Halos Daily

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Halos Have Problems In Houston

April 20th, 2015

 

Game 1: Angels 6, Astros 3 | Game 2: Astros 4, Angels 0 | Game 3: Astros 4, Angels 3

 

Remember the time when the Astros joined the AL West and were the division punching bag for a few years while they racked up No. 1 draft picks? That was awesome. Sadly, it seems those days are at an end. Houston now has legitimate MLB players up and down their roster, and several more promising players just on the outside looking in. The Astros are still probably a year or two away from making a real run at a playoff berth, but as we saw this weekend that doesn’t mean they won’t make life a living hell for the Angels and the rest of the division. Good thing the Halos only face them 16 more times this year…

Maybe by the final match-up we’ll be able to determine whether Mike Trout is laughing or wincing in the picture above. Or at least by then maybe someone can figure out who the heck is managing in Houston now. Craig Biggio? Nolan Ryan? Orbit? It’s Orbit, isn’t it?

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Game 1: Mike Trout Makes History … Again

I feel like I’ve run out of wonderful things to say about Mike Trout. Or maybe not run out, but I feel like everything I could try to say has already been said before and thus doesn’t carry as much weight as it should. We’ve been beating the “Mike Trout is a talent for the ages” drum for so long that it seems to have lost much of its meaning. It’s as though we’re at the point in the narrative where the captivating story isn’t the hero doing incredible things, it’s the possibility of him not doing those things — of being exposed by some fatal flaw. We now seem to expect greatness from him, so anything less must mean something is wrong.

Stat Sunday: Garrett Richards Returns

April 19th, 2015

 

The long-awaited return of Garrett Richards is finally upon us, bringing with it dreams of having true ace atop the Angels rotation once again. It’s way too soon to know for sure if Richards will be able to repeat his breakout performance of 2014, but he’ll at least provide some stability to a rotation that’s looked awfully shaky in the season’s first two weeks.

To commemorate Richards’ 2015 debut for Stat Sunday, we’ve got three notable numbers to keep an eye on over the course of his season:

 

97.17 

…miles per hour was the average velocity of Richards’ fourseam fastball last season, the highest of any MLB starter not named Yordano Ventura. That velo represented a 1.7 MPH increase over his 2013 average, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you’d expect for a guy moving from the bullpen to a full-time rotation spot. Richards’ sinker and slider also saw similar increases, the velocity spike turning the latter pitch into a nearly un-hittable offering (i.e. a .022 ISO-against).

Word on the street is that Richards’ stuff looked just as good in spring and during his rehab starts, but there’s no telling if the uptick in velocity is something he can maintain in the longterm. (Even Justin Verlander is topping out at 95 now.) A small dip back toward his career norms this year or the next wouldn’t be surprising, so the question then would become whether he could maintain a high level of success with a not-quite-as-elite arsenal. For now, though, we can just sit back and enjoy the heat.

 

.261

…was the league’s slugging percentage against Richards in 2014, the lowest of any pitcher (min. 100 IP) by a full 14 points. As you might expect, that number was accompanied by an MLB bests in home runs per nine (0.3) and extra-base hit percentage (4.0%). It seems safe to assume that Richards is due for some regression here, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect a dramatic change. The added velocity noted above doesn’t just increase Richards’ whiff rate, it also makes his stuff much more difficult to square up — only Chris Sale had a lower Well-Hit Average (WHAV) last season, per ESPN Stats and Info.

It’s possible that part of the reason Richards’ pitches were so difficult to pick up in 2014 is that he finally locked down a consistent release point. Up to last year, Richards’s arm slot at release changed about as often as his role with the Angels pitching staff. In 2014, though, all his offerings were neatly bunched in a single cluster traveled on a similar plane to the plate, making it close to impossible to identify pitches out of his hand. Let’s hope his knee injury doesn’t affect his ability to do the same this year.

 

22

…was the number of wild pitches Richards threw last year, four more than anyone else in baseball; a rather impressive feat considering he didn’t pitch past August 20. Richards wasn’t on pace to set the all-time record (30, set by Red Ames in 1906) when he went down, but he did need only four more to have the most in the last half century. It wasn’t so much that Richards didn’t have good control last year — his 7.5% walk rate was better than the league average — it was that when the pitches got away from him, they really got away from him.

I expect Richards’ wild pitch numbers to decrease as he becomes more and more comfortable with his newer, nastier stuff. But even if he doesn’t, it shouldn’t affect his overall success — Felix Hernandez is among the league leaders in wild pitches every year, and he’s pretty alright. If worst comes to worst, he can always just add more gunk to the brim of his hat.

Stat Sunday: Weaver’s Fastball Woes Contagious?

April 12th, 2015

 

10.3%

 

…is the Whiff/Swing rate for C.J. Wilson’s four-seam fastball through two starts this year (i.e. 3 whiffs on 29 swings), which is a decrease of five whole percentage points from his career norm and at the far low end of the scale among his peers. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if the four-seamer wasn’t a major part of his arsenal as a starter, so naturally he’s throwing more of them than ever this year. Because of course he is.

Thirty-seven percent of Wilson’s offerings so far this season have been four-seam fastballs, up from 33 percent last year. This has been accompanied by an even larger increase in sinker usage (from 20% to 31%), meaning his off-speed and breaking pitches (26%) are at an all-time low. This heavy dose of fastballs might be an easy and effective way for him to lower his walk rate — his only free pass thus far was intentional – but it’ll also limit his overall effectiveness on the mound; breaking balls have always been Wilson’s best out-pitches by a long shot, so throwing fewer of them will presumably make him worse. Only a select few have found prolonged success as pitch-to-contact guys.

This potential problem didn’t rear its head in C.J.’s first start of the year, thanks in large part to good fortune with BABIP, but it sure did on Sunday. Of the 18 Wilson fastballs that were put in play on the afternoon, nine fell for hits. And “fell” is being generous. I don’t know if Wilson just lacks confidence in his off-speed stuff right now or if his new-found love for the fastball is a conscious effort to expand his #brand. Whatever it is, let’s hope he stops it soon.

 

Angels Take Opening Series From M’s

April 9th, 2015

 

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

 

The Angels not only managed to get the regular season off on the right foot for once, winning their first season-opening series since 2008, they also did so against a team that stands to be their fiercest competition in the AL West. Seattle showed glimpses of what could end up making them great – that pitching staff is absolutely nails — but exposed a couple potential weaknesses as well:

1) As noted in our season preview, the M’s might have trouble getting guys on base to drive in. They drew just three walks as a team in the series, and one of those was intentional.

2) The roster depth is paper thin. One minor injury to Seth Smith forced the club to start noted awful defender Nelson Cruz in right field Wednesday and left them without a lefty bench bat to face Joe Smith with the go-ahead runs aboard in the eighth, perhaps the most important moment in the game.

The two teams get a whole month of games to battle through before facing each again, so it be interesting to see where things stand then.

To the games!

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Game 1: Weaver Goes Full Moyer

 

The following tweet/image combo tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Jered Weaver’s first start of 2015:

Halos Daily 2015 Staff Predictions

April 6th, 2015

 

Opening Day has finally arrived, meaning not only is it time for baseball but it’s also time for us to write our pre-season predictions down in digital stone mostly so that others can look back and laugh at how wrong we were when the year is through. Along with the standard prediction fare — MVPs, World Series champs, etc. — we’ve thrown in some more quirky baseball stuff as well as a few non-baseball things. If you want to make predictions of your own, please do so in the comments!

 

Angels Auguring

 

How many games will the Angels win this season?

Nate: Let’s say… 91. The core of the roster is still strong, but I’m not sure it’ll be best-in-baseball strong again. Good enough for at least a Wild Card spot, for sure.

Justin: I’ll be slightly more pessimistic than Nate and go with 90, though I think that will be good enough to net them the division crown. On paper, it’s a fairly stellar roster, however, one or two significant injuries could seriously cripple this team due to its lack of depth.

Jeff: If David Freese has a significantly better year than he did last season, I can see the Angels reaching the 90 win plateau again.

Andrew: 85, contending all season but coming up just short of a playoff berth. I’m more bearish on their chances this year. Some regression from the offense, bullpen, and Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, with a bad defense for good measure, adds up to 13 fewer wins.

 

Will that be more or less than the Dodgers’ win total?

Justin: I’ll say it will be less than the Dodgers’ total, and probably by 4-8 wins. The Dodgers seem to just be better talent-wise, and unlike the Angels, they have quite a bit of depth. I also see their total being boosted by a division without another serious contender, unless you’re optimistic about San Diego’s chances (I peg them a tier below LA).

Nate: Less. The Dodgers could lose Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, and Hyun-Jin Ryu for a majority of the year and I’d still have them coming out ahead of the Angels. That powerful offense combined with the one-two punch of Kershaw and Greinke seems bound to run away with the division.

Andrew: Much less, possibly by as many as 15 games. The Dodgers are better and NL contenders have more cupcakes on their schedule.

 

The max velocity of a Jered Weaver fastball will be…

Justin: There’s gotta be a 91 in there somewhere.

Nate: Weaver had one flukey start in September last year where he averaged nearly 90 mph and topped out a smidge below 92. He’ll ever sustain that kind of fastball again over a full season, but I wouldn’t rule out a Hale-Bopp scenario where a start like that crops up once in a blue moon. When/if that happens this year, I’ll say 93. If not, 91.4.

 

How many starts will Andrew Heaney make in Anaheim?

Justin: ZiPS has Heaney slated to start 27 games, while Steamer sees a more limited role of 10 starts. I’m inclined to lean towards the former projection based on likely inevitable attrition.

Nate: I think Heaney’s rough spring has given the front office the justification it needed to keep him down in Triple-A until they can get that extra year of service time a la Kris Bryant. So I’ll say he comes up after June 3 and makes 18 starts over the season’s final four months.

 

Number of games until Dipoto gets fed up and trades for Chase Utley?

Justin: I just don’t see it happening, as I see the club probably pursuing a lesser option such as Aaron Hill.

Nate: However many games it is until the All-Star break. If Giavotella and friends can’t hold things together at the keystone, I can’t imagine they’d get too far into the second half before making a change. Not convinced it’ll be Utley, but it’ll be something. Maybe Baloquin will be ready?

Andrew: There’s no way Dipoto gets THAT desperate. Right? RIGHT?!

Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top notch Angels analysis!