Welcome to July, folks. You know how, in ST, we were all freaking out over how well the team was going to do in April? Slow starts versus regular starts versus fast starts and how that impacts a whole season and all? Well, we were right, of course. Crowd-sourcing the obvious tends to work out that way. In 2013, the Halos went 9-17 in April and were in 4th place, 8 games out. This year the team went 14-13, was in 3rd place, but were only 3.5 games out. BIG improvement.
Well, guess what? It's now July. We didn't spend enough time focused on July. And now we are here. Last season our July was 9-15, having started 8.5 games out and closing the month at 14 games out, season over. This is kind of important, because our 2014 May and June was pretty much the same as the 2013 May and June. And the 2013 August, September and October were 30-28. So the big flaws last year, the places to be fixed, were April AND July, as long as we hold on to the successes of the other months. April? Check. July? Welcome, and let's strap it on and find out, shall we?
- Angels Win: Well done, Shoe. Matt Shoemaker bounced back from his scruffy start against Kansas City (which was, actually ,.pretty good except for one catastrophic inning) and scattered 7 hits over 6 innings and gave up only 2 runs, running his record to a surprising 6-2 as the Angels win 5-2. Plus, by ripping off 7 more strikeouts in this, his 10th start, Shoe overtakes Bo Belinsky in franchise history for most strikeouts in his first 10 outings, with 57 (Belinsky had 56). Mike Trout and Howie Kendrick both had a pair of hits, but it was David Freese who actually led the attack going 2 for 3 but getting a key 2-run double in the 4th inning, driving in Erick Aybar and C.J Cron. that 4th inning was the key to the game, turning a 1-2 deficit into the 5-2 final score, and Freese's double was clutch.
- Mike Trout: Trout Porn for the day; Trout is sitting at 5.0 bWAR right now, at roughly the midpoint of the season. That includes a serious slump and a few games off. So over the past month his rate has been climbing and any linear projections out to the end of the season would be unwarranted. We need more time. But look closely at this list. It's the All-Time single season bWAR record list. The top is peppered with ridiculous numbers, dominated by the abominable outcomes made possible by the odd rules of the 1800's. Start drifting down. Ignore pitchers and just look for modern era position players. You will finally find Babe Ruth in 16th place with 14.0. And Ruth again down at 29th place with 12.6. And again, tied with Carl Yastrzemski at 33rd with 12.4. And Rogers Hornsby tied at 38th with 12.1. Barry Bonds shows up tied at 43rd with 11.8. That is a very short list of modern era position players. Four different players over the past 90 years, five different seasons of awesome (1 rather dubious). And Mike Trout, 2014 Edition, is currently launched on a trajectory that could land him amidst that company. Too bad he doesn't play shortstop.
- Albert Pujols: Nope. Not happening. Pujols is not about to face reality any time soon. In his world, he is a position player still and that's just the way it's going to be. Credit LAT's Bill Shaikin with diving into the obvious. "The season is just past the halfway point, with these curious statistics for Pujols: As a first baseman, he is batting .237, with 10 home runs in 249 at-bats and a .703 on-base plus slugging percentage. As a designated hitter, he is batting .305, with seven home runs in 82 at-bats and a .960 OPS." So there you have it. Pujols appears to be far more productive if he can just keep his old body in the shade and focus on swinging his bat. The numbers are right there. But, from here, Pujols takes the Mike Scioscia Path of Logic: "This is not about me, it's about what is best for the team. I'm a first baseman. I'm not a DH. As long as I'm feeling good — and I'm fine — I'll be in the field. That's my natural position." Yeah. It's not about you, Albert. Not about you.
- Buttercup: Alden Gonzalez struggles with the whole idea of there being some kind of gap between fans of the LA Angels so passionate about their team that they embed them into all aspects of their life, including social media...versus...all the kids and moms and grandparents who need to have a jumbotron coordinate how they are supposed to behave when inside a baseball stadium.
- History: With last night's win, the Angels have an overall franchise record of 4,268 wins, 4,272 losses, and 3 ties. That's just 6 wins away from being an historical winning franchise. Hold your breath, because this is adrenaline-pinching stuff! This has not been the case since, well, since the 3rd game of the first season............And, for the record, the Halos are starting to own it at home, baby. 18-3 over the last 21 home games ties the all-time franchise record.
This Date In Baseball History: 1881 - Mickey Welch pitches two complete game victories in a doubleheader..........1884 - Guy Hecker does Mickey Welch one better, pitching two complete game victories in a doubleheader AND not walking a single batter...........1905 - Rube Waddell out-duels Cy Young as both pitchers go the distance in a 20-inning marathon where the A's defeat the Red Sox, 4-2..........1908 - George Wiltse loses a perfect game with 2 outs in the 9th, and an 0-2 count on the opposing pitcher George McQuillan. Instead, he hits McQuillan with the next pitch..........1912 - George Mullins tosses a no-hitter, AND collects 3 hits and drives in 2 runs as the Tigers best the Browns 7-0...........1925 - Herb Pennock of the Yankees and Lefty Grove of the A's hook up in a 15 inning duel themselves, with Pennock winning 1-0 after retiring the first 18 batters, and then the last 21 batters he faced..........1939 - "Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."..........1964 - The Royals and Orioles play to a tie, as the game is halted to honor a Baltimore curfew so that the fireworks show can go off as planned..........1967 - Phil and Jo Niekro become only the second set of brothers to start the same game against one another..........1972 - Tom Seaver takes a no hitter into the 9th inning where, with 1 out, he surrenders a single up the middle to Leron Lee. Seaver will end the game on the very next batter with an infield double play. Leron Lee will only collect 403 other hits in 9 years of pro baseball.........1976 - Tim McCarver hits what should have been a grand slam to take the opening lead in the Phillies eventual 10-5 win over the Pirates. Except that McCarver overruns teammate Garry Maddox on the base paths between first and second and is called out. If you study the box score, you will see that McCarver hit what was, essentially, a three run single.............1977 - Mark "The Bird" Fidrych mysteriously loses his command of his pitches as his arm "goes dead", and his amazing story begins its premature final chapters..........1980 - Nolan Ryan records his 3,000 career strikeout..........1980 - Reggie Smith hits the 7,000 home run in Dodgers history..........1983 - Dave Righetti of the Yankees throws a no-hitter against the Red Sox..........1984 - Phil Niekro records his 3,000 career strikeout..........1985 - After going 19 innings, and finally concluding at nearly 4 AM the next morning, the Mets defeat the Braves 16-13 in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium. There are 1,000 fans still in attendance, and there are still fireworks out in the parking lot set to go off so,what the hell, why not light them? The Braves do. At 4AM. Thus causing all kinds of chaos in the surrounding pre-dawn community...........1989 - Tom Browning just misses becoming the first pitcher in history to throw 2 perfect games when Dickie Thon leads off the 9th for the Phillies with a double. Thon will come in to score, Browning will be subbed out, perfect game lost, no-hitter lost, shutout lost, but the Reds will hold on to win 2-1..........2001 - In pre-game celebrations in Milwaukee, one skydiver misses Miller Park completely and another misses the opening in the retractable roof and hits a beam, breaking his ankle..........2001 - In Detroit, a pre-game holiday carnival put up in the parking lot goes awry when the Ferris wheel breaks down and strands 50 riders for over 2 hours, forcing an emergency high ladder rescue and causing them to miss the game..........2006 - Billy Wagner records his 300th save..........2009 - Adam Dunn records his 300th career home run..........2011 - Shaun Marcum becomes the first Brewer pitcher in 42 years to hit a grand slam.
- Big Poopy: A lot of hay was made this week about David Ortiz of the Red Sox taking an early stroll on an intentionaly walk a couple of days ago. Yeah, kind of an ass-hat thing to do, but if you check the Official Rules, there is nothing illegal about what he did. As long as one foot remains in the box (as his right foot was) when the pitch is delivered AND he remains on the dirt (as he was), this is totally legit. Rule 6.02(d)(1). You may quibble about the tip of his foot being beyond the line, but why start quibbling there when batters so routinely erase the back line of the box so that they can encroach backwards, as they have been doing for years?
- Worst Pitches of the Month: Some of the funniest baseball writing during the regular season is Jeff Sullivan, doing his regular paean to the most ignominious pitch results of the previous month. His take on July is no different. I noticed that Mike trout seems to have struck no small amount of fear into opposing pitchers last month. Understandable. But the funniest part of the whole column was discovering that somehow Jeff Mathis still gets paid to swing baseball bats at baseballs.
- Protest: This is a good one. Oakland has filed an official protest concerning how the rules were applied by the Instant replay crew back in New York, as a result of events in a game against the Blue Jays. You can read about it here. What I find to be of interest is that it appears that the protest has more than a little to do with the way that the first base umpire signaled his call. Or, more accurately, failed to signal his call. Why is this interesting to me? Well, harken back to Game 5 of the 2005 ALCS. The whole A.J. Pierzynski/Josh Paul fiasco. One of the points argued was how home plate umpire Doug Eddings made his call on that pitch. It was consistent with his "strike" and "out" calls all game. We didn't have Instant Replay back then, of course, so we are forever boned. But it would be a little delicious to learn that MLB actually gives a shit about umpire signals. It would mean that, on this point, too, we were correct and the injustice is doubly damning.
Drugs RuleDrug Rules: You might have caught Jeff Passan's column a few days ago about how a Minor league player can continue to use marijuana, get caught, and be walked through a loophole that teams would use to protect their prospects and end on on the 40-man. "If a player shows major league potential and a team wants to shelter him from a 100-game suspension for a third offense or lifetime ban for a fourth, it simply needs to place him on the 40-man and subject him to a major league policy that cannot suspend players who test positive for weed." Well, Dirk Hayhurst is not about to be outdone when it comes to weed stories. Without saying it, Hayhurst pretty much says that David Price and Evan Longoria are potheads. It's kind of roundabout, because you have to already know about Price and Longoria getting robbed back in 2011. Once you know that, focus on the part in Hayhurst's tale about sharing rent with some players during one Spring Training season.
Who knew Joe Maddon was a fan of Tommy Tutone?............Two relievers pass wind in the night...literally............Which sport is favored most by Mother Nature? Baseball, or course, and here' s the proof...........Never surrender, Minor League baseball Guys. Never surrender...........Whaddya do if you play in the worst stadium in MLB, and are too cheap to buy your way out around Bud Selig and Larry Baer? Sign up for 10 more years of crap...........In Boston, some are already conceding the season to the Angels...........Oooh! A Part II of the physics behind some of the greatest outfield throws in MLB history...........Nice catch, Mr. Ice Cream Vendor Dude............The only girls who think this is a safe place to stash a baseball, are girls without boyfriends.
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...
People. It's the 4th of July Holiday Weekend. If you need me to identify for you where to go and have a great beer on a weekend like this, you fail to qualify.