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TuesdoLinks: Pujols gassed, but Halos still in 1st

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Albert Pujols put on quite a show last night. Too bad that such a show was all too common, and all too short. But I won't lie: he looked good!

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe Mike Trout shouldn't have stood down after all. Youth represented last night in the new Home Run Derby format. Trout has been hot with power these past few weeks and it seemed like this elimination format not only gassed Pujols, but Pujols' designated batting practice pitcher Dino Ebel, as well. Pujols came up one homer short in the semis, but that semi was immediately followed by an even more productive final round between Todd Frazier and Joc Pederson.

Pujols took out Kris Bryant in Round 1, when after Bryant opened with 9 homers, Pujols warmed up to finish with 10, getting his 10th right at the buzzer. Meanwhile, Joc Pederson was taking down Manny Machado 13-12, but Frazier crushed it, besting Prince Fielder 14-13.

That brought Pujols up against Pederson and Frazier taking on Josh Donaldson, who had defeated Anthony Rizzo by the rather pedestrian 9-8. Pederson set the bar high, with 12 homers. Out came Pujols and Ebel. Pujols struggled with a loose batting glove and Ebel with his control. Worse, Pujols was crushing deep home runs, forcing Ebel to wait just a tiny bit longer to pitch again (rules, man, rules). Pujols got himself on a roll but time is just not on his side, neither the year on his body nor the time clock in the event. By the time he got to 11 homers time had run out. He had more in him, for sure, but not at speed. Over on the other side, Frazier topped Donaldson 10-9.

That set up the final. Pederson came out smokin', and ended up with another amazing 14 jacks. Considering the timer AND the exhaustion setting in, Frazier would have to be a superman in front of his home crowd, who were screaming at full throat when he approached the plate. In the end, with just a few seconds to spare, Frazier smashed his 15th to take the title.  All in, Frazier and Pederson had 39 total home runs in 3 rounds. But Frazier's 39th came at the right moment, and the night was his.

I love the new format. Very exciting. I think that the last-minute MLB rule change to contract the overall time of the event in response to weather threats actually improved the event, saving player energy as they went through rounds.  But I like Jeff Fletcher's tiny tweak just as well. Even more dramatic. Hat tip to fans next year: don't think about shifting over to radio in order to avoid the craptastrophic self-mockery that is Chris Ber-Ber-Ber-Ber-Berman. The radio is even more frustrating, as the booth drones on and on doing little more than free association while all the action takes place in the background with barely a mention until the final minute or so of each at-bat. Total truth: Pujol was well into his 4th home run in the opening round before we even knew he was batting, because we were busy learning that there was a mustaches mowed into the outfield grass.

But, back to Pujols. There is good reason to be rooting for him this year. One of the very best is that there are still dads out there teaching their children to hate on the let's go link:


Angels Baseball

Mike Trout: Trout leads off tonight. Interesting, no? The only two times Trout has been a weapon at the disposal of some other MLB manager they have the brainstorm to use baseball's most lethal leadoff man in a generation in the leadoff spot. What's even greater is that the National League will start Zack GreinkeTrout's career slash line against Greinke is .429 / .429 / .857 / 1.286...............

Myths in the Making: It is undeniable that Albert Pujols is the best overall player now than any other time since coming over to Anaheim. We see him all the time. We see a lot of things going on about the Angels all the time. So we have some theories about his rise, don't we? Most of those theories probably wrap themselves around all the reports concerning his improved health and fitness. Some theories might also include being more comfortable in the AL, or in his role on the team, etc. But Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated has a theory straight from Pluto: forget the obvious, it's all due to Mike Trout. Specifically, Pujols is beaming because he gets to be Trout's baseball papa............Trout, on the other hand, sees things the other way around.

Fangraphs is on board: Meet the New Favorites In the West. "Of course there have been obstacles, elements that haven’t gone according to plan. These things are easier to notice when a team isn’t in first place, but if you believe that teams will go on runs and that teams will slump, a good goal should be to always remain within striking distance. And so, even through lean times, the Angels hung around, and they’ve had a mini-surge while the Astros have slumped, and now everything’s peaches....Though the Angels right now hold the narrowest of leads, they’re not to be thought of as a surprising underdog. They are to be considered the AL West favorites."...............

Speed Kills: NFL star running back Brandon Marshall is fast. 22mph fast. Cincinnati Reds speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton is faster. He was once clocked doing 22.5mph. But guess what? Mike Trout, God of Thunder, can do 22.5mph rather easily.............


Elsewhere in Baseball

TexAss Pressure: Bill Stoneman may not have the luxury to stand pat. Or, he might have to remain fiercely calm and avoid doing something rash in response to what is going on around him. For example, what might be the news coming out of Texas. The Rangers should continue to see Josh Hamilton get healthier, and improve as he does. And the Rangers are getting back a left-handed starter in their rotation. Meanwhile, over in Houston, the Astros might up raise the pot stakes immensely by bringing Johnny Cueto into the AL West.

David Price: I don't know where this came from. I had no idea that the Tigers would be in full dump mode, or even close enough that the media would start presuming as much. But here we have David Price reacting to speculation by having to state what should be obvious: "I don't expect to be traded...This is one of the most talented team I've ever been a part of. If people just do our part, we can hold the fort until the best hitter in baseball comes back," referring to Cabrera."............

Bryce Harper: Harper has finally reached the potential promised by years of hype. He has a couple of monster months and Trout is only now gaining on him again. And then one reporter walks around the field and interviews the All-Stars and takes a poll to find out who they would build a team around if they could start with anyone. Trout crushed the vote, and the commentary in his favor was just brutally beautiful. Read all the pro-Trout stuff yourself. I will give you the best Harper take, since this paragraph is about him. Said David Price: "I don't care what [Harper's] done for the first half of the year. Do it for three seasons like Mike Trout has, and then you can have that discussion. Until then, no. No. He has to stay healthy. He has to do a lot of stuff. It's not just on the field. It's off the field. Mike Trout's the guy." Ok. So maybe it wasn't so much about Harper after all. Ha...............

Nothing but Nets: Lawyers have rallied behind a long-time fan of the Oakland A's, who worries about being forced to sit so close to the plate in her senior years now that she has worked her way up as a season-ticket holder. Without nets, people are getting hurt and she might become the next victim. So we have a class-action suit against MLB to add nets further up the baselines in all stadiums. Not asking for money, just for more nets. I am sure some fans will welcome the nets, while others will be less happy that their super-expensive seats are now obstructed by 25-foot high catcher's masks. Then again, too many knuckleheads sit in those seats and don't pay attention, and too few of them bring their 10-year old son with them for protection...........

Scalping ain't such a haircut, after all: A new study out of Arizona State University suggests that the practice of ticket scalping actually creates an improved product distribution system that results in consumers getting a desirable product quickly, efficiently, AND with market justifiable prices - all better than what can be processed by the venue alone. "The research found that competing scalpers in Phoenix have developed working relationships that help them move product and assist the people buying tickets by providing a professional environment and prices that are in line with market standards...then work together to get a customer the seat he or she wanted."............

Lineup Protection: Not. Mike Trout is of the opinion that because Albert Pujols is doing well, he is seeing more fastballs than before. It's not true. "According to PitchF/X data, via Fangraphs, Trout has gotten fastballs 42.4 percent of the time this year, compared with 44 percent last year, when Pujols had a .790 OPS. If there’s a direct correlation between Pujols being hot and Trout seeing fastballs in front of him, it’s not showing up in those numbers."  But if Trout wants to not live in a fact-filled world, as long as it's working for him I am fine with it. managers know better, though. Says Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon: "Listen, if you’re in the box, there’s nobody to protect you but yourself. You choose to walk a guy or you choose to pitch to him. I don’t think that has anything to do with protection. I had Cabrera and Fielder. I don’t think either one of them needed protection. … I think it’s more of a myth than anything else. You still have to make quality pitches. Whether there’s a big bat behind you or not, you still have to make quality pitches."............