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Thursday Halolinks: October baseball for the Angels

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Tonight is the first night of postseason baseball for the 2014 Angels. This is what we've been waiting for.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Today's the day.  Today is the day.  Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

Back in April of this year, we often wondered if the Angels would be playing in October.  In May, we started to doubt if the club had what it took to make the playoffs.  On June 19th the Angels were 6 games behind Oakland, the furthest they would be during the entire season.  But then July came and the club went 19-8, moving within a game-and-a-half of first place.  And then August.  On August 1st the Angels were a game back, but by the end of the month the team had moved five games ahead of the A's, and we knew October baseball was going to happen.

So, here it is.  October 2, 2014.  Game 1 of the American League Division Series.  Angels vs Kansas City. Tonight.

Halolinks:

  • Other than a World Series win, my biggest hope is that Mike Trout puts on a show for the rest of the nation.  We've had it pretty good getting the opportunity to watch him play the last 3 seasons, but now's the time for him to show the casual fan, those who only watch the postseason, what we've known all along.  Royals-Angels Preview - Yahoo Sports, "Mike Trout asked Albert Pujols for advice on his playoff debut before the Los Angeles Angels stepped into the October spotlight, and the veteran slugger with two World Series rings had some simple guidance for baseball's best young player. ''He told me to just be myself, and not try to hit that home run when you don't need it,'' Trout said. ''Just keep that same swing that got you here, and go from there. (But) it's definitely a bigger game, for sure. All eyes are on you.''  Trout primed to assume Mr. October mantle - angels.com, "He knows he's good," (Reggie) Jackson said. "You can feel it in everything he does, but there's nothing arrogant about him. Trout has all these gifts and knows what to do with them. He's really coming into his power, and with that speed, he's the perfect three-hole hitter. "He's in the elite of the elite -- and he's going to get better."
  • Wait a minute, let me change that...my biggest hope is Jered Weaver gets a World Series ring.  Weaver hungrier for title after two close calls - angels.com, "We have that opportunity again to extend our season," Weaver said, "and it's up to us to try to decide on how far we want to go with this. We've got a great group of guys. It's been a fun clubhouse to be part of this whole season, and we're going to push on to get our main goal -- and that is to win."
  • Jeff Fletcher from the OC Register must not be getting any sleep.  He's been spitting out a ton of stuff for his fishwrap, and I suppose I could just include a link to the front page of the OCR sports page, but what fun would that be?  Runnin' Royals will test Angels' defense - The Orange County Register, "The Angels, who were exactly league average in their success rate throwing out would-be base-stealers, allowed seven stolen bases in nine attempts against the Royals in six regular season games. "They are going to get on base and run," Iannetta said. "The best thing we can do is try to keep them off base."  You can't steal first base.  Will Royals' Yost manage to succeed? - The Orange County Register, "But they are also in some ways the laughingstock of the sport, mostly because of their manager, Ned Yost. No current leader in baseball inspires more regular ridicule than the Royals’ Yost, whose designated bullpen roles are as rigid as any manager’s ever. And his belief in the benefit of sacrifice bunting is seemingly even stronger."  Wait, there's someone worse in using roles than Mike Scioscia?  Scioscia: Weaver would start Game 4 - The Orange County Register, "Scioscia said the way Weaver has looked in his workouts lately has encouraged him and pitching coach Mike Butcher that he’s capable of pitching on three days rest for the first time since 2011. Weaver gave up two runs in six innings in one of the starts and seven runs in six innings in the other."  Angels' Weaver thrives on savvy, not speed - The Orange County Register, ""You can’t think along with Jered," said teammate Brennan Boesch, who homered off Weaver four years ago but considers him one of the toughest at-bats in baseball. "You just can’t. He’s going to be able to throw what he wants in what count he wants. That’s what makes him exceptional."  Angels know starting pitching isn't everything - The Orange County Register, "In 2002, Angels starters failed to get an out in the sixth inning 10 times in 16 games, the most of any World Series champion in the wild-card era. The Angels won because of their bullpen, led by Troy Percival, Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez. They also hit .320, tops among all teams that postseason, to slug their way to the title."
  • Angels vs. Royals: How they match up - The Orange County Register.  There are seven categories here, and Fletcher has the Royals better in four...yet he picks the Angels winning the series in 4 games. I guess he thinks the Angels are so much better in their three that will offset the Royals' lead in the other 4 categories.
  • The second-best C.J. on the Angels at walks.  Against lefty Vargas, Halos go with Cron at DH - angels.com, "Cron, who figures to bat eighth, walked twice and lined out against Vargas on May 25 and hit two homers against him on June 27. The Royals' 31-year-old left-hander, who spent the 2013 season with the Angels, held opposing left-handed hitters to a .661 OPS this season, while righties had a .731 OPS against him."
  • How much better is the Angels' batting order with a healthy Josh Hamilton in it?  A healthy, hot-hitting Josh Hamilton?  A bunch: Hamilton aims to atone for injury-riddled season - angels.com, "I think it would be unfair to put on Josh the expectations that everyone would have of what he would do, and that's part of the reason why he's hitting down in the lineup right now," said Scioscia, who will go with Howie Kendrick at Hamilton's customary cleanup spot. "But it wouldn't surprise me if after a couple at-bats you're starting to see him attack the ball the way he can, and we need it. We need Josh. We're hopefully going to see that."
  • The more you know: Royals-Angels ALDS: Did you know? - angels.com, "The Angels hit 10 home runs against the Royals this season, the most against any team outside the AL West."
  • Yeah, but does experience really mean anything?  A capsule look at Royals-Angels playoff series - Yahoo Sports, "EXPERIENCE COUNTS: The Angels haven't been to the postseason in a half-decade, but they've got ample playoff experience on their roster. Pujols has two rings and that famed three-homer performance in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, while Freese was the MVP of the NLCS and the World Series with St. Louis just three years ago while setting the postseason record with 21 RBIs. Hamilton has appeared in three postseasons, while Weaver and Wilson have both pitched in the playoffs."
  • Oh yeah, the Giants won last night: San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates - Recap - October 01, 2014 - ESPN, "Mixing his fastball with a slider and curve the Pirates rarely touched, Bumgarner was in complete control and looked very much like the ace who won 18 games during San Francisco's bumpy regular season. "If you don't want to pitch in these games, you probably need to find something else to do," he said."
  • I briefly thought about driving down to KC to see game 3 (it's a 7 hour drive), but changed my mind for various reason.  This was one of them: Ticket prices for Kansas City Royals ALDS games soaring - ESPN, "The average asking price on the resale market for a ticket to Game 3 is now $422.57, which TiqIQ, a secondary ticket tracking site, says is the highest average asking price for a division series game since the company began tracking the ticket market in 2010."  I guess I'll have to wait until game three of the World Series in St. Louis to watch the Halos in the postseason.
  • These "astute" executives picked the Pirates and Royals more times than the Angels.  Yeah, okay.  Why the Nats will win the World Series - ESPN, "That's why I just finished polling 15 astute baseball executives, from clubs that didn't make the postseason, to see which teams they thought were about to play in the World Series, and which juggernaut they picked to win it. Well, here's how they saw it:
    National League Champ: Nationals (12 votes), Pirates (2), Dodgers (1)
    American League Champ: Orioles (7), Angels (4), A's (3), Tigers (1)
    World Series winner: Nationals (11), Orioles (2), A's (1), Dodgers (1)
  • I thought this was pretty cool: Miguel Cabrera of Detroit Tigers doesn't sign paperwork for playoff bonus - ESPN, "Designated hitter Victor Martinez, who had just signed the paperwork, had a conversation with Cabrera in Spanish. Cabrera maintained his position, concluding by saying: "I just want the ring." I usually don't read the comments in posts I'm linking to, but this one caught my attention:
    Brandon Day · Top Commenter · Port Huron, Michigan
    "The whole point of this is not Cabrera turning down the money. Obviously he doesn't need it, but Scherzer and the rest of the team don't exactly need it either apart from the rookies. It's just a leadership move. A point made that the only extra that counts to him is to win a World Series. Miguel makes these small gestures on occasion when he wants a point made. Leadership doesn't have to involve speeches or a lot of beating of the chest, yelling and screaming."

    Here's some other stuff...
  • Scoring in Baseball Is Down. Blame the Umpires - WSJ.  "Scoring continued to dip in Major League Baseball this season. Teams averaged 4.07 runs a game, compared with 4.17 last year, or more dramatically 5.14 in 2000. Although the sport added stricter drug testing in 2006, there could be another cause for the scoring decline: umpiring."
    Pj-bx489a_count_j_20140930152712_medium
  • This might be the best post you'll read all year, and best to show how internet reporting is done: How Jarrod Dyson Stole the Biggest Base of his Life - FanGraphs Baseball, "Doolittle looks back at Dyson, and then as he turns his head, he starts his motion, and Dyson is off to the races. No pause probably means no pickoff. No pickoff means a pitch, and a pitch means a pretty good shot at getting to third base, unless Norris makes a perfect throw. Norris’ throw was good, and he unleashed it quick, but because Dyson runs so well, and because he had such a good read on Doolittle, he was virtually unthrowoutable. This is why, to be a good base-stealer, you don’t need to be a great sprinter. So much of it is about what happens before the pitch is even on the way. And if you have great speed and great awareness, you’re a great base-runner, and Dyson’s one of the best."