Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Russell Martin's Adjustment
The slump that holds back Cano
Can't read my, can't read my, no you can't read Mike Scioscia face.

It’s only early-August, but this is probably the Yankees’ most important series of the season (to date). The Angels are their primary competition for the AL wildcard at the moment, and this series will give them a chance to really bury them in the race for a playoff berth. These two clubs have played one other series this year, with the Yanks taking two of three in Anaheim back in May.

What Have The Angels Done Lately?

We’re focused on the Angels as a wildcard threat, but they’re only one game back of the Rangers for the AL West lead. I’m sure that’s what they’re focusing on. The Halos have won three of their last four games and eight of twelve as they’ve trimmed their deficit in the division from four games to one already this month. They did just win a series against the punchless Mariners, though they only scored four runs in the three games. Overall, the Angels are 63-52 with a +22 run differential.

Angels On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Despite all the big names on their roster, the Angels have the fourth worst team wOBA (.308) in the AL this season. Their best offensive player pretty much all season has been Howie Kendrick, a .302/.359/.446 hitter that hasn’t hit for much power since a big April (.100 ISO since May 1st with just two homers). Rookie masher Mark Trumbo took over for the injured Kendrys Morales at first and he leads the club with 22 homers, but he’s a hacker (4.7% walk rate) and can be pitched too. Just don’t make a mistake in the zone, he’s a bomb threat.

The big three – Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Vernon Wells – are sporting .326, .313, and .277 wOBA’s, respectively. Abreu, unsurprisingly, is the team’s best on-base threat with a 15.0% walk rate and .367 OBP. His power is all but gone at age 37 though (.089 ISO). Wells is the exact opposite, he’s all power (.171 ISO) with no on base ability (4.2% walk rate). Hunter’s pretty much right in the middle, with a .149 ISO and an 8.9% walk rate. Kinda funny how that works. The Angels have a really awesome rookie center fielder, but it’s not Mike Trout (he was shipped back to the minors about a week ago), it’s Peter Bourjos. His game is all speed, he’ll steal bases (15-for-19 this year) and most of his extra base hits are hustle doubles and triples. Bourjos is also a Brett Gardner-level defender in center as well, the kid’s highlights page is outfield defense porn.

The rest of the offense is fairly unspectacular. You’ve got Maicer Izturis (.316 wOBA), Erick Aybar (.320), Alberto Callaspo (.327), Russ Branyan (.258), utility infielder Andrew Romine (one hit in seven plate appearances so far, and yes he is Austin’s brother) and the catching duo of Jeff Mathis (.212) and Bobby Wilson (.226). I assume Mike Scioscia is unaware of Branyan’s Yankee Stadium exploits and will have him on the bench like he has most of the season. The Halos will steal bases as usual; Bourjos, Kendrick, Aybar, and Abreu all have 10+ steals, and Wells, Trumbo, and Izturis are closing in on double-digits.

Angels On The Mound

Tuesday, RHP Dan Haren (vs. A.J. Burnett): It’s kinda hard to believe that after all these years, Haren is just now having the best season of his career. His 2.72 FIP, 1.27 BB/9, and 0.58 HR/9 are all career bests, though his strikeout rate (7.27 K/9) has predictably dropped with the shift back to the AL. Haren’s a four fastball guy, he throws a straight four-seamer in the high-80’s about 13% of the time, a mid-80’s cutter more than 48% of the time, a low-90’s two-seamer about 18% of the time, and a strikeout splitter in the mid-80’s about 9% of the time. A high-80’s curve and mid-80’s changeup round out his repertoire. Haren will pound the zone, so the Yankees will have to be aggressive and jump on the first hittable pitch they see. They haven’t faced him since the series in Arizona last season.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Wednesday, LHP Hisanori Takahashi (vs. Ivan Nova): Takahashi is going to make his first start of the season this series because Joel Pineiro was so bad that the Angels had to pull him from the rotation (5.31 ERA and 4.59 FIP). Takahashi says he’s good for 100 pitches on Wednesday, but he hasn’t thrown more than 43 pitches in a game since last July. We’ll see.

Anyway, Yankees fans surely remember Takahashi for the two six-inning, no run starts he made against them with the Mets last season. He’s a pure finesse pitcher, throwing a high-80’s fastball, low-80’s changeup, and high-70’s curveball with a show-me slider. The southpaw misses a ton of bats (10.6% whiffs career) and has a reverse split this year, but he’s homerun prone (1.12 HR/9 in a pitcher’s park) and will hurt himself with walks (3.54 BB/9). Hopefully the Yankees remember what they saw out of Takahashi last season and go to town.

Thursday, RHP Tyler Chatwood (vs. Bartolo Colon): Thank you Carlos Guillen. This was supposed to be Jered Weaver’s start, but he’s serving a six-game suspension for throwing over Alex Avila’s head one batter after Guillen took him deep and pimped the trot. Instead the Yankees will face the rookie right-hander Chatwood, who has been in over his head pretty much all the season. The 21-year-old had more walks that strikeouts up until three starts ago, but he still misses next to no bats (4.6% swings and misses) and has a huge platoon split. Chatwood throws both his four and two-seamer in the 91-93 range, setting up his high-80’s curve and the occasional changeup. I know the Yankees seem to struggle against pitchers they’ve never faced, but there’s no real mystery here, he’s a fastball-curve guy that will shoot himself in the foot with ball four untilScioscia yanks him from the game.

Bullpen: It’s a sneaky good bullpen, led by rookie closer Jordan Walden. He’s getting his walk issues under control as the season progresses (3.60 BB/9), plus his strikeout (9.60 K/9) and ground ball (47.9%) rates are excellent. Setup men Fernando Rodney (4.01 FIP) and Scott Downs (3.17 FIP) are solid and stellar, respectively. Right-hander Rich Thompson (9.90 K/9 and 3.38 BB/9) is their David Robertson, though maybe the 2009 version and not the 2011 version. Bobby Cassevah (4.54 FIP in limited action), Horacio Ramirez (7.26 FIP in very limited action), and Pineiro round out the bullpen. Yes, it’s that Horacio Ramirez.

Recommended Angels Reading: True Grich. Here’s some ticket info, courtesy of RAB Tickets and TiqIQ.

Russell Martin's Adjustment
The slump that holds back Cano
  • Pat D

    How can Halos Heaven not be the recommended reading???

    Also, the weather is a bit gloomy where I live. What’s it like in NYC? Really not wanting a rainout so no DH either of the next two days.

    • Mike Axisa

      It’s supposed to rain tonight, but not until very late though, after the game should be over.

  • zs190

    I’m surprised that this didn’t mention Garrett Richards, who seems like the likely starter for Wednesday

    • Mike Axisa

      Did they announce him? Last I heard was that it was going to be Takahashi. I’m not sure having a kid make his debut against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium is the smartest thing to do, but then against this is the Angels.

      • zs190

        No official announcement yet but KLaw tweeted that he’s coming up and KLaw is a pretty reliable source for these kind of things when he mentions them. Would they call him up and not have him start in place of the swingman? I guess it’s possible but seems like the smart money would be on him starting.

        • YankeesJunkie

          If he is getting called up it will be for the start most likely, but considering that he will skip AAA it will be interesting to see how he faces elite MLB hitters.

        • Mike Axisa

          I’m not saying I don’t believe you. I just hadn’t seen that and it seems … odd.

          • CP

            They’re probably going on the poor results the Yankees have had against pitchers making their major league debut against them.

  • Boo Radley

    I just don’t understand the decision to start AJ Burnett tonight against one of their aces when he could have started tomorrow against a worse pitcher. If our bats don’t hit Haren we won’t win. The better pitcher, Nova, should have gone tonight.

    • CP

      If our bats don’t hit Haren we won’t win

      That’s the case no matter who is pitching.

      • Boo Radley

        They’ll need to tag him for at least 6 runs. Burnett is liable to give up 5+ runs every time he goes out. Cory Wade better be ready to put out the fire in the 5th. Get Logan warming so Abreu can school him again.

        • CP

          AJ Burnett has given up 5+ runs 4 times this year.

          CC Sabathia has given up 5+ runs 4 times this year.

          • David, Jr.

            How would you compare them after you remove those four for each?

            • Boo Radley

              And how many of those for CC are against Boston, the best offense in baseball? How many of those for Burnett are against Boston?

              • Will

                3 for CC, 1 for AJ against Boston.

              • TCMiller30

                Also… How many of those did CC still manage to give the team 6-7 innings, and how many of AJ’s were 5 or less?

                • Jim S

                  Not the point though.

                  He was responding to the idea that AJ gives up 5+ runs “every time out”.

                  No sane person is saying AJ is as good as CC. Just that the case against AJ is sometimes overstated.

  • CP

    he’s serving a six-game suspension for throwing over Alex Avila’s head one batter after Guillen took him deep and pimped the trot.

    If you don’t want someone to strut after hitting a home run, perhaps you shouldn’t groove a fastball right down the middle of the plate.

    • Boo Radley

      Weaver was completely in the right. What Guillen did was out of line and he should be the one that gets suspended. Weaver acted appropriately by throwing at the next guy. You do not show up the pitcher like Guillen did and expect people to respect you.

      • Mike Axisa

        Someone should have gotten hit, but it’s never okay to throw over someone’s head. Put it in his ribs and be done with it.

        • Crime Dog

          Although I think Guillen should’ve been the one to get hit. I liked Weaver’s response when they asked him why he didn’t just wait to hit Guillen next year. Something to the extent of “He’s gonna have a job next year?”

          • MannyGeee

            that is a pretty bad-ass response.

          • bonestock94

            LOL. I know throwing at the head is really terrible but I enjoyed that whole confrontation…and that game in general.

      • Crime Dog

        I would be ok with what Weaver did if it wasn’t up near the head. You can send a message without risking serious injury to Avila, who had nothing to do with any of this garbage

      • CP

        So it’s ok to throw a pitch at someone’s head (someone who did nothing wrong) and potentially seriously hurt them, but it’s not ok to take a couple of seconds to admire a home run in a tight game? That makes no sense to me.

        • Boo Radley

          You’re downplaying Guillen’s actions. It wasn’t just a few seconds watching the ball. He stood there and started right at Weaver. Somebody’s gonna get thrown at if you do something bush league like that. Verlander called the bunt in a no hitter bush league but he should be looking at his own teammate for an example.

          • Foghorn Leghorn

            Most of these unwritten rules are just stupid. Why is it bad for a guy to try and break up a no hitter with a bunt? That game was very close and the other team had a chance to win it. Field the friggin’ bunt then…

          • CP

            He stared at Weaver because Weaver started yelling at him. Before that he was just watching the home run.

            • hugh

              Having just rewatched the homer to check my recollection, I totally agree with your construction of events. Granted, Guillen didn’t race out of the batter’s box but when you watch from the camera behind the plate you can see that Weaver was on at him about one millisecond after he hit the ball. To my eye, the first guy guilty of disrespecting anyone was Weaver with his precious attitude to being hit hard. Looked to me like Guillen just made sure he didn’t put his head down and race round the bases after that because of Weaver’s tirade. Think he better get used to being taken deep – he’s due a regression on his HR:FB ratio…

            • j6takish

              The encounter started with Magglio hitting a foul pole homerun and he stood in the box to see whether it was going to go foul or not, and Weaver yelled at him for “admiring a home run” (he wasn’t). Later, when Guillen hit his home run, he totally rubbed it in as to say “THIS is what admiring a home run looks like!”

        • Foghorn Leghorn

          only if your name is Josh Beckett…then its just gritty

  • pat

    Ugh. Don’t like the two junkerballers.

    • Foghorn Leghorn


  • Wayne Tolleson

    The Yankees played the Angels in June out here at Yankee Stadium West. What are the chances of Weaver donning pinstripes in the next year or 2??

    • zs190

      He’s the most likely top-end starter to hit FA after 2012 but it’s hard to peg the chances on a guy that’s not a FA after the season when so many things could change this offseason. If Yanks sign CJ Wilson and keep CC, they would have CC, Wilson and AJ all under contract for 2013 at 16 mil+/yr and all on wrong side of 30, would be hard to sign Weaver then.

      • Wayne Tolleson

        CJ WILSON??? Really??

        • zs190

          I’m not saying they should do it but I don’t think it would be that surprising if they sign him.

          He’s left handed going into his age 31 season with very little mileage on his arm, gets groundballs, doesn’t give up many homeruns, misses bats, fairly durable and he’s shown better command this year. He fits what the Yankees need but hasn’t started for that long so it’s not a huge sample to go on.

        • CP

          He has a 3.35 ERA since the start of last year, despite pitching in Texas.

          He’s also 12th in baseball in fWAR since he moved into the rotation last year. Ahead of guys like Cain, Lester, Greinke and Price.

          I have no idea what he’ll cost, but he’s certainly someone the Yankees should look into.

          • JobaWockeeZ

            Yeah but the thing is his track record isn’t huge. Even Burnett had one ace like year and now he can’t be trusted in a playoff start. I would hope they’ve learned that since pretty much every FA starter they signed in the 2000s failed epically with the exception of CC and Moose, that they don’t spend half the world trying to acquire Wilson. Save the money for someone like Weaver or Hamels who really are worth it.

      • Kiersten

        AJ is also gone after 2013, so I don’t think his contract will stop the Yankees from signing one or two guys (*cough*Hamels*cough*Weaver) from the 2013 class.

  • Monteroisdinero

    “AJ has electric stuff and is capable of shutting down an offense completely on any given night”

    This is the narrative.

    Tonight would be fine AJ if you could fulfill it.

    I think we take 2 out of 3 and hope that Minny can win a game against Boston. 17 hits for the Sawx!

  • Jorge

    I say beat these guys into oblivion and make that playoff spot as close to a reality as possible.

    AJ rights the ship tonight.

    • MannyGeee

      is ‘the ship’ pointed towards Scranton?

      • TCMiller30

        Hopefully it is, and he’s got room to bring Jesus back with him!

  • MannyGeee

    Haren scares the hell out of me. he has 2-hitter written all over him tonight.

    or he gets lit up in 6 innings, either way.

    • MannyGeee

      for 6 runs i meant. damn I am losing it (assuming I evr had it)

      • Sarah

        Could go either way. He could get lit up for 6 runs, or for runs in 6 innings, White Sox or Orioles style.

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      As long as they don’t let haren bat, i will be happy. i remember him with the dbacks raking against the yankees last year. sss, but his offensive #’s were ridiculous before he got traded

  • ADam

    Wednesday, LHP Hisanori Takahashi

    So naturally he’ll give the Los Angeles Angels of Orange County, District 8 of Anaheim 7 shutout innings

  • Matt Imbrogno

    Even from the bench, Russell Branyan will manage to hit a mammoth home run into the RF bleachers.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    maybe we lose tonight but I expect the Yanks to win game 2 and 3.

  • Rookie


    You say: “I know the Yankees seem to struggle against pitchers they’ve never faced, but there’s no real mystery here, he’s a fastball-curve guy that will shoot himself in the foot with ball four untilScioscia yanks him from the game.”

    Forget about that “but”, Mike. That’s one very big but. I think the whole point is that the Yankees have the ability to make any pitcher they haven’t seen, no matter how pedestrian his numbers may be, no matter how lousy a pitcher he may be, no matter how much every other team in both leagues may have battered him, look like Sandy Koufax in his prime.

    Hopefully, they turn over a new leaf, stay on the offensive roll they’ve been on, etc., and don’t do that. But rightly or wrongly, it seems like there is no relevant “but” when the Yankees are doing their thing to make pitchers they haven’t seen look great.

  • Jesse

    My 9 Curse could rear its ugly head again. It’s raining pretty good in the Bronx and it may rain all night.