Athletics Series In Review: We used to be better than this. Quick, who do you think said the following? "It's frustrating. Everybody wants to play better. Everybody wants to win. ... It's getting tough. For me...in some ways, it's the same thing. Or maybe worse. Because I really think this team is better than this....They didn't hit the ball that hard, but they run the bases so well...I mean, that team does every little thing just perfectly."
Wrong! That is not a current LAA player talking about the A's. It's Ian Snell, of the 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates, after getting their asses handed to them by the 2007 edition of the LA Angels in Anaheim. During the same post-game interview session his teammate Jack Wilson, said "Look at the Angels. They're a perfect example. Every player has a job to do, and he does it just right."
Only 5 guys remain from that 2007 team. Only 1 is still a regular position player (Howie Kendrick) and only 2 are regular pitchers (Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana). In all the player turnover, despite a lot of consistency in coaching staff, some things have been lost. One is execution. And another, urgency. The message is getting lost.
Here's A Thought: As much as we have all carped about inconsistency, and how frequently we fail to find all the parts of this team firing on all cylinders, in truth there has been a major consistency. The Angels are 64 and 7 when leading after the 7th inning. A much stronger bullpen than we all expected at the start of the season, and far stronger than our day-to-day opinions. Conversely, they are 3 and 54 when trailing after 7 innings. That's an offense that consistently folds up and crawls home. Far, far worse than we imagined in April. That plain sucks about the offense, actually. Twelve years later, these guys have killed the Rally Monkey.
Progress Report: So let's take a quick review of my Target 92 Wins Theory. The Rangers will need to win only 37% of their remaining games to hit 92 wins so, like, duh, they are in. After being boosted by the Halos, Oakland needs to win only 53% of the remainder, whereas the Yankees and Orioles need to win 58%. CoolStandings, appropriately, have these clubs at the odds for getting into the playoffs at 98.8%, 89.6%, 86.3% and 72.1% respectively. The Angels, Rays and White Sox are all bunched together at needing to win out at the rates of 78%, 79% and 80%. CoolStandings has their odds at 23.7%, 26.8% and 61.2%. Clearly the White Sox have a major scheduling advantage. The Tigers need to win 85% of their remaining games to hit 92 wins, but their schedule is favorable (not as favorable as that of the White Sox) and their odds are still a decent 41.5%. So, in summary, the Angels need to win 8 out of every 10 and CoolStandings has their odds at 23.7%. Totally doable and totally fine with losing a game every now and then. All is not lost. Yet. But close. Very, very close.
Field & Stream: The world is afloat with Mike Trout statistics, observations, milestones, updates and projections. So I will delve into a little trivia today, instead. Last week I was lounging at a beach-side campsite and having a very long and very great in-depth conversation with my camping neighbor. It turns out that he is fast friends with many Latin players, including the likes of Morales and Izturis on the Halos (he knows Aybar and Guerrero, too, in case you wondered). Over the years he has acquired a list of long standing contacts now scattered throughout MLB. And he keeps current with everyone via GLOMAR Pro Bat Company, run by his close friend, which supplies bats to pro players everywhere. So discussion got around to Trout and I learned that almost every single MLB franchise - in both leagues! - has at least a scout, and sometimes even a researcher, dedicated to following Trout's every move every day. Essentially, Mike Trout has his own scouting combine trying to figure out what makes him tick, what his weaknesses might be, and how the hell do they go about finding a Mike Trout of their very own.
Mike Trout P.S. - If you search the web for Mike Trout stories these days, you will find that his name is invariably showcased by those NL clubs hosting the Angels during 2013 interleague play. Yeah, Trout is now the MLB marquee player. I wonder what is happening to Trout merchandise sales?
Torii Hunter: What are the odds? One week after spending hour after hour of quality time with an insider familiar with the Latino community throughout MLB, past and present, our old friend Lyle Spencer pushes forward a lovely piece about Hunter being the team leader and clubhouse shepherd. No offense to Hunter, but the impression I got from my new pal is that this clubhouse is extremely fractured. He challenged me to observe the dugout and which little cliques stay tight. I tend to believe my vacation neighbor and not Lyle, considering how Hunter himself was quoted on ESPN radio here in LA this week speaking to the idea that team chemistry is something still in the future. "It's going to take a while, man, when you have new guys like C.J. Wilson, that guy Pujols and different guys like that and they're coming in. It's going to take them a while to gel together and get that chemistry to come together."
Jered Weaver: Weaver came back into the rotation like a freight train. 7 innings, 2 hits allowed, 1 walk, and 9 strikeouts. Damn. He parked his towering self right back into the mix of the Cy Young award with David Price, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander. And Zack Greinke is quoted being perfectly correct, a lot can happen in these last 4 starts for each.
Weaver Extra: CBS Sports has an interesting note: it has been 98 starts, 661 1/3 innings, and 2,624 batters since Jered Weaver gave up his last intentional base on balls.
eBay Auction of the Week: Ok. Here's an odd one. A vintage 1995 Western Division Champion image, very cool. California Angels. But it is pasted on a 17-year old tee shirt. Used. Presumably washed.
ALL THE FUN STUFF AND THINGS TO DO AFTER THE JUMP...
Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals @ Kauffman Stadium - 5:10 PM Start (FS-W)
C.J. Wilson (L) 12-9 3.69 ERA vs.Bruce Chen (L) 10-12 5.36 ERA
Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals @ Kauffman Stadium - 4:10 PM Start (FS-W)
Zack Greinke (R) 5-2 4.15 ERA vs.Jeremy Guthrie (R) 4-3 3.23 ERA
Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals @ Kauffman Stadium- 11:10 AM Start (FS-W)
Dan Haren (R) 10-11 4.45 ERA vs. Will Smith (L) 5-7 4.94 ERA
C.J. Wilson is hot, and Bruce Chen is not..Zack Greinke is hotter, but so is Guthrie (4 - 0 over his last 7 starts with an ERA of 1.70). The temperature in SoCal should be blistering Saturday, but the games are in Kansas and offenses should be chillin'. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Dan Haren may be hottest of all while Will Smith is nottest. Two out of three should be in the bag, and our season hangs on another pivot point on Saturday.
This Date in Baseball History: 1914 - Braves shortstop Johnny Evers is suspended for three games for talking to the baseball..........1951 - Rookie Bob Nieman becomes the first player ever to hit home runs in his first two major league at-bats..........1955 - Rookie Herb Score passes the Rookie Strikeout record set by Grover Cleveland Alexander, eventually ending up at 245 K's, a record that will last until 1984 when Dwight Gooden will K 251..........1968 - (A day I personally remember) Denny McLain becomes the first (and last) 30-game winner since Dizzy Dean in 1934..........1975 - Robin Yount plays his 242nd game as a teenager, breaking the 1928 record of Mel Ott..........1976 - Dennis Martinez makes his rookie debut. I add this only because I personally witness his perfect game against the Doyers on July 28, 1991 with Mike Scioscia and Alfredo Griffin in the Doyers' lineup)...........1986 - Kansas City Royals Rookie Bo Jackson hits his first Major League home run. Measured to be 475 feet, it will be the longest HR ever hit at Royals Stadium..........1987 - THAT Ron Washington is substituted in by DAD Cal Ripken Sr. for SON Cal Ripken Jr. ending Ripken's consecutive inning record at 8,243..........1990 - DAD Ken Griffey Sr. and SON Ken Griffey Jr. become the first ever father/son act to both hit home runs in the same MLB game, doing so in a losing cause against the Halos' Kirk McCaskill..........1994 - MLB owners respond to the players strike by voting to cancel the remainder of the season, including the World Series..........2002 - Rookie Chin-Feng Chen becomes the first Taiwanese player in MLB history. Chen was once also a member of the 1990 Taiwanese LLWS team that eventually became LLWS Champs.....2005 - Gabe Kapler is injured trotting around the basepaths ahead of a Tony Graffanino home run and cannot complete the journey. After injury delay, pinch runner Alejandro Machad completes the circuit in his stead..........2007 - 10 year old Red Sox fan Griffin Whitman hands new York Yankee Shelley Duncan a notebook to autograph and, 5 years ahead of his time, Duncan infamously writes "Red Sox Suck" above his signature and is lambasted for his truthiness
The AL West, Beast Mode: Do you want to know why it seems like the Angels cannot shake the competition even when they are on winning streaks? Consider this: three of the four hottest teams in the AL since the All Star Break are in the AL West. Oakland at #1 with a .684 winning percentage. Seattle at #3 with a .579 winning percentage. And Texas at #4 with a .579 winning percentage. The Angels are 7th, with a .517 winning percentage. Seattle and Oakland have the American League's largest improvement in winning percentage of second half success over first half success. Seattle is 39.9% better and Oakland is 36.8% better. If this trend continues, 2013 is going to blow up the east coast bias like nobody's business. And, to kick things off, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg feels like HE is the one getting screwed with the 2013 unbalanced schedule. Then again, this is the guy who thinks that the staggered start of the Olympic 200 meters somehow makes things a little easier for the guys starting out front (you have to read the link).
St. Louis Shows Us The Gateway to the Future, and We Welcome It: In a brilliant move that looks well into tomorrow, the management of the Cardinals recently initiated an invitation-only 2012 Blogger Event wherein they played host and fielded questions from local Cards-fanatic bloggers. And the world did not come to an end. Obviously, over time they will feel more comfortable hosting more such events, and do a better and better job managing the blogger logistics of qualifying, vetting, laying ground rules, and providing more access to the franchise. And, clearly, this is being pro-active and engaging the next generation of primary media channels going forward as the traditional MSM dies off. Color me cynical, but my adoration for Arte does not yet extend to any faith in the Angels being similarly inclined for the time being.
Surprise! Pro Sports Wants Public Money First, Last and Always: In Washington DC, where playoff preparations are in order, the Washington Nationals have decided to not pay for night trains in support of their fans needing to get home after playoff games. Why not? Well, it's not the idea of the Nationals., it's the idea of the MLB Front Office. MLB is fearful of the Nats setting any sort of possible precedent for paying for public services. That would be horrible, when the current standard is for the public to pay for whatever the owners desire or demand in order to keep the sports franchises in town.
CSI, Boston: Recall all that waiver wire activity surrounding the Boston Red Sox recently? Did you find it at all interesting how much you knew about what was going on concerning Boston players? Well, the MLB Front Office sure did. They surmise that the Boston waiver wire activity was being leaked. Uh oh. Further info is here. The initial observations are that the Red Sox organization was not culpable. But then, later reports suggest that maybe they are partially guilty after all.
Hat Tip To Deadspin: Pop Chart Lab diagrams out the MLB fields of America as if the foul lines ran on forever. Or, well, at least 500 miles or so. Pretty cool graphic.
Heads Up Baseball. Or, "Why The Orioles Are Winning And We Are Not":
100 great places to go and waste your employer's Friday morning...
(This week: Getting some perspective on the whole 2012 Trout Phenomenon)
78) Baseball Rankopedia (Fan voting to define the top accomplishments in baseball throughout history)
79) BBR Top WAR Seasons Of All Time (Mike Trout currently stands tied at 142nd all-time best)
80) Greatest Non-Pitching Seasons (Baseball-Statistics.com breaks down the best of the best, pre-Trouty)
81) MLB Network's Top 9 Hitting Seasons (Well, Top 8 anyway. #3 should be taken with grain of salt)
82) The 50 Most Dominant Offensive Seasons (One guy's opinion, but he did all the work so you don't have to.)
Put a lid on it - Dice-K is done...........well, almost done..........Mike Trout Fan Club Charter Member - Torii Hunter on Mike Trout..........Dodgers / Giants rivalry still leading to fan violence - Fan assaulted at Giants Dodgers Game..........Boston Red Sox Are Going Up For Sale - according to FOX Business..........Boston Red Sox Are NOT Going Up For Sale - according to the Boston Globe.........Becky Is Slow - Josh Beckett thrown out at first, by left fielder..........Comedy Central - Derek Jeter is being plugged by YES network for AL MVP. And, guess what? 85% of the YES readership agrees. Here I thought that, after all the asshat behavior, Yankee fans were truly knowledgeable.
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:
Friday/Saturday/Sunday: San Pedro unleashes The Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival 2012 at Ports O' Call Village..........Saturday: we have the 18th Annual California Brewer's Festival at Discovery Park in Sacramento, the BeerNerdz San Diego/NorCal Taste Challenge at The Beer Company in San Diego, the California Beer Festival Ventura at Mission Park in downtown Ventura, and Churchill's 3rd Annual Sour Fest at Churchill's Pub & Grille in San Marcos............Also Going On: Friday launches the Big Bear Oktoberfest 2012, AND The 2012 Solvang Danish Days..............Saturday finds us at the conclusion of The 23rd Annual Route 66 Rendezvous in San Bernardino.