Halos Daily

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Angels Split Four Game Set with Oakland

April 24th, 2015

 

Game 1: Athletics 6, Angels 3 | Game 2: Angels 14, Athletics 1
Game 3: Athletics 9, Angels 2 | Game 4: Angels 2, Athletics 0

 

It wasn’t too long ago that the AL West had just reason to be considered the best division in baseball. Now, roughly three weeks into the 2015 season, the AL West remains the only division without a 9-win team. The division leader? The Houston Astros; a franchise nearly a decade removed from its last postseason appearance, and winners of a combined 234 games (versus 416 losses) over the last four seasons.

Of course, it’s way too early in the season to rush to brash conclusions, but it seems clear that the AL West isn’t what it used to be. Seattle has sputtered out of the gate. The Rangers are likely in the midst of an abysmal campaign. Houston is clearly on the upswing, but still gives off little impression of a shoo-in playoff contender. The Angels and A’s have both had their woes early this season.

This week’s four game set in Anaheim seemed to perfectly exemplify the fungibility that should consume the AL West this season, as the Angels and A’s split the series, with the box scores enacting the form of a roller coaster (not too often you see a 14-1 and 2-0 game in the same series), possibly foreshadowing the tumultuous season ahead for these two teams

Now, before we move onto the recapping, can we just note how extraordinarily awesome Oakland’s roster is. I mean, this team’s starting infield consists of Stephen Vogt, Ike Davis, Eric Sogard, Marcus Semien, and Brett Lawrie, with Mark Canha in left field and a super-uber-utility man in Ben Zobrist. To put this club’s incredible roster-turnover in perspective, here are the number of players on Oakland’s active roster who received at least 300 plate appearances with the club last season: 2*

*That would be Josh Reddick and Eric Sogard. I repeat, Eric Sogard.

Also, is there anyone even remotely as excited as myself about a Sonny Gray-Scott Kazmir-Jesse Hahn-Drew Pomeranz rotation? No? Alright, well let’s get back on topic…

An Interview with Joe Smith

April 17th, 2015

 

The Angels gave Joe Smith a rather lucrative three-year, $15.75 million deal prior to the 2014 season with the expectation that he would nail down the eighth inning en route to Ernesto Frieri in the ninth. After a rough start to the 2014 season, Frieri was quickly dethroned, forcing Smith into the limelight. He proceeded to post the best season of his career (74.2 innings, 1.81 ERA, 202 ERA+, 2.85 FIP, 2.5 WAR), serving as a shut-down closer before the acquisition of Huston Street.

This year, Smith will once again set-up Street, forming what may be the best one-two punch of relievers in baseball. Through three scoreless appearances, he has continued his dominance, and will undoubtedly be a vital factor in the Angels’ playoff hopes for this season.

We recently sat down to talk with him as he prepares for the 2015 season:

 

Halos Daily (Justin Millar): To start off, what was the transition like moving from your home state of Ohio to the West Coast?

Joe Smith: Ohio to the West Coast is bittersweet. Bitter in the fact that when I was playing for Cleveland, home was four hours away. Family and friends could come up on a whim. It was also sweet, because there’s no better weather than Southern California. It’s hard to be in a bad mood waking up to 75 and sunny every day. I’m the only guy, when it’s cloudy for stretch, that’s like “This is great!”

 

HD: With the increased emphasis on pitch framing in today’s game, how do you value that skill in a catcher personally? What is the most important quality you look for in a catcher?

JS: I think framing is a huge deal. If you can steal a strike, there’s no better feeling than throwing a ball that you know is a ball, and getting the call. Your mindset changes greatly. There’s also a worse feeling when you throw a strike that gets pushed out of the zone, or called a ball. But that’s what pitching here is about. No matter what happens, [it's] the ability to move on and focus [on] one pitch at a time. A ball to a strike can change an at-bat. You can see the frustration on some guy’s face, and you know there will be a carry-over effect the rest of the at-bat. When you see that, it gives you so much confidence.

[For a catcher], I look at how he handles a staff. Knowing when to talk to guys. Knowing what to say… it’s not always baseball related. Sometimes it’s just a joke to relax a guy. The more relaxed and comfortable you are on the rubber, the better you will perform. It’s a hard thing to do, but when you have a guy like that, it can make you relax and have fun out there. That’s the guy I want. If you’re in the big leagues, you have the talent, [but] sometimes we forget and get wrapped up in stuff that doesn’t matter. Having a guy who can bring you back to even is huge.

2015 Preview: The Rotation

February 25th, 2015

 

The Angels’ offense was tremendous in 2014 (see our outfield and infield previews), finishing with a position player crop that ranked second in the majors in WAR and wRC+. However, it was the Angels’ performance on the mound that led to a 98-win season, and 20-win improvement. Rotational success was at the forefront of the turnaround, as a group that ranked near the bottom of many statistical categories in 2013 (including 23rd in WAR and 24th in FIP) moved into the upper-half of baseball (14th in WAR, 11th in FIP), a shift that was good enough to bring the club back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Entering 2015 with another offensive group that figures to be quite productive, the Angels will need their rotation to keep up its performance from last season in order to overtake the likes of Seattle and Oakland in the AL West.

 

Jered Weaver

Age: 32
Salary: $18 million
Free Agent: 2017

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2014 Stats

Innings: 213.1
ERA/FIP/xFIP: 3.59/4.19/4.30
K/BB: 2.60
fWAR: 1.5

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Even with Weaver’s production dropoff in recent years, the decision to sign him to a fairly discounted extension in August of 2011 remains one of Tony Reagin’s most astute moves. Weaver has just two years remaining on that five-year, $85 million extension, and with Garrett Richards’ status to start the season still somewhat uncertain, Weaver remains the staff’s de facto ace.

Despite the title, Weaver hasn’t exactly pitched like an ace in a few years. After a third place Cy Young finish for a 2012 season in which he led the league with 20 wins and posted a 2.81 ERA, 135 ERA+, 1.018 WHIP, 7.0 H/9, and 3.16 K/BB in 188.2 innings, Weaver missed time with a fractured elbow in 2013, limiting his innings total to 154.1 frames. When on the field, he was still productive, putting up a 3.27 ERA and 2.3 WAR.

2014 was somewhat of a revival for Weaver, as he was able to eclipse the 200 innings mark (he threw 213.1) for the first time since 2011. However, he saw both his ERA (3.59) and FIP (4.19) climb for the fourth consecutive season, and it was clearly his least successful season on a per-inning basis.

Angels Acquire Josh Rutledge from Rockies for Jairo Diaz

December 11th, 2014
Josh-Rutledge-Daniel-Shirley

While not nearly as good as Howie Kendrick, Rutledge is under club control for the next four years.

 

In the immediate wake of Howie Kendrick’s shocking trade to the Dodgers, the Angels have made a minor move to address their middle infield depth, acquiring infielder Josh Rutledge from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for right-handed reliever Jairo Diaz, the club announced.

The 25-year-old Rutledge is somewhat of an intriguing addition, though the move shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the Halos have been tied to him in recent days. Rutledge gives the Angels an option capable of playing both second base and shortstop, though he grades out sub-par defensively at both positions. He has hit a decent .259/.308/.403 in 947 plate appearances with the Rockies over the past three years, though the role of Coors Field places his career OPS+ at just 83. Thus far, he has produced a -1.1 career WAR. However, he still offers potential everyday player upside, and has a strong track record of performance in the minors, with a .328/.386/.506 career slash line.

As the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher notes, the Halos likely don’t view Rutledge as an immediate everyday fill-in for Kendrick, as he is rather young, has options remaining, and hasn’t quite played up to his skill level yet. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, the plan is for Rutledge to compete with Grant Green for the starting second base job, though an outside candidate – such as Gordon Beckham – could be considered as well.

Having yet to reach arbitration eligibility, Rutledge has four more years of club control remaining, which isn’t insignificant considering Kendrick was scheduled to reach free agency next winter.

The 23-year-old Diaz has electric raw stuff, with a heater that routinely reaches triple-digits, and a plus breaking ball. Many have anointed him as having closer potential, but he likely wasn’t slated for a major role in the Angels’ 2015 bullpen. In 64.2 minor league innings last season, Diaz notched a 3.48 ERA, 11.8 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9. He reached the big leagues for a five-game trial in September, allowing two runs with eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings.

Overall, the Angels had a rather eventful day. They essentially traded Howie Kendrick and Jairo Diaz for Andrew Heaney and Josh Rutledge, which represents a significant improvement in terms of both youth and cost control.

 

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.

Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top notch Angels analysis!