumed Trout could help the team win enough to make the postseason and promoted him when Peter Bourjos was injured. Trout was above average in his limited run in 2011, but unfortunately for the Halos he wasn’t good enough to put them over the top.

Trout accumulated 83 days of service time in 2011, so the Angels would have to keep him in the minors for a very large part of 2012 to keep him from becoming a Super Two. So the Angels have a decision to make. Should they keep Trout in the minors through September? Or ought they to give Trout a job on Opening Day? This depends on whether or not they think he can be better than Vernon Wells. I’m not sure he can be in the short term, but Jerry Dipoto and his crew must have a good idea of what each guy is going to be next season.

It all boils down to this: The Angels should use the leftfielder they feel gives them the best chance to win.

Hudson Belinsky can be followed on Twitter at @hudsonbelinsky.

A Look At the Career of David Eckstein

January 24th, 2012

David Eckstein last appeared in the majors with the Padres in 2010.

Prior to entering relationships, people date for a while, then choose to take the next step with each other. In 2002, I was a 9-year-old dating the game of baseball, and I’m proud to say we’re now happily married with children. During the dating process there were a few particular instances where I remember thinking baseball might be the one. The Angels run to the World Series crown in 2002 was one of those instances.

I grew up in northern New Jersey, in the market of the Yankees, Mets and, to some extent, Phillies. In 2002, the mighty Yankees were the only of those teams in the postseason, and I excitedly spectated as the Yankees took on the (then) Anaheim Angels. At the time, I understood the wild card to be the best of the teams that wasn’t good enough to win a division, which made me think the Yankees were heavy favorites. Today I realize that the Angels were not huge underdogs going into that series, having won 99 games in a division that included the A’s and the Mariners, both excellent teams at the time.

Obviously the Angels took down the Yankees, moved on to pummel the Twins and beat the Giants in seven games after overcoming a 5-0 defecit to win Game 6. Even as a young fan who was really just getting his feet wet in baseball, I was drawn so closely to the game by what I witnessed the Angels do that postseason.

The 2002 Angels were certainly a lovable bunch. They had power in the form of Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus, starting pitching in Washburn and Lackey (just to name a couple), a few fantastic names in Troy Percival, Tim Salmon and Scott Spiezio, and grit in Darin Erstad and David Eckstein.

I could go on and on about the players on that team, but today I’ll focus on Eckstein, whose name has come up in recent rumors. Over the past few days, Eckstein has been said to be retiring, but his representatives have denied that this is the case. Regardless, we’re going to take a look at the career of the former Halos shortstop.

With the 581st pick in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, the Boston Red Sox selected David Eckstein, a shortstop out of the University of Florida. With his 5’6″ frame, Eckstein went on to draw every cheesy baseball adjective in the book. He was a gritty grinder/gamer with a pesky approach. Eckstein worked his way through the Red Sox system step by step, reaching Triple-A in 2000 before the Angels nabbed him from the waiver wire.

Eckstein debuted for the Halos as a 26-year-old shortstop in 2001 and was immediately an impact player, posting a .285/.355/.357 slash line while finishing fourth in Rookie-of-the-Year voting.

Eckstein was a big part of the Angels success over his four-year span with the team, posting 11.0 WAR (baseball-reference) and playing a part in the team’s run to the World Series crown in 2002.

After the 2004 season Eckstein was not tendered a contract by the Angels (who opted for Orlando Cabrera) and took his game to St. Louis, where he racked up 8.0 more WAR, made two all-star teams and won a World Series MVP in three seasons.

When his stop with the Cardinals was up, Eckstein signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays for the 2008 season, but injury issues prevented him from being the player the Jays were hoping for. As August came to a close, the Jays flipped him to Arizona, where he served as a pinch hitter as the team tried (but failed) to edge out the Dodgers to make the postseason.

After the 2008 season, Eckstein’s days as a shortstop were over and he took the second base job with the Padres. He played in San Diego for two years before becoming a free agent last offseason. Eckstein sat out in 2011, never finding the right opportunity. Rumors that Eckstein was going to retire surfaced this past week, but we still don’t know what the future holds for the 37-year-old. What we do know is that Eckstein was a very good player on a great Angels team.

Hudson Belinsky can be followed on Twitter at @hudsonbelinsky.

Angels Looking to Move Abreu, Downplaying Interest in Reliever

January 22nd, 2012

Jayson Stark has a piece up at ESPN today discussing a bunch of things throughout the game and he mentions the Angels a couple times.

According to Stark the team is looking to move Bobby Abreu. The crowded outfield plus the bevy of talent in the DH mix makes Abreu more than expendable. He’s owed $9 million in 2012, and the Angels would presumably pick up most of that in a potential deal. He shouldn’t warrant an elite prospect, but the team could add a solid prospect, depending upon how much money they eat in the deal.

Stark also says the Halos are downplaying their interest in adding a closer-type to the bullpen to set-up Jordan Walden and occasionally fill his role. I broke down a few relievers yesterday, but it’s possible the Angels don’t add anyone of that mold. Fernando Ballesteros of Puro Béisbol tweeted this morning that Luis Ayala is choosing between the Angels and the Orioles.

We should see more news on the Angels in the coming days. Teams usually set their rosters prior to spring training, which is less than a month away for the Halos.

Hudson Belinsky can be followed on Twitter at @hudsonbelinsky.

Halos Daily

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