After a rough start to the second half for the Angels, they look to rectify things this week against two more tough teams: the Tigers and the Rangers.
The weekend set in New York was annoying, but hardly a disaster. I blame Friday’s loss on “S*** Happens” more than any glaring Angel weakness. CJ Wilson pitched 7 great innings and the offense contributed enough runs. It just took Scott Downs, one of baseball’s best relief pitchers, giving up 4 earned runs. In the first half, he allowed only 1 earned run. A 0.30 ERA wasn’t sustainable, and Game 1 of the second half proved that.*
* With all that said, the luck may have evened out in Game 3. Kevin Freaking Jepsen of all people picked up the save against arguably the greatest player of his generation, Alex Rodriguez.
First up this week for the Angels is a 4-game set in Detroit. And, once again, the Angels have ridiculous luck and avoid their opponent’s ace. Thanks to the All Star Game, when Justin Verlander** essentially called “shenanigans” on the This Time It Counts aspect, he didn’t pitch until yesterday.
** Come to think of it, facing Verlander may have been a good thing. If rumors are true he’s dating Kate Upton (not attractive), then he may be understandably distracted. Upton obviously made some exceptions to her Perfect Club. What, Kate, Dallas Braden and Philip Humber don’t do it for you?
The Tigers have disappointed some this year, hovering around .500 and sitting in third place in the weak AL Central for much of the season. A friend of mine, a Tigers fan, thought the Tigers could win 100 games and compete for the best record in the AL. That was probably an ambitious projection and the ship on both claims has likely sailed, but my friend wasn’t too far off many preseason projections. With the Prince Fielder signing and a full season from 2011 deadline acquisition Doug Fister, one would think the Tigers should improve upon their 95-win mark in 2011.
There’s a couple problems with that, though. The 2011 Tiger’s run differential suggested that of an 89 win team. Since they outperformed their 2011 run differential by such a drastic margin, some regression should have been expected.
The Tigers also employ a number of specific players that were expected to regress…hard. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta rode a 2011 power surge (21 home runs; .179 isolated slugging) and high BABIP (.325) to a 5.2 fWAR. With his BABIP and ISO both tapering off this season, his wOBA (.324) is a significant drop off from last year’s .353 mark. Catcher Alex Avila, another non-star that had a monster 2011, followed a similar trend to Peralta, only his regression has been much more severe. Avila’s 2011 line (.295/.389/.506) was aided by a .211 ISO (career .176) and a .366 BABIP (!). His 2012 crash (.247/.346/.389) is not much of a surprise. Also, Delmon Young, he of the .298 OBP and .413 slugging, routinely bats fifth in the order. This isn’t regression (Young is just a crappy ballplayer), but it is a dumb lineup decision that contributes to losses.
On the pitching front, Jose Valverde converted all 49 save opportunities while being a pretty mediocre relief pitcher. Despite a 3.55 FIP, a 1.0 fWAR, a strikeout rate that continues to drop, and a 4.57 walk rate, Valverde actually came in 5th in Cy Young voting.*** In 2012, Valverde’s ERA has skyrocketed from 2.24 in 2011 all the way up to 4.06, and his peripherals support his performance.
*** Ahead of Dan Haren, CJ Wilson, and Josh Beckett. Again, saves are a worthless stat.
There’s also the logistical problems the Prince Fielder. With the move, non-athlete Miguel Cabrera moved to third base to make room for Fielder, one of the game’s worst defensive first basemen. Combine those defensive alterations with Young “roaming” left field, Peralta’s mediocre-ness at short, and Brennan Boesch in right field, you have a garbage defense. Using Defensive Runs Saved, the Tigers are -23 as a team, fourth worst in MLB. Using UZR, the Tigers are -27.8, worst in baseball. That lack of infield range, in particular, hurts groundball pitchers like Fister and Rick Porcello, both of whom sit above 50% on the year for groundball rate. The effects on both pitchers have shown: Fister and Porcello have a career .289 and .309 BABIP, respectively. This year? Fister’s BABIP sits at .324, while Porcello’s sits at .353.
Add up all the ingredients (2011 monster years regressing back to normal, bad defense) and you have a good not great Detroit team. They’re a scary team to face because of the superstars, but if Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, and Prince Fielder don’t kill you, they become very beatable.
The Angels then close the week with a 3-game home stand against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have been discussed ad nauseum by myself and in the comments section by readers. I’m tired of talking about them for now. Here’s what we know: the Rangers are really good, they’ll probably win the AL West, and if the Angels want to beat them in the West, they need to win this series, preferably via sweep.
I’m also attending the Sunday Night Baseball game, so whoever the starters are, please make it quick so I can make it home in time for Breaking Bad. If you don’t watch Breaking Bad, stop reading this and go watch it. I’ll understand.
Probably Pitchers, according to ESPN
Monday: Ervin Santana (5.75 ERA) vs Rick Porcello (4.47). First to 15 runs wins!
Wednesday: CJ Wilson (2.43) vs Doug Fister (4.39)
Thursday: Jerome Williams (4.67) vs Max Scherzer (4.84)
Friday: Jered Weaver vs Derek Holland (4.57)
Saturday: Santana vs Yu Darvish (3.96)
Sunday: Richards, for now, as this might be Dan Haren’s return from the DL vs Matt Harrison (2.87)
3 TV shows you should be watching right now
1) Breaking Bad
3) Breaking Bad
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewkarcher