Tuesday Halolinks: Angels might be clutch, or might not

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Which team are we going to see the rest of the season, the one like last night that gets good pitching and timely hitting, or the one we've grown accustom to watching over the previous few season?

As we enter the 5th week of the 2014 season, the Angels are still playing bipolar baseball.  One game, like last night's win over the Indians, they get the timely hits and great bullpen work to get the win, and then there are the game when the club looks like they couldn't beat a T-Ball team (at least they wouldn't have to pitch).  I remain optimistic that this is a playoff team, and we'll see them climb over the .500 mark before this week ends.  By the way, here are a couple of interesting tidbits from the Angels' Game notes: TOUGH LOSSES: 5 of 12 losses this season have come in opponents’ last at-bat… Halos have led at some point in 10 of their 13 losses... Seven of last nine losses have come by one run.  Angel pitchers have struck out 208 batters, most in franchise history through 24 games.

  • How often are the words "clutch" and Angels' hitters" used in the same headline I don't know, but here's one: Angels hitters tap the clutch to beat Indians - The Orange County Register.  "After J.B. Shuck reached base via error and Erick Aybar bunted him to second, Mike Trout singled cleanly to left to score Shuck, the go-ahead run. Cleveland manager Terry Francona followed by intentionally walking Albert Pujols, but Raul Ibanez tripled to right-center to drive in Trout and Pujols."
  • So that's how a closer is supposed to work.  All this time I thought he had to give up a home run when he entered the game.  I was beginning to think the term "closer" meant the ball was getting closer to the outfield seats: Cleveland Indians at Los Angeles Angels - April 28, 2014 - MLB.com.  "I was pretty pumped," said Smith, who went to the mound with a three-run lead, courtesy of Mike Trout's tie-breaking RBI single and Raul Ibanez's two-run triple in the bottom of the eighth. "I woke up this morning, and I had a feeling I was going to get to pitch tonight after not pitching in the series in New York. "To get that first save [as an Angel] against that team was pretty cool. I spent a lot of time with most of those guys, and I enjoyed my time there."  But let us not forget what it takes to get to the ninth inning with a lead: MLB Recap - Cleveland Indians at Los Angeles Angels - Apr 28, 2014 - CBSSports.com.  "Tyler Skaggs allowed three runs and four hits in seven innings and struck out six. The left-hander, staked to a 1-0 lead on Pujols' RBI groundout in the first, retired his first 10 batters before giving up a double by Swisher, a walk to Jason Kipnis and Santana's second homer of the season into the left-field bullpen. "Tyler hung a curveball to Santana, but other than that, he threw the ball awesome," Smith said. "If our starters go seven and give up three every time, that's great. Keep it rolling. It only makes it easier on us -- especially with this offense."
  • Oh, and how could I forget that in oreder to get a lead, the club needs to score runs: Indians-Angels Preview - Yahoo Sports.  "Trout is 6 for 11 with a pair of walks in his last three games, and leads Los Angeles with a .327 average. He's been even better at home, batting .409 while getting at least two hits in eight of 10 games."
  • Joining Tommy John surgery on the "Injuries for 2014" list is messed up thumbs.  First Josh Hamilton, and now: Bryce Harper of Washington Nationals out with torn thumb ligament - ESPN.  "Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb and is expected to be out until at least early July, according to multiple sources. Harper, 21, injured his hand during a head-first slide into third on a bases-clearing triple in Friday's victory over San Diego."  I'm not too sure how I feel about this; should Trout stop taking the chance of getting hurt, or should he continue to play the game as he always has?  Angels' Mike Trout will continue sliding headfirst - latimes.com.  "In a corner of the Angels' clubhouse, Josh Hamilton was talking about the thumb injury that has kept him out of the lineup for three weeks and could keep him out for another three. In the center of the clubhouse, the television flashed news that Bryce Harper had a thumb injury that could keep him out for two months. Hamilton tore a ligament on a headfirst slide into first base. Harper tore a ligament on a headfirst slide into third base. Mike Trout slides headfirst. There could be no greater calamity for the Angels than for Trout to suffer a major injury, yet their franchise player says he is not about to change his game. "I'm going to keep sliding headfirst," Trout said. "I've been doing it my whole career. I'm going to keep on doing it."
  • He needs to remain healthy in order to stay on these pages: Top 100 Angels: The Players Who Defined the Franchise of Anaheim: Mat Gleason (Rev Halofan) - Amazon.com.  "This book ranks the 100 best players in the history of professional baseball's ANGELS franchise."  Remember following along each day with Rev's countdown of the top Angels?  Here's your chance to have them all in your hand.
  • Here's another player who will be moving up the Top 100 list: Baseball Is Finally Remembering How Good Albert Pujols Can Be - FiveThirtyEight.  "Pujols is hitting the ball with terrific power again — over 14 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases — and he’s mashing fly balls for home runs, instead of harmless flyouts. His strikeout rate is back down under 9 percent, where it was during his best seasons. And his per-inning rate of defensive runs saved at first base is back up where it was before last year’s collapse. All isn’t what it once was, though. Worryingly, Pujols is still swinging the bat more than he used to — and chasing more pitches outside the strike zone than the average hitter. In spite of his decreased strikeout rate, he’s also making less contact now than ever before, as a percentage of his swings. And his baserunning may never again be where it was in his prime."
  • After 500, Albert Pujols pauses to thank those who helped him reach milestone - Yahoo Sports.  "Like Walt Jocketty, who gave him a place to play, and last week sent a kind text message. Like Tony La Russa, who put him in the lineup, and called to tell him how proud he was of him, and has been, Pujols said, "like a father to me." Like Placido Polanco, who gave Deidre and him a place to live those years ago, when Deidre was three months' pregnant. Like Lou Brock, who coached him in the art of cutting the bases harder. And Bob Gibson, who told him what pitchers were thinking. And Stan Musial, and Red Schoendienst, and Jack Buck, who taught him the game, and the game within the game, and the game outside the game. Like Darryl Kile, who mentored him in the dugout before every game, as did Edgar Renteria and Mark McGwire and Matt Morris and Mike Matheny. And now there are real Angels in his life, and they surrounded him at a home plate 3,000 miles from here, and he was first off the field because he could feel the emotion rising in him, and there was a game to play, a game to win."
  • I was looking at starting pitchers in my fantasy league, when I ran across this write-up: Ervin Santana Fantasy Baseball at CBSSports.com.  "Braves pitcher Ervin Santana has been utilizing his changeup a lot more this season. Santana has gotten off to an incredible start, posting a 0.86 ERA in three starts. A big part of it has been his increased usage of the change. From 2007 to 2013, Santana used the pitch just 5.04 percent of the time, according to BrooksBaseball.net. That figure has jumped to 18.82 percent in 2014.  The pitch has also been incredibly effective. Santana's managed a 25.93 percent whiff rate thus far with the pitch, the highest rate among all his pitches. Santana has typically relied on a slider for strikeouts, so adding another effective pitch could signal a slight improvement over the course of the year.  The main benefit of the changeup is the ability to throw it to opposite-handed hitters. Lefties have typically performed better against Santana over his career, but the changeup has held them to just a .171 average over his first couple starts. "  A couple of years ago, Fernando Rodney turned his career around in Tampa Bay after leaving Anaheim.  The Rays' coaching staff had Rodney use his change-up more often resulting in his best season ever.  And then there was this post: How Ervin Santana Made Himself Complete - FanGraphs Baseball.  "He’s been absolutely dominant against right-handed hitters, and he’s been only slightly less dominant against left-handed hitters. Santana was late to sign — and it took some injuries to get him to Atlanta — but through a handful of starts, Santana has demonstrated a new level of ability."  For some reason, I doubt Mike Butcher threw an effective change-up in his career.
  • Our guys ranked pretty well, although Gubi's impediment when he says "middle" still bugs me a bit: The MLB Local TV Announcer Rankings - Awful Announcing
    9) Los Angeles Angels – 2.53
    -Victor Rojas (play by play)
    -Mark Gubicza (analyst)
    -Tim Salmon (analyst – select)
    Most popular grade:A (31% of voters)
    Analysis: Of all teams that had an A as their most popular grade, no team had fewer A grades than the Angels (but again, AL West crunch). Rojas was generally well-liked, while Gubicza got most of the negative comments about the Angels crew.
  • With all of the injuries to pitcher's arms, does monitoring  their pitch count really make a difference? Fixated on pitch count, game not real baseball - The Herald-Sun.  "Case in point: Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Saturday, April 26. Bulls pitcher Mike Montgomery has a no-hitter going into the top of the ninth against the Scranton RailRiders. He gets the first batter out and then is yanked for a relief pitcher. The reason? He reached his pitch count, Manager Charlie Montoyo told The Herald-Sun’s Harold Gutman. 106 pitches, over his limit of 105. "I have a job, and he’s got a pitch count, and I follow my job," Montoyo said. The fans booed lustily. I’d have fired Montoyo before he got back to the dugout. And I’d have canned all his bosses who gave him those orders. They aren’t baseball people, they’re corporate drones.  (Hat tip to :Baseball Think Factory)
  • This is awesome:
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