Results tagged ‘ Major League Baseball All-Star Break ’

The Gold Coin We Call Baseball

The off-season is upon us, in the game of baseball the winter can be just as exciting as the regular season. There are many exciting aspects about the off-season, the hot stove, where free agents and franchises look to come together mutually to fill vacancies; and the winter meetings, where franchises seek to make a noteworthy splash in the market. Am I disappointed? Yes, but I can’t say that I’m upset over the Angels’ performance this past season, every team’s goal is to make it to the World Series however, in the end, as always one team stands and 29 others go home.

 

The Angels made a valiant effort at a playoff run; they fell out of contention after game 158 on September 27, 2017. As I have mentioned before I rather see this team fall out of contention late in the season and not well before the All-Star break.

 

If this team is healthy with a few additions the Halos can not only compete for a postseason spot but they can also contend. If things go well, they can possibly even make it to the World Series; First and foremost they have the best player in all of Major League Baseball today, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols, when healthy, can still strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. Justin Upton recently signed a contract extension, which gives the Angels a solid bat behind Trout and a permanent left fielder. When one adds the two Gold Gloves at shortstop and catcher for 2017 one has a pretty solid foundation.

 

With a strong foundation already established, the Angels could use a few upgrades on the roster, so far the speculation points to third baseman Mike Moustakas as the prime candidate to fulfill this need for the Angels. The former Kansas City Royal has power, and he might be just what the Angels need to get over the hump. However, for now this is pure speculation and all this of course is contingent on the Angels starting rotation and for that matter the pitching staff as a whole , staying healthy. As the Angels entire pitching staff was decimated and the starting rotation in particular was crippled this past season.

 

The off-season brings a lot of big hopes and dreams to every fan no matter which team one chooses to root for. It’s a reset button that every team looks forward to pressing, even the successful teams in the previous season. The off-season can be a two-sided coin it can bring joy and/or pain. It all depends how the coin we call the off-season lands.

 

-ICE

The Tale of Two Halos

The Angels have had an interesting season thus far; there are instances when it’s the best of times, yet there are other instances when it’s the worst of times. The Angels have been decimated by injuries at the absolute worst time. A few examples are C. J. Cron, who went down right when his bat was warming up, or Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney both of whom are essential to the Halos’ success. Yet another example is the missing contribution of C. J. Wilson who was unable to throw a single pitch this season because of injury. With three-fifths of the starting rotation out of commission it’s surprising that the Angels have been able to function much less stay together as a team. At one point this season they were down 19 ½ games in their division with little hope of recovery.

In contrast, shortly before the All-Star break the Angels somehow managed to slowly bring it together with contributions of the now injured C.J. Cron. At one point they were able to string together 34 runs over four games before losing the pre All-Star break finale.

Since the All-Star break the Halos have come roaring back. They have yet to lose a game post All-Star break. They swept the division leading Texas Rangers and now move on to face the Houston Astros and continue this hopeful remarkable comeback. The Halos are now 11.5 games back begging the question if they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.

It is no secret that the Angels don’t have much of a farm system which necessitates them to be sellers in order to rebuild such a devastated system. If this is indeed the case who would be on the trading block? Matt Shoemaker, who so far has had the best season of anyone in the rotation. Hector Santiago, who is arguably the heart and soul of the pitching staff. He plays the game with an unmatched passion which I like to call “Controlled Chaos.” What impact will Tyler Skaggs have on this team when he is ready to come back from injury? How will the injury to Nick Tropeano impact the rotation?

In contrast would the Halos have the heart to take apart a team that appears to be chemically coming together with an unmatched chemistry that was far delayed? Will they be able to find some way to improve this team and still have enough pieces to exchange? There is an old baseball adage that states you have to give up something to get something. Who will the Angels give up that would both have minimal impact on the team and still get someone of value back in order to help this team succeed?

If the Angels find a way to reconcile this conflicting enigma I believe they have enough to create a solid base to build on for next year, if not, by some miracle make up the division deficit and attempt to contend this season.

The answer lies in resolving the contradicting tales of these two Halos and finding a conclusion to this developing novel which has the potential to become a classic masterpiece of a season. How will the tale end? On one side will this be a reflection on a successful season? Or a tale of how a string of injuries derailed this cast of characters? How long will this novel be? Are we reaching the final pages? Or are there many pages yet to be written? My sincere hope is that it is the latter.

-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

Tarnished Halo, Tattered Wings

As a baseball fan, one expects to see their favorite team go through ups and downs, peaks and valleys. During the season a team must learn to pace themselves; in essence they must play the chess game that is baseball, put the chess pieces in the right position in order for a team to attack when the moment is right.

The Angels find themselves in this exact metaphorical scenario described above, they are currently 12 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West, fourth in the division, with 10 players on the disabled list with various injuries. The Halo is tarnished and the wings are tattered. The situation may look bleak to outsiders, yet this may be the perfect time to position the test pieces for an attack.

Starting tonight the Halos play their next 13 games against division rivals, which involves two teams that are sub .500 the Oakland A’s and the Houston Astros. This may be the perfect time for the team to strike as there are high hopes that the contribution of the newest Angel, Tim Lincecum, will give this team a much needed lift in the pitching rotation with three-fifths of the starting rotation on the 60-day disabled list with long-term injuries. Tyler Skaggs who was expected back within the near future has hit a snag in his rehabilitation forcing the Halos to find other more creative options.

It is well-known among baseball’s purest that the key to a successful team is pitching, something that the Angels clearly do not have at this moment. It is looking highly unlikely that C.J. Wilson will be able to make a meaningful impact this season due to the setbacks that he has had; based on the fact that this is the final year of his multi-million dollar contract it is very doubtful that he will have a meaningful impact for the Halos.

Can this team stay consistent for this 13 game stretch? It all depends if this team can come together at the right moments. It is not time yet to worry about the division leader, the Texas Rangers, since they have been on fire and look unstoppable at the moment; but, they too will fall into a valley that may allow the Halos to gain some ground. If the Angels can use this 13 game stretch to their advantage, we may have an interesting division race after the All-Star break, but in order to do so, the Halos must shine again and their wings must heal if all this is to come to fruition.

-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 Angels Are Singing The Dodger Blues

How blue can you get? The Angels are asking their fans that very question, they are playing with that sweet, yet painful sting of the B.B. King classic.

After a hot start coming out of the All-Star break, the Halos handed over the American League West to the Houston Astros. The Angels have lost five straight, and eight of their last nine. To make matters worse, the Angels lost the first two games of the Freeway Series to the cross-town rival, Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Halos were playing well, both as a team and as individuals. Which is impressive, considering the turmoil that the Angels have gone through with the resignation of their General Manager. This team has shown resilience not only to stay afloat, but take over the American League West, couple that with individual success, specifically the success of Mike Trout, who became the first player in Major League Baseball history to be the most valuable player of an All-Star game in consecutive years.

The Angels didn’t make the big splash during the trade deadline that the fan base was accustomed to in recent years, however, they quietly made moves. The Halos sought to improve themselves and with the acquisitions of David Murphy from the Cleveland Indians, David DeJesus from the Tampa Bay Rays, and Shane Victorino from the Boston Red Sox. These three outfielders were brought aboard to try to negate the disappointing contribution this season by Matt Joyce.

The Angels are not playing as well as it may look, if one looks at the head-to-head record against all the division leaders in the American League, the Astros, the Royals, and the Yankees, the Halos have a record of 5-17 in the head-to-head match ups with the division leaders so far this season.

I will be attending my first Angels road game of the season tomorrow against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium for the first-half finale of the Freeway Series, I am really not interested in how much more blue the Angels can get, rather, I would like to think that tomorrow will be the genesis of the Angels returning to greatness and becoming red-hot again.

-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

Stomper Is Ahead of the Rally Monkey on the Score Cards

Baseball is a lot like boxing, the longer a fight goes, the later rounds become exponentially important. The American League West division race is much like a boxing match, especially the second half of the season where less than half the games are left. I mentioned in a previous entry a strong start coming out of the All-Star break would be especially important for the Angels. I said that numbers now matter.

The Angels started off strong by taking two of three from the Oakland A’s, the Halos needed to sweep the A’s in Anaheim and in Oakland in my opinion, in order to make any sort of meaningful progress in the division race. After losing ground by dropping the last game of the series against the A’s at Angel Stadium, then the Angels dropped two out of three against the Minnesota Twins. To add to the problem, the Angels have lost two out of four in the current series against Oakland at the Oakland Coliseum. The best they can hope for is a series split by winning tomorrow’s game.

Yes, baseball can be like a boxing match at times, it is quite possible that the Angels will receive a knockout blow by possibly losing Albert Pujols for the rest of the season due to his ongoing condition of plantar fasciitis. He left Oakland and returned to Southern California in order for doctors to run more tests, dare I say it doesn’t look good. He may have to go on the Disabled List for the rest of the season.

I can’t help but question the thought process that led to the poor handling of the situation. The team knew that this injury would be an ongoing problem; they should have rested number five, early during the start of the season. I realize he is a competitor, but I also realize that the Angels have invested a lot of money into his contract for him only to be able to play at half strength. The Angels knew that they would meet him late in the stretch run, and I question why they didn’t act accordingly. Now because of what I consider to be a poor decision, the team and their fan base are suffering the consequences.

I do realize that the Angels have their share of injuries, mainly Jason Vargas, however Albert is a big part of the Angels’ future plans and the team is not acting like it. I take solace in that history can repeat itself. The Halos must ironically take a page out of last year’s Oakland A’s playbook. If I recall, the Oakland A’s were in a similar position this time last year and won the division championship. At the very least the Angels must concentrate on winning one of the two wild-card spots and make a playoff push that way. They did that in 2002, and we all know what resulted. The Angels have the championship pedigree, but like any true champion they must come back in the later rounds and when the fight.

-ICE

Related Articles: http://angels.mlblogs.com/2013/07/13/the-symphony-of-the-numbers-game
http://angels.mlblogs.com/2013/04/12/stomper-mercilessly-stomps-out-the-rally-monkey-then-swept-him-away
http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-angels-albert-pujols-aggravates-foot-injury-20130727,0,612262.story

Update: Albert Pujols will likely miss the rest of the 2013 season

http://www.latimes.com/sports/baseball/mlb/angels/la-sp-0729-angels-athletics-20130729,0,4351670.story

The Symphony of “The Numbers Game”

It’s that time of year again, the time of year where numbers begin to matter; magic numbers, numbers in the standings, and the numbers that will result in the upcoming All-Star game that will determine which league gets home field advantage in the 2013 World Series.

Numbers have favored the Angels for the last three series. The Angels took two out of three from the team with the second best record in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals and also took two out of three from the team with the best record in the American League, the Boston Red Sox, the Halos were able to leave Chicago with a two-game split against the Cubs. The Angels are currently only nine games back in the American League West making the numbers exponentially important.

It’s a given that the Angels must do well in their own division if they have any shot at making the playoffs this year. They must take the next two games against the Mariners in order to build momentum heading into the All-Star break. The Angels will be cutting it a little too close for comfort. They must come out of the All-Star break in full camouflage with war paint on their collective faces. All games are important, but the next stretch of games is especially critical to the Halos’ success. After the All-Star break, they have back-to-back series with the Oakland A’s and the Texas Rangers with the Minnesota Twins sandwiched in between. There are 13 games left with each respective team, the Angels have hit a proverbial straightaway, this team must take advantage and do the damage themselves so they don’t have to rely on other teams. The numbers now matter, the time is now.

13 games against each team, nine games back. The Angels cannot wait until the magic number surfaces before they become conscious of their situation. Numbers, numbers, numbers this is what makes baseball in particular so beautiful. A symphony where The flow of the game is the melody and the numbers are the harmony, thereby creating a musical symphony called “the numbers game.” This symphony needs a halo.

-ICE

The Angels Are Reaching for the Stars

Once again I find myself apologizing for the short hiatus, life happens. I wish I could eat, drink, and breathe baseball every day if I could only be so lucky.

First and foremost, and let’s make a quick comment regarding the Freeway Series the Angels took four out of six games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and head into the All-Star break 10 games over .500.

Mark Trumbo is hitting with the media has dubbed “Trumbombs” with regularity. His performance in tonight’s Home Run Derby could be a sign of things to come. The Angels sent four All-Stars to the 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game Jared Weaver, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, C. J. Wilson and were very close to sending a fifth, Angels’ closer Ernesto Frieri.

The second half of the season should be fun, the Angels are only four games behind the Texas Rangers at the All-Star break. They show no signs of letting up. It should be a lot of fun. Go Angels!

-ICE

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