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Meet The New Angels: Cesar Ramos

November 7th, 2014

ramos

Cesar Ramos

Age: 30 | Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 200

Bats: L | Throws: L

Pos: LHP

 

Birthplace: Los Angeles, California

BREAKING: lots of good baseball players come from Southern California.

 

Drafted: Sixth round by the Devil Rays in the 2002 amateur draft but didn’t sign; 35th pick in the 2005 amateur draft by the Padres, who he signed with on June 15, 2005.

Not only was Ramos born in LA, but he played his college ball at Long Beach State with Jered Weaver and former Angel Jason Vargas. Weaver was the ace of the 2004 staff, which tends to happen when you post a 1.63 ERA in 144 innings while striking out 213 and walking only 21. Ramos was no slouch though, being the #2 starter for a strong team that advanced to the Super Regional. He threw 133-2/3 innings for the Beach with a 2.29 ERA.

Pujols and Calhoun Named Gold Glove Finalists

October 24th, 2014

Michael Jackson: more Gold Gloves than Mike Trout

 

Awards season provides bored baseball fans with a bridge to free agency madness, something to get worked up about for a few hours and help us forget the long hours of boredom that is the MLB offseason. The early stages of award season have already begun, as yesterday Rawlings announced the Gold Glove finalists for each position. It’s not surprising the Angels only have two finalists, but it is surprising one of them is not Erick Aybar, who was beaten out at shortstop by Alcides Escobar, Alexei Ramirez, and JJ Hardy (the probably deserving winner).

Measuring defense is always tricky, but whether using the eye test or fielding metrics, Aybar seemed deserving of a spot in the finals. Aybar ranked second among AL shortstops among DRS* and UZR. His 10 errors were also the fewest he’s committed in a season since 2007, when he only logged 79 innings at short. Fielding percentage is in the conversation with saves and pitcher wins as the most useless stats around, but some people pay attention to it. Aybar’s .982 rate was tops in the AL among shortstops. Using traditional and modern defensive measures, Aybar checks out. It’s a bit puzzling Aybar isn’t a finalist, but this is also the award Derek Jeter won five times. Voters might be throwing darts at a bulletin board for all we know.

* Yes, according to DRS Aybar actually cost the Angels three runs, but that’s still good for second best in the AL. The moral of the story: shortstop is hard.

As for the Angels that are finalists. Pujols, a two-time winner when he was in the NL, graded as a top-three first basemen in DRS and UZR, a welcome sight after his injury-plagued 2013 season. At some point in his mammoth contract the Angels will convert Pujols to a full-time DH. The fear after last season was that day was fast approaching, but with a year of solid defensive play Pujols may be able to hold that day off for a little longer. He still runs like a slug, but he has good instincts and an accurate throwing arm at first. The longer Pujols can play in the field, the more value he will bring to the Angels.

Calhoun’s nomination was a bit of a surprise just because he’s a relative unknown, but per FanGraphs there are only seven qualified right fielders in the AL, so Rawlings had to pick somebody. Not that his inclusion is unwarranted — Calhoun saved the most runs and had the second best UZR in the AL, in addition to numerous Web Gem plays the voters love.

Meanwhile, the only other Angels that have a claim for a nomination are Mike Trout and Howie Kendrick. Trout only has a case in name recognition only. He was snubbed in 2012 when he probably should have won, and now it looks like he might not have another chance to win. DRS and UZR say Trout was the third worst center fielder in the AL — this is where my eye test is going to call “bull.” I don’t think Trout is as good as he was in 2012, but he’s not among the worst defensive players in the American League, either.

Kendrick didn’t have much Gold Glove chatter over the summer but he did have another solid season at the keystone. Kendrick rated as the third-best second basemen by DRS and fourth by UZR. Having Aybar and Kendrick man the middle of the infield for nearly a decade has been a huge boon for the Angels. It’s a luxury to roll out guys on Opening Day in two key positions and know you’re going to get 145 games of reliable play. Kendrick and Aybar were huge reasons the Angels won the division crown this year, and if the Angels succeed in 2015 those two are likely going to be underrated, but key, contributors again.

2014 Highlights: The Arrow Game

October 17th, 2014

Mike Trout scores the game-tying run . Fernando Rodney is sad.

Ed. note — Now that everyone’s had ample time to wallow in despair about the quick end to the season, we thought it behooved us to turn the focus back to positive things. More specifically, to the year’s best moments, which we’ll tackle a day at a time. Andrew Karcher gets things started with a former Angel getting some ol’ fashioned comeuppance.

 

My favorite moment of the 2014 season is a demonstration of my pettiness. I’m going with the “Arrow Game,” a game that gave the Angels a series win over the Seattle Mariners but mostly just served as Fernando Rodney humiliation.

The win was important for the Angels, taking the series from a division rival in the first series following the All-Star break. But what sets this game apart is that it played like a brilliant two-act revenge fantasy given that it came against Fernando Rodney, one of the more hated Angels of the last decade. He wasn’t good when he was here, and he was a bit of a cock about it while he was here and since he left. It hasn’t helped that after Rodney left the Angels, he turned into one of the better relievers in baseball, most notably in 2012 when he posted a 0.60 ERA in 74-2/3 innings for the Rays. That’s the lowest ERA of ALL TIME for a pitcher with at least 50 innings. He also developed an arrow-shooting post-save celebration, as if he’s the Robin Hood of Douchewood Forest. I’ll give Rodney bonus points for creativity, but I admit the arrow-shooting rankles me for some reason.

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The tl;dr version of that paragraph: Rodney was a bad Angel and holds a grudge against the franchise for demoting him from closer even though he sucked, he’s now good and has a pretty obnoxious celebration. Also, the hat. The crooked hat irritates some people. Now, let’s set the stage for the July 20 game.

Trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Efren Navarro led off with a single against Joe Beimel. After Beimel retired Grant Green, Lloyd McClendon brought in closer Fernando Rodney to try to lock down a five-out save. Rodney successfully extinguished the Angel rally and prematurely grabbed his air bow-and-arrow and, um, fired (?) into the Angels dugout before the game was over.

Then, the gif to end all gifs. Mike Trout drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the ninth against Rodney. Next up, Albert Pujols doubled in Trout to tie the game. UNLEASH THE ARROWS:

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There’s a lot going on in that gif. For one, Pujols and Trout are firing arrows at each other, so maybe they don’t really know how arrows work. Pujols goes above and beyond, even grabbing his shirt to take the place of an arrow. His motion is calm and deliberate — he is a very rich man, so it’s not unreasonable to expect that he could have an archery field (lane? lawn?) on his estate. Pujols is not above flipping bats or admiring home runs, so this bit of gamesmanship isn’t necessarily out of character for him.

But look at Trout! His mechanics are a mess. It looks like he’s pulling an arrow out of his neck. His shot is very rushed, but he gets bonus points for making the same sort of “pew” noise that kids do when they’re shooting each other with imaginary lasers. Trout shows emotion on the field, but never this extreme. Rodney can do that to a man.

The Angels ended up winning the game later in the inning, but that was gravy. Seeing Fernando “Katniss Everdeen” Rodney trolled by the Angels’ best hitters was victory enough. The best part: no benches cleared, no bean ball war incited, no talking heads bemoaning the thuggery of today’s players. (Imagine if Yasiel Puig did this! We’d still be getting fresh hot takes.) Just a pure, unfiltered visualization of trash talk.

Up Next: The Sweep

Royals Sweep Angels Out of Playoffs

October 6th, 2014

Were any of us really expecting any differently? After letting Games 1 and 2 slip away at home, the Angels handed the ball to C.J. Wilson to save their season, a proposition Angels faithful have dreaded for months. The proceedings went according to plan: Wilson allowed three runs and didn’t survive the first inning, putting lesser relievers in position to hold the Royals at bay. That didn’t happen, as Kansas City scored eight runs on their coronation night, two more runs than the Angels scored in the series.

I think we all knew in August the Angels playoff chances were doomed with the season-ending injuries to Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs. Had those guys been healthy, Wilson doesn’t start a game this series. But really, I don’t think having those guys in tow would have mattered. The Angel offense was dreadful all series. They finally showed signs of life on Sunday against Royals ace James Shields, collecting eight hits in the game. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols homered, but like Chris Iannetta and David Freese in Game 1, there were no baserunners to celebrate with them at home plate. That was the crux of the problem for the Angels in the series: if runners were on base, the batter became helpless. In the three games, the Angels were 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position, a figure that will doom any club in the postseason.

Before the playoffs, I wrote that I preferred the Angels play the Royals in the ALDS and I still feel that was the correct call. The Royals are a good team capable of beating anyone but I’m not sure they played above their skill level. They played Royals Baseball, struggling to hit in the first two games but taking advantage of defensive miscues and playing their own sparkling defense. The vaunted 2011 farm system, once known as the Best Farm System Ever but now only referred to that in the ironic sense, delivered on the biggest stage — Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas both hit a game-winning homer, and both added an insurance home run in Game 3. But other than four home runs from the two players on the club that can actually hit home runs, the Royals more or less played to type. The Angels did not. The Angels played sloppy defense and didn’t score runs. The starting rotation, the glaring weakness on the club, was only a problem when Wilson took the ball. Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker were great in their starts, and if I knew before the series that Weaver and Shoemaker would combine to allow three runs in 13 innings, I would have assumed the Angels were up 2-0.

In the last seven seasons the Angels have now entered the playoffs with the best record in baseball twice and have a 1-6 postseason record to show for it. The Red Sox were probably the superior team in 2008, that Angels club buoyed by close wins and Francisco Rodriguez’s single-season saves record. The 2014 Royals are not a better team than the 2014 Angels, but that hardly matters now. Kansas City was better over a three-game stretch, and the Angels are again the victims of randomness in the playoffs, just as they were beneficiaries in 2002. Since 2004, the Angels have now been swept out of the playoffs three times, four if you want to count the gentleman’s sweep in the 2005 ALCS. Is that randomness? Poor managing? Poor playoff roster construction? All?

With an old roster that wasn’t really an improvement on the 2013 team, I figured the Angels didn’t have a prayer to win the AL West. My hope was they’d somehow sneak into the wild card and then some magic would happen. Winning 98 games and a division crown is still a great achievement. The best we can hope for is the Angels get another crack in October 2015 and that the dice roll their way.

Here’s some other random thoughts on Game 3.

Angels Take Season Series From A’s

September 25th, 2014
Great derp face, not-so great catch from Mike Trout on Wednesday.

Great derp face, not-so great catch from Mike Trout on Wednesday.

Game 1: A’s 8, Angels 4 | Game 2: Angels 2, A’s 0 | Game 3: Angels 5, A’s 4

Runs Scored = 11
Runs Allowed = 12

YTD Record: 98-61 | 1st in AL West

Up Next: Friday-Sunday @ Seattle Mariners

AthleticsSeries2

The Angels inched closer to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a series win in Oakland, winning the season series over the A’s, 10-9. With three games remaining before playoff baseball, the Angels’ magic number to clinch the top seed is two. To set the franchise record with 101 wins the Angels need to sweep Seattle this weekend, an unlikely proposition given the pitchers Seattle will trot out and the fact Mike Scioscia will elect to give many players some rest. We saw some of that in this Oakland series — Howie Kendrick sat out Monday, David Freese sat out Tuesday and Wednesday, Erick Aybar sat out Wednesday, Joe Smith didn’t pitch in his normal eighth inning role on Wednesday, etc. It’s the luxury of clinching early and it will hopefully serve the Angels well in the coming weeks.

As for Oakland, they’re still comfortably in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth. With four games remaining, they are tied with Kansas City for the wild card lead, three games ahead of the Mariners. It’s possible, if not likely, the Angels and A’s square off again a week from today. If the last two games of this series are any indication, it’s going to be a “hold on to your butts” series.

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