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Angels Rock Cleveland in Make-Up Game

September 8th, 2014
TroutDestroysCleveland

Boom Goes the Dynamite

The Angels traveled back in time Monday morning to finish up a four-game series in Cleveland they started back in June. If given the opportunity to travel in time, I’m not sure Ohio would be my first (or last) stop, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do, I guess. When this series was first played out in C-Town, things did not end well, resulting in an 8 on the Pain Scale. You may remember it as “the time Nick Swisher hit a walk-off grand slam,” or what years from now baseball historians will fondly refer to as Frieri’s Final Fiasco.

Luckily for the Halos, this time they were allowed to bring their blazing hot offense with them in the DeLorean. The club followed a 14-run, 19-hit shellacking in the rubber game of the Twins series on Sunday morning with a 12-run, 16-hit effort on Monday, giving them 26 runs and 35 hits across two Midwest states in a little under 24 hours. That’s probably a first.

Kole Calhoun, Howie Kendrick, and Albert Pujols again led the offensive attack, each tallying three hits (including a homer) in the game. The trio is now a combined 18-for-40 with five home runs over the last three games, driving in 18 of the club’s 34 runs. Josh who?

Mike Trout also had himself a multi-hit game Monday, churning out two hits (for the third time in the last four days) and scoring twice. Trout now has six runs in his past three games, pushing him up to 99 on the year and into a tie for the AL lead with Brian Dozier. With one more run, Trout will become just the sixth player ever to tally 100+ runs thrice before his age-23 season. The other five? Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Vada Pinson (?), and Buddy Lewis (??).

Jered Weaver pitched well even to earn his 16th win, but that doesn’t really say much when the team’s put a 12-spot on board. The Weavemeister got himself a quality start by going six frames and allowing “only” three runs, but he again struggled with his control as the game went on. He used just 49 pitches to get through the first four innings but needed 47 for the fifth and sixth, forcing Mike Scioscia to go to the bullpen for the final three frames.

The somewhat early call to the ‘pen combined with the rout did reap a reward, however, as big right-hander Jairo Diaz got the opportunity to make his MLB debut in the ninth. The 23-year-old was understandably nervous on the hill, resulting to several erratic pitches, but the stuff was still electric. His radar gun readings:

Two two breaking pitches thrown in the inning — 89 and 88(K), above — were beautiful to watch. Indistinguishable from his fastball until about 10 feet in front of the plate, gravity finally kicked in and dropped them into the dirt. Both resulted in a flailing swing-and-miss, earning Diaz one of his two Ks in the inning. The dramatic lean to the glove side he employs during his motion is sure to give him continued control issues to some degree, but if he can put up at least a league-average walk rate, his killer two-pitch combo could make him a huge asset for years to come.

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Final Score: Angels 12, Cleveland 3

Adjusted Pain Scale: 5

Up Next: Tuesday @ TEX

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Halos Sweep Twins, Expand AL West Lead

September 8th, 2014

Game 1: Angels 5, Twins 4 | Game 2: Angels 7, Twins 6 (F/10)
Game 3: Angels 8, Twins 5 | Game 4: Angels 14, Twins 4

Runs Scored: 34
Runs Allowed: 19

YTD Record: 87-55 | 1st in AL West (+7)

Up Next: Monday @ CLE

 TwinsSeries1

It’s a good thing ugly wins count just as much as solid ones, because damn. The Angels lost eight different leads, had just one starting pitcher reach the sixth inning, and gave the Twins a whopping 42 chances with runners in scoring position over the course of the four-game series, yet still somehow left Minnesota with a sweep. I honestly wouldn’t have thought that possible if it hadn’t just happened.

Any sweep is a good sweep, of course, but the havoc wreaked on the Angels’ bullpen the last four games could come back to haunt them in the coming weeks. The ‘pen accounted for 55% of the innings thrown by Halos pitchers in the series, and that’s when not counting Cory Rasmus as a reliever. Such a large workload might be fine if there are a few nights off coming up, but not when there are 17 games over the next 17 days. With such an unrelenting schedule on the docket, more than ever the onus is on a) the rotation to pitch deep into games; and b) the offense to build big leads early. A deep bullpen is a wonderful thing to have for the postseason, but it does no good if all the biggest arms are worn out by the time the team gets there. Halos relievers have already thrown 458⅔ innings on the year, which is not only the fifth most in baseball but also already the 19th most of any relief corps in team history. If we make the modest presumption that the bullpen will throw an average of three frames over each of the team’s final 20 games, they will end the year as just the third Angels bullpen ever to end a year with more than 505 innings thrown. That’s a lot.

But enough with the hand-wringing. The Angels are now 32 games over .500 and boast a seven-game lead over the A’s with 20 to go. The club need only go 10-10 over the next three weeks to finish with 97 wins, equaling the third-best mark in franchise history. Doing so would also make it nearly impossible for Oakland to catch up, as they’d need to go 17-3 over their final 20 just to get back into a tie for first. Stranger things have happened, but the odds are certainly in the Halos’ favor, especially with the A’s mired in a month-long funk.

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.

Halos Swept by Astros in Two Game Set; Remain Perched Atop AL West

September 4th, 2014

Game 1: Astros 8, Angels 3 | Game 2: Astros 4, Angels 1

Runs Scored = 4
Runs Allowed = 12

YTD Record: 83-55 | 1st in AL West (+4.5)

Up Next: Thursday @ Minnesota

AstrosSeries5

As we ride this rollercoaster of a season into September, we now find the Angels atop the AL West with a comfortable 4.5 game lead over the once-impenetrable Oakland Athletics. Just over a year ago, the Angels were finishing up their second season with under 80 wins since the beginning of the club’s aughts run of dominance, while also missing out on October baseball for the fourth straight season. Jerry Dipoto was on the hot seat. Matt Shoemaker was a 26-year-old with a 4.64 ERA in Triple-A. And Mike Trout was really, really good.

And today?

Well, the organization has done a near-complete 180°. The Angels appear to be locked into a playoff spot. Dipoto may be in line for the title of executive of the year. Shoemaker is fronting the rotation. And Mike Trout is still really, really good. 

So, yeah, the Angels are in first place. Still, shouldn’t a sweep at the hands of the Houston freakin’ Astros be bothersome?

For some reason, there’s just something about (finally) being in first place that negates the stigma that comes with being swept by the Astros (even if it was only two games).

Sure it is a missed opportunity, and it may very well come back to bite the club if Oakland climbs out of its rut and the Angels fall into one of their own. But in a period of good feelings, this seems to be just a minor misstep in an otherwise fantastic season.

Of course, it always helps when the Mariners take two of three from the A’s, only decreasing the Angels’ lead by half a game.

Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top notch Angels analysis!