Results tagged ‘ Pitching Staff ’

It’s Time for a Change in the Halo Recipe and/or the Chef

The Halo is closed for repairs; it will reopen in early April. Hopefully when it reopens it will be vastly improved. The Angels finished the season with an 8-2 record over the final 10 games. While that was a positive sign, it was too little, too late in my humble opinion.

 

To say the Angels must improve is an understatement, they had an injury-riddled starting rotation and bullpen. I cannot recall one game this season when the pitching staff was at full strength; since they Halos don’t have much of a farm system to speak of, they couldn’t replenish any deficiencies on the team. The left-field experiment was a disaster; I feel that was the team’s weakest link this year.

 

Mike Scioscia has become complacent since 2009 he hasn’t shown anything of significance, nothing that makes this team stand out from the pack. He needs to find a way to ignite both the team and the fan base, I do not deny that he knows his baseball, unfortunately, it isn’t enough. Mike Scioscia reminds me of a chef that substitutes French fries when the recipe clearly calls for exotic Cajun fries. In other words, it is not enough to know the game of baseball, when the brand of baseball is clearly bland; he needs to find a way to add some flavor and distinction to this baseball team. I feel that although he has a wonderful baseball mind, he has lost his creativity, the Halos cannot afford for the chef in the kitchen lose his ability to create distinct flavors, especially with the team as talented as this one.

 

How can the recipe be changed? First and foremost, the Angels need to address left-field. There is really no big name out there in the free-agent market this year that is an instant game changer, with the exception of perhaps Mark Trumbo. Some argue that he is not consistent enough at the plate to make much of a difference, and while I do see the substance of the argument, we don’t have much of a farm system to draw from; although Mark Trumbo is not a marquee name out there, he is a former Angel, he knows the system and given this year’s free-agent market he is the best option.

 

Will this change in ingredients add any flavor to the recipe? Let’s hope so, for the sake of both the team and the fan base. The chef must create a more potent championship recipe, if he cannot do so, he must be escorted out of the baseball kitchen.

 

-ICE

 

 

 

 

Who Needs a Yule Log, When One Has a Hot Stove

I am back wearing my Christmas halo, my microphone broke since my last post, and it’s taken me a while to find a compatible microphone for my voice recognition software. It’s good to put the metaphorical pen to paper again; or in this case microphone to word processor.

Regrettably it’s been a few months so there’s a lot to cover, it’s the holiday season, and because time is limited; for this entry I’m just going to cover the highlights of the off-season that stood out to me. I will expand on the rest of the activity that I don’t cover in this entry at a later date.

On November 12, 2015, the Angels acquired shortstop Andrelton Simmons and catcher Jose Briceno in a trade for fan favorite, Erick Aybar, promising young pitcher Sean Newcomb along with another pitcher Christopher Ellis. Yes, Simmons can be considered a young phenom, the way he flashes the baseball glove is eye-catching, definitely highlight reel material. However, I worry that his handling of the baseball bat isn’t up to par. Simmons may have a longer contract then Erick Aybar, but Erick is a solid defender in his own right, he is more patient than Simmons, he is a clutch switch hitter, and is less likely to pop the ball up in a crucial situation; something that Simmons is prone to do.

The price paid for the acquisition of Simmons is a little steep for my taste, not only did we lose Erick Aybar but the Angels also lost Sean Newcomb. Newcomb is a promising young pitcher, so much in fact that Angels’ fans were wondering whether he was ready to join the pitching staff at the major-league level late last season, although he was not ready, he was very close; and with the Angels’ farm system being as thin as it is in my opinion the trade hurts the Angels more than it helps. While I agree that minor-league prospects don’t always pan out, the Angels need Newcomb, not only because as the old saying goes “you can never have enough pitching”, but also because the Angels pitching staff is on shaky ground as it is, and to count on Weaver or Wilson to carry the pitching staff is simply not realistic anymore, thus, magnifying the need for Newcomb.

The Angels are not only in trouble for what they have done, but they are also in murky waters for what they haven’t done. Earlier this week, Angels’ owner Arturo Moreno was quoted in the local paper stating that it was unlikely that the Angels would pursue a big name free agent outfielder. I have a few issues with that, first the big question is what is this team going to do in left field? The Angels haven’t had a solid left field presence since Garret Anderson. Shall I go down the list? First, on the list is Hideki Matsui, who joined the team when he was well past his prime. Vernon Wells, big contract, little to no results. Josh Hamilton, more of the same the only difference is that the Halos are still paying for him to play for the division rival Texas Rangers. Yes I know I neglected to mention Bobby Abreu; this is due to the simple reason that I feel that unlike the players previously mentioned Bobby did contribute substantially to the Angels and shouldn’t be lumped with the aforementioned group of players.

Second, the Angels need to come up with a long-term strategic plan, cross the luxury tax threshold and responsibly sign a big-name free agent like Yoenis Céspedes to plug the gaping hole in left field, or hold on to promising prospects like Newcomb and forgo players like Simmons. It’s impossible to have it both ways.

The Angels complicated matters further by trading away another promising pitcher to the Washington Nationals. Trevor Gott for Yunel Escobar, who is not a very impressive third baseman defensively, he is a natural shortstop. Here again the Angels are giving up a young hard throwing right-hander, for a questionable third baseman. The Halos in my opinion would be better off re-signing David Freese to a contract in order to resolve the issue at third base.

I would stop short of saying that the Halos’ hot stove is burning hot, it’s more like lukewarm. However it can definitely get considerably hotter. All that needs to be done is for ownership and the front office have to decide which direction they want to go, and commit to going in that direction. For a team that has drawn 3,000,000 fans for more than a decade, the very least Angels’ fans deserve is a clear commitment from ownership and the front office whenever direction they decide to go.

Merry Christmas, and happy holidays and a happy new year!

-ICE

DiPoto Turns in His Halo

Originally I was going to write about the seafaring Grinch from Seattle who stole Christmas, referring to the Angels’ “Christmas in June” promotion. I thought it would be fun to discuss my impressions. I was almost done writing the entry and I was deciding what pictures to include in the post, when the surprising but not unexpected news broke, “Jerry Dipoto resigns as Angels’ General Manager.” There it was, the news that changed the entire destination of this entry. I guess it wasn’t meant to be, the sudden course correction within the Angels’ organization is more relevant.

Rather than talk about my personal opinions on the inter-office dynamics of the organization and the reported tension, real or imaginary; between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, I would like to concentrate on Jerry Dipoto’s legacy and impact on the Halos. ESPN, MLB.com, MLB network, and Fox sports have talked at length about the tumultuous relationship between the Manager and General Manager, if one wants to know more about the inter office dynamics of the situation, I strongly suggest you go to one or more of the sources that I cited above.

Jerry Dipoto was brought aboard in 2011, upon his arrival, he made an immediate title wave of a splash, he signed then free agent Albert Pujols to a 10 year contract. He also ensured the future of the organization by coming to terms with Mike Trout on a six-year contract extension. He also brought aboard C. J. Wilson to bolster the Halos’ pitching staff, then he traded for Zack Greinke who was eventually lost to free agency. Jerry Dipoto also traded for Andrew Heaney, who is now on the major league roster and is starting to pay dividends for the Angels.

For all of Jerry DiPoto’s wheeling and dealing, the Angels never won a playoff game under his tenure. He was an aggressive general manager, who believed in the modern baseball concept of saber metrics, the volatile and conflicting mixture between saber metrics and old-school fundamental baseball philosophies, did not allow Jerry DiPoto to execute his vision for this team.

Upon the General Manager’s resignation, the Angels brought back a name from the past, former General Manager Bill Stoneman, he was at the helm when the Angels won the World Series in 2002. He also was the general manager who hired Mike Scioscia; so there is familiarity there, however, he is not known as an aggressive general manager, so I don’t expect the Angels to do much at the trade deadline. They could use aggressiveness out of the General Manager’s office, particularly with this team, and this time of year. I’m not a proponent of proceeding into the future by reaching into the past, unless one is trying to correct a mistake, this is definitely not the case with Bill Stoneman.

Perhaps Jerry DiPoto was very strategic in his actions; he picked the proximity to the trading deadline in order to make a point. This is purely speculation on my part; however, if I am right he definitely got his point across. One thing is for sure, the Angels’ organization is in disarray. It will be interesting to see how this set of circumstances affects the Halos’ playoff possibilities for this season. One thing is abundantly clear however, uncertainty has descended over Anaheim.

Happy Independence Day!

-ICE

The Machine Is Producing Baseballs with Angel Wings

I equate baseball to listening to a symphony, both in baseball and the symphony there are a lot of moving parts that come together to make a whole. While the cello and the violin players are at the top of their game on this particular night, the trumpet and the trombone players are out of steam due to being hung over from drinking one too many vodka shots at the local bar the night before. When these conditions come together, the symphony doesn’t sound as good as they would if all the instruments were in tune.

This analogy is applied to baseball, all parts need to be working together in order to create a complete whole. Albert Pujols and Mike Trout are the string players of this Halo Symphony, Trout is only second to Pujols in home runs with 18, while Albert leads the Angels and the American League with 23 home runs; 15 of which have come in the last 24 games alone. The machine is definitely producing baseballs with angel wings.

Unfortunately this is not the case for the rest of the team, the Halos are only one game above .500 at 36-35, and 13-13 over the last 26 games, in essence, Albert’s production is negated by the team’s inability to function as a symphony. The rest of the team hasn’t given the pitching staff enough run support, so far this season coming into today’s game the Angels have scored 288 runs compared to 279 runs allowed in the same span; this is a net difference of only +11 runs so far this season. This explains why this team is only one game above .500 the Halos are just doing enough to stay afloat, and they’ve only been able to do that because of the resurgent Albert Pujols. Albert Pujols’ Home Run streak cannot last forever, he’s bound to cool off. The Angels must find ways to take advantage of this, and supplement the machine’s production while they can.

The machine is producing, but the question is, will the Angels use the wings that he is producing to fly high and take over the American League West division lead? Or will they use the wings just to stay afloat?

-ICE

The Flickering Halo

It is often said that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint; others say, you can’t win it in April, but you can lose it in April. One describes patience, while the other describes focus and urgency. I believe, that there is a balance between the two perspectives, however patience can only be afforded during the first month and a half of the season in order not to rely on other teams collapsing the second half of the season and thus, a given team is able to control their own playoff destiny.

Through 58 games, the Angels are 29-29 an even .500, with the 59th game in progress. They are 4 1/2 games back of the surprising Houston Astros, in the American League West, Houston is a team that seems to be leaving orbit and coming back to earth, the Astros have lost six straight.

The Halo is flickering, sometimes it is very bright, as evident by a sweep of the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium, and sometimes the Halo is completely dark, as the Angels were swept by the Yankees in New York. The Halos also lost two out of three games to The Tampa Bay Rays. The series with the Rays was sandwiched in between the two appearances of the broom.

Why is a team that is so talented on paper only .500? Some site the lack of production from the offense since all but two of the combined 32 home runs between Albert Pujols and Mike Trout have been solo home runs.

While that is absolutely true, I would point to something else, if one juxtaposes the runs scored versus runs allowed, one sees the issue. So far this season, coming into today’s game, the Angels as a team have scored 233 runs; the Angels pitching staff as a whole has allowed 232 runs this includes unearned runs. This is a net difference of only +1 run. To me, this explains a lot, the Angels don’t need to add another bat they simply need to shore up their pitching and defense. It doesn’t really matter if this team can average 25 runs a game if the opponent can score 26. A big bat wouldn’t make much of a difference.

What can be done? Barring a major successful blockbuster trade, not much can be done. However, the Angels do have Andrew Heaney in the farm system, he is currently in AAA with the Salt Lake City Bees. He has a 6-2 record with a 4.39 Earned Run Average, he might not be ready for the majors just yet, but he is an option to improve the pitching staff.

There are 102 games left in the season, including the game in progress, and while that is true that baseball is a marathon, the Angels need to get themselves within striking distance of leadership of the division very soon.

-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

There Is a Halo Around the Peak of the Baseball Mountain

Baseball is a mountain with only eight ledges, one for each division winner and two wildcards. In reality there are only seven ledges and one peak, the halo shines brightly around that peak. The Angels staked their claim August 16th to the best record in all of baseball they have been in possession of this record for the last two days, their current record is 72-50 statistically one percentage point ahead of the Oakland Athletics.

The American League West

W L PCT GB
LA Angels
72 50 .590 –
Oakland
73 51 .589 –
Seattle
67 56 .545 5.5
Houston
52 73 .416 21.5
Texas
48 76 .387 25.0

 

Coming into this season the goal of every Angels’ fan was to win the division after a long four-year absence from the postseason. The biggest question mark was the pitching staff, and whether it was strong enough to sustain the grind of the season. The bullpen issues were addressed with trades, and the emergence of Garrett Richards was certainly a pleasant surprise on the other hand, the pleasant surprises have been met with disappointment with the loss of Tyler Skaggs who will miss the rest of the season and the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, this could possibly leave the Angels with a shorthanded rotation next season.

The Angels have had struggles, but every baseball fan knows that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint; like every team the Angels have, and will go through peaks and valleys and at this point the Angels are in front of the marathon pack.

Most Angels’ fans would be ecstatic with a postseason berth, given the drought of the last four years, but to achieve the best record in baseball is more than anyone could have imagined. It’s not enough to have the best overall regular-season record, because in the end that doesn’t really matter, although I must say it feels extremely good to be able to say that. In the five years of this blog has been in existence, in its various incarnations, my statistical/analytical mind hasn’t stopped to enjoy the view, I must say that the view from up here is spectacular. The view from atop of the American League West is awesome, however the view from the peak of the mountain is simply breathtaking. This unexpected surprise is great!

-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

The Double-Edged Sword

It is the beginning of the 2014 baseball season, and I must say I’m pretty optimistic about the Angels chances this year. Yes the club is 3-5, however to paraphrase my good friend Roger Lodge; it’s still early. I don’t know that be claimed in late April to early May but for now, I think that’s the proper way to look at things.

Josh Hamilton is swinging the bat at nearly. 500 it’s very difficult to do much better, this is the Josh Hamilton the team was expecting when he signed that multiyear contract; he went down with an injury yesterday to his thumb but I’m hoping it’s a minor injury and his time away from the diamond is minimal.

Albert Pujols’ bat is starting to warm up, he hit a two-run home run yesterday, his first of the season. The question is, is the old Albert Pujols back? Maybe, he is getting older, while I don’t expect him to put up the ridiculous numbers he did in St. Louis I do expect him to have a solid year, although if he wants to revert to the Albert Pujols that was with the Cardinals I am not going to complain. Let’s not forget about Mr. Freeze (David Friese) who hit his first homer of the season as well, if the offense can live up to its potential and expectations, we Angels’ fans are in for a pretty exciting season.

I don’t have any delusions of grandeur because I know this team has a double edge sword associated with it. This season as always will come down to pitching, both the starting rotation and bullpen. The Angels were swept by the Mariners, simply because of both starting pitching and the bullpen. With the starting pitching was solid, the bullpen was shaky at best, and vice versa. As any true baseball fan knows, the key to having a successful season is the pitching. I haven’t made up my mind how I feel about Hector Santiago yet, Tyler Skaggs has potential, we have yet to see if the grind of the season will get to him.

-ICE

The Repercussions of the Josh Hamilton Contract

“Hindsight is 20/20.” “You can’t cry over spilled milk.” “Monday morning quarterback.” These are all terms people use to express the feeling of what’s done is done; although these terms are very true, they can not be applied in my opinion to the Josh Hamilton contract.

Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic that the Angels did not sign Masahiro Tanaka. What’s really bothering me is the report that the Angels didn’t even extend an offer because they did not want to go over the luxury tax. It was indeed bad money management that put the Halos in the position they are today. A position they wouldn’t be in had they passed on Hamilton.

It appears this team is suffering from selective amnesia, the money that was used in the Hamilton contract was earmarked for pitching. They chose instead to ignore that, and sign Hamilton to a contract which ultimately led to patchwork repairs of the pitching staff. The cost? They lost a homegrown player with a huge upside in Mark Trumbo. They essentially let go of a young player for someone with inflated numbers who hit in a hitters park in Arlington.

The Angels had a backup plan, Matt Garza if and when the negotiations with Masahiro Tanaka fell through. Well, they did, and Garza signed a four-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Now what? According to the Angels general manager they are “prepared to move forward with their current roster.” What does that mean? A fifth consecutive year without a playoff appearance? If that’s the case, how did the Josh Hamilton contract change anything? Did Hamilton make the Angels more competitive this past year? Of course not, so what’s going to be different this year? If the Angels would have been more careful with their money, The Halos would have money in the budget to sign a high quality pitcher without relying on a backup plan.

How will that translate when it comes time to re-sign Mike Trout? If the Angels weren’t competitive with Tanaka, how do they expect to be competitive with Trout? Will the Angels be willing to go over the luxury tax with a Trout contract? I sincerely hope so, I would be willing to go one more year without a playoff appearance if that meant the Halos would sign Trout to a long-term contract. On the other hand, how is this team going to remain attractive and a viable option for Trout if the Angels do not make the playoffs this year? It has yet to be seen if the current roster will make an impact this year, as a fan, I sincerely hope so. However, I highly doubt it.

-ICE
Related Articles: http://losangeles.angels.mlb.com/news/article/ana/angels-sit-out-masahiro-tanaka-sweepstakes?ymd=20140122&content_id=66964996

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/anthony-castrovince-los-angeles-angels-need-to-figure-out-what-mike-trout-is-worth?ymd=20140211&content_id=67635368&vkey=news_mlb

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