Halos Daily

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Giants Sweep Halos Out Of The Bay

May 4th, 2015

 

Game 1: Giants 3, Angels 2 | Game 2: Giants 5, Angels 4 | Game 3: Giants 5, Angels 0

 

Well that didn’t go well. After finishing April on a high note with two dramatic wins in Oakland, the Angels made the quick trip across the Bay Bridge to begin May but forgot to bring the good vibes along. The Halos were outhit 27 to 16 over the weekend, and managed just three extra-base hits (two by Trout) to the Giants’ eight. They never held a lead at any point over the three-game series, opting to tease hopeful fans with brief ties and one-run deficits.

The Halos have now scored three runs or fewer in 14 of their 25 games this season, and are already one shutout loss away from matching their 2014 total (3). Mike Trout’s MVP start has single-handedly prevented the Angels from having the worst offensive numbers in the American League, but even with him they’re still in the bottom three across the board.

If there was ever any doubt the front office was going to use it’s Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton savings to add a bat this summer, that doubt should be long gone. The only question now is where on the diamond the team needs a boost most. Currently, the team is in the bottom five offensively at catcher (30th), left field (30th), first base (26th), shortstop (29th), and designated hitter (13th in AL). Of those five positions, you can reliably count on two (1B and SS) to bounce back and have respectable numbers by the end of the year. That leaves three potential weak spots in need of bolstering by midseason, but with little help from the minors on the horizon and the means to address only one externally. If you’re Jerry Dipoto, what do you do?

Angels Sending Hamilton Back to Rangers

April 25th, 2015

 

So by now you’ve probably heard… Josh Hamilton is likely headed back to the Texas Rangers in exchange for somewhere around $15 million in salary relief and nothing else. With no players coming back to Anaheim, the deal is more pawn than trade, which tells you everything you need to know about how badly ownership wanted to wash their hands of Hamilton.

A common refrain in wake of the news has been that Hamilton’s contract should immediately go down as one of the worst in franchise history. I can’t say that I disagree with the sentiment, but I would argue that his place on that list has much, much more to do with the Angels than it does Hamilton.

It seems pretty clear now that Arte Moreno was drawn in by Hamilton’s feel-good comeback story, and had no intention of ever confronting the reality of his addiction. Moreno and the front office should have known damn well he was a high-risk acquisition from the day they handed him a five-year contract — it’s not as though Hamilton was shy about his addiction being a constant struggle. For ownership to then go out of their way to pass his recent relapse off as some sort of unforgivable break in trust screams of ignorance at best, maliciousness at worst.

I’m not saying the Angels don’t have a reason to be disappointed in Hamilton. Of course they do. But the club’s reaction to the situation hasn’t been simply one of disappointment, no matter what they might say to reporters. Moreno’s need to not just jettison Hamilton from the organization as quickly as possible but also purge all of his merchandise from the team store well before any official transaction smacks of a spurned lover, not a concerned employer. Moreno’s public admission that he hasn’t spoken to Hamilton since the end of the 2014 season only reinforces the idea of some sort of personal betrayal.

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.

 

Halos Daily

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