Results tagged ‘ Pitching Staff ’

Halo Joe

When one selects a hobby/interest it is because they feel a deep connection to the subject matter that one has selected, this especially holds true when it comes to sports; sometimes fans don’t really pick a team, they inherit it from a grandfather and/or father, and in some cases from a mother and/or grandmother. My father’s philosophy on successful teams is a very simple one, one that I also subscribe to; both fans and players have to “feel the jersey” in other words in order to be successful you have to be completely balanced and dedicated to your team and craft. There have been many instances where a player as good as they may be, really don’t feel the jersey.

 

Joe Maddon definitely feels the jersey, he has been involved with the Angels’ organization in some capacity or another since 1975 until 2005, even while he was away from the Angels he had a Halo in his heart. Joe Maddon was on the Angels’ managerial staff as a bench coach when the Angels won the World Series in 2002, when he was a manager of the Chicago Cubs, in a touching tribute to his father, he wore the Disney era Angels baseball cap that once belonged to his late father. Who never saw him win the World Series; a touching and proud moment both for Maddon and the Angels’ fan base.

 

Maddon signed a three-year contract with the Angels, I personally wish it was a four-year contract, given the issues that the Angels currently have, I think an extra year is appropriate especially given that an even number of years would allow the team to better evaluate his performance.

 

I am very excited that a family member has come back home to the Angels organization, he has a proven pedigree that will help the Halos be successful, however, the Angels must go after a few solid pitchers. Gerrit Cole is the obvious first choice, and we mustn’t forget about Shohei Ohtani who hopefully will be able to pitch full-time and help rebuild the starting rotation.

 

I love their acquisition of Joe Maddon as the Angels’ manager, I believe he will steer this team in the right direction. The Angels are about to do something very special with the guidance of Halo Joe.

 

-ICE

Taking the Interstate 5 South: the Freeway Series 2019

One of the most majestic images in baseball is the baseball field itself, the luscious green grass making its presence known to all that take their time to breathe in its beauty; the intoxicating spell that casts upon its observers enchanting them and leaving them wanting more. The grass whose edges tease the infield dirt as if the grass was a forbidden lover that the dirt was not allowed to touch in public for fear of not exposing their torrid love affair. The seats surrounding the two lovers, gather in a convention as if they were gods waiting decree their verdict upon the lovers, this is what goes on in every baseball stadium, when the stadium is empty and it’s in its most natural state, this is baseball nature.

 

This is all about to change however, as a blue wave invades the peaceful serenity of Angel Stadium, the levers hide in horror as their natural state dissipates for nine innings, perhaps more and is replaced by a ruckus blue invasion force that threatens their most sacred inner peace. Luckily they have red defenders that seek to quell the assault on their way of life.

 

This is the essence of the Freeway Series, this is what makes the Angels Dodgers rivalry unique and beautiful. A little more than 30 miles separate the two cities and a little more than 28 miles separate the two stadiums. Proximity makes all the difference because it adds certain elements to the rivalry that the Dodgers and Giants rivalry will never have.

 

The Dodgers have the best record in all of baseball at the moment, while the Angels are 30-34; various injuries to Justin Upton, and Andrelton Simmons as well as injuries to various members of the pitching staff have slowed their progress.

 

The Angels are 14-21 against the American League West, they at 13.5 games back out of first place, in four games out of the second wildcard spot. There is still plenty of time to turn things around, however it must start tonight.

 

I believe that beating the best team in baseball would give them a much-needed boost of morale, not only because it Dodgers currently hold the best record in baseball, but because of the rivalry, a small contribution of giving the Dodgers two losses would give the Angels the energy to turn things around.

 

When Angel fans fill the seats tonight, they must do their best to defend home-field advantage, they must protect the two star crossed lovers so they can continue their forbidden love affair uninterrupted; by doing so, they add to the beauty and the legend that is baseball as it has been for the last 150 years.

 

-ICE

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The intricacies of baseball can be so complicated and yet so simple. As simple as a round ball making contact with a round bat; or as complicated as pitching matchups, pitching changes, pinch hitters, shifts, and defensive changes. It is the intersection of all these factors that create the complicated beauty of baseball; or as I like to call it the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

Let me start off with the good, through yesterday’s game, the Angels have outscored their opponents 69-43 through the first 11 games of the season. The Angels have yet to lose or split a series this season. As Shohei Otani has been simply spectacular, hitting three consecutive home runs in his first three consecutive home games in Major League Baseball record for a rookie. His pitching has been equally as spectacular, in this last outing alone he allowed only one hit with 12 strikeouts.

 

There isn’t much less talk about that is bad with the exception of the starting pitching. Excluding Shohei Otani the Angels pitching staff hasn’t gone very deep into games. Marquee players who need to produce such as Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, and Albert Pujols have yet to produce to their full potential.

 

The ugly is that things that are not necessarily good or bad but can become bad, and as such the team needs to keep a watchful eye on developing circumstances, primary bullpen. The bullpen has been spectacular thus far, the bullpen combined with the offense are primarily responsible for the Halos excellent start. However if the starting rotation does not recover, they taxed bullpen may lead to problems as the season wears on.

 

The three phases of the game, pitching, (this includes the bullpen) batting, and defense need to combine together to have a successful season, the three parts of this baseball machine need to work together in order for survive and contend for 162 games plus any additional postseason games. Any breakdown in the machines efficiency can cause a breakdown in the complexities of how this machine works, leading to the creation of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

-ICE

 

Opening Day 2018 is a Week Away

The buzz of the crowd, the music playing in the loudspeakers in the stadium, feeling the spring wind swirling around, the art on the grass, the sound of the ball hitting a leather glove, the crack of the bat as it makes contact with the baseball, the scoreboard, and the beautiful site of The Big A. These are all the sights and sounds of opening day that a diehard Angels’ fan looks forward to every year.

 

We are officially a week away from opening day. The Halos’ off-season roster additions are showing a lot of promise, while others are adjusting to a new culture, and league. As a fan, I am excited as to what the new season may bring.

 

Shohei Otani is still adjusting to American baseball, he’s billed as a two-way player and in my opinion he shows promise in both aspects of his game. I strongly believe he can be a two-way player; however, he is having trouble adjusting to the American pitchers. With a few adjustments I believe his hitting ability will come with time. There are some arguments that he should start the season in the minor leagues, ordinarily I would agree, however, because he is a two-way player; his pitching is needed in the Angels’ rotation especially given the injury history of our pitching staff over the last few years. I am confident that Shohei Otani’s ability to pitch is needed much more than his hitting at this point, I like the addition of Ian Kinsler, his experience in the infield will be an asset to the Angels, giving the Angels lineup and the team a more potent punch.

 

Chris Carter is a non roster invitee at this point; I sincerely hope he makes the opening day roster. He’s hitting for an average of .306 in 36 at-bats versus Luis Valbuena who’s hitting for an average of .225 in 40 at bats this spring, there is no logical reason why Chris Carter should not be part of the opening day roster. I believe that Luis Valbuena should be the backup to Chris Carter especially since Albert Pujols will be playing more first base this year due to sharing the designated hitter position with Shohei Otani. Zack Cozart is a wonderful addition to the Angels’ offense he is hitting .342 this spring which is a refreshing update to the third base position.

 

All these new additions along with the sustained excellence of Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, and Justin Upton among others, combined with the overall health of our pitching staff, with the addition of Shohei Otani, it should be an interesting season for this wonderful team. I’m truly looking forward to opening day against the Athletics in Oakland on March 29.

 

-ICE

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

Does the Deck of Playoff Cards Have a Wildcard with a Halo?

A deck of playing cards comes with two jokers, often people do not use these jokers and they put them aside separating them from the deck. Traditionally the jokers are a pair of cards; they are considered the two traditional wild cards in the deck. Today, I will not discard them.

 

This metaphor is applicable to the game the baseball; just like in a deck of playing cards there are two wild cards. These wildcards are currently blank, including today’s game that is yet to be played; there are only a dozen games left for the Angels in this baseball season, and the race for the American League wild card is tight.

 

As of today, the face of each wild card read “the New York Yankees” and “the Minnesota Twins”. However, the Angels are only one game behind, due to the loss that the Twins suffered against the Yankees today, which means by the end of today if the Angels win, they will only be one half game out of the second wild-card with 11 games to go.

 

In order to determine if there is a Halo in the playoff deck, one must examine the four suits that the deck contains in order for their wild-card to be of any help towards the creation of a championship hand in this metaphorical game of cards. 12 cards (games) are yet to be dealt; with such a high number of cards left the creation of a winning hand is likely. However, equally as likely is that a losing hand which can be produced at  the end of the season.

 

The Heart

 

The heart is in my opinion the most important suit, the Halos produced more than 40 comeback wins so far this season, leading Major League Baseball they also led the majors in stolen bases prior to the Cameron Maybin trade. There is no question that this team has the talent and the heart to make sure that one of those blank wildcards reads “Angels”.

 

The Spade

 

Although there’s no question about this team’s heart, the spade has not been kind to the Angels. The Halos have survived virtually all year without a pitching staff. Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker, and Tyler Skaggs have been injured in some combination or another for the entire year. This is virtually our entire starting pitching staff. With the exception of Matt Shoemaker, the rest of the starting staff is back. However, due to length of time they were gone, they have been unable to be the starters that they really are. Although the Angels have been hit hard by the spade there are still enough cards in the deck to turn their fortunes around.

 

The Clover

 

When the team is hit this hard by the spade, you need a little luck brought forth by the Clover. The Angels’ patchwork and strategic positioning have allowed them to somehow stay in contention even with all the injuries to key positions. With 12 cards left, the Angels must make their own luck and take advantage of golden opportunities when they present themselves, something that they did not do yesterday when the Twins lost to the Yankees. The Angels did not close the gap, they lost yesterday’s game six with three due to bad game management by Mike Scioscia, in certain situations he left players in two along and took others out too early. This can not continue if the Angels are going to let the Clover do its magic.

 

The Diamond

 

The clover’s magic must work; the diamond suit in the deck must assure that. The diamond has been kind to the Angels. A diamond represents the value which the Angels have obtained the acquisitions of Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips, by acquiring these solid players, they Halos have strengthened their weak spots which will allow them to increase their chances of obtaining a winning hand, although I must admit I was very disappointed when Cameron Maybin was traded in order to make room for Justin Upton on the roster. I believe the Angels had a better option by letting go of Ben Revere instead of Cameron Maybin, slim as he is affectionately called; gave the Angels speed at the top of the lineup, it is the team’s ability to run the bases that renders opposing starting pitchers less effective; something that needs to happen to be successful in the playoffs.

 

It is the right combination of the four suits that will determine whether one of the wildcards will have a Halo on its face. It is an undeniable fact that wildcards always make card games or in this case the Major League Baseball playoffs more interesting. Baseball wildcards cannot be simply discarded like the jokers in the deck of cards. However, all the other card suits must combine for a wildcard to be effective. In the Angels case, there are 12 cards remaining in order to create a winning hand.

 

-ICE

 

 

 

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

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