Results tagged ‘ Starting Rotation ’

Are the Angels Preparing a Winter Wonderland or Preparing for the Brunt of Bitter Old Man Winter?

The holiday season invokes different emotional reactions from different people, some people think about spending time with loved ones, others think about the family gatherings, the food, the games; while still others think of the lights the holiday decorations and the overall spirit of the season.

 

Baseball fans however, have an added bonus during the holiday season, the Major League Baseball winter meetings. The winter meetings can only be described one way, opening a holiday gift early. This is the time a year select front office personnel from all 30 teams get together in one place and discuss anything pertaining to the upcoming season; primarily free-agent signings and trades. Some teams going to these meanings with the intent of making a splash, while others stay relatively quiet.

 

This is the case of the Angels this year, unlike years past, they haven’t made an eye-opening transaction during this year’s winter meetings, on the contrary, I believe this year has much more uncertainty than years past. The Halos lost Garrett Richards to free agency. Richards signed a contract with the San Diego Padres, Shohei Ohtani is recovering from off-season Tommy John surgery and is unable to pitch this upcoming year, although he will be in the batters’ box this upcoming season. Parker Bridwell, a once promising Angels’ pitcher is no longer available because he was claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees. Injuries combined with these transactions make the Angels’ starting rotation questionable at best.

 

The Halos number one priority should be starting pitching, and/or pitching in general. This position is there Achilles’ heel as of late. They’ve had more of their fair share of pitching woes and it doesn’t seem that this year will get any better.

 

If that wasn’t enough, the Angels need help in the infield, they had Ian Kinsler’s veteran presence in the infield. I believe they gave up on Kinsler too early, alternatively, keeping Kinsler would have helped the Angels at the very least determine whether he deserved a longer-term contract to shore up the infield. His absence now not only leaves question marks in the infield for next season but it also creates a huge hole that the Angels need to fill; combined with the team’s pitching needs, I don’t see how they can possibly fill all these holes and expect to not only compete, but contend. Something they must do if they want to keep Mike Trout happy and in an Angels’ uniform in the long-term, especially for a team that does not want to go over Major League Baseball’s luxury tax.

 

It seems that the Halos are trying to do too much at the same time, this is a combination of bad contracts over the years with several players that have put them in this bind. How does one find the pieces they need to contend well still have enough money to sign the greatest player of this generation in Trout, long-term? This is a conundrum that the Angels face, a conundrum that won’t be easy to solve. I believe that in order to keep Trout and be contenders at the same time they must go over the luxury tax. The Halos are already asking a lot of the Angels’ fan base when it comes to paying to spend time at the ballpark, the least they can do is begin to show us that our investment of time and money is bearing fruit. The organization has two choices, create a winter wonderland or prepare for the brunt of bitter old man winter.

 

-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

It Is Almost “Sho-Time” in Anaheim

Southern California in the Los Angeles area in particular is very familiar with “Showtime”, whether it’s the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s or the Showtime that Hollywood brings to the movie theater. However, a different type of “Sho-time” is coming to Angel Stadium this upcoming baseball season.

 

Shohei Ohtani, often referred to as the Japanese “Babe Ruth” because of his natural ability to be both an excellent pitcher and an excellent hitter has agreed to become part of Major League Baseball as a member of the Angels. His formal introduction is today Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 3 PM Pacific time. I personally don’t know much about him except for would’ve heard in the media. That’s why I have decided to make this a two-part entry; this current entry before the press conference, and an entity after the press conference.

 

I was in bed when I heard the news late last night, based on what I’ve read and heard, he throws the baseball year, at, or above 100 miles per hour, he has an above average bat, and the speed to first base rivals that of Mike Trout. If all of this is true, then the Angels have an interesting puzzle on their hands. How would they accommodate this man’s natural ability to play on both the offensive and defensive side? One of the solutions proposed is a six man pitching rotation that would allow him to get adequate rest.

 

This is an interesting situation, although to reach absolutely honest toward interesting does not encapsulate and under represents the intrigue of the situation. I will try to have my post press conference reaction up as quickly as possible, until then, let’s sit back and enjoy this ride together.

 

Related articles: https://angelsmlb.wordpress.com/2017/12/09/it-is-sho-time-in-anaheim/

 

-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

 

 

 

The Halo Shines Bright Over Anaheim

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

-ICE

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

 

 

 

 

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

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