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Pujols Gets No. 500

April 22nd, 2014
CM Capture 1

Albert makes history.

Welcome to the 500-home run club, Albert Pujols.

“The Machine” became just the 26th MLB player to reach the 500-HR milestone Tuesday afternoon1, and the first ever to do so with a multi-homer game2. Pujols walloped No. 499 in the top of the first to put the Halos up 3-0, then followed it with a mammoth shot in the fifth to tally No. 500 and extend the lead to 6-2. Both homers were hit well out of the park.

GIFs:

499

499

500

500

The entire team greeted Pujols at home plate after No. 500, and Albert gave a curtain call shortly after to salute the nice standing ovation from the D.C. crowd, but other than that there was no real pause in the action. Anyone who was hoping for a 20-minute ceremony a la Cal Ripken’s “Iron Man” lap around the ballpark was probably a bit disappointed.

Pujols is just the second player to hit his 500th as a member of the Angels, joining Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson. Pujols now has eight homers on the season, which not only leads all of baseball but is also more than a quarter of the Angels’ season total (31). I think his feet are feeling better…

The next major career milestone on Albert’s list is 3,000 hits, but that’s still several seasons away. He currently sits at 2,370 hits, a full 630 shy of the 3K benchmark.

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1 Cool random tidbit: Both dingers were caught by visiting Angels fans.

2 This marks Pujols’ 47th multi-homer game of his career, which is 17th all-time.

This Week In Notable Numbers

April 20th, 2014
497 down, 3 to go

498 down, 2 to go

 

264

…is the the all-time record for home runs hit by a team (1997 Seattle Mariners) in a single season, a total the Angels are currently on pace to eclipse by 12. With two more dingers on Saturday, the Halos now boast a league-leading 29 home runs through just 17 games. It is extremely unlikely that the club will maintain its torrid long-ball rate, especially with Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun sidelined for the next month, but it’s still fun to keep track of while it lasts. The franchise record for homers in a season is 236, set in Mike Scioscia’s first year (2000) at the helm in Anaheim. Naturally, that’s also the only year the team has had four players—Anderson, Glaus, Salmon, and Vaughn—hit 30 home runs. In no other season have the Angels hit more than 200 homers.

 

4

…is the number of times Mike Trout was fanned on Saturday, the first time he’s ever done so in an MLB game. It’s also just the second time he’s succumbed to four Ks in a game as a professional, the first coming way back in 2010 during his brief stint in High-A ball. While it’s a bit jarring to see Trout appear overmatched at the plate, a four-strikeout game was coming sooner or later given his slightly below-average K rate (~21%). Now, if there ever comes a time when Albert Pujols dons a Golden Sombrero, then we should be worried. The Machine has never struck out four times in a game, and he has just 13 three-K games in his 14+ seasons. Trout, on the other hand, already has 15 three-K games to his credit/debit in just two-plus seasons.

 

11-for-11

…is the Angels’ current stolen base mark on the year if you ignore Howie Kendrick’s getting picked off as he started towards second Friday night, which I do. Even if you do count the pick-off as a caught-stealing, the club was 10-for-10 to that point, which is still a franchise record for successful steals to start the season. Kendrick (3), Calhoun (2), and Trout (2) lead the way in the SB department thus far, but it’s mostly the guys with one bag who’ve piqued my interest. Chris Iannetta, Brennan Boesch, and Ian Stewart are all on the board already this year despite having just 42 steals between them (at a 60% success rate) in 1,542 games prior to this season. The furthest into the season any Angels team has gone without a CS is 20 games, achieved back in 1983, which this year’s team will (sort of) equal if it can get through Sunday’s contest unscathed.

 

26th

…is the place in the 500-home run club that Albert Pujols will inhabit with just two more dingers. When he eclipses the mark in the coming week(s), he’ll be the first player to do so since Gary Sheffield accomplished the feat way back in April 2009. At just 34 years and change, Pujols will be the third-youngest player to ever reach the 500-HR milestone, behind Alex Rodriguez (32) and Jimmie Foxx (also 32). It would be great if Albert could join the exclusive club while playing at home, but the Angels still have seven games left on their current road trip, so it will probably happen away from the Big A. If we go by Albert’s career norms—he’s averaged a homer every 15 at-bats or so—then no. 500 will probably come in Yankee Stadium over the weekend.  :/

Whither Mike Trout’s Stolen Bases?

April 19th, 2014
TroutSB

Oh look. There’s one.

This post would’ve been much timelier on Friday morning, when Mike Trout had just one stolen base through 15 games. However, though Trout’s “doubled” his season total in the game since then, the question posed in the headline is still worth asking and answering:

It’s April 191. Mike Trout has only two stolen bases. Should we be concerned?

 

Short Answer: No. No we shouldn’t. ~fin~

 

Long Answer: Worrying over Trout’s stolen bases is a bit like ordering a double chocolate fudge cake and fretting about whether or not it’s going to have chocolate sprinkles. Sure, the sprinkles would be nice to have—who doesn’t love sprinkles?—but their absence isn’t going to make or break the whole cake experience. You still get a shitload of chocolate either way.

First Base Claims its Second Victim

April 16th, 2014
Watch your step...

Watch your step…

I’m not sure who did what, but it’s becoming increasingly evident that someone on the Angels did something to seriously piss off the baseball gods. Kole Calhoun is the latest player to feel their wrath, twisting his ankle while running out a ground ball in the 11th inning of the club’s second straight heart-wrenching loss to the A’s.

Calhoun was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a ligament strain immediately after the game, joining Josh Hamilton and Don Baylor among the bizarre ranks of Halos who have suffered major injuries at or around bases in the last two weeks. I have no idea what the hell is going on there, but the Angels might want to just take a page out of David Freese’s book and avoid going near bases of any kind until this mystery is cleared up. On a related note, are there rules against Mike Trout playing while covered in bubble wrap?

Calhoun’s injury, which will reportedly keep him on the shelf for 4-6 weeks, puts the outfield in some pretty dire straits1. With J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill already platooning in left field to hold the Hamilton fort, the Angels are going to need to add another outfielder to the roster to man right field in the short term. This either means that Matt Long will be making his long-awaited debut, that Brennan Boesch will get another opportunity to demonstrate his poor defense and inability to hit lefties take a walk, or that a recently DFA’d outfielder like Sam Fuld will get another chance to find lightning in a bottle. (I also hear Vernon Wells is available…)

Long, who pushed his way onto the radar with a stellar spring, seems to have the best shot of taking Calhoun’s place, as he provides the most versatility on defense—in addition to the three outfield spots, he also plays second base—has some base-running chops, and still has minor-league options left, meaning the Angels can send him back to Salt Lake without passing him through waivers. He doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well, but he also doesn’t have any real glaring weaknesses in his game either. As friend of blog Garrett Wilson points out over at MWAH, Long is essentially “Calhoun Lite,” so he should be able to fill Kole’s shoes at the top of the order for at least a brief time.

Long, 26, is batting .244/.354/.463 with two home runs and seven walks in 41 plate appearances for Salt Lake through 12 games this year. In 210 games with the Bees over the last three seasons, he’s amassed a .283/.358/.464 line and stolen 35 bases in 44 attempts.

UPDATE: The call to #FreeMattLong has yet again fallen on deaf ears. The Angels have decided to go the *experience* route and call up former Tigers left fielder Brennan Boesch to take Kole Calhoun’s spot on the roster. Boesch, 29, was at point in time viewed as an adequate corner power bat, but that time has long past.

After a miserable year (-1.2 WAR) manning right field for Detroit in 2012, the left-handed hitting Boesch was released and subsequently picked up by the injury-plagued Yankees. Most of his time in New York—which ended in mid-July—was spent sitting in favor of Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, which tells you just about everything you need to know.

It’d be one thing if Boesch was simply a platoon player, flailing around against lefties while thriving on righties. But he’s not. Instead, he’s decidedly mediocre against pitchers of both persuasions, with a 723 OPS vs. RHPs and a ripe-for-regression 763 OPS vs. LHPs. His walk rate is also well below league average and he’s limited to the corner outfield spots, where is defense still rates as pretty abysmal. Given all that, it’s difficult to parse how the Angels came to the conclusion that he’s a better option in right than Long, but here we are.

Obviously, I hope that Boesch is able to find success in his time with the Halos, I’m just not very optimistic. Prior to his call-up, he was hitting .250/.308/.479 with two homers and two triples through 52 plate appearances (13 games) for the Salt Lake Bees.

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1 Not as dire as those facing the bullpen, but that’s a story for another day.

Hypothesizing an Optimal Catcher Platoon

April 16th, 2014
IannettaPic

Are there certain RHPs Iannetta is better equipped to handle?

Given all of 2013’s disappointments, it’s easy to overlook the things that actually went right last year (other than Mike Trout, of course). One can be forgiven for not pushing through the not inconsiderable haze of Albert Pujols’ injuries, Josh Hamilton’s frightening inability to hit lefties, and Jered Weaver’s ever-declining velocity to find more positive narratives. They are there if you squint, though. For instance, did you know that Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger put together arguably the best season by Angels catchers in Mike Scioscia’s 14 years at the helm in Anaheim? Because it sure as hell surprised me.

Iannetta and Conger were worth a combined 3.1 fWAR in 2013, marking the first time this century an Angels catching cohort has topped three wins. The surprisingly adequate duo also posted 1+ WAR each, making them only the second pair of Halos catchers to do so in a season under Sosh’s tutelage—the elder Molina brothers first accomplished the feat back in 2005.

Neither catcher lit up the stat sheet outside of Iannetta nearly earning more free passes than hits1, but they really weren’t supposed to. The whole purpose of a platoon is to create a two-headed monster of sorts that’ll equal or surpass the production of one average player, which is exactly what Iannetta and Conger did. Each started 60 games against righty starters1, and the right-handed hitting Iannetta got the nod in 42 of the club’s 44 contests versus southpaws. In the end, their combined .237/.341/.385 batting line was good for a 109 OPS+, which means that the league’s catchers, as a whole, were nine percent worse at the plate than the I/C tandem. That’s nowhere close to the league leaders, of course, but it’s still sufficiently better than just about any other unit Scioscia has trotted out behind (and to) the dish since taking over in 2000.

OPSWARCatchers

A whole lotta teh suck.

Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top-notch Angels analysis!