September 25th, 2014
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
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.
September 23rd, 2014
Mike Trout will finally defeat Miguel Cabrera in the MVP race, but defeating the Tigers in a playoff series will be a tougher proposition.
Last week, I wrote about the two clubs I most want the Angels to play in the ALDS: the Royals here and the Mariners here. Today we move on to the Detroit Tigers.
Team: Detroit Tigers
Record: 86-70 | Pythagorean Record: 84-72
ALDS Probability (per BP): 90.4%
AL Ranks: Runs Scored – 2nd | Runs Allowed – 10th
The Royals and Mariners are kindred baseball spirits, weak offensive teams whose success is buoyed by elite run prevention. The Tigers are the yang to that yin, bashing their way to victory. Detroit’s 111 wRC+ ranks second in the AL behind the Angels, but their OBP and slugging are tops despite ranking tenth in walk rate and fifth in homers. The .320 BABIP may suggest some luck — the MLB average is .299 — but the Tigers lead the league with a 22.2% line drive rate and hit the second fewest ground balls in the AL.
This is what happens when you feature Mike Trout’s foil, Miguel Cabrera. In a down year by Miggy’s standards he’s still slashing .311/.374/.520 — in the last month, he’s slugged .606. Cabrera is supported by The Brothers Martinez, Victor and J.D. (they’re not actually brothers), both of whom have been substantially better than Cabrera this season according to wRC+. For players with at least 450 plate appearances, Victor and J.D. have both posted top-seven wRC+ in MLB.
September 18th, 2014
Facing this guy: not fun.
Previously, I broke down why I most want the Angels to play the Royals in the ALDS. Today, the Mariners.
Team: Seattle Mariners
Record: 81-70 | Pythagorean Record: 88-63
ALDS Probability (per BP): 11.2%
AL Ranks: Runs Scored – 10th | Runs Allowed – 1st
It’s easy to figure why I want the Angels to play the Royals more than the Mariners: both are poor offensive clubs but the Mariners are the stingiest run prevention team in the American League. Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and James Paxton form a formidable top three and the bullpen owns a microscopic 2.41 ERA, half a run better than second place Oakland. Preventing runs is nothing new for the M’s, but it was often attributed to Safeco Field’s pitcher-friendly confines. That’s not really a viable excuse this year, as the pitching staff owns a park-adjusted 81 ERA-; the bullpen is even stingier at 64. That latter figure is the fifth-best mark in the Wild Card era, so if a club falls behind early it’s usually death. Seattle also ranks among the top four in the AL in park-adjusted FIP and xFIP — Safeco is still a desirable place to pitch, but the Mariners also employ a bunch of damn good pitchers.
On offense, Seattle isn’t much different from Kansas City, as Seattle’s 92 wRC+ is nearly identical to KC’s 93. The Mariners at least feel like a more threatening offensive club than the Royals, mostly because the Royals don’t have anyone as good as Robinson Cano.
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. (Update: They did.) With a four-game lead over Baltimore and only 12 games to go, it also appears likely the Angels will earn homefield advantage throughout the postseason. (Update: They did that, too.) 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.
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
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.