May 7th, 2015
Game 1: Mariners 3, Angels 2 | Game 2: Angels 5, M’s 4 | Game 3: Angels 4, M’s 3
A pair of walk-off victories gave the Angels a much-needed series victory over the Mariners. The series mirrored the Halos’ opening series of the season in Seattle, when they dropped the opener against Felix Hernandez but won the next two games, thereby getting me that much closer to winning a season-long bet with my Mariners-fan friend.
The Angels hope these two wins can propel them into some good baseball this weekend when they welcome the surprising Houston Astros*, who were just swept at home by the Rangers. Hopefully, momentum is real and the Angels carry swagger into the four-game series while the Astros are shamed after losing three straight to a team that features Elvis Andrus near the top of the order out of necessity.
* Every mention of the Astros will henceforth include the adjective “surprising.”
On to the games, with some stray observations from each.
* On May the Fourth, Shoebacca pitched about as well as one could hope, dueling Felix Hernandez for six scoreless innings before surrendering back-to-back homers to Nelson Cruz — a Darth Vader from the Angels’ perspective if there ever was one — and Logan Morrison in the sixth inning. After Matt Joyce got a run back with a solo homer in the bottom of the inning, Seth Smith put the M’s up by two again with another home run off Shoemaker in the seventh with what proved to be the winning run in Seattle’s 3-2 win. Shoemaker needed only 90 pitches to throw 7-1/3 innings, striking out ten and walking only one in a thorough evisceration of the Mariners…except for three batters.
May 1st, 2015
Game 1: A’s 6, Angels 2 | Game 2: Angels 6, A’s 3 | Game 3: Angels 6, A’s 5
The Angels closed the month with another road series victory over a division rival, doing the same in Seattle and Texas earlier in April. (Houston thwarted the chance to go 4-for-4 when they took two of three from the Angels two weeks ago.) In a month where the team played pretty poorly, they still finished 11-11 and are ahead of the supposed other division contenders in the standings. We’ll cross off the no-longer Lastros for now, but their legitimacy gains steam with each passing day.
Fans aren’t pleased with the sluggish start, but .500 is a good place to be considering the Angels rank 12th in the American League in wRC+, eighth in ERA-, and ninth in defensive runs saved. The Angels, at least for one month, are mediocre-to-worse at everything yet still have a 42.2% chance of winning the division, per Baseball Prospectus. It’s good to have Mike Trout.
On to the games in Oakland, with some stray observations from each.
* The good: Jered Weaver lasted seven innings. The bad: everything else. OK, that’s not totally fair, because after allowing five runs in the first inning Weaver retired 12 batters in a row and combined with Sonny Gray for a brisk two-hour, six-minute game. But that first inning was enough to K.O. the Angels immediately. That’s what happens when you face one of the best pitchers in the American League.
April 29th, 2015
The Marlins designated Jarrod Saltalamacchia for assignment Monday and there are now reports five teams are interested in the struggling catcher. The Angels weren’t listed as one of those teams, but it’s safe to assume they would at least be a little intrigued — Angel catchers have posted a 10 wRC+ this year (!!!!!!!!), the worst production in baseball (duh). Remember, a 100 wRC+ is average.
Chris Iannetta has been run over by the regression train, posting a .176 wOBA just a year after having one of the best offensive campaigns of his career. Saltalamacchia, batting only .069* this season, is having a “better” offensive season than Iannetta, wOBA-ing at .187.
Acquiring Salty would essentially give the Angels the left-handed version of Iannetta.** Like Iannetta, Salty walks a lot, strikes out a lot, and is good for about 10 homers a year while providing less than stellar defense behind the dish. In what sounds like a ripoff of a John Woo film, does it make sense to platoon Iannetta…with himself? [dramatic music] Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of a potential Saltalamacchia acquisition.
**Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter that can’t hit left-handed pitching, so it’s best to think of him as primarily a left-handed batter — like with Hank Conger.
A viable catching platoon…maybe
Let’s assume Iannetta is just being victimized by an early season slump and that slumps in April are worse than slumps in, like, July because they’re more magnified and the numbers are uglier. Pray to your gods this is the case. Even still, Iannetta is below average against right-handed pitching, posting a 93 wRC+ for his career. He mashes lefties (131 wRC+), but he could use a buddy when it comes to same-sided arms. That’s where Salty comes in, who for his career has posted a 107 wRC+ against right-handed arms. (That drops to 56 against left-handed pitchers.) Platoon Iannetta with Salty and the Angels now have above average productions everyday from the catcher spot. Not many teams have that type of advantage. Drew Butera could use an aluminum bat and still not be an average hitter.
April 16th, 2015
Game 1: Angels 6, Rangers 3 | Game 2: Rangers 8, Angels 2 | Game 3: Angels 10, Rangers 2
Pretend, for a moment, the Royals aren’t a team. The Angels are 4-2! They’ve won two road series against division rivals! C.J. Wilson still hasn’t allowed a run this year!
Well that was fun. Unfortunately the Royals do exist, and their weekend sweep is a black mark book-ended by two otherwise successful series victories over potential playoff contenders (maybe not so much with the Rangers, but you never know).
Whatever gods the Rangers angered last season have not been appeased, as injuries are already piling up for Texas. Gone for the season are Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar. Ryan Rua was placed on the 15-day DL and Derek Holland, the team’s best pitcher in Darvish’s absence, was placed on the 60-day DL over the weekend. Not fun times in Arlington, but if they can tread water for a couple months, maybe they can hang in the race. Adrian Beltre can do all things.
On to the games, with some stray observations from each.
* At least through two starts, Matt Shoemaker has remained a valuable member of the rotation. It initially looked like it was going to be a short evening for Shoemaker after he allowed four hits and three runs in the first inning, but Shoemaker then cruised and retired 10 Rangers in a row. Everyone’s favorite regression candidate, especially PECOTA, has so far staved off a sophomore slump thanks to a small uptick in his strikeout percentage — 24%, compared to 22.8% last season — and his persistent refusal to walk batters, walking only one of the 50 hitters he has faced this year. It’s difficult to glean much, if anything, from two starts, but The Cobbler’s first two are an encouraging sign that 2014 was not a fluke. As long as Shoe avoids the home run ball, as he did Monday, he will have a fine 2015 in the middle of the Angel rotation.
April 3rd, 2015
Major League Baseball announced that Josh Hamilton will not be suspended for his offseason drug use after an arbitrator ruled Hamilton did not violate his treatment program.
Earlier this offseason, Hamilton self-reported his cocaine use to MLB, after which a four-person board consisting of two members from MLB and two from the player’s association met to decide whether new commissioner Rob Manfred would have the right to suspend Hamilton. The two sides split the vote 2-2, with the players’ union as expected ruling in favor of a non-suspension for Hamilton, forcing an arbitrator to make the decision and ultimately rule that Major League Baseball could not suspend Hamilton for this infraction.
Normally I would say “good job MLB,” but well, they’re PISSED about the result. In addition to appointing two people whose job was almost certainly to rule against Hamilton, here’s their statement: