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WeekEnd HaloLinks: Angels conclude in Seattle, and toy with chaos

The Angels are merely gearing up for the ALDS starting next Thursday. On the way, after spending weeks crushing the hopes of Oakland, they get a shot at doing the same against the Wild Card chasing Mariners.

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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Well, here we are, folks: the final weekend and final three games of the regular season for MLB 2014. It's been a hell of a ride, has it not? And what better way to conclude this season than as AL West Champions and home field advantage for as long as the Halos wish to stick around?

When the season began, many reasonable projections had us finishing in 3rd place, and battling a rising Seattle franchise even for that. And if anyone had told us that we would lose 40% of what little we had in a starting rotation due to season-ending injuries, see 20% of that rotation be sent back to the minors, see another 20% miss a month with an injury, call up an aging minor-leaguer to fill in as a rookie starter and carry a huge percentage of the workload, and that we would be using our bullpen staff as a rotation slot completely - well - none of us could be faulted for thinking that we would be staring up at the Houston Astros, too.

But this is why you play the games. Champions are born out of the fires of adversity. A tremendous amount of the 2014 success came from players barely on the fringe of our radars on Opening Day, or on anybody's radars considering the opinion around baseball at that time of our farm hands and our bullpen and our Manager and GM.

We will do these last three games with Seattle, toying with what is left of their hopes and dreams for 2014, then start the playoffs. And in the broadcasts of our playoff games we will witness just how ignorant, surprised and confused the national media is about the personality of this team and the accomplishments of various individuals. There are those of you who think it's always great to be ignored, but that is merely projecting the ignorance of media personalities upon the expertise of front office everywhere. Our playoff opponents have not ignored us, nor are they surprised by our players. The managers in the opposing dugouts are nowhere near as clueless about the Halos as are the FOX/ESPN/CBS/ABC/NBC talking heads. We are not sneaking up on any of our competitors and those are the ones who count. The broadcasters remain stupid due to their own failures, and there is nothing that will fix that beyond winning. So instead of whining about the broadcasts, let's just focus on the contests knowing that the national announcing crews will always be the last to figure things out - even as our guys are dancing in champagne showers.

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No game yesterday, only three nearly meaningless games left before we get to the REAL fun stuff, so finding things to be interested about on a Friday is kinda tough. But here goes nothing...

  • MVP: Mike Trout porn, in perhaps his least deserving season. The conversation is no longer meandering around the notion of whether or not he is deserving, That has become a fait accompli. (Hey, it's something to write about on an off day.) No, now the talk has turned to whether or not Trout's coronation will be unanimous. Uh, the answer to that question is no. Why? Because Victor Martinez had a decent enough damned season, too. And Victor plays for Detroit. And we all know how little Trout is admired in and around that part of the country. Anyway, a couple of takeaways from the article are that Trout has declined "at the things that voters don't care about", and that "[Dave] Cameron also said he wouldn't be surprised if Trout won only one or two more MVP awards, because sluggers like Cabrera retain an advantage in many voters' minds."  I disagree with that last point somewhat. The glass half full person within me believes that voters will evolve as the old-timers age out and the younger generation obtains votes, morphing into a more statistically-aware bloc than the one we have now which is unable to get past 2 or 3 of the simplest stats. But the cynic in me also believes that voters will want to share the wealth, since Trout will already have 1 or 2 MVP's in fact, and another 2 that he should have won anyway. it will be as if he really did get those first 2, and when he gets to a pretend 4, well, that will be enough.

  • Trout Again: Speaking of Trout, As playoffs near, Trout not changing his game. I am not a believer in approaching the playoffs as though it was just another Wednesday getaway game or something, mostly because I have no evidence that the opposition is going to be taking that same approach. While I might agree with Mike that "You can't get out of your game, try to do too much", I would respond with "Your game better have another gear, because your opponents are going to shift into theirs whether you like it or not." This, IMHO, is why odd things happen in short series. It is why you always find tales of over-achieving and under-achieving.

  • Josh Hamilton: I am also not a trained physician, so maybe that is why I was drawn to this guy.  Are the Angels risking Josh Hamilton's longterm health? The Hamilton saga just doesn't pass my smell test. His injuries just feel like more of a physical deterioration rather than bad luck to be the focal point of so many normal injuries any team goes through. I don't, however, get the vibe that the Angels are trying to rush or risk anything. Just the opposite, in fact. I wonder if the franchise knows far more about this than they are letting on, and they are far more worried about than we are. I keep having thoughts of Bo Jackson flash through my mind. It seems rather remarkable to learn that he has had so many injections in so short of time. And even more remarkable to learn that they keep giving those injections without realizing positive results. They are trying real hard to fight something. Let's hope they aren't working hard to fight a losing battle.

  • In Defense of Defense: How many remember the atrocious fielding of the Halos from last season? Huh? Show of hands...Yeah, just as I thought: win a Division Championship and everybody forgets the bad stuff. Well, it happened. The Angels ended up tied for the 3rd worst fielding percentage in all of Major League Baseball last year. We were pretty bitchy about that at the time. Well, with 2 games left to play, these guys now rank tied with 5 other teams for second place, 2 1000'ths of a point behind the Reds. That's a gold star for Most Improved, right there. We should find out who the hell is the guy who is our Defense Coach, and give him another 1 year contract or something.

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This Date In Baseball History: 1896 - We all know that Ted Williams was the last player to finish a season batting .400 or better (although most probably don't recall that this occurred in 1941). But in 1896 Jesse "disputatious" Burkett of the then Cleveland Spiders finished at .410, becoming the first player to ever hit .400 or better in consecutive seasons..........1906 - Harry Davis of the Philadelphia A's doubles in 2 runs, and ends a major league record string of scoreless innings for any franchise at 48. (You might find a lot of references to the Pittsburgh Pirates being held scoreless for 52 consecutive innings in 1903. Those are wrong. Pittsburgh held THEIR OPPONENTS scoreless for 52 innings that season. See Jun2 through Jun 8 in the link.).........1908 - Ed Reulbach pitches both ends of a double-header for the Chicago Cubs, and shuts out the Brooklyn Dodgers (Superbas back then) 5-0 and 3-0. Combined, both games are played in less than 3 hours..........1926 - After 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Ty Cobb puts on the Tiger uniform for the last time. The Tigers will play a double-header on this date against the Red Sox, winning 11-2 and 5-4. The only action Cobb will see will be as a pinch-hitter for the pitcher, going 0-1. Meanwhile his replacement, Heinie Manush, will bat 6 for 9 on the day and finish the season batting at .378, stealing the batting title away from Babe Ruth who finished at .372...........1954 - Willie Mays, in his first season back from military service (and only his second full season in the Majors) goes 3 for 4 and ends up with a .345 average, leap-frogging both Don Mueller and Duke Snider for the National League batting title on the final day. Mays would go on to have a fairly memorable World Series, as well.........1959 - Giants hurler Sam "Toothpick" Jones (he's back!) loses an official no-hitter when his victory over the Cardinals is shortened due to rain with 2 outs in the 8th inning.........1961 - Roger Maris hits his 60th home run of the season, tying Babe Ruth for the single-season mark. Because this happens in game #159 versus Ruth's 154 game season, this would be the game where Commissioner Ford Frick mythically applies his infamous asterisk.........1978 - Mike Flanigan of the Orioles loses a no-hitter against the Indians with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th when Gary Alexander hits a solo home run..........1981 - Nolan Ryan becomes the fist pitcher to throw 5 no-hitters, blanking the Dodgers 5-0 in favor of the Astros..........1983 - Bob Forsch pitches his 2nd no-hitter, beating the Expos 3-0...........2007 - Mark Ecko, owner of the 756th career home run baseball used to surpass Hank Aaron, announces that in accordance to an internet vote contest he held, the ball will be sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame bearing a branded asterisk.

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  • Home Field Advantage: Ok, let's just get this out of the way. Outside of the wear and tear on Official Derek Jeter Fan Club knee pads everywhere, the only thing at stake last night between the Yankees and Orioles was home field advantage throughout the playoffs for the Angels. Going into the final weekend, thanks to a Yankees win sealed with a walk-off base hit by Jeter, there is now a 3 game lead for LAA with 3 games left. Any Halo win OR Oriole loss will bless the Seraphs with the home field in every series where they participate.

  • MVP: Surprise! This is not about #27. This season might well witness Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher, nab the MVP award in the National League. It has happened before, but it is very rare. But Kershaw is a beast, one that the Halos should have defeated when they faced him earlier this year. It is quite possible that we will see him again in a few weeks, so bookmark this page. It's about how to beat him, if there is such a thing. Let's cut to the chase: "With those items in mind, it makes a lot of sense to swing early against Kershaw, because that first-pitch fastball might just be the best prayer you have, and you can see in that last chart that hitters have had at least some amount of success when trying that approach." I poke at this particular bear because we all know that we have one critical component in the LAA offense for which swinging at first pitch fastballs seems to be an allergy.

  • But, but, SHORTSTOP?!: A revelation comes to us out of our cousins over at PurpleRow. Sabermetrics faces a perception problem... Really??? I always wondered. Well,if this is true (can it possibly be?) then it might have something to do with arcane misuse.  But within the article comes a thread that I just need to tug at: "Spilly moved straight from OPS, a stat that many casual fans use, to wRC+, a concept that, while certainly a better indicator of offensive prowess, is a big leap for fans." This is absolutely true, but it doesn't need to be. Why, for the love of all that is Holy, do we allow these supercilious acronyms to survive? Could we make information more inaccessible if we tried?? For the uninitiated, wRC+ is shorthand for weighted Runs Created Plus. So it's a Super-Sized version of how well a player creates the runs that their team scores, taking into consideration a lot of shit. Oh, and it compares to the league average. Why don't we just call the stat RunMaker, and leave all the underlying bullshit as assumed or unnecessary to be noted every damned time? Or, if we have advanced from RunMaker to RunMaker Plus, why not just version the shit out of it as required? What's so wrong about RunMaker.2? It's far easier to imagine dudes debating in barber chairs over which player is better based on their RunMaker value then it is to imagine those same dudes having that same debate while tossing out "wRC+", and there is a reason for that. Somebody needs to slap the baseball mathematicians and make them stop being so obtuse.

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Here is something that we must remember to do ourselves next season, all things considered. Because, really, this must be what God had in mind when he invented Twitter in the first place...........What?? This superb rumor that is all too unbelievable to be true, considering the remarkable lack of what should be very easy to obtain evidence, turns out to be untrue? Dammit.  A lifetime of good jokes to be left on the cutting room floor............Yeah, I agree, eff you Yankee fans...........Mitch Williams, once an idiot, shunned because he is an idiot, then always an idiot, so always shall be an idiot............And to think that there are still some people who refuse to recognize the reality of jinxes in baseball!...........Dear Tommy, everybody knows that the only way to heaven is by permission of the Angels..........Imagine if Arte Moreno, upon taking over the Angels, instituted a policy whereby all his players must drop Twitter, and communicate via billboards?..............

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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: Redondo Beach Lobster Festival runs all weekend, featuring craft beers to boot!..........Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest is in high gear............Karl Strauss Night for LA Beer Week is being held at Uncle Henry's Deli in Downey...........Oskar Blues Night goes on at Brewco Manhattan Beach...........Speaking of LA Beer Week, here is the web site for the whole schedule.

Saturday: Redondo Beach Lobster Festival continues..........Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest continues..........Napa Valley Museum Oktoberfest and Car Show takes place today only..........The same is true for the Fortuna Oktoberfest Fun in the Park...........El Segundo Night for LA Beer Week is the Saturday lineup at Uncle Henry's Deli in Downey...........Speaking of LA Beer Week, here is the web site for the whole schedule.

Sunday: Redondo Beach Lobster Festival continues..........Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest continues..................Oskar Blues Brewery's Wings & Beer Pairing will take place at Bar 101 Eats & Drinks in Roseville...........Yeti Night for LA Beer Week is the next lineup for Uncle Henry's Deli in Downey...........Speaking of LA Beer Week, here is the web site for the whole schedule.

Stay safe, everyone!