Results tagged ‘ Bullpen ’

The Halo Shines Bright Over Anaheim

Opening Day brings the promise to every franchise in Major League Baseball, every franchise and  their fan base, they believe in the promise of a World Series championship; as the season progresses the optimism evolves into realism and with each game that passes fans are able to see the progression or regression of their favorite team.

 

The Angels are 6-2, in their first eight games, are undefeated at home and are in first place in the American League West. I know it’s early, however in the last few seasons the Angels were notorious for starting off slow in April. This is clearly not the case this year, the Halos have already pulled off two  tremendous comebacks one against the Seattle Mariners and last night against the Texas Rangers.

 

What is the difference? The difference is the Angels finally addressed the roster problems of the last few years, second base and left field, leading to a strengthening in team defense and offense, which are both spectacular, their base running has also improved more specifically their ability to go from first to third base with not much effort; starting pitching and the bullpen however, although not terrible; are still a little suspect. The most important ingredient of all is that they are having fun. Something I haven’t seen in the last few seasons.

 

As a fan it is very exciting to watch his team play they’ve demonstrated an uncanny ability to come back and win. I believe that’s a product of how much fun they’re having, and just playing the game without reservation.

 

There’s an excitement in Anaheim around his team that I haven’t seen in years, aside from the diehard Angels’ fans like me who are always excited. The fans support this year is making it very hard for visiting teams to come in to The Big A and win. That’s the way it should be, the Halo should always shine bright over Anaheim.

 

-ICE

Do the Angels Face a Check or Checkmate?

It is Friday, July 1, 2016, we are a little more than a week away from the All-Star break and a little more than the month away from the trade deadline; to say that the Halos are in trouble this season is a monumental understatement. They played a chess game of baseball and were unequivocally decimated.

In the previous entry I alluded to the fact that the Angels had a 13 game stretch against sub .500 teams within the American League West. I used the game of chess as a metaphor to describe the Halos perfect opportunity to strike, or at the very least put themselves in the position to attempt a strike within the division. Unfortunately for the Angels, they did exactly what they could not do. They went from 12 and a half games back in the beginning of the 13 game stretch to 18 1/2 games back by the end. The Angels’ record, 3-10; they wasted this golden opportunity.

 

There is an infinite list of problems with this team this particular season. Most Angels’ fans are going to point to the desolate condition of the starting rotation. While that may be true, there is a statistic that jumps out.

If one goes back to the beginning of the season and my rough calculations are correct, the Halos have a record of 5-31 when leading a game by three runs or less. Yes the starting rotation is in shambles however, the offense isn’t responding very well when they’re needed the most.

The long list of injuries to various players is also pointed as a determining factor for this team’s performance this season. I’m not quite sure that if this team was 100% healthy they would do much better. The problem is much bigger than just the injuries, it’s the management.

 

In January of 2009 Mike Scioscia signed a 10 year contract extension through 2018. He has been the manager since the 2000 season in a span of 16 years so far he has only brought one World Series championship to this franchise. (2002) Yes, he does have the highest winning percentage of any manager in Angels’ history. However, winning percentages are rarely remembered, what is remembered is championships. Mike Scioscia has not been handed average players during his tenure. These players include Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Torii Hunter, just to name a few. In reality, he hasn’t found a way to win.

 

In my eyes, Mike Scioscia has become a bit complacent, he gets paid whether the Angels win or lose. There are numerous examples of the manager making the wrong decision, at the wrong time; for example, earlier this season, just as Matt Shoemaker began his uplifting turnaround, Mike Scioscia took out Shoemaker during a game when he was pitching very well, Mike Scioscia then proceeds to turn it over to the bullpen that in turn loses the game for Shoemaker.

 

 

 

Mike Scioscia’s obsession with using Cam Bedrosian out of the bullpen has cost the Angels a number of winnable games. Cam does not seem to be ready for the big lights of the major leagues; yet Mike Scioscia insists on using him in clearly the wrong situations. It is the introduction of this relief pitcher that causes the first domino to fall in a losing effort.

 

 

In my humble opinion Mike Scioscia also causes a negative effect on the franchise, again, this is due to the length of his contract; his complacency, and the amount of power he holds within the organization. Billy Eppler is a good general manager; I take nothing away from him. However, there was no need to replace Jerry DiPoto, the current Seattle Mariners’ General Manager and the former Angels’ General Manager. Jerry was forced to resign due to alleged disagreements in philosophy with Mike Scioscia. The result? The Mariners are 10 games better in the standings than the Angels are this season.

 

The Angels virtually have no pieces to trade at the trade deadline. How will this team get better? The injuries will heal, aside from some needs, this team is very talented. Where do the Angels go from here? They have no flexibility. They are losing the chess game of baseball very badly. In this chess game, do the Angels face a check or checkmate? Only time will tell.

-ICE

Fallen Angels

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Is this true? Does an object fall harder from a greater vertical distance? Gravity is a constant, therefore, no matter if we’re talking about a feather or a bowling ball, they both fall at the same rate, perhaps the mass of the bowling ball makes a greater impact, but it doesn’t fall any harder than the feather.

After battling with the Houston Astros for most of the season and switching between first and second place in the American League West, the Angels now find themselves in third place as of today 5 1/2 games back of the Houston Astros. After a horrible August, the Halos survived, the offense has not produced as well as it should and the bullpen may be overstretched, however things are not always as they seem.

Yes, the Angels may have spiraled, and yes, the Angels are a far cry from the 17-3 run they made around the All-Star break; nevertheless, this isn’t a random occurrence. Two things happened which led to this sudden drop in the standings.

Mike Trout went down on July 30 when he hurt his wrist diving for a ball in the outfield, the wrist may be better, however his timing at the plate is off since the injury, he hasn’t been able to drive the ball on a consistent basis, it is because of this, that he hasn’t been able to play at the level that we are accustomed, nevertheless, until he can get to the point where he can dominate a game at any given time, the Angels are going to struggle.

David Freese went down on July 22 he was hit by a pitch, without Freese, there was no one to solidify the bottom part of the lineup, after Trout and Pujols. There was no real transition between the middle and bottom part of the lineup, add to that, Mike Scioscia’s unnecessary and reactionary revolving lineup. This clearly explains the Angels sudden drop in the standings.

We are in the latter stretch of the baseball season, by now, championship teams have their lineup set, and each player’s role defined in preparation for the September call ups; thus, making it easier for a team to plug-in the newly arrived players into their respective defined roles.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen with the Halos this year. This is why the volatility of this team continues. Yes, the Angels are not mathematically out and there’s still plenty of time to catch the Houston Astros. And yes you can win the World Series being a Wild-Card team. The Angels proved that in 2002 by being the first team ever to win the World Series as a Wild-Card. Notwithstanding, the Angels need to define their collective identity, if they expect to make a deep run in the playoffs. They may slip into the postseason as a feather, however, they need to have the impact of a bowling ball.

-ICE

The Halo on the Horizon

It’s that time of year, when certain sights and sounds begin to hit one’s eyes and ears like notes of a John Williams Symphony. The electricity awakens one’s senses and sparks a relentless and untamed fire of the imagination. A new season is on the horizon, and so it begins, as the first breath is drawn that feeds the fire of every baseball fans’ soul.

Pitchers and catchers report February 19, the Halos didn’t make any headline grabbing moves this off-season, but they have a solid foundation to start the year. They now have payroll flexibility that they didn’t have before to make any additions if necessary. They were able to avoid arbitration with all nine of the arbitration eligible players.

There is still a lot of unanswered questions, how will the bullpen perform this year? Will Josh Hamilton finally live up to his contract? Will C. J. Wilson be an asset or a liability? Will Garrett Richards return to form after his devastating season ending injury of last year? Will the Angels have a diamond in the rough that they can plug in at second and third base? Will Matt Shoemaker be able to sustain the dominance that he demonstrated during his rookie campaign? Will be Angels be able to sustain or surpass the baseball best record of 98 wins from last year? Will there be any unexpected pleasant surprises this season? These are only some of the many questions that will be answered this season.

The fire is smoldering, the flame is coming, the spark will ignite the first time the bat makes complete contact with the baseball. So look upon the horizon, look into our eyes, and one will see the Halo that Burns and surrounds our soul.

-ICE

It Is Time to Get OctobeRED!

The hunt for a red October is here, the Angels are making their postseason push, Their 96 wins are the best in baseball. Halo dreams are running rampant amongst the fans, dreams that this team will win and bring their second World Series title to Anaheim.

Not all the dreams came to, however, the Halos must run the table in order to break the franchise record for wins. At this point, that is a minor accomplishment compared to what’s currently at stake. Now that the Angels have won the American League championship, they can shift their attention from the Oakland Athletics to the Baltimore Orioles with the goal of clinching home-field advantage throughout the postseason, the magic number is down to four, if the Angels can indeed accomplish this goal, the entire postseason including the World Series by virtue of the American League winning the 2014 All-Star game runs through Anaheim; as long as the Angels can stay alive in the playoffs.

There is some concern however, with the injuries to Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs and the shortcomings of C. J. Wilson, the Angels are shorthanded and will have to rely on a strong bullpen to make a deep push this postseason. It can be done, if one recalls the 2002 World Series team the Angels did not have a stellar starting rotation to speak of, they relied on the bullpen; and that’s what is going to happen again this year.

The time has come to focus, celebrate, relax, and prepare; it is time to get OctobeRED! Go Angels!

-ICE

One Can Find Heaven in Seven

It is that time of year, the time of year where the dog days of summer and division races are replaced with magic numbers and the hunt for October. The hunt for a red October that is, a red October that includes a Halo. The Angels have a seven game lead over the Athletics and the magic number to clinch the division stands at 14. In other words, any combination of Angels wins or Athletics losses that add up to 14 will clinch the division for the Angels. Ultimately all the Angels would have to do at this point would be match the Athletics record for seven more games, and the division receives a Halo on the American League West Championship.

The Halos have some points of concern however, they have yet to find a legitimate starter to replace Garrett Richards in the starting rotation, they also have to find a way to ease the pressure on the bullpen for the postseason run; the bullpen is being taxed way too much. If the Angels don’t find a way to resolve these issues, their postseason run will be relatively short and no Angels’ fan ones that after a four year postseason drought.

If the regular season were to end today that playoff picture in the American League would look like this:

The divisional round for the Angels would be an all American League West series. The Halos would pay the winner of the wild-card play in game between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners, the other bracket would pit the Baltimore Orioles against the Kansas City Royals. Essentially, regardless of the outcome and American League West representative is guaranteed for the American League Championship Series. Hopefully that representative will be the Angels.

A seven-game lead, plus a magic number of 14; both numbers are multiples of seven. One can definitely find heaven in seven.

-ICE

An Extraordinary Win, An Extraordinary Loss

Following sports is like riding a roller coaster, a fan experiences indescribable highs and unbearable lows. This is the beauty and the curse of sports, the promise of what can be, and disappointment of what could have been. This is especially true in baseball, the excitement of a pennant race is like no other feeling that any other sport can produce.

The team with the best record in baseball, the Angels, increased their lead on the Oakland Athletics to 1 1/2 games. The Halos’ record now stands at 75-50, the promise is alive and well however it took a major blow today, with the loss of Garrett Richards. He suffered a left knee injury during the second inning of today’s game. Richards had to be carted off the field in a stretcher; and although the exact extent of his knee injury is not known as of yet, it is speculated that he will miss the remainder of the season.

Richards was in the middle of producing a spectacular season, his pitching performances were being talked about among the best in baseball, He was making a very strong case for the Cy Young Award in the American League. He was one of the most pleasant surprises of the entire season. Hopefully Richards can completely recover from his injury and return to display the dominance that he was showing the season in the future.

The loss of Richards further diminished an already thin starting rotation, Skaggs is already out with an elbow injury and won’t return until the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. C. J. Wilson is also struggling since his return from injury. It will be interesting to see where the Angels go from here.

Pitching does win championships, believe it or not, I do see some silver lining in all this chaos. Yes, the loss of Richards is devastating, there is no doubt about that. However Richards only has an impact on the game once every five days, it’s time for the offense to be the run producing machine that we all know it can be, as well as it is time for the rest of the pitching staff whether they are in the majors or the minors to step up. Now that we have a stronger bullpen compared to the past bullpens that the Angels have had in recent years, I really do not think that’s an unreasonable expectation. The September call ups are crucial to resolving this unexpected situation. This could have been much worse, we could have lost a position player that impacts the game every day.

The Angels have the best record in baseball, they are atop of the American League West, they Halos are being called upon to prove that none of these regular season accolades matter, they must rise above the adversity and the unfortunate situation and prove that they actually have the heart of a champion.

-ICE

Without a Doubt the Best Player of This Generation is Trout

Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and now one can add Mike Trout to this impressive list. All the players listed above were game changers not only for the respective teams but for baseball as a whole. Mike Trout’s resume includes: The American League Rookie of the Year, two-time American League Most Valuable Player runner-up, and three-time American League All-Star in only his third year in baseball. His newest accomplishment is most valuable player of the All-Star game. Quite an impressive career thus far for a player who is only 22 years old; given all his accolades, it is equally as impressive that his ego hasn’t stockpiled concurrently with his accomplishments. Trout’s attitude is refreshing.

I know I am a little late on posting my reaction regarding the All-Star break, especially given the fact that an Angels’ player was involved so heavily in the festivities. However, I wanted to wait until the much rumored pending transaction would materialize; it did, Houston Street is now part of the Halos’ bullpen. The acquisition of Street solidifies the bullpen, the team’s glaring weakness and biggest question mark in recent years.

Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for a dog fight for the right to claim the American League West championship. This is reminiscent of the battles the Angels and A’s have had in years past. These teams are not only competing in the division, but they are competing with transactions; matching each other punch for punch akin to a boxing match that neither competitor wants to lose.

Both teams are building team chemistry quite successfully. It’s no coincidence that these two teams have the two best records in baseball. I truly believe the Angels have the edge however, they lead all of baseball in runs scored, they strengthened a weakness called the bullpen, with the acquisition of Houston Street. The Angels now have options whether it’s Houston Street, Jason Grilli or Joe Smith they now have weapons in the bullpen. However there is one greatest advantage above all other advantages, his name is, Mike Trout.

-ICE

A Perfect Sweep, Not so Perfect Team

I think the World Cup has everybody distracted, at least that’s my case; but now I’m back and ready to talk about baseball again. The Angels are coming off a perfect home stand with a sweep of the Rangers and a sweep of the Twins. The Angels themselves have been far from perfect. They have lost nine games when leading in the seventh inning or later, as well as 12 blown saves this season so far.

The Angels traded Ernesto Frieri to the Pirates for Jason Grilli in order to try to address the bullpen issues. I myself wasn’t ready to give up on Ernesto, yes he has been responsible for some of the blown saves this season, however, he still seem to do well if he pitched as middle reliever with less pressure he seemed to perform better. I haven’t seen Jason pitch so I can’t comment on him just yet. But I’m sure either way I will reflect on him when the time is appropriate.

Ernesto is no worse than Francisco Rodriguez was when he was a closer. Both men are unpredictable and both men seem to do better as middle relievers. The Halos Would have been better served to wait a little bit more for Ernesto to come around just as they did for Rodriguez a few years ago.

The Angels might not be perfect just yet, however they have been getting better with the passage of each game. They may have some flaws, but the positives cannot be overlooked. They have an identical record to the Oakland A’s of 7-3 over the last 10 games, and are currently only 4 1/2 back. If they can to shore up the bullpen issues, they will be just fine.

-ICE

The Duality of Baseball

Baseball is a game of duels, there is a dual between pitchers, it can also exist between pitcher and batter, as well as between base men and base runners. There also exist a certain duality within the game.

The Angels are experiencing such duality, Albert Pujols hit his 500th career home run in Washington DC against the Nationals. The number 500 appears again as the Angels are trying to get back to a .500 record, a threshold they haven’t been able to accomplish since the opening day of 2013. Which is simply astonishing given the talent on this team. The team cannot get all three facets of the game to work at the same time. When the offense is on fire, the pitching cannot hold leads; this problem is manifested by the performances of the bullpen, a unit that can’t seem to get it together. The positive? The Angels lead Major League Baseball in Home Runs with 36 more than any other team in both leagues. Yet somehow they haven’t been able to translate the positives into wins.

The future is not bleak for this team, the ingredients are there, Josh Hamilton will eventually be back and give both Albert Pujols and Mike Trout much-needed protection. In contrast to recent years the Angels now have relatively healthy players to complete the original winning formula that was conceived. Once they resolve their bullpen issues they should have a winning record, and eventually I am hopeful that the many dualities that I’m currently observing become one distinct singularity, which manifests itself as a World Series Championship at the end of the season.

-ICE

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