Halos Daily

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Angels Bring Back Dipoto for (At Least) One More Year

September 8th, 2014
Everything has broken right for Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno in 2014.

Everything has broken right for Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno in 2014.

 

Amidst a stretch in which the Angels took control of the AL West, word came out Friday afternoon that the Halos exercised GM Jerry Dipoto’s contract for 2015. The club also holds an option for 2016 and presumably a decision on that will be made next year.

Dipoto replaced Tony Reagins following the latter’s removal in 2011. Almost instantly, Dipoto made a mark as the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to massive free agent contracts in December 2011. Perhaps unfairly, Dipoto’s Angel tenure will likely always be associated with Pujols and Josh Hamilton, two risky signings widely thought to have been Arte Moreno’s making.

Even though the 2012 Angels won 89 games, they missed the postseason and failed to live up to the World Series hype. The 2013 Angels won only 78 games, and there were murmurs Dipoto and/or Mike Scioscia could get the boot. Presumably, Moreno took the patient approach and it has worked out in 2014 — Baseball Prospectus projects the Angels have a 20.4% chance of winning the World Series, the highest in baseball.

Even if we assume the Pujols and Hamilton contracts were Moreno moves, Dipoto rightly deserved blame for the ancillary players brought in his first two seasons. Bullpen arms like Jason Isringhausen, LaTroy Hawkins, Sean Burnett, and Ryan Madson were all disasters for different reasons. Trading Jordan Walden for Tommy Hanson felt like a decent idea, but backfired almost immediately. Paying Joe Blanton actual American currency was a thing that happened.

However, Dipoto has had the hot hand of late. Trading Mark Trumbo for two viable starting pitchers was a master stroke. So was unloading Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli. It appears he traded Alberto Callaspo at just the right time, netting a useful bench player in Grant Green. Nobody knew who Cory Rasmus was when the Angels acquired him last year for Scott Downs, but he has been a very effective long relief man out of the bullpen. I, and many Angel fans, hated trading Peter Bourjos (and Randall Grichuk) for David Freese and Fernando Salas; the Cardinals may very well win that trade, but Freese has admirably filled a black hole on the roster and Salas has even become a very solid middle-innings relief arm. If the point was to win in 2014, then the Freese trade worked out.

Like anything with sports, much of Dipoto’s 2014 success can be attributed to good fortune. He inherited Mike Trout when he took the job. Garrett Richards developed into a legitimate ace before his injury. Kole Calhoun was a projected fourth outfielder that turned into one of the best right fielders in baseball. The lowly regarded Matt Shoemaker has become the rotation’s savior. The bullpen, a disaster in 2012 and 2013, now has a case as the American League’s deepest and best; Dipoto deserves credit for building it back up, but relief pitchers are prone to high year-to-year variance. Nobody expected this type of season from Kevin Jepsen. But, if we criticize general managers when everything falls apart — whether by bad luck or poor design — then we should also credit them when a team succeeds.

It remains to be seen if Dipoto is actually a good GM. Sean Newcomb was his first first-round pick, so now begins the process of trying to rebuild a farm system lacking in talent. It should be noted Dipoto bears a large chunk of responsibility for that lack of talent, thanks to trades for Zack Greinke, Freese, Joe Thatcher, and Huston Street. The lack of young organizational talent could bite the Angels as soon as next year: the entire infield is on the wrong side of 30 and other big-money players like Hamilton, Jered Weaver, and CJ Wilson are declining. This could be the last year in a while the Angels are legitimate pennant contenders.

But if the Angels win the World Series this year nobody will care about future or the farm system, at least not right away. And I think it’s fair to assume Dipoto’s 2016 option would be picked up sometime before ring-sizing.

Farewell, J.B. Shuck

September 5th, 2014
He gone.

He gone.

 

The unthinkable has happened. Fan favorite J.B. Shuck, who was dropped off the 40-man roster earlier this week, was claimed off of waivers by his hometown Cleveland Indians on Friday. Like Chuck Finley, Garrett Anderson, Lucifer, and countless others before him, Shuck is now officially an ex-Angel. He will make his way to the Midwest this weekend in exchange for Cash Considerations, who has been dealt at least 10 times this season alone.

To honor Shuck’s brief but memorable time in Anaheim, we thought it appropriate to write him a roughly replacement-level farewell.

Things we’ll miss about J.B. Shuck:

His creepily accurate throwing arm; that he became known as the “gritty” small guy on the team even though he’s taller than Kole Calhoun; his Phiten necklace; that he has two more home runs in Angels Stadium since last August than Josh Hamilton; how that one time he made a pretty great catch and from then on everyone ignored that his defense was actually kinda terrible overall; that we don’t get to make the “Life is an oyster…” joke anymore; that he was worth a full win more (by bWAR) to the Halos in 566 plate appearances than Vernon Wells was in 791; that his surname derives from the Old English word for “demon”; that we never got the chance to parody that one song by The Darkness; that he finished fifth in the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year voting; and last but not least, that he took Max Scherzer deep in April after smelling his bat like Mary Katherine Gallagher would her hands

ShuckSniff

Mmmm, toasty.

 

So long, J.B. Shuck. And thanks for all the fish.

Surveying the Post-Richards Pitching Situation

August 21st, 2014
1st

It strikes again.

You know that nightmare scenario we all dreaded where the Angels’ rail-thin rotation fell to pieces right before they made the final push for the playoffs? Well, it’s here. First, it was Tyler Skaggs and an ominous appointment with Dr. James Andrews; now it’s Garrett Richards and a gruesome knee injury at the hands of the club’s arch-nemesis this year, first base. (You may remember it from such episodes as “Calhoun Twists an Ankle” and “Hamilton Stubs his Thumb.”) An MRI revealed that Richards tore the patellar tendon of his left knee in Boston on Wednesday, meaning that he’ll be sidelined until at least Spring Training next February.

I suppose it could have been worse — i.e. at least it’s not his ACL, throwing arm, etc. — but there’s no dancing around the fact that the injury is a crushing blow to the team’s title hopes this season. Richards was the glue that held the rotation together and was easily the club’s best shot at surviving a one-off Wild Card game, should it come to that. What’s more, a playoff rotation of Jered Weaver/C.J. Wilson/??? is a far more frightening proposition for the Angels than anyone they might face in a best-of-[number] series.

So, yeah, the Angels are in a pretty rough spot, even as the team currently with the best record in baseball. Rather than pull a Jeremiah and lament for thousands of words, though, let’s take a (slightly) more productive approach and survey the club’s best options for replacing down the stretch and into October.

Halos Paying Tribute to Jim Fregosi (Finally)

August 12th, 2014
Better late than never, I suppose.

Better late than never?

The Angels will finally honor one of their all-time greats on Tuesday, nearly six full months after his passing. Jim Fregosi, 71, died on Valentine’s Day of this year from complications following a stroke, bringing his 50+ years in Major League Baseball to a sudden and tragic end.

A member of the inaugural 1961 Angels, Fregosi is one of just three former Halos players to have his number (#11) retired by the team, and was the first manager to lead the club into the postseason, in 1979. Despite spending only 10 seasons in an Angels uniform, he remains the franchise WAR leader (45.9) among position players, more than five wins ahead of the next guy — Tim Salmon, at 40.5 WAR. He was elected into the team Hall of Fame in 1989, and had his number retired in 1998.

While the Phillies and Braves, for whom Fregosi worked after his playing and managing tenures with the Halos came to a close, honored the six-time All-Star at a Spring Training game in Florida three weeks after his death, the Angels were oddly silent on the matter. Other than this single paragraph written within hours of Fregosi’s death, the organization made no official moves toward paying tribute to its first real star. Until now.

A pre-game ceremony to honor Fregosi on Tuesday will include a video tribute, an on-field presentation to members of his family, and a first pitch thrown by his oldest son, Jim Jr. Additionally, both the Angels and Phillies will wear a Fregosi patch on their uniform sleeves, and the #11 will be stenciled into the outfield grass.

Many fans have widely expressed their disdain for how the front office has more or less ignored Fregosi this season, so while Tuesday’s tribute will likely be very nice, the ceremony is unlikely to bring an end to those feelings of contempt. Scheduling a tribute to someone half a year after they’ve gone seriously smacks of damage control, especially when said ceremony isn’t announced until the week before. There is absolutely no reason the team couldn’t have worn a memorial patch the entire season, or, at the very least, made an announcement regarding his tribute at the start of the year.

There is no word on whether the Halos plan to wear the memorial patch for the remainder of the season, but I sincerely hope they do. Fregosi meant a hell of a lot to the organization for more than a decade, so making an effort to commemorate that, even if only for a month and a half, is pretty much the least the club can do.

Let’s Get to Know Vinnie Pestano

August 8th, 2014

The Angels bullpen has been pretty much stuffed to the brim with quality arms for a few weeks now, but don’t tell that to Jerry Dipoto. When you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll, ya know? Dipoto continued his recent spate of reliever stockpiling on Thursday with his first-ever August waiver trade as GM, acquiring sidearm righty Vinnie Pestano from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for minor league right-hander Michael Clevinger.

Pestano, 29, was one of the Tribe’s most reliable relievers from 2010-2012, but hit a rough patch last season and never really got an opportunity to right the ship in Cleveland this year. The Anaheim native has spent most of 2014 with the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus, where he’s posted a stellar 1.78 ERA and 11.0 K/9 in 30⅓ innings. With numbers like that–not to mention his track record of success–it’s worth investigating what it was that might have kept the Indians from giving him more than nine innings in the Show this year.

The first thing to note is that Pestano has experienced a not insignificant drop in his velocity between 2011 and the present that seems to correspond nicely with his diminishing returns. Correlation is not always causation, of course, but the loss of nearly 3 MPH off his average fastball (from 93.5 to 90.8) can’t just be ignored either. When his four-seamer averaged more than 92 MPH (’10-’12), batters hit .182 and slugged .281 against the pitch, essentially turning them all into John McDonald. At < 92 MPH (’13-’14), though, which is admittedly a smaller sample, big-league batters have hit .276 and slugged .505 against the pitch. That’s not so good.

It would be easy to lay all the blame on the velocity and just move on, but I believe there’s more to the story than that.

Like every other sidearm pitcher ever, Pestano is tougher on same-side hitters (RHBs) than guys who have the platoon advantage (LHBs). Pestano, for instance, has a rather extreme split of 528 OPS-against vs RHBs and an 829 OPS-against LHBs in his career. With most right-handed slingers (see: Darren O’Day, Brad Ziegler), this known deficiency against lefties isn’t too big of a deal because their teams utilize them primarily with a string of right-handed batters coming up. For whatever reason, though, this has not been the case with the Indians and Pestano. He has faced a total of 485 MLB batters over the last three seasons, and roughly 52% of them have been left-handed. As you might imagine, this has had some serious adverse effects on his results.

It’s not just the drop in velocity that has hurt Pestano of late, then, it’s also his team’s strange proclivity toward using him in situations where he’s set up to fail. While guys like O’Day and Ziegler have thrived by facing upwards of 60% RHBs, Pestano has been left to toil against a majority who have a natural advantage over him. This is a mind-boggling approach for any team, but especially so for the Indians when you consider how important platoons have been to the team’s success on the offensive side of things.

When you add together Pestano’s velocity issues, his ROOGY-ness, and Cleveland’s already-solid bullpen, it becomes easier to understand why the Tribe stowed Pestano at Triple-A for much of the year, and why they were willing to give him up for a low-ceiling pitching prospect like Clevinger. Pestano might have been the organization’s “closer of the future” at one point in time, but it is pretty evident he was no longer part of their long-term plans.

None of this means he can’t help the Halos down the stretch, of course. With Mike Morin and Joe Thatcher on the shelf indefinitely, the club could use another reliable mid-innings guy who doesn’t come with training wheels attached (i.e. Cam Bedrosian). So long as Mike Scioscia is sure to use him predominantly against RHBs, Pestano should be a good addition to the ‘pen, if he’s called upon. For now, he’s been assigned to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Oh yeah… to make room on the 40-man for Pestano, the Angels DFA-ed Tommy Field, who I honestly had no idea was still around.

Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top notch Angels analysis!