Well, here we are folks. Half way through the season and the final weekend before the All Star Break. If this sport were auto racing, our favorite race car is pulling into the pit lane just in time for the wheels to come off and the engine to explode while everybody's attention is directed towards all the activity going on over at Turn #2. And that is after allowing the field to lap us right out of the gate. It could be worse, I guess. It could be raining.
To recap the past week since we were all last gathered together for Friday HaloLinks, leading up to last night's series opener against Baltimore, the LA Angels had gone 2 and 4 over the previous 6 games and had been outscored 39 to 15 in those four losses. And the Halo starting pitchers had barfed up a collective 8.45 ERA. All while the Texas Rangers finally crossed swords with a semi-reasonable competitor (the Chicago White Sox) and gotten smacked.
All Smiles This Morning, though. The Angels defeat the Orioles 9 to 77 as the Halo offense triumphs over yet another shabby outing from an Angel starter. Meanwhile, the Angels bullpen shows unanticipated depth and stifles the Orioles offense pretty much from the 5th inning on out. I am starting to feel for Mike Scioscia, as the vagaries of this season create a Twilight Zone of results against all expected reality. At this particular juncture, middle relief is strong, the closers are lights out, and the starting rotation is a shambles. Exactly the opposite of what we thought we knew in April. And the offense is cooking with gas, which is the opposite of what we thought we knew in May. And the Halos are pulling ahead in the Wild Card race, closing in on Texas for AL West lead, both of which seemed like up being down leading up to June.
Dan Haren goes onto the 15 day DL: I have been giving Dan Haren fans some grief here the past couple of weeks, what with my "Unfortunate Wheel Of Destiny" observations. Now that Haren has decided to be suffering from Jered Weaver's back injury, we now have to skip a spin or two (spared somewhat by the All Star Break) on our Wheel. What's next? Do we follow the Rockies' lead and go with a 4-man rotation? Do we slot some bullpen committee, hence the call up of Kevin Jepsen? Don't expect Dipoto to dash out and fetch another working arm. Which sparks the thought: at least Haren hung in there long enough to allow Roy Oswalt to slip past LAA management and into the hands of the Rangers, where he has yielded 1 one, then 5 runs, THEN 11 RUNS in his first three starts.
Meanwhile, Mike Scioscia is channeling, well, Mike Scioscia: When asked about the loss of Haren, Sosh responded "We're going to take this thing one step at a time. This thing is evolving. You could say in a perfect world what you're going to do. But we know it's not a perfect world." This refusal to think down the road is rather chronic. Is Mike Scioscia one of those guys who cruises down the highway in the left-most lane, not worrying to get over to the right until he is directly upon the exit ramp?
Mark Trumbo, Home Run Derby Monster: Ok, Hyper-Sensitivity Alert. Mark Landon over at ocregister has a column, which was taken from an MSM cattle call with John Kruk and Nomar Garciappara. EastSPiN put those two out there to drum up fanfare for the HR Derby broadcast. When Landon got to ask his question it was, obviously, about Trumbo. Kruk's response was (to me) telling: "We talked to (the New York Yankees' Robinson) Cano a couple nights ago and asked him why he picked every player," and why Trumbo was included on the team. "He said, 'Have you ever seen this guy hit batting practice? He said he's as impressive as any guy he's seen." Sounds like Kruk was challenging Cano on the selection of some silly LA Angels player named Trumbo, and Cano was calling out Kruk for being ignorant of what everybody that has watched Trumbo has seen him do.
Home Run Derby: Speaking of Trumbo, over at Hardball Times an attempt is made to forecast results based on a big pile of numbers. Trumbo is discarded for reasons based on his peripherals wrapped up in a pretty bow of some subjective eyeball test. What his contact rate has to do with anything in an event where you never strike out is beyond my pea brain. My guess is that the author is being rather provincial, which is not unheard of for sports fans heralding from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Mike Scioscia, Lineup Machine: Through Wednesday, July 4th (the most recent data published on BBR available to me), Sosh has used 66 different lineups (when not including pitchers) in 82 games, putting him on track for 130 different lineups in 2012. His current career high was
2012 2010, when he fielded 133 different lineups, and his average is 120. By way of comparison, Terry Francona ran out 143 lineups in 2010, Ron Washington did 139 in 2007, Joe Maddon did 145 in 2006 and Lou Pinella did 137 in 2004. Joe Torre's high was 120 in 2006. Oddly, I kept finding managers using the most number of different lineups in their career during their first season as skipper. The two standout exceptions I have found so far have been Joe Torre who started out his Yankee tenure with only 111, and Mike Scioscia who started out in 2000 using a mere 76!!
Albert Pujols, Ignoble History Maker: Some of you may have missed this, but Albert Pujols managed to get thrown out at second base Wednesday in Cleveland by that most noodlest of noodle arms, Johnny Damon. Damon has a career dWAR of -2.9 (BBR) and has only 79 assists for his life, dating back 27 years to 1995. In fact, it was his first assist since
2012 2010 when he was with the Detroit Tigers. And he only gunned down two base runners that year. But the best (worst?) part was that he was fairly busy chatting with a fan while all this was going on. Albert, methinks you may have Hunter's Disease.
Ernesto Frieri: Frieri is quickly approaching Shigetoshi Hasegawa in the Angels record books. An unlikely record holder, Hasegawa owns the team mark for most consecutive scoreless innings at 34.1. Frieri is at 24.1.
Mike Trout Worship: Jeff Sappan of Yahoo! Sports hands out his Mid-Season picks and Mike Trout runs off with everything in the AL he can get his hands on, as usual. Overall, I like Sappan's picks except for Chris Sale who, as I noted back to Jeff, has been licking his chops against some inferior teams. You heard it here first, folks: as the MSM picks up the beat on Trout in the coming years you will see interruptions of your normal broadcast to jump over and pay attention to Trout at-bats. And one of those broadcasters is going to call that running video interlude a "Trout Stream".
Garrett Richards: Garrett was optioned down to Salt Lake over night. Give Richards a start of work whilst teh Bog League is on ASG hiatus. With Haren on the DL, Richards will be abck right away.
Mike Trout Factoids: According to STATS LLC, Trout is the first player in the history of baseball to snatch at least 10 HR's and 20 steals before the All-Star break, after having zero through the month of April. (from LAA Game Notes for 7/5/2012). Trout is also the first ever Halo rookie to receive Rookie Of The Month twice.
Vernon Wells Storm Watch 2012: Just 2 weeks left until Wells is eligible to come off of the DL. And only 10 games. Just in time to face the Rangers.
eBay Halo Auction Item Of The Week: Topps Mike Trout Rookie card. Who knows? In 100 years maybe your great-great-grandson can cash this in for $500 million, and buy himself a new car!
MORE AWESOME STUFF AND PLENTY TO DO AFTER THE JUMP!
Baltimore Orioles vs. Angel Stadium - 7:05 PM Start (FS-W)
Miguel Gonzalez (R) 0-0 2.31 ERA vs.C.J. Wilson (L) 9-4 2.33 ERA
BIG BANG FRIDAY
LIVE MUSIC IN THE GARDEN
TROUT'S CATCH POSTER
Baltimore Orioles vs. Los Angeles Angels @ Angel Stadium - 7:05 AM Start (FS-W)
ALBERT PUJOLS KIDS JERSEY
vs. Los Angeles Angels @ Angel Stadium - 12:35 PM Start (FS-W)
Welcome, my young friends, to 70's style Angels Baseball! Some of us geeksters remember the cycles of the season very well. This time around we have a new chant: "CJ and Weave and three days to grieve". As we auger in towards the All Star Break, the 2012 season is quickly distilling itself down to focusing on a few individuals and their personal over-the-top performances. Unlike our inbred mid-western cousins, we don't have the luxury of seeing our starting rotation become decimated at that precise moment in our schedule when we are blessed with AAA competition, so brutality is upon us. Stay tuned for Sunday. Things are getting even more interesting.
THIS DAY IN BASEBALL "Walker Cooper Day": 1933 - First ever All Star Game is played..........1942 - Mort Cooper pitches to his brother Walker, for the only time in ASG history of a sibling battery..........1949 - Walker Cooper, totally digging on this particular date, goes 6 for 7 with 3HR's, 3 singles, 5 runs scored and 10 RBI's..........1956 - Jim Busby "Coopers" the A's with his second grand slam in as many days..........1966 - Boog, "Cooper" Powell knocks in 11 RBI's in a doubleheader (here and here)..........1970 - Felix Milan goes 6 for 6, probably out of respect for Walker Cooper..........AND(!)..........Ron "Cooper" Santo knocks in 10 RBI's in a doubleheader (here and here)..........1983 - Fred "Sooper Cooper" Lynn, representing the Halos and in his final ASG appearance and winning the ASG MVP in Major League Baseball's 50th All Star Game, smashes the first Grand Slam in ASG history..........1986 - Bob Horner of the Braves get his "Cooper" on with four home runs in a single game............2010 - The Colorado Rockies go full "Cooper" on the St. Louis Cardinals and score nine runs in the bottom of the ninth to cover a six run certain defeat into an epic victory of hysterical proportions.
OTHER THINGS OF NOTE TODAY: 1938 - Yankees' Lefty Gomez loses for the first time in 5 All Star starts, with 3 wins and 1 no-decision across the very first 5 ASG's in history. Meanwhile, this is the date & game of the famous Leo Durocher "bunt for a home run"!.........1992 - Fay Vincent tries to force a National League realignment over the corporate protestations of the current owners of The LA Times, because those corporate yokels did not, ironically, want to go West..........2002 - The Yankees dedicate a plaque to our very own Reggie Jackson, which was much better than any silly-assed painting..........2009 - New York City settles - for $10,001 - with a Yankee fan for kicking him out of a game at Yankee Stadium for having the audacity of needing to use the men's room during the singing of "God Bless America".
Bryce Harper, Flame-out (You will see what I did there, in a second): Jumping directly into the Major Leagues and bypassing a college education creates pressures on a young man. Harper, just to be safe, will train to be a firefighter in the off-season. You know, so that he has something to fall back on should all those millions and that baseball thing not work out for him.
SABR Convention: Did you ever wonder what goes on when all those brilliant mathematical minds get together under a single roof and mull over all the new ways to dissect all the information pouring in from baseball games and discern Truth and Meaning behind it all? Well, wonder no more.
Intentional balks???: Meanwhile, as SABR studies events on the premise that everything is on the up and up, baseball managers are seriously hard at work trying to find new ways to make the results all screwy, and for purposes that are entirely personal.
Speed Kills: Here, my friends, might be the only thing in a baseball uniform faster than Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos. Imagine a 2015 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Angels!
Bud Selig remains stupid AND smug: Uncle Bud finds new ways to reject rational thought about using the information being consumed by everyone interested in his enterprise, even though we are only doing so in order to satisfy the burning desires of everyone interested in his enterprise to see his enterprise function correctly. Simply put, baseball doesn't need to improve its use of replay because so many tickets are being sold.
K-Rod Update: Frankie is back in demand. Feel free to mock him with impunity, as having Frieri on staff pretty much neutralizes my ongoing defense of our most famous bullpen offspring. Of course, that needs to ignore Frieri's recent outing against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Dice-K, where are all those billboards now?: After spending $103.11 million on Daisuke Matsuzaka, and getting in return 645 innings and 580 strikeouts and 49 victories and a 5.03 ERA against the burnt out Colorado Rockies in the Red Sox' only World Series title during the Dice-K era, Planet Boston is starting to talk about dumping the guy now that they are at the tail end of his contract. As a refresher, that includes DL stints in 2008, 2009, surgery in 2010, eight total appearances in 2011and five total appearances so far in 2012.
EastSPiN Radio: I was out driving around early Wednesday morning and listening to the introductions to the Yankees Rays game broadcast. And I get to hear Chris Singleton proclaim to America two interesting "factoids". One, that "Over the past few weeks no question that the Yankees have been the hottest team in baseball." (Nope. Going into that game the MFY were 17 and 7 since June 8th, roughly a month ago. The Rangers were 17 and 6 in the same time frame, and the Halos were 16 and 8 during that time, both roughly the same as the MFY. And the Yankees have been a rather pedestrian 7 and 7 since their 10 game winning streak ended back on June 19th.) The other statement was pumping up David Phelps, MFY starter: "Phelps took over for Phil Hughes and simply carved up that Angels offense." (Nope again. Phelps faced nine Halo batters in two innings of work, giving up a walk and 2 hits, including Morales' double to bring in two inherited runners, and claiming yet a single K.)
Fats Twins Baseball: Here is an amazing cue shot that breaks at least 8 feet from foul to fair as it travels 30 feet up the basepath, scoring a runner from second base. Why is it that I keep thinking our own Erick Aybar would have remained in the batter's box?
Five great places to go and waste your employer's Friday morning (for those of you actually working today, the rest of you are instructed to wait until Monday!)...
1. Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame (A charming place to spend hours reflecting on the dearth of Halo memories in the national psyche.)
2. Biography of Emmett Ashford (Long before Leslie Nielsen, baseball really did have quite a character behind the plate. And art never did really imitate this man's life.)
3. The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics (recommended reading)
4. The Nevada Dusters (For fantasy league geeks, the history of a mythical franchise that includes Jim Fregosi.)
5. The Gashouse Gang (8 minute video documentary intro to one of the great stories of baseball. And some of the factoids are beyond belief!!!)
In Oklahoma it's not a Hippie, it's a mullet dammit! - Minor Leaguer John Brownell does not want to be confused with Tim Lincecum, despite working extra hard to look just like him..........Grandma gets creamed - Looks like she was trying to emulate the effectiveness of Ervin Santana. Good thing it wasn't grandPA..........OT: For little boys of the 60's everywhere - Hot Wheels comes to life!..........Carlos Lee - Is it just me, or has Lee spent his entire career avoiding becoming a member of any SoCal team despite a decade of local need?..........What's more amazing than Mike Trout? - Yasmani Grandal, bashing his first three Major League hits for home runs, and 4 of his first 6 hits to date..........
And now, being the full service weekend linkage institution that we are, here is the obligatory moment we take out of each Friday for beer:
This Sunday, July 8th, we have the Sixth Annual Stone Sour Fest in Escondido. This is kind of a big deal down there San Diego way, so big, in fact, that it is already sold out. Look for tickets elsewhere, if you can find them! Or, just bookmark this event in your calendar for next year and don't wait around for me to remind you!! Meanwhile, nearly the entire month of July is "Old Miners' Days" up in Big Bear Lake. Go for the Chili Cook-off.