Halos Daily

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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.

Happy Birthday, Mike Trout!

August 7th, 2014
Even mom and dad sent a cake.

Even mom and dad sent a cake.

Hey, whaddaya know! Mike Trout is another year older today.

Mike turns the big 2-3 today, which is remarkable on several levels. It’s remarkable in that he’s already accrued nearly 2,000 MLB plate appearances to this point, that after all this time he’s still one of the youngest players in the game — not to mention younger than 12 of MLB dot com’s Top 100 prospects — and that despite all his success, he’s only now entering his “prime.”

Trout, like everyone else in the world ever, shares his birthday with several people of note, including Charlize Theron, Sidney Crosby, and bygone Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, whose profession is listed as “Most Prolific Female Serial Killer in History.” So that’s terrible.

Anyway, we here at Halos Daily didn’t want to let Mike’s big day pass without commemorating it in some fashion. The folks at MLB dot com already devised a solid list of 23 fun facts about Mike Trout, so rather than duplicate that we decided to make a non-exhaustive list of notable 23s that Mike Trout is better at baseball than:

- Dr. Pepper

“Skidoo”

This terrible Jim Carrey movie

This Buzzfeed list

- Vanadium

This song

- Stable sodium

This X-men character

- Chromosome pairs

- Michael Jordan

 

***

 

And now, a stupid poem I totally made up:

1 Mike Trout is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to sit down near green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of “playing the game the right way” for baseball’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Oakland, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy glove and thy bat they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest an MVP campaign before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my MLB.tv feed with spoils; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life: so I will dwell in the house of the Trout for ever.

Feel free to set that to music.

What the Big Deadline Deals Mean for the Angels

August 1st, 2014
Jon Lester, leaving the Green Monster for green uniforms.

Jon Lester, leaving the Green Monster for green uniforms.

The 2014 Trade Deadline came and went, featuring a couple blockbuster moves and Jim Bowen-inspired lulz. Meanwhile, the Angels elected to stand pat, either satisfied with their roster at hand or unable to do any serious maneuvering due to the lack of high-upside talent in the minor leagues (probably both). Jerry Dipoto & Co. already used their minor league bullets over the last month in trades for Joe Thatcher and closer Huston Street. The Angels were never going to be serious threats for Jon Lester or David Price — the farm is thin and the big club is filled with too many untouchables (Trout, Richards, and probably Aybar), immoveable contracts (Pujols and Hamilton), or players that just aren’t quite good enough to make a serious impression in a trade package (Skaggs, Cron, Navarro, etc.).

Despite sitting the dance out, the Halos will still feel the ripples from some moves. Let’s see which trades affect the Angels, and we’ll start in an obvious place…

Halos Stand Pat at Deadline, A’s and M’s Go For Broke

July 31st, 2014
"You're really holding fast on the whole luxury tax thing, huh?"

“How about now? Can we exceed the luxury tax now?”

As expected, all was quiet in Anaheim as the trade deadline passed Thursday. Dipoto had stated he didn’t want to give up big-league pieces and he’d already parted with six prospects this month, so there probably wasn’t really much the Halos could do, even if they’d wanted to. The rest of the division? Went crazy. The A’s, Mariners, and Astros were involved in a flurry of last-minute deals that saw a total of 16 players (!) move in and out of the AL West, most of whom were/are MLB players.

Here’s a brief breakdown of who went where, and what it might mean for the Halos down the stretch run:

 

Oakland A’s

Add: LHP Jon Lester, OF Jonny Gomes, OF Sam Fuld

Lose: OF Yoenis Cespedes, LHP Tommy Milone

__

Seattle Mariners

Add: OF Austin Jackson, OF Chris Denorfia

Lose: INF Nick Franklin, OF Abraham Almonte, RHP Stephen Kohlscheen

__

Houston Astros

Add: OF Jake Marisnick, 3B Colin Moran, RHP Francis Martes

Lose: OF Kiké Hernandez, RHP Jarred Cosart, OF Austin Wates

__

The biggest move, here, is Oakland’s addition of Jon Lester to its already potent rotation. They now have a top four of Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, and Sonny Gray, meaning the Angels’ chances of catching the A’s and avoiding a Wild Card coin-flip game just got that much bleaker. Oakland now has so much rotation depth that they literally tossed Tommy Milone — who hasn’t even entered his arbitration years yet — to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for a guy they DFA-ed in April. Who does that?

The Pros and Cons of the Street Acquisition

July 19th, 2014
"Wait, so I take the 5 Freeway *that* way?"

“Wait, so I take the 5 Freeway *that* way?”

The Halos front office went for broke Friday night, sending four prospects to the San Diego Padres to acquire closer Huston Street and minor-league reliever Trevor Gott. The price for Street was a steep one, as the Padres’ return includes three of the Halos’ top 10 prospects—second baseman Taylor Lindsey, shortstop Jose Rondon, and reliever R.J. Alvarez—and a fourth player—righty starter Elliot Morris—who has turned a lot of heads this season and may have creeped into the top 10 come September.

As a Proven Closer™, Huston Street will immediately usurp Joe Smith as top dog in the Angels bullpen and push everyone down a rung on the reliever hierarchy ladder. Just who exactly will be pushed off the ladder remains to be seen1 and is unlikely to be resolved until C.J. Wilson returns from the disabled list in the next couple weeks.

If one ever wondered the kind of ultimatum Jerry Dipoto got about what was required to keep his job at the end of the year, this trade provides a very clear answer: Either the Angels win big in 2014/2015, or he takes his ball and goes home. There’s really no other way to explain the jettisoning of five (!) top prospects in a three-week span from an already barren farm system for the purpose of netting roughly 100 combined innings from two relief pitchers. Dipoto has gone all-in on the present at the expense of the future, and either you really like that course of action or you don’t.

Let’s look at it from both sides:

Halos Daily

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