DOWN THE STRETCH BASEBALL

AN ANGELS BASEBALL BLOG

Angels Notes: Trumbo as Trade Bait; The Return of Torii the Tiger

With the month of May fast approaching, the Angels need to right the ship this weekend to avoid adding to their deficit of 7.0 games back. Unfortunately for the Halo faithful, the club has inexplicably posted their worst record since 1961 (4-10). And rest assured, dropping to 4-10 is no easy feat for a team as talented as the Angels; only the Houston Astros (4-11) and Miami Marlins (3-13) look more incapable in the standings.

The Angels have a number of issues that they need to address. We hear this all the time – they clearly need to hit with runners in scoring position (RISP). Even more importantly, the Angels desperately need starters that can pitch beyond the 4th inning – note: only SP Garrett Richards has pitched in the 7th inning. Angel fans realize this, and with that realization comes talk of dealing for a big arm (i.e.: David Price). The two Angels most often mentioned in a possible deal are Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos. Trumbo has posted a respectable .310 AVG thus far with 1 HR and 7 RBI’s. After starting the 2012 season on fire, Trumbo (naturally) regressed after the All-Star break, finishing the season: 268 AVG, 32 HR’s, 95 RBI’s and a 2.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement). His power at the plate and big target at first base (6’4″ 235 lbs) make Trumbo arguably the most appealing option – at least for teams looking to add some power to a stagnant offensive lineup.

Peter Bourjos is another viable option if GM Jerry DiPoto intends to complete a deal for pitching. “Speedy Petey” has been the subject of trade talks season after season. You can’t help but sympathize with a player who is merely trying to settle in. After playing second fiddle to Mike Trout last year, Bourjos has posted fairly pedestrian numbers this season: .220 AVG, 2 HR’s, 3 RBI’s and .256 OBP, and 0 SB’s in 41 at bats. Where Bourjos really shines is in the outfield – he has a solid arm, is lightening fast off the line and can cover more ground than just about anyone in the bigs.

Mike Scioscia’s club is looking to turn things around tonight as they take on the Detroit Tigers in the first of a three game series against the 2012 American League champs. The Tigers bring an underlying storyline to Anaheim with the beloved Torii Hunter is returning to the Big A for the very first time. Torii made it well-known last season that he wanted to retire as an Angel. The club went in a different direction, and so did Hunter who undoubtedly will be looking to play spoiler this weekend. It’s imperative that the Halos turn things around tonight – the Texas Rangers come into town for a three game series next week so it won’t be getting any easier.

Houston, We Have a Problem; Mike Scioscia on The Hot Seat.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim opened their 2013 season in a fairly unfamiliar place this year – the National League’s Great American Ballpark. Although a trip to Cincinnati wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice for a spring road trip, the Halos showed genuine excitement opening up their season against a talented Red’s roster led by Joey Votto.

And why wouldn’t they? According to MLB.com, in 284 inter-league games, the Angels posted a respectable 164 wins and 120 losses for a .557 winning percentage in inter-league play. It would be an understatement to say that the Angels perform relatively well in National League ballparks. This trend continued as the Angels started strong winning opening day after 13 long, hard fought innings. Unfortunately, they would drop the remaining two games against Cincinnati, albeit by the slimmest of one run margins – losing games two and three 5-4.

Don’t Mess with Texas

After an uneventful start against the Reds, the Halos made their way to Arlington for a showdown against their division rivals, the Texas Rangers. All three games had a pseudo ALDS playoff feel to them, with former Ranger Josh Hamilton (and his Wife) receiving a less than a warm reception from the 42,000+ Ranger fans in attendance. Hamilton was greeted with a standing ovation of boos at every at bat. By game three the newly minted Angels slugger would find his groove, going 3-5 with a run. Ranger fans appeared bitter over Hamilton’s exit from the Ranger’s roster. That’s probably an understatement but can you blame them? When Hamilton is dialed in he is arguably the best hitter in the game. Texas may not acknowledge it, but after losing Michael Young and Mike Napoli, Hamilton was an offensive stick they desperately needed to retain in order to make another run into the post season.

Mike Scioscia On The “Hot Seat”

Heading home usually provides a remedy for most slumping teams. Unfortunately, not even a return flight back to the Big A would change this club’s luck. The Angels are currently dead last in the AL West (6.5 games back) after getting swept by the Oakland A’s and blanked by the Houston Astros 5-0 tonight. With a dismal 2-8 record, it’s not surprising that fans are beginning to question Scioscia’s decisions as a manager.

The media was notorious for doing this last season and it sounds equally as ridiculous this season. As Angel fans will recall, the 2012 season started with hitting coach Mikey Hatcher on the “Hot Seat” after the club started poorly. Hatcher was eventually shown the door due largely to the media’s focus on the Angel’s lack of offensive production in April and May. Once Hatcher was dispatched the media and fans immediately turned their ire towards Mike Butcher. Butcher weathered the storm as the Halos starting rotation began to heat up during the summer months. Unfortunately, this season is no different with various media outlets and impatient fans threatening to show Scioscia the door.

This begs the question: If Jerry Dipoto were to release Scioscia mid-season, who would he hire to replace him? Scioscia is still one of the best managers in baseball with few options on the market to replace him. There are 152 games left in the 2013 season and it’s entirely too early to panic. This team is far too talented for this slump to continue in perpetuity.

20130413-005600.jpg

A Game of Numbers

Baseball is a game of numbers, or so the saying goes. And with daily reassurances from Torii Hunter and Mike Trout, it becomes abundantly clear that Angel fans desperately want to believe. It’s completely natural. As fans we all want to believe….despite the numbers. But in a jumbled American League Wild Card race, where Billy Beane’s “Moneyballers” are 84-61 and Uncle “Buck” Showalter has guided his unassuming Baltimore Orioles to an impressive 81-63 record, the numbers just don’t lie.

Baseball is a game of numbers….and the numbers just don’t lie.

In a recent text message exchange with a friend (let’s call him “Adam”), I offered the Angels percentages of winning a Wild Card in addition to their chances of making the Playoffs. Now these aren’t numbers I just made up. They aren’t based on speculation, gut feeling, or my “best guess.” I gently informed Adam that, according to Coolstandings.com and their MLB Playoff Odds, the Angels have a 21.1% chance of earning a Wild Card spot (WC) and a 21.4% chance of making the American League Playoffs (POFF). While these might be great odds for Vegas, they are horrible odds for a Major League Baseball team.

After a slow start in April (where Albert Pujols went homerless and the Angels starting rotation couldn’t buy a win) the Angels managed to dig a hole that they are still trying to dig out of. I informed Adam that the fans can blame Hatcher (who was dismissed) Butcher (who’s been on a very hot seat) and even Scioscia (one of the best if not the best manager in baseball). But the truth is, the Angels simply under-performed. They under-performed in April and stumbled so many times along the way that 21.1% is about what they deserve.

Adam: “Really? Only 21.1%?!”

Me: “21.1%”

I expected Adam to be in shock after this exchange. In fact, I didn’t even expect a response. But Adam is a fan, and this is how a fan responds:

Adam: “So there’s a chance!”

Yes. The Angels have a chance. A chance to sneak into the post season and make this year as magical as it was supposed to be.

Baseball is a game of numbers, or so the saying goes.

Ernesto Frieri is the New K Rod

We knew comparisons to Francisco Rodriguez would come. It was only a matter of time.

Since coming over from the San Diego Padres as a relief pitcher on May 3, 2012, 26 year old Columbian Ernesto Frieri has recorded 43 K’s, 11 saves, and a mind boggling 0.00 ERA. Numbers good enough not only to draw comparisons to the great Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, but also to land him on the final voting ballot for the 2012 All-Star game (Note: Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish received the most votes yesterday securing the final spot on the AL All-Star roster).

Angels GM Jerry DiPoto (a former closer himself with 49 career saves) found a real diamond in the rough when he began scouting Frieri. At the time they agreed to send Frieri to the Angels, the last place Padres organization realized they could spare a reliever and improve their infield by acquiring second baseman Alexi Amarista. The results have been nothing short of stellar for the Angels up to this point. Halo fans are hoping that Frieri’s dominance continues into the second half of the 2012 season.

With a deceptive cut fastball and ultra competitive attitude, you can bet things are going to get “ErNasty” anytime Frieri gets the call in the bottom of the 9th.

20120706-093720.jpg

Options at Third Base

Angels GM Jerry Dipoto has gone on record saying that the Angels are not involved in the Kevin Youkilis trade talks.  The White Sox appear to be the best fit for the 33 year old three time All-Star who is set to become a free agent in 2013.  Youkilis (The Greek God of Walks) is solid defensively and is still a threat at the plate (assuming he can remain healthy).  Should the White Sox efforts fail, many MLB insiders list the Dodgers as a likely landing spot for Youk.

It doesn’t have to be Youkilis, but the Angels desperately need help at 3B.  Obviously, Mark Trumbo wasn’t a good fit defensively at the Hot Corner.  Maicer Izturis and Albert Callaspo have both shown signs of improvement this season, but overall lack that extra pop that the Angels need as the club approaches the second half of the season.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Scioscia look internally for consistency at third base. One guy that has looked great at third and who is starting to find his groove:  Albert Pujols.  “The Machine” looked incredibly comfortable on the opposite side of the diamond at Coors Field.

With the trade deadline approaching, it may be time for Dipoto to make a move.

Kole Calhoun

Okay, so Kole Calhoun is really good. That much we already know. Unfortunately for Kole, the Angels current roster is littered with talent, and that’s not counting crafty veterans like Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells, who are on a gradual decline and will be looking to squeeze into their OF roles this season. Playing time will be at a premium for Kole over the next few seasons, but I predict that Calhoun will serve as an integral part of the Angels offense one day in the near future.

Calhoun was the 100th Sun Devil to make it to the Bigs. As a Senior, Calhoun captained the team and homered in 7 of his final 8 games at home. And maybe the best part for the Angels? Calhoun walks….a lot.

Sure Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo (appropriately named “TNT”) will get the majority of attention this season. But it’s only a matter of time before Halo fans take notice of the guy who just seems to do everything well, Kole Calhoun.

Let’s look at his bio and college stats as provided by Arizona State University:

2010 (Senior): Co-captain closed out his Sun Devil career with another tremendous season, earning First Team All-Pac-10 honors and All-West Region honors from the ABCA…finished the season hitting .321 (72-224) with a team-leading 17 homers and 59 RBI…led the Pac-10 with his 64 walks, including a school-record tying five in the first game of the Super Regional against Arkansas…homered in seven of his final eight games at Packard Stadium…led the team with 27 two-out RBI…was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tempe Regional…earned his BIS degree from Arizona State University and graduated on May 15, the same day he homered in a win over Arizona in Tucson…selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 8th round (264th overall) of the 2010 Major League Baseball draft

2009 (Junior): An honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection…appeared in 63 games, starting 56…hit .313 (66-211) with 12 home runs and 53 RBI…finished fourth in the Pac-10 with 42 walks…had an amazing 2009 College World Series, hitting .563 (9-16) with three homers and 11 RBI. One of the home runs was a grand slam, making him one of only four Sun Devils to ever hit a grand slam at Rosenblatt Stadium…finished the CWS with a 1.250 slugging percentage and was named to the All-College World Series team…overall hit .459 (17-37) in the NCAA Tournament, driving in 18 runs…was named to the All-Tempe Regional team…also pitched out of the bullpen, making 11 appearances.

Junior College: A 2008 graduate of Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz…named honorable mention NJCAA All-American, first-team Region I Division I and first-team all-conference in 2008…led his team with a .413 batting average, 18 home runs, 59 RBI, 63 runs scored and 81 hits…also had four saves in seven appearances as a pitcher…helped lead team to a conference title in 2008…hit .302 with 32 RBI, in addition to recording two saves on the mound, as a freshman in 2007…named co-MVP of the Northwoods League in 2007, hitting .286 with six home runs and 34 RBI while going 3-0 with 14 saves and a league-best 0.38 ERA.

High School: A 2006 graduate of Buckeye (Ariz.) High School…earned four varsity letters in baseball and served as a team captain…two-time all-state selection…named Skyline Region player of the year in 2006 and West Valley player of the year in 2005…also played football and soccer…received all-state honors in football in 2006.

Personal: Interdisciplinary studies major at ASU…parents are Gregg and Teresa Calhoun of Buckeye, Ariz…has two siblings, Taylor and Shelby…says he chose because he’s “been a Devil my whole life at heart” and he wanted his grandfather, who has always been an ASU fan and lives in Tempe, to be able to watch him play…lists “Bull Durham” as his favorite movie and Will Ferrell as his favorite actor…is a Denver Broncos fan and says Dustin Pedroia is his favorite pro athlete…enjoys fishing and rock climbing…born Oct. 14, 1987 in Tempe, Ariz…full name is Kole Alan Calhoun.

Hammerin’ Hank

With Chris Ianetta recovering from wrist surgery and Bobby Wilson batting a dismal .171 (AVG) and .473 (OPS), many Angel fans in the stands are asking for Hank Conger to get the call. As much as I love Conger’s offensive potential, fans are failing to recognize that John Hester has been more than adequate in the catcher position; playing fairly well defensively and batting .316 (AVG) and .935 (OPS).

Keep in mind, Manager Mike Scioscia has historically been more concerned with a catcher’s defensive ability as opposed to their offensive production (just ask Mike Napoli).

Hammerin’ Hank (Conger…not Aaron) is batting .333 (AVG) and .863 (OPS) at Triple-A Salt Lake this season. Should those productive stats continue, it’s only a matter of time before Hank Conger returns to The Show.

Image

Mickey Mantle 2.0

Although it may be premature, many analysts and scouts are comparing the Angels young OF Mike Trout to the legendary Bronx Bomber, Mickey Mantle. The speed is certainly there (3.5 seconds from home to 1B). Trout has that natural athletic ability and also happens to look Mantle-esque (sans the pinstripes).

One thing is for certain, Trout’s numbers have been stellar so far this season. He batted .403 in Triple-A Salt Lake prior to being called up by the Angels. As of the date of this post, he’s batting .303 with 5 HR’s and 16 RBI’s with a .366 OBP.

Mantle or not, I suspect Mike Trout is destined to do great things for the Angels for years to come.

Mickey Mantle

Hello world!

Welcome to Down The Stretch Baseball.  Our goal at DTS Baseball is to provide our readers with relevant and interesting content related to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

We are Orange County residents who live a short drive from Angel Stadium.  We attend Spring Training in Tempe, AZ every year and follow the Angels during their 162 game season and beyond.

You can contact us at dtsbaseball@gmail.com or on Twitter @dtsbaseball

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.