10 Individual Things That Could've Made The Difference...

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 19: Elvis Andrus #1 of the Texas Rangers surrenders an easy out to catcher Jeff Mathis #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after being caught in a run down in the third inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 19, 2011 in Anaheim, California. But Mathis displays his extraordinary athleticism by leaping over the prone Andrus and refusing to accept the out! (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

As it turns out, this season went better than it should have. The Halos were in contention for multiple playoff slots against multiple teams (Rangers, Rays AND Red Sox) right up to the last week of the regular season. There were a lot of things that went far more right than we deserved. Those balanced out a lot of things that went horrible wrong, many of which we totally did deserve.

Even still, had this edition of this team been able to just succeed a little bit more, it would have been in the playoffs. Not so much the division title, but certainly the Wild Card. Amazingly, there is a whole host of things to choose from that could have played the role of "just a little bit more". There have to be at least 100 things we could come up with that would have been reasonable to accomplish and any one of which, all by itself, would have put this team over the top.

(UPDATE: I do realize that this topic has been raised since I originally created this last weekend, but I am letting it fly anyway.) My starter list of the first 10 things kicks us off after the jump. Your ideas are expected. Go.

Not in any particular order, although we can get the obvious stuff out of the way early:

1. Not re-sign Jeff Mathis. Whomever it is that is using the Jedi mind-trick on some erstwhile sane and rational decision maker within the Halo FO has single-handidly gifted a 2011 playoff slot to the opposition. And it was so obvious even we ill-informed plebes (well, those not blessed with seeing 4,000 games in person) called it way back in January. Thank you for the 0 WAR for consuming one position of "strength up the middle".

2.  Just days after the Mathis signing...Not throw Mike Napoli into the Vernon Wells deal. And then play him. At catcher. Toronto did not want Naps. They didn't even need Naps to validate dumping Wells to the first taker. But the addition of Naps at 1B would have been offset by the deduction of what we got from Trumbo at 1B, so Naps has to catch.

(Comment: I am NOT including the Vernon Wells deal itself as a deciding factor mostly because the difference between the Wells we got in 2011 versus the Juan Rivera of 2011 we sent away is, as many of us were quick to point out in January, very little. Wells and Rivera are pretty much the same player, so playing Wells is not the reason we missed the playoffs. Wells not acheiving the Promised Land as predicted by thebigtizzle sure is a problem, but Rivera wasn't going to get there, either.  Besides, Vernon warmed up a little bit there at the end of the season and gave a bunch of fans all kinds of warm fuzzies about playoff possibilities. You just can't put a price on that!)

3. (As I have written here before) Go 7-3 against the Kansas City Royals instead of 3 and fucking 7. The Royals had a winning record against only two other teams - the Chicago White Sox and the Seattle Mariners - and those just barely. Anybody who thinks that these Angels deserve to be in the playoffs, and/or should be in the WS, must accept that the same team has to do better than 3 measly wins against any team that otherwise would have gathered only 68 wins total.

4. If Joel Pineiro had just been average. Just an Average Joe(l) Not asking for a peak performance. I would even accept an expected reduction due to age. His 162 game average is 12 - 11, and that includes this year. When all we got was 7 - 7. And that was when he was stable enough to even use at all.

5. Jordan Walden blown saves. This is less an attack on Walden, a rookie, than it is on the use of Scott Downs and Walden at the backend of games. On 5 of the Walden blown saves (and resulted in a loss) Downs was on the mound with the game in hand and was pulled. On My 11th he had thrown only 9 pitches. On may 16th he had thrown only 12 pitches. On July 25th he had thrown only 3 pitches! Only on August 14th had he been extended, to a BFD 24 pitches. And we all know what happened just this past Sunday. In four of those games he turned the ball directly over to Walden who then coughed up the game. In one case the chain of command went Downs to Rich Thompson to Fernando Rodney to Walden, with those latter two surrendering 3 runs. Over the course of the entire season, Scott Downs might have arguably been the most effective bullpen arm in all of baseball in 2011, and yet he was used preciously.

In fact, 25 TEAM Blown Saves ranks tied (with Toronto Blue Jays) for 3rd place in all of MLB in 2011. (The Washington Nationals are worst with 27, followed by St. Louis Cardinals at 26.) While way too many people here love to dog on Francisco Rodriguez for the style in which he closed out games (too many runners, too many runs, not enough 9 pitch/3K shut downs), it cannot be argued that he failed in any manner that was close to this! Yes, friends, this is the day that you shall rue.

6. Speaking of Rodney...Somebody - ANYBODY! - come to terms with the fact that Fernando Rodney sucks BEFORE the season. From the start of the season through early June, Rodney saw action in 26 contests. Sure, there were those 4 blown saves, but the Halos managed to recover on 3 of those and win in spite of him. But 1 did result in a loss and those can be added to the 3 outright losses during that time. That's 4 defeats in 22 innings of work, which merely teed up the 3 more losses he delivered in the 10 innings he pitched after then. And how many of those other blown saves had we might have prevented had this front office went after a REAL closer way back when???

7. Take care of business at home. Meaning the AL West. I don't know what it is with Oakland and Seattle. Maybe it is simple math. Maybe it is that their scouting of us is far superior than our scouting of them. Maybe it is that we have gutted those teams so long that they only time they bother to give a shit about their paychecks happens to be when we are in the opposing dugout. But if you want to claim the title of King of the AL West, you just have to beat the other other teams in the AL West. 19-16 just is not gonna cut it. Not against two teams that are going to average 59 wins without you.

8. Stop participating in the All-Star break. Ok, I get it. There won't be any other teams to play if you are the only ones not taking that time off. But what the hell, guys? This Halo team was 16 wins against 4 losses over the last 3 weeks going into the break. Four days rest and you'd think they forgot how to play at all. They come out of the same break and run 11 and 9 over the 3 weeks thereafter. .800 ball versus .550 ball!!! How about we just think about KEEPING your focus once you FIND it???

9. Get the genius idea of Jerome Williams in December instead of June. You know. Back when everybody already knew that that the Kazmie experiment was just a leap of faith. Sure, Chatwood was serviceable as a #5. Kind of. In spots. He had his good days. But I sure would like to have witnessed what Williams could have done with any of those Chatwood bad days. Oh, and by this I mean Williams AS A FRIGGIN' STARTER!!!

10. For our Torii Hunter, albeit a Torii Hunter in the waning days of his career, to show up a little earlier than August 3 of the season.  Honest to God I love the guy. But Torii owns too great a responsibility for offense on this lineup to take off the months of April, May, June and July. His slash line for those months? .232/.306/.384. His slash line after? .324/.398/.509. His OPS went from .690 to .907. His BAbip jumped from .266 to .358.His WPA over the first 4 months projected to -0.2 for a full season, but that same WPA over the last 2 months projected out to +4.0!!

Other comparative stats (NOT actual totals, but how his performance in each of the two periods would have projected out over the course of an entire season):

May 31 Thru August 2 August 3 Thru September 23
Games Played

158

163

Projected Team Wins

88

87

Plate Appearances

674

676

At Bats

606

597

Runs

68

114

Hits

141

194

Doubles

25

21

Triples

2

4

Home Runs

22

28

RBI's

80

94

Walks

62

73

Strikeouts

140

111

GIDP's

33

11

Stolen Bases

5

4

Caught Stealing

8

7

As you can tell from the right-most column, Torii still has it. He just didn't show up in time. If we could have gotten the REAL him sometime in July instead of August, he still could have taken off April through June and we are in the playoffs.

 

So there it is, my picks for 10 things from which ANY ONE THING could have made all the difference. You tell me, what's on YOUR list?

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