Game 1: Mariners 10, Angels 3 | Game 2: Mariners 8, Angels 3 | Game 3: Mariners 8, Angels 2
Runs Scored = 8
Runs Against = 26
YTD Record: 0-3 | 5th in AL West
Up Next: Friday @ HOU
They’ve really outdone themselves this time. After a month-plus of emphasizing over and over the importance of getting off to a good start, the Angels took the field against the Mariners for a three-game set and were absolutely obliterated. Here are three ridiculous factoids to succinctly sum up the week’s annihilation: 1) the team’s run differential is already -18, double the next closest club; 2) the squad ended the series a single run shy of a 9.00 ERA as a team; and 3) the entire NL Central has scored 12 fewer runs in 11 games than the Halos have allowed in three.
Things are so bad our Angels Agony Index™, which calculates the precise amount of dread and anguish wreaked upon fans by each 2014 season series, has gone full Vernon Wells on its very first reading:
Trout just keeps on trouting. He went 4-for-10 with a homer, triple, double, single, and a walk in the series. He’s the lone Angel with more than one extra-base hit.
Matt Shoemaker & Joe Smith
All six Halos relievers made at least one appearance in the series. Shoemaker and Smith are the only ones who have yet to allow a run. Through three games. They’ve thrown 3 ⅓ scoreless frames, the rest of the ‘pen owns a sparkling 16.19 ERA in 6 ⅔.
Seven strikeouts in 11 plate appearances is undeniably awful, but that one home run recoups at least some goodwill. (I can’t put everyone in the “Bad” section, right?) He also wins points for not playing an inning in the field. May it stay that way as long as humanly possible.
Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson went unexpectedly punch-out happy in their first outings of the season—a combined 14 Ks in 12 IP—but that wasn’t enough to keep runs off the board. Neither of the duo was very efficient—they needed a combined 209 pitches to get 36 outs—but each at least kept the offense within shouting distance for five frames. So there’s that, I guess.
Weaver’s four-seam fastball averaged 86.5 MPH on the gun, which is a half mile an hour off of his average speed from his final start of 2013. Despite yet another velocity drop, though, Weaver somehow still got nine swings-and-misses—right in line with his career norms—meaning that hitters are still up there guessing from time to time. Until his swinging strike rate (~9½ percent) starts to decline, I think we can stop sounding the alarm bells about his Jamie Moyer-esque fastball.
Hector Santiago was his usual wild self in his Halos debut Wednesday night, throwing first-pitch strikes to just five of the 23 batters he faced. He finished with three walks and four strikeouts in five-plus innings of work, which will probably be pretty close to the norm for him this year.
Josh Hamilton’s offense
The Hamster1 got off to a solid start with the bat in the first two games, notching three hits and two walks, while also doubling (to two) his stolen-base total from last April. His performance pales in comparison to, say, Justin Smoak’s torrid start, but it’s still encouraging given the unmitigated disaster that was April-July 2013. It took Hamilton six games to get more than one hit last year, and it wasn’t until game nine that he tallied knocks on consecutive days.
Of course, all that praise ignores the rubber match of the series, when Hamilton finally faced a southpaw and was predictably dreadful. He struck out in all four at-bats Wednesday, making him the AL’s first Golden Sombrero recipient of 2014.
Aybar, Kendrick, and Calhoun
When your auxiliary parts go a combined 3-for-32 with zero walks in a series, it can be difficult to win. Howie Kendrick also treated us with an E4 on Monday that led to an unearned run.
I really hope that at some point in the season I’m able to do a David Freese Feats section, but at the moment the idea seems laughable. The ghost of Troy Glaus was hard at work to make the Angels’ new third baseman look downright terrible in the season’s first series, complete with gaffes on the field
Tagging 101: Never reach for a runner, let him come to you.
Somehow this was scored a hit.
… and on the base paths
In the “follies, non-GIF” category he’s had three moderately slow rollers come his way that he’s simply pocketed, only one of which came off the bat of a guy (Robinson Cano) who’s even moderately quick—the others were courtesy of catcher Mike Zunino and Corey “Broken Knees” Hart. I had some worries about Freese’s defense, but I didn’t expect quite this level of incompetence. He did redeem himself a bit with this barehand play Wednesday night, but I’m still worried.
At the plate, Freese has continued perfecting the Brandon Wood impression he had going in Tempe—where he managed just one extra-base hit in 63 plate appearances—tallying a solitary bloop knock and a walk (along with two Ks) in the series.
Are three games and a lousy spring enough to warrant panic? No, of course not. But negative first impressions are incredibly difficult to shake off. Just ask Mr. “I Want To Die” up there.
Josh Hamilton’s defense
I have no doubt that Hamilton is still a good defender—he made a play Tuesday that would’ve 360-ed J.B. Shuck—but it could be a while before he fully acclimates to left field. The Halos had to endure his growing pains on both Monday and Tuesday nights, as his lack of familiarity with the space led to two badly played fly balls:
Jersey to jersey
No fault to Hamilton here for not making the catch, but from the replay it seems that he was surprised to hit the warning track when he did. The moment his foot hits the dirt he abandons catching it to brace for impact. If he knew where the track was, he could’ve either used it to time a jump—the ball hits the wall inches from his left hand—or he could’ve established when to pull up and likely held the batter to a double. As it happened, Mike Trout had to sprint over to get the ball in.
Runners advanced, but no error for some reason
This is simple case of badly misreading the spin on the ball. Hamilton should’ve known the ball would bounce toward the foul line based on the non-solid contact and loopy flight of the ball, but played it as though it was a squared-up line drive. Perhaps his brain was just locked into right-field mode and assumed it’d bounce the other way.
Mike Scioscia’s bullpen management
And, finally, we have your early clubhouse leader to win the coveted/dreaded “Most Repeated Series Recap Bullet Point Award.” (Previous season winners include “Vernon Wells, still employed” and “Mike Trout?!?! Mike Trout!!!”) It took all of seven innings into the 2014 season for Scioscia to demonstrate yet again that he either willingly disregards or doesn’t know about leverage when it comes to choosing who to go to out of the bullpen. (It’s very probably the former.)
When Weaver gave up the tying run in the seventh on Monday, Scioscia went to his pre-determined “seventh-inning guy,” Fernando Salas, rather than the best option available to him (Joe Smith) because I don’t know why. (A football team doesn’t skip the back-up QB and sub in their third-stringer just because the team isn’t winning and/or it isn’t the final minutes of the fourth quarter. So why do managers do it in baseball?) Salas, of course, gave up the go-ahead run, which for some reason meant to Scioscia that he was now free to use whatever bullpen arms he saw fit for the rest of the game. Never mind, apparently, that the deficit was only one run, and that Smith-Frieri were/are the most likely to keep it that way, the team doesn’t have a (small) lead so the best arms have to ride the bench. “Can’t waste them tonight in case we need them tomorrow! … Unless we don’t!”
Scioscia had the opportunity to bring Smith and/or Frieri into a one-run game Monday night and a two-run game Wednesday night, but instead opted for Salas both times seemingly because it was “too early” in the games for the typically late-inning pair. As a result, he ended up having to pitch Smith and Frieri on Wednesday when the game was already well out of hand. Lot of good that does.
Another questionable bullpen call came Monday night, when Scioscia left Kevin Jepsen in to face a fleet of left-handed bats even though Nick Maronde was warmed up. There’s no knowing what would have transpired had Maronde been called on five or six batters earlier, but the probability definitely swings in his favor. Jepsen’s new lowered arm slot makes him more susceptible to opposite-handed batters–especially when he’s only throwing sinkers–so running the gauntlet of six consecutive lefty batters is bound to go poorly. And whaddaya know? It did.