Congratulations to Jered Weaver on his personal record – and, thus far, AL best – 20th win!!! I know “wins” is one of those pitching stats that really should be more or a team stat. A win says at least as much about the offense and the rest defense’s performance as it does about the pitcher’s performance. But if you have watched Weaver on the mound, any season really but especially these past two seasons, then you know what a dominant, nasty, deceptive, commanding thing of beauty a quality Weaver start is. Even when he doesn’t have his absolute best stuff, Weaver more than keeps the Angels in the game, the very definition of Ace if there ever was one. (And on those rare occasions where he tanks it, there are odd karaoke benefits. ;))
My point is simply this, depending on the pitcher, the team and the season, 20 wins could mean a dominant pitcher, a respectable pitcher supported by a dominant offense or any number of things in between. But in this case? We know Weaver absolutely rocked his 20 wins, and a more than a few of his losses and no decisions too.
What do you make of a team that can’t get it done at the plate for three games straight against the A’s, games that were about as close to do or die as it gets, but then rallies to shut out the A’s for the 4th game and never stops fighting to come back – twice! – to win their first game against the Royals? A team that falls victim to their own bullpen on Saturday only to be saved by a stellar bullpen performance on Sunday? I feel like I’ve been asking these same questions and similar ones all season long and darned if I’m any closer to an answer in September than I was in April. Here’s the thing though, despite the setbacks, the Angels continue to make progress in the Wild Card race. And that fact makes me giddy excited. These Angels may be alternating between frustrating and exhilarating, but they are absolutely not giving up and October is not out of the question by any means. Oh…and when they’re exhilarating, the way they play the game makes up for a lot.
Jered Weaver’s Back
Back and simply as good as ever! Putting at ease any concerns fans had about an adjustment period, Weaver picked up right where he left off before his bicep tendonitis issues. Looking every bit his old self, Weaver shut the A’s bats down, allowing the Angels to salvage one game from the series. Clearly, Angels’ bats and fielding were also to thank for this victory, but Weaver’s strong return set the tone and turned things around at a point when the Angels season was on the very brink of the point of no return. The decision for AL Cy Young winner may not be as clear cut in Weaver’s favor as it was before his injury, but if that isn’t the very definition of Ace then I don’t know what is.
There Are Only 2.5 Weeks Left in the Regular Season!
I simply cannot wrap my brain around this fact. I feel like the 2012 season has just flown by. Enough with this football thing! Off the television set with it, I say…at least temporarily. It can’t be football season already. We need, like another month or more of the regular baseball season. I am absolutely loving how crazy, awesome this year’s September baseball has been and, of course, I love October baseball for its own self, completely separate from the regular season. But September and October mean that November is not far behind and November means the beginning of the long countdown to April and I’m really not ready for that yet, so there.
What’s that you say? Therapy?! Pshaw! Whatever for? I say the only solution is to go to as many games as I can during the Angels last regular season home stand. (Which begins tonight. *sob*) Now, that’s my idea of therapy and, lucky me, my “sessions” begin with seats tonight!!
So, 2011 is drawing to a close and it is my tradition to take a few moments and write up my top Angels Baseball moments for the 2011 season. It should be noted that, as this blog is now just over a year old, tradition means I am doing it for the second time. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right? …But I digress. These are not the Angels only highlights for the season or even necessarily the ones that folks who get paid to analyze this kind of stuff would point out. There are enough articles about that floating around out there already. No, these are the highlights, both Angels and personal, that made my baseball season, in no particular order:
Jered Weaver! Both the season he had – which, were it not for Verlander’s even more amazing season would have easily been a Cy Young season – and the fact that he signed a contract with the Angels through 2016. I loved every minute I spent watching this homegrown dynamo on the mound and look forward to many more in the seasons to come.
Being Wrong. Yes, sometimes being wrong is a great thing and I am thrilled that I was wrong to have worried about Mark Trumbo taking over at first base. My concerns were based on his rookie call-up outings and the issues he had getting into position for plays during Spring Training. But the AL Rookie of the Year runner up worked hard to improve quickly at first and was a bright spot in an offense that was otherwise anything but. None of this guarantees that Trumbo will also be good at third base, but he has more than earned my interest in seeing what he can do in yet another new position.
Ervin Santana’s No Hitter. A former on one season then wild as all get out the next pitcher, Santana showed he has gained considerable consistency following up on his excellent 2010 season with another quality season, and how! The no hitter was merely the most obvious indicator of thischange, but what an indicator it was.
Dan Haren’s 1 hit shutout. And we were there!! Having a full season with Haren on the team would have been a highlight in and of itself, but getting to see this game, live and in person, with a great view of every nasty pitch going over the plate was absolute baseball magic.
Young Angels’ feats. I said it many times throughout the regular season, the Angels rookies and practically rookies made my season. Whether it was watching Peter Bourjos’ dramatic plays in center, Tyler Chatwood’s development on the mound or Mark Trumbo slowly make opposing pitchers start to take notice, the Angels “kids” made the game a lot of fun to watch and gave me significant hope for future seasons.
Personal Game Attendance at an All-Time High! So I tallied it up and we went to 22 games this season, two of which were the Angels/A’s double header. Wow! So. Ummmm…Hon, when you read this, remember how that fact of that being absolutely (Wonderfully!) crazy is tempered by my folks and your boss giving us tickets. 😉 Being at the game so often gave us the chance to catch a lot of season highlights. Bourjos’ first home run of the season. Trumbo’s first big league homerun. A couple of flying Bourjos catches. An I can’t believe he caught that Torii Hunter catch…and that was just during the Haren 1-hit shutout game, no kidding. There was even more than that over the course of the other 21 games. I only hope that tickets are not so expensive this season that we have difficulties getting to the game. I don’t have to go to 22 games (Though I will never turn it down!) but if I don’t get to the ballpark every couple of weeks or so, crankiness is likly to ensue. 🙂
Travelling for Baseball. Seth and I have talked about eventually seeing a game in every Major League stadium for years, but it has also been years since we’ve been able to do any real travelling. This season we finally got started on our plans and while we may have started small we started well, travelling up to the Bay Area to visit with friends and watch games at the Coliseum and AT&T Park. So. Much. Fun! This coming season, the way things look, I think we may only be able to make it down to Petco Park in San Diego, which is local but still progress.
And last but not least…I hesitate to include this winter’s signings only because at the moment Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson have not had the opportunity to take a single swing or deliver a single pitch for the Angels. We suspect they will be strong, difference making additions to the team but while it’s all still just on paper, it’s only highly probable, not actual. But I will add this to my list: last year at this time I was writing about Hot Stove Grief (Hey, this is a serious disorder. Wipe that smirk off your face!) and feeling like the front office was just phoning it in. Today I feel like the front office is really working to put the best team on the field they possibly can and I am hopeful and excited for the season to begin. What a difference a few months make!
I’m still enjoying the post season immensely and I’m rooting hard for the Cardinals and the Tigers to win tonight. Rooting for the Tigers and the Cardinals? Could it be that what I really want out of all of this is epic trash talk on Red State Blue State? While that interpretation of the facts certainly makes for an entertaining story, it is not an accurate statement. Hmmm…could there be a better segue for my review of Moneyball? I think not:
So I saw Moneyball a few days back (Didn’t we all?) and, eh, I didn’t love it, but I did like it. Look, when not stressed beyond capacity I read voraciously, have done so all my life. Given the number of movies based on books out there, the vast majority of them quite loosely indeed, this means I either had to stop watching movies or learn pretty early on to view movies as a completely separate entity from books. …And from history actually because for every cinematic crime against literature, there are at least three against history. Yes, I was a history major. Why do you ask? 😉
Looking at Moneyball strictly as a movie, I thought it was good. Enjoyable. A little overlong in parts – namely the Brad Pitt moping, and worrying and moping some more parts. Some of the scenes with Brad Pitt’s family were forced and trite. On the other hand, the acting was excellent, some of the dialog was genuinely stirring and the story was appealing. I love underdogs. I love upsets. Heck, I was rooting for the movie A’s by the end of it. From a story telling standpoint, especially knowing that Aaron Sorkin was one of the final script writers, I felt it was missing a big, gorgeous, eloquent mini-speech about baseball or two. Also, once the decision was made to concentrate on the 2002 major league team rather than the draft class the book actually focused on, I wish they had also decided to incorporate more of the players’ background stories as presented in the book – especially when given the choice between including 20 extra minutes of Brad Pitt brooding in a car or 10 minutes each of the story behind Chad Bradford’s unusual even for a submariner style and Scott Hatteberg’s need to socialize. A little sarcastic dialog from a 1st base conversation or two would have been a nice way to break up the montages.
So I enjoyed Moneyball as a movie, but what about as a cinematic glimpse of baseball history? Well it wasn’t that at all, actually. Notice I refer to Brad Pitt as Brad Pitt above, not Billy Beane? That’s because the characters in Moneyball were just that, characters in a fictional movie, loosely based on something that actually happened and, truth be told, a loose interpretation of the book as well. The mischaracterizations and inaccuracies were pretty epic. The movie completely forgets to mention non-Moneyball players, even though a Cy Young performance from Barry Zito and an MVP performance from Miguel Tejada might have contributed to the A’s 2002 success, you know, maybe just a little, along with strong performances from the rest of the non-Chad Bradford pitching staff and other returning A’s players. And as for the Moneyball stuff, Carlos Pena wasn’t traded to force Art Howe to play Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg was already playing more games than not as a DH because, yes, he didn’t just walk a lot, he could actually hit. He also grew into a decent fielding first baseman. And I could go on and on. All of these creative licenses were clearly taken with the intent to make Moneyball into a better story. And, in that sense, I believe that the creative team behind the movie succeeded. But what happens when we change the truth to make it a better story, especially so much of the truth? Exactly.
Okay, so it was entertaining but took creative license to the extreme with the history. So what about all of the folks who don’t know any of the history behind the movie? Are they going to start running around quoting Moneyball as fact? I don’t really see this happening to any degree that should concern. Look, here’s the thing with movies. They rarely if ever get it right and when they do the authenticity usually lies more in the feelings than the actual facts. And for a movie based on history, touting “based on a true story” in the ad campaign means roughly the same thing as using the author’s name in the title of a movie adapted from a book – what appears on screen bears only passing resemblance to the source material. And I think that most savvy movie goers understand this.
What’s that you say? The typical movie goer may not be savvy? Maybe these anecdotes will quell a few fears:
A few weeks ago, a casual baseball fan friend of mine told me about this great looking movie he just saw a preview for, Moneyball. After describing the gist of the plot he had gleaned from the preview he said, But here’s the weird thing. Did you know that they’re using the Oakland A’s for this movie? I mean, using the Cleveland Indians made sense in Major League. But I can’t figure out why anyone would want to use the Oakland A’s for a feel good comeback story movie. My apologies to A’s fans everywhere. These were my friend’s words, not mine. But I relate them here to demonstrate that some folks with more distance from the game than we lot kind of gloss over the “based on a true story” angle and just assume the whole thing is fiction.
And the non baseball fan’s perspective? I was chatting with a good friend a few months back who grasps the concept of baseball and goes to the occasional Dodger game when tickets fall into his hands as they are wont to do from time to time if you live and work in Los Angeles County, but who would not describe himself as even a casual fan. I mentioned enjoying chatting and snarking with a couple of Tigers fans at the Big A on 4th of July. He gave me a really confused look that typically means, “Explain?” So I explained that the Angels were playing the Tigers that night. He repeated the confused look and I gave him one of my own. I mean, what more could one explain?
(Close your eyes Michael David.) I am sorry to say that he then asked The Tigers? That’s not a team I’m familiar with? Okay, this is a very smart man. And he’s up on current events and popular culture. And he grew up in Maryland and went to a few games at Camden Yards as a child so this isn’t some sort of weird west coast bias thing. Apparently if you aren’t really a baseball fan, any team that isn’t the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, your local team(s) or a few isolated others, then that team could be a completely fictional movie team for all that you know…and seeing as fictional movie team comes pretty close to describing the 2002 Oakland A’s as depicted in the film Moneyball, maybe in this case that’s a good thing.
So, if this movie still hath offended think but this and all is…well…if not outright mended, perhaps a bit more in perspective. Those who are close to baseball know how weak and idle this particular theme was from a historical standpoint and those who are not close to the game are very likely to think it’s fiction for a completely different reason. And as for the folks who believe it to be gospel…well…they probably believe almost everything the movies tell them anyway, like the Da Vinci Code is word for word real…and that the 300 Spartans went to war in nothing but teeny, tiny leather speedos…and, and that Nicolas Cage has a broad acting range and can deftly insert himself into the leading role – and accent! – in any action movie.
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Notice that I reviewed Moneyball without ever once offering my opinion on Moneyball philosophy and/or sabermetrics? Yeah, I thought I’d be a little different. Besides, there is enough fodder there to declare Moneyball an entertaining movie but a bad “based on a true story” without ever touching sabermetrics. However, for the record, I think that sabermetric stats are one of many great tools available for assessing baseball players but they are just that, only one tool in the belt. I also think that traditional stats, paying attention to a player’s intangibles and also just plain old gut feel, instinct and observation are important tools for assessing baseball players. I think that it makes the most sense for baseball teams to use every tool available. Completely ignoring any of the tools in favor of one particular tool might work on an occasional player by player basis. But you can’t build a team that way…nor, if you read Michael Lewis’ original book was he initially theorizing that you could. He…a…got a little carried away there by the end of the book and strayed from his own premise. But I’ve got a whole post about that back in the archives if you’re really interested in reading my thoughts on the book.
Were you at all surprised? I’m actually quite surprised. I was mostly leaning towards Felix Hernandez myself because he was at the top of more categories than CC Sabathia but, as I said a while back (prior to this blog, so you’ll have to take my word for it 😉 ), I wasn’t going to be disappointed if it turned out the other way.
However, I absolutely did not expect Felix to win so by so many votes. I expected the decision to be more along the lines of Thursday, Thursday, Thursday! It’s AL Cy Young 2010, a bare knuckled, no holds barred brawl for ultimate supremacy. Sabermetrics vs. traditional stats! Okay, perhaps I am exaggerating just a tiny bit for effect, but I certainly did not expect CC to come in 3rd. And, somehow I completed discounted David Price in the middle of all of this, and so did most of the analysis I’ve read the last few weeks. Looking at his stats now, he’s certainly up there, although a little behind CC in strikeouts, innings pitched, wins and wins above replacement, so still I still find the results an interesting puzzle there.
While I am glad to see that win record was not the most important stat in this year’s voting, I am surprised it wasn’t a little more important. The traditional view is that win total is pretty much the be all to end all stat for pitchers. The sabermetric view is that wins say virtually nothing about a pitcher’s ability and are more of a measure of the rest of the team’s offensive and fielding success. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. Otherwise you’re saying that if you stuck almost any pitcher in the game in CC Sabbathia’s place, the win total would have been roughly the same (new school of stats), or that if you paired Felix Hernandez with any other team, his win total would have stayed more of less the same (traditional school of stats). Viewed this way, both extremes of the spectrum sound just that, pretty extreme. Clearly, pitchers do not have total control over the game’s eventual outcome, but suggesting they have no control over it is equally ridiculous.
It will be interesting for me over the next few years to see how Major League Baseball eventually views the wins stat. Clearly it is the most important stat in the game – you play to win – but can it really tell us anything more specific about a team or player’s performance? I think it’s too broad and all encompassing a stat to be the top measure of any individual player’s performance, but it’s too important a stat to completely ignore. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but there is no whole story without it. In 2010, Felix’s low win record certainly did not reflect the year he actually had on the mound, but I would argue that CC’s high win total did a better job of reflecting the year he actually had on the mound than some of his other stats.
I definitely think the right guy won this year, but the rest of the results were more than a little odd for me. But hey, hey, let’s hear it for Jered Weaver, another pitcher whose win record seriously did not reflect the year he had on the mound, cracking the top five!