As I mentioned just before the Freeway Series, part one, I had the opportunity to crash Matt’s Think Blue Weekly PodCast for the Freeway Series episode. At the end of the Podcast, Matt, his podcast partner and I all made predictions about the Freeway Series outcome. My prediction? The Angels will take the series 4 to 2 and, would you look at that? 😉 Actually, if we had not been so pressed for time at the end, I was also going to predict that the Angels would drop one game at each stadium (yup and, sadly, I attended both of them) and that those games would be the one pitched by Santana (yup, though not for the reason I expected) and the one pitched by Garrett Richards (well, we can’t be right about everything. Richards wound up pitching two Freeway Series games because of a few starting rotation oddities, earned wins in both appearances and looked pretty darned convincing while doing it).
But the most important prediction of all was that it was going to be a fun series and, indeed, it was, the highlight of another Angels dominate interleague season and continued Freeway Series bragging rights. Sorry Dodgers! …except, you know, not really. 😉
Anyway, here are a few important Angels trends that either emerged or intensified during Interleague:
Mike Trout is a beast! No. You’re not listening to me. Mike Trout. Is. A. Beast!! Seriously, even more so than we already knew. Called up on April 28th, Trout took off running – very, very fast indeed – coming into his own almost immediately. Then somehow during interleague play, he played even better. The 20-year old rookie lead all AL players during this time with 30 hits, 21 runs scored and 15 stolen bases, dropping onto the AL batting average leaders list like a bomb in 2nd place on the first day that he qualified. He has since moved into first place just above Paul Konerko. So, in response to that weird Bleacher Report ‘hey, could the Dodgers trade for Mike Trout’ talk over the weekend, I sincerely hope that I speak for Jerry Dipoto when I say, ‘that’s a clown question, Bro, now excuse me while I laugh uproariously.’ (Editor’s Note: Thank you, Bryce Harper, for gifting us all with this decidedly not cliché gem. I hope you keep your spirited way with words throughout your career.)
The starting rotation is taking the rotation part of their name a little too literally for anyone’s tastes, but it’s all working. Jered Weaver is back off the DL and looked great in his first outing. Ervin Santana had a few rough at bats at the beginning of his last outing, then got mean and delivered a 10 strikeout gem that should have won him the game. Unfortunately, Jerome Williams was hospitalized with breathing problems after his last outing and went on the 15 day DL. Although it sounds like Williams is ready to come back roughly as soon as he is eligible, this still could have been a disaster without Garrett Richards stepping in to fill his shoes. Like I said, it’s an overly rotating rotation, but it’s working.
Angels bats are hot, hot, hot…except when they’re not. When they’re not, other things don’t click well either and the team has a hard time winning. Fortunately, the downswings through spells of cooling bats seem to take a lot less time to recover from these days before someone – Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, etc. – gets hot again and brings the rest of the offense back online with them.
Oh the errors, when they happen they happen in groups. The Angels have several players getting limited playing time at the moment and when they come in, not shockingly there are some issues with rust and errors. Peter Bourjos seems to be able to do this right, bounding around the outfield, running down every ball in site like a happy puppy whose owners finally let him really run, in those late innings and occasional games where he gets a start. Though, even in the case of Bourjos, there’s a little bit of rust on that fine arm. Anyway, this situation is partly to blame for Maicer Izturis’ errors in the Saturday game. Why Sciosia didn’t stick with Alberto Callaspo who had a great game on Friday makes little sense to me. I am absolutely not advocating a return to the ever varying, magic 8 ball, lineup, but it would be nice if something could be done to keep the utility guys ready to come in and play off the bench. Food for thought as we move into July.
The bullpen not only wasn’t scary, they were good. Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Latroy Hawkins were already good. But now Frieri and Downs have the best combined ERA for any pitching duo currently in the majors (with the requisite number of innings pitched, yada, yada, yada). But it isn’t just those three stalwarts. Hisanori Takahashi, Jason Isringhausen and Jordan Walden all delivered consistent solid innings as well, a trend which could make all the difference in the months ahead.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Angels are still 4.5 games behind Texas in the AL West. (Though, hey, at least for the moment they’re 1st in the running for the 2nd Wild Card spot.) Now, 4.5 games may seem like it’s still a lot, but here’s this thing, even if you aren’t buying the ‘we’re only just getting to the All Star Break’ argument, the Angels still have 12 games left against Rangers including, per recent tradition, the last three of the season. Suddenly, 4.5 games doesn’t seem like much, does it?
And now we conclude our time here on this post with, Fun With Captions! (In my mind, that has a Pigs in Space worthy bit of theme music heraldng it, just so you know. 😉 ):
Oh my God, the Angels are 3 and 6. Sound the alarm! Hit the panic button! Towels, people? Where are the towels?! The last time this happened was 2010 and we all know how that season ended, right?. 3rd place. Below .500. Unemployed, in Greenland. Except…the last time we went 3 and 6 to start before 2010 was 2002 and we all know how that season ended, right? Wild card berth. World Series Champions. Bragging rights and brand new jewelry!
So, which is it then, should we be panicking or celebrating? Neither, of course. The sample size is far too small. My point is simply that it’s only been nine games. We have at least 153 left to go. Heck, the entire summer will arrive, be initially celebrated, celebrated some more, get way too hot, begin to annoy us, begin to cool off and fade into fall long before we reach the end of that. Anything can happen in amount of time.
Fear not, the winning will come. How much winning? Will it be enough? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. They’ve got to play the games. I can tell you this much, however:
Small sample size or not, the following things are making me very happy indeed:
- Offensive support from the catcher’s position, and how! I can’t tell you how happy I am to not have mentally prepare for an automatic out every time I see the catcher taking practice swings on deck.
- Our bats can come from behind. Okay, so we’re still working on the ‘then not falling behind again and still losing part’, but still. I don’t know about anyone else, but for the last two years, if the Angels fell behind by so much as one run I had to fight to keep from thinking ‘It’s all over now.’ And I hated myself for it, but I also understood the limitations of our offense. Now the offense hits, runs and scores and, even though there some bats that really need to come online ASAP, I feel like falling behind doesn’t have to be an automatic loss anymore.
- A few more of our bats – the fact that Mark Trumbo seems to hit solidly, with no need for adjustment whether he’s DHing or playing 3rd. The fact that Howie Kendrick is turning into a regular beast.
I don’t care that it’s only been nine games, the following things are seriously pissing me off:
- The bullpen or, more specifically, the fact that we’re still cringing over the bullpen. It was shaky in 2009. It was downright scary in 2010. Efforts to improve it in 2011 were mixed at best and for some unknown reason the powers that be decided to hire another veteran lefty – Isringhausen – for 2012 after hiring two such bullpen arms for 2011 had such hot – Downs, yay! – and cold – Takahashi, flip a coin and don’t you dare leave him in too long – results. And, guess what? The bullpen is still scary. Shocking, that.
- We still don’t have a solid 5th starter? Really? Again, it’s been a while on this one.
- Too many options or, more specifically, the need to use them all. This isn’t P.E. Everyone does not need to play. Yes, Bobby was hitting better, but I hate what he does to the outfield. We go from having Gold Glove experience on either side of a young Gold Glover to be whose speed makes up for the few steps they’ve lost on their range, to having no range in left field over emphasizing the steps all three parties have lost off their range and an outfield with so many holes, I keep expecting the Muppets prairie dogs to make a musical appearance.
Eh, we have 153 games left to go. Don’t panic, these things will sort themselves out:
- The completely set portion of our starting rotation. Yes we’ve seen some shaky pitches and a few of our fearless hurlers have been downright shelled. But we’ve also seen some stellar performances in these very few nine games too. These four guys are absolutely fine. And once we get past a bit of dead arm and rust, they’re going to make some of the issues with the 2012 team seem far less apparent.
- Albert Pujols. He will hit. Remember all of the huffing and puffing and gnashing of teeth in April last season in St Louis? Sometimes he takes a while to get into his groove. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy all those great pitches Howie is getting in the mean time.
As for the rest? The jury’s still out for me. I could start adding it to any of the three lists above by the end of the month. We’ll just have to see. Of course, none of this makes starting the season 3 and 6 any happier or losing like this on a nationally televised game any less annoying when heading into the office Monday morning. Ugh! What’s a fan to do? Well, when all else fails, and the playing gets icky, the real fans go and buy more tickets I say! I now have tickets all squared away for our Interleague trip down to San Diego in May. I got great seats for Friday, right by the Angels bullpen. But it’s our Saturday seats that truly have me salivating and that made me feel a whole lot better this weekend. Of course, the fact that Padres are doing worse than we are didn’t exactly hurt me in this endeavor. Wait, the Padres record is still worse, right? *sigh of relief* LOL, relax! In this sort of situation, gallows’ humor isn’t merely to be expected, it’s highly encouraged.
Bring on the A’s.
As Spring Training draws to a close the 25 man roster is beginning to take more shape. Jason Isringhausen’s up, Mike Trout’s down and Bobby Abreu is? Well? Ummm? Now that is the uncomfortable question of the Spring, now isn’t it?
Mike Trout, to the surprise of many is headed back down to the AAA for the time being. When Spring Training began, I had hoped for a different outcome. My current dream Angels outfield has Trout and Peter Bourjos in it together. But Mike Trout missed most of Spring Training and was not his normal self for the rest of it following a nasty bout with the flu that to all reports left him physically drained and 15 pounds lighter. Go figure – getting the flu isn’t any easier or more fun when you’re a professional athlete. So, as much as I’d like to see Trout up with the major league club this season, I can’t argue with the idea of leaving him in AAA to heal up and get back into the swing of things. He is only 20 years old after all. No need to rush these things and, besides, I can’t imagine the Angels waiting all the way until September call ups to bring him back up again.
And it looks like the Angels’ bullpen certainly will not lack for a veteran presence in 2012. The team welcomed Jason Isringhausen to the 25 man roster this week. Do I love the move? Do I hate it? Eh, with Michael Kohn and Bobby Cassevah sidelined with injuries right now, we have the room. I’ll reserve love it or hate it judgment until we see which era of his considerable experience Isringhausen is channeling this season, a good year, or?? Yeah.
Which brings us to Bobby. Bobby. Bobby, baby. Bobby, bubbi. Angel, I’ve got something to tell you… I detested Company, actually, but lately that snippet of recurring refrain keeps popping into my head every time Abreu’s name comes up in the news and I think it’s because, like the character in the play, there is a big obvious change that needs to happen in his life that he is fighting tooth and nail…to the annoyance of everyone.
As for Company, I might have liked it better if I hadn’t sat through six performances of it in one week, all of them featuring two roles so badly overacted that they unintentionally over emphasized the terribly self absorbed nature of so many of the characters. What can I say, too many friends in the Spring main stage that year, too many more friends who hadn’t seen them do their thing yet and way too many, impossible to politely turn down comped tickets. Ah, college!
As for Bobby, I know I’d like the situation better if he were accepting it with a little more grace. He is not an everyday player anymore, not in the field anyway. Whenever we put him out there for any length of time, it goes badly. While I am really sorry to say it, he just plain can’t move the way he used to in the outfield – even though, surprisingly, he can on the base paths and that is a joy and a half to watch – and when he gets frustrated by this, he throws the ball away once or twice a game. I get it in the sense that I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be for a player of his former caliber with his career stats to have his body missing what his mind and instincts are so strongly willing it to do by just that much. And when Bobby isn’t playing in the field every day, his mighty bat gets pretty darned quiet which does mean there isn’t a whole lot of workable room on the roster for him.
The comments Bobby made to the Venezuelan press about doubting Mike Scioscia’s word that he would see 400 at bats in 2012 were inappropriate no matter when he made them…but they weren’t incorrect. Unless something radical happens to the roster and Bobby improves at the plate, I don’t see him getting those at bats either. So Bobby’s here but, if our big bat, good clubhouse guy, occasional right fielder can’t play right field, isn’t doing so hot at the plate and is no longer a good clubhouse guy over the whole thing, I think it would be best for all concerned, including Bobby, if he were not here anymore. It’s too bad that contract makes him so hard to move – thanks Tony! And even with the pissy attitude of late, I hate writing that. Bobby was great for the Phillies, great for the Yankees and one of my favorite players to watch on the Angels in his first year and change with the team. Like I said at the beginning, very uncomfortable all around.