Results tagged ‘ Playoffs ’

One Strike Away from a Sweeping Change

There are 20 games left, including tonight’s game. We are definitely in the home stretch of the baseball season. The Angels find themselves 4 1/2 games back of the Houston Astros. The standings would look drastically different today had Mr. Murphy Law not been in uniform.

Murphy’s Law was in full effect yesterday afternoon, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. The Angels had a 3-0 lead in the top of the ninth inning, with two outs and one strike away from sweeping the Houston Astros, had this result come to fruition the Angels would only be two and a half games behind the Astros. The Astros were able to score 5 runs in the ninth inning to win the game 5-3. Taking nothing away from the Astros, the Angels would have won the game had it not been for a freak occurrence.

Taylor Featherston made an infield play with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the ball gets stuck in the webbing of the baseball glove, after a spectacular diving stop, he was unable to make the play; in my mind, that was the play that was the turning point in the Angels loss to the Astros.

This is indeed, the playoff stretch; there is nothing that the Angels could have done differently. They were able to take two out of three from the Astros and the Rangers, the two teams who are in front of them in the standings.

They must not allow this loss to completely demoralize them, it would be nice to control one’s own destiny, however, this is a luxury they don’t have; all they can do is win the majority of their games, and hope that they get help.

This is becoming exceedingly difficult given where we are in this season. The Astros and the Rangers play each other in a four-game series, starting tonight. Therefore, regardless of what happens between those two teams; the Angels must keep winning if they hope to gain any ground. The Angels have one more series remaining with each team, in Houston and in Arlington, a three and a four-game series respectively. The Angels must sweep these two series, in case they don’t get any help from other teams in between.

4 1/2 games back, with 20 games to play, it is a scary proposition, however anything can happen until the final out, of the final game, is called. If one needs any proof; just look at the result of yesterday’s game.

-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

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 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

The Angels Fall Victim to a Royal Flush

I thought this year was going to be different. The Angels had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs including the World Series. I thought this was going to be the year that the Angels finally made it out of the first round into the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2009. I thought this was the year that we were finally going to see the postseason version of Mike Trout.

The Angels had horrible offensive numbers, they were only able to muster six runs in the entire series four which, were home runs. They were a miserable two for 28 with runners in scoring position. The offense was anemic, not what one would expect for a team that led all Major League Baseball in runs scored this season.

It was a perfect storm, bad strategies by Mike Scioscia, and the inept offense, excellent Royals defense, and a short series. I question now and will question again the manager’s decision to play Josh Hamilton, Hamilton looked psychologically absent, away from the moment, an empty gaze, as he was just moving for the sake of repetition at the plate, his body language appeared to be nonchalant; he lacked the hunger and the drive that he so desperately needed to strategically dismantle the Royals’ pitching perfection. Granted, Hamilton was recovering from an injury, but this isn’t the regular season, it’s the postseason, the Halos didn’t have time to wait for Hamilton to get back into the groove. Collin Cowgill was a better option to take Hamilton’s place. I am puzzled by Mike Scioscia’s insistence to keep the Hamilton in the lineup when he was preforming so poorly, why mess up the team’s chemistry and cohesion? If one remembers when the Angels had their 10 game winning streak that help them capture the American League West title Hamilton was not in the lineup amidst that run.
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The eighth inning of game two is another example of bad strategy, with men on base, Kole Calhoun was called on to bunt in 3-1 Count, to my recollection I have never seen him bunt before, why not let him swing away? He is a heavy hitter. Why try to reinvent the wheel in the middle of the postseason? Why not leave the bunting to a player who has done it before and is successful at it? This wasn’t the Angels team that we were accustomed to seeing in the regular season.

As my birthday winds down to a close today, I wish I had better news to write about. Taking nothing away from Kansas City, the Angels were outplayed and Kansas City was clearly the better team. The old cliché applies here, “there is always next season.” Hopefully the Angels make the right moves to be competitive next season. Indeed, the Angels fell victim to a Royal flush.

-ICE

The Angels Draw a King from the American League Wild Card Deck

The matchup for the American League Division Series is set. The Angels are set to square off against the Kansas City Royals. Kansas City won the American League wild card by defeating the Oakland Athletics in a game that will go down as one of the most exciting wild-card games in Major League Baseball history. The score was 9 to 8 in 12 innings. A hard fought victory for the right to face a celestial juggernaut in the Angels.

The Royals’ speed on the base paths last night was impressive. In a five-game series it’s going to be interesting to see how the Angels deal with said speed. The Angels however, play as a team and it’s going to be hard for the Royals to contend with the Angels bullpen and the Angels’ offensive prowess.

Game one is a golden opportunity for the Angels, with Kansas City using James Shields for the wild-card game, compile that with the Royals coming off a 12 inning battle with the Athletics; there is less pressure on Weaver. This series is truly going to hinge on whether or not C. J. Wilson can pitch a good game and whether or not Angels’ rookie Matt Shoemaker can handle the postseason pressure. Ideally if they can sweep the Royals in three games the Angels rotation problems would be minimized.

It’s going to be a fun series, will the Angels fly high? Or will a Kansas City King be crowned? In a five-game series anything is possible, but I sincerely hope that the hunt for red October continues, I’m definitely ready to get my red on! Please check back for Angels postseason entries.

-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

The Angels Give the A’s an Elephant Sized Sweep

The best record in baseball, 30 games over .500, a six and one home stand, and an elephant sized sweep of the Oakland Athletics; the best case scenario happened, a five-game lead in the American League West; which yesterday, turned to a 4 1/2 game lead in the American League West with the Angels being idle and Oakland winning last night.

An 18-8 record from this point on would break the franchise record for most wins in the season with 101. An 101-61 record would be nice, but does something like that really matter? Of course not, however it would be a nice feather in our collective cap. What really matters is going deep in the playoffs and possibly winning the World Series.

With 26 games left, the season is far from over and the Angels still play Oakland the last week of the season for three games at the Oakland Coliseum. The Angels need as much breathing room as they can get. A specially with the acquisition of Adam Dunn, who looks who to replace Yoenis Céspedes. The Oakland A’s are not the same team without him. For the A’s this trade looms big for them for all the wrong reasons, but perhaps, all the right reasons for the Angels.

It is September 2, the September call ups are over, the Halos called up 11 players which will hopefully solidify this roster. The dog days of summer are here, the division races are amazing. Hopefully when the smoke clears, the Angels will still remain on top.

-ICE

Stomper Was Ahead Early, However the Rally Monkey Is Winning the Championship Rounds

There is simply nothing like the battle between the Angels and the A’s, the battle between California’s two American League franchises and founding members of the American League West. The A’s have an 8-6 season series lead, however the Angels are three games ahead in the American League West.

Before yesterday’s victory over the A’s the Angels had 80 wins, the first team to 80 wins this season, which is a perfect complement to the best record in baseball. At that point of their eightieth win the Halos were only one game behind the 2008 team and which had 81 wins in the same time span. The 2008 team netted 100 wins, the best record in franchise history.

A furious division battle does not come without its casualties, both Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs are out for the season. For the Athletics, Coco Crisp went down with an apparent neck injury last night while trying to rob a home run. The Angels being the classy organization that they are, did not initiate the home run fireworks that are customary as a result of the opponent’s injury.

I can not underscore the importance of creating distance now during this four-game series with only two more off days the entire season, the Angels need to create as much distance as possible in order to create a cushion to fall back on should things become even more interesting. This season is much different than the 2002 season which was the last time these two teams directly competed against each other for a postseason berth. The new wild card format allows the creation of a sudden death game which would be unfortunate should one of these two teams find themselves on the losing end, thereby magnifying the importance of winning the division.

With 16 of the 19 season meetings between these two foes in the history books, a gets more interesting every passing game, these two teams are the class of the division and the class of baseball. I may have a strong dislike for Oakland, but I wouldn’t want to be battling with any other team in baseball. My hatred is a result of the respect I have for the Oakland Athletics organization and their fans. May the best team win, hopefully the team wears red.

-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

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