4/25-4/27 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels

Mike Scioscia

Following a successful seven-game road trip, the Yankees return home to the Bronx to kick off a nine-game homestand tonight. The first of three teams to visit is the Angels, who have won just seven of 22 games at the new Yankee Stadium. The Halos used to give the Yankees fits but that really isn’t the case these days.

What Have They Done Lately?
Mike Scioscia’s team has split the first six games of their nine-game trip to the East Coast. They just took two of three from the Nationals in Washington and were a spectacular blown save away from a sweep (four-run ninth!). The Angels are 10-11 with a +17 run differential overall. That’s actually the second best run differential in the league.

Offense
At 5.3 runs per games with a team 111 wRC+, Scioscia’s club has been one of the very best offensive teams in baseball so far this season. They are without two key players in OF Josh Hamilton (thumb) and OF Kole Calhoun (ankle) right now. That’s their cleanup and leadoff hitters, respectively. Both were off to strong starts and will be out for several weeks. They aren’t returning this weekend.

Trout. (Leon Halip/Getty)
Trout. (Leon Halip/Getty)

The Angels are led by the best player in baseball. New Jersey kid OF Mike Trout (172 wRC+) is still amazing and not in anyway underperforming this year. He’s amazing. 1B Albert Pujols (171 wRC+) leads the league with eight homers and is having a great year, but he isn’t all the way back to being his old self. This version is hitting .284 with a .351 OBP. The old Pujols hit like .330 with a .440-something OBP. He’s still super dangerous though. These two bat second and third in the lineup and will be scary as hell all weekend.

Yankees killer 2B Howie Kendrick (121 wRC+) is off to a nice start, as is the catching tandem of C Chris Iannetta (114 wRC+) And C Hank Conger (97 wRC+). OF Collin Cowgill (178 wRC+ in limited time) has done a fine job filling in during the injuries. Former Yankees OF/DH Raul Ibanez (46 wRC+) and OF Brennan Boesch (61 wRC+ in very limited time) have had poor starts, ditto SS Erick Aybar (71 wRC+) and 3B David Freese (21 wRC+). Freese has been losing playing time to 3B Ian Stewart (102 wRC+ in limited time) lately. OF J.B. Shuck (44 wRC+) and IF John McDonald (160 wRC+) fill out the bench and have played sparingly.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. LAA) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Of all the big money pitching contracts handed out in recent years, I think Wilson’s get the most undeserved crap. He has been a steady and reliable horse for the Halos. The 33-year-old comes into tonight’s start with a 4.21 ERA (3.92 FIP) in four starts this year, pairing an excellent strikeout rate (9.82 K/9 and 26.4 K%) with good ground ball (46.4%) and walk (3.16 BB/9 and 8.5 BB%) totals. Righties (.344 wOBA) has roughed him up a bit this year, but not lefties (.294 wOBA). Wilson throws five pitches pretty frequently: low-90s fastball, upper-80s cutter, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and upper-70s curveball. That’s a lot of different looks at different velocities. He took a pounding in his first start but has been solid since.

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Saturday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. LAA) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Santiago, 26, is a local guy from Newark. He has a 3.68 ERA (4.17 FIP) in four starts this year after being acquired from the White Sox in the three-team Mark Trumbo trade over the winter. As usual, his strikeout (8.18 K/9 and 21.1 K%) and walk (4.91 BB/9 and 12.6 BB%) rates are high while his ground ball rate (29.5%) is low. Righties (.321 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.285 wOBA). Santiago is best described as a three and a half pitch pitcher. He uses low-90s four and two-seam fastballs to set up his low-80s changeup, and every once in a while he’ll bust out a mid-70s screwball. Click the link for the requisite GIF. Santiago’s first two starts were rough, but the last two have been very good.

Sunday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. LAA) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
The Angels have a young back of the rotation and Richards has been the standout so far. The 25-year-old has pitched to a 2.52 ERA (2.91 FIP) in his first four starts with very good strikeout (8.64 K/9 and 24.2 K%) and grounder (51.7%) rates. He does walk too many (5.04 BB/9 and 14.1 BB%), which has been an issue in his previous three big league seasons. Richards has a reverse split early this year — righties have a .301 wOBA, lefties a .201 wOBA — and he’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher, relying on a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider. He’s throw a handful of upper-70s curveballs per start, but that’s it. No changeup to speak of. The Athletics roughed Richards up two starts ago, but otherwise he’s allowed two runs in his other three starts combined.

Frieri. (Harry How/Getty)
Frieri. (Harry How/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Angels were off yesterday, so Scioscia’s bullpen is as rested as can be right now. RHP Ernesto Frieri (8.80 FIP) melted down big time on Wednesday but remains the closer. RHP Joe Smith (2.33 FIP) and RHP Kevin Jepsen (3.57 FIP) have been the primary setup guys. LHP Nick Maronde (0.69 FIP in very limited time) is Scioscia’s only lefty reliever.

The rest of the team’s bullpen is … an interesting mix. RHP Yoslan Herrera (4.03 FIP) last pitched in the big leagues in 2008 before being called up a few weeks ago. RHP Fernando Salas (4.58 FIP) closed for the Cardinals for a few months back in 2011 but has been derailed by control problems. RHP Michael Kohn (3.71 FIP) is just a guy named Michael Kohn. Can’t find anything interesting about him. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees bullpen, then check out Monkey with a Halo for some Angels analysis. The Angels blogosphere really leaves something to be desired now that True Grich seems to be dead.

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The Latest on Masahiro Tanaka

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Today is the halfway point of Masahiro Tanaka‘s 30-day negotiating window. He has 15 days left to work out a contract before the 5pm ET deadline on January 24th, and the entire deal must be complete by that time. Tanaka needs to pass a physical and sign on the dotted line by then. There won’t be any of this “agree to a deal and three weeks later it’s official” nonsense. Only 15 days until he is on some team’s roster. Love the hard deadline.

Anyway, we know the Yankees have already contacted with Tanaka’s agent Casey Close, but there haven’t been any real updates since. That doesn’t mean talks have stalled or anything like that, just that no updates have leaked. The whole process has been very tight-lipped, it seems. I’m guessing that’s by design. Here are some Tanaka-related notes from around the league in what I suspect is the first of many update posts:

  • Tanaka flew to the Los Angeles yesterday to begin face-to-face meetings with teams. He is slated to meet with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, and Angels this week and he will also be seen by a doctor to get the physical process going. [David Waldstein, Bill Plunkett & Jon Heyman]
  • D’Backs GM Kevin Towers said Close “pretty much asked those clubs that are involved that just less is better and not to really say anything or divulge the process or what’s happening.” That explains the lack of updates. [Steve Gilbert]
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti confirmed he has touched base with Tanaka’s camp but the two sides are in the “feeling out” stage. Negotiations with various clubs are “still in a very preliminary phase” and things might not heat up until next week. [Dylan Hernandez & Andy Martino]
  • If you missed it earlier this week, here is our massive Scouting The Market post on Tanaka. Pretty much everything you need to know about the guy is in there.

Olney: Angels open to trading Bourjos and Trumbo for pitching

Via Buster Olney: The Angels have expressed a willingness to trade Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo for pitching help as they look to revamp their staff. Right now their rotation is Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Jerome Williams, and Joe Blanton. Obviously they want to upgrade at least the last two and maybe the last three spots.

Bourjos, 26, has missed a bunch of time due to wrist problems these last two years. The defensive whiz is a career .251/.306/.398 (103 wRC+) hitter in a little more than 1,100 plate appearances over the last four years. He is fast enough to theoretically steal bases even though he hasn’t done much of it in the big leagues (41-for-54, 76%). The 27-year-old Trumbo is a career .250/.299/.469 (111 wRC+) hitter who has whacked at least 29 homers in each of his three full seasons. He’s developed a reputation for being a notorious first half player (career 130 wRC+) who disappears after the break (86 wRC+).

The Yankees have enough speedy, no power, defense first outfielders on their roster, so Bourjos makes little sense. Trumbo is a much better fit as long as the club thinks he can adequately play the outfield. I don’t think breaking the bank for another first base/DH type is a wise move. Trumbo has almost a thousand career innings in the outfield and New York could try to hide him in tiny right field. His kind of righty power is hard to fine, even though it comes with a miniscule OBP. The problem is that unless the Angels really like David Phelps or Adam Warren, the Yankees don’t have any pitching to trade them. Not a good trade match here.

8/12-8/15 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

What was once a great battle between two of baseball’s best teams has devolved into a meeting of broken down fringe contenders. Yankees-Angels doesn’t have the same kind of excitement it once did … or should I say dread? The Angels had New York’s number for the better part of a decade. The two teams will play four games in Yankee Stadium this week, their second and final meeting of the season after the Yankees lost two of three in Anaheim back in June.

What Have They Done Lately?
Despite taking two of three from the Indians this weekend, the Halos have lost five of their last seven games and 14 of their last 21 games. At 53-63 with a -17 run differential, the Angels are in fourth place in the AL West and well out of a playoff spot.

Offense
This isn’t a surprise, but Mike Scioscia’s team can score a lot of runs. They average 4.6 runs per game with a team 109 wRC+, both well-above-average marks even though 1B Albert Pujols (111 wRC+) is done for the year with a foot problem. The Angels are also without certified Yankees killer 2B Howie Kendrick (116 wRC+), who just landed on the DL with a knee injury, and OF Peter Bourjos (142 wRC+), who has been out for a while with a broken wrist. That’s three pretty important players right there.

Trout. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Trout. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

The team’s offense now revolves around Mike Trout (176 wRC+), baseball’s best all-around player. 1B Mark Trumbo (108 wRC+) and C Chris Iannetta (106 wRC+) are Scioscia’s only other healthy above-average regulars at the moment. OF Josh Hamilton (88 wRC+) has been a major disappointment and others like SS Erick Aybar (96 wRC+) and OF J.B. Shuck (97 wRC+) aren’t anything special. Personal fave OF Kole Calhoun (168 wRC+) has torn the cover off the ball in a whopping 51 plate appearances.

IF Grant Green (63 wRC+) came over from the Athletics at the trade deadline and has actually played well for the Halos (194 wRC+ in very limited time). He was awful during his brief time with Oakland, hence the poor overall numbers. OF Colin Cowgill (68 wRC+), IF Tommy Field (-31 wRC+ in very limited time), backup C Hank Conger (98 wRC+), and former Yankee IF Chris Nelson (57 wRC+) round out the rest of the position player crop. Because of their pitching issues, the Angels currently have a 13-man pitching staff and a three-man bench.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Garrett Richards
Richards, 25, moved into the rotation not too long ago because Joe Blanton was just terrible (5.52 ERA and 4.83 FIP). He’s got a 4.20 ERA (3.41 FIP) in seven starts and 30 relief appearances this year, though he’s more about limiting walks (2.52 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%) and getting grounders (57.5%) than missing bats (6.41 K/9 and 16.9 K%). Richards has done a good job of keeping the ball in the park (0.63 HR/9 and 9.7% HR/FB) by using three mid-90s fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter) to set up his mid-80s slider. He’ll also throw some rare upper-70s curveballs and upper-80s changeups. The Yankees have seen Richards just twice before, one start (six runs in five innings in 2011) and one relief appearance (scoreless inning in 2012).

Hanson. (Jeff Gross/Getty)
Hanson. (Jeff Gross/Getty)

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. TBA
This spot is technically listed as TBA, but is it expected to be right-hander Tommy Hanson. This been a really, really rough year for the 26-year-old, who has pitched terribly (5.59 ERA and 4.80 FIP), missed more than a month with a forearm strain, and missed about a month following the death of his stepbrother. Yeah, rough. None of Hanson’s peripherals stand out in a good way — 6.92 K/9 (17.1 K%), 3.72 BB/9 (9.2 BB%), 1.33 HR/9 (10.3% HR/FB), and 32.9% grounders — though his fastball has jumped back into the low-90s in recent starts. He also has three offspeed pitches in a low-80s changeup, upper-70s slider, and low-70s curveball. It’s worth noting lefties have crushed Hanson this year (.380 wOBA), though righties have hit him well too (.340 wOBA). The Yankees have seen him three times with mixed results over the years, including a two-run, 6.1-inning start earlier this season.

Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jered Weaver
A fractured left elbow sidelined Weaver for roughly six weeks earlier this season, but when healthy he’s been pretty great (2.87 ERA and 3.56 FIP). The 30-year-old has consistently outpitched his peripherals — 7.14 K/9 (19.4 K%), 2.09 BB/9 (5.8 BB%), 0.87 HR/9 (7.7% HR/FB), and 33.6% grounders — over the years in part because he generates a ton of infield and generally weak pop-ups. Weaver is a legitimate six-pitch pitcher, though he has been using mid-80s cutter less than ever before this season. His mid-to-upper-80s two and four-seam fastballs set up a low-80s slider, upper-80s changeup, and low-80s curveball. Weaver has faced the Yankees plenty of times over the years, and he’s typically had his trouble with them (5.19 ERA in 69.1 innings).

Thursday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
Wilson, 32, had a subpar first season in Anaheim, but he’s been pretty damn good in his follow-up campaign (3.49 ERA and 3.28 FIP). He’s striking guys out (8.45 K/9 and 21.6 K%), limiting homers (0.59 HR/9 and 7.0% HR/FB), and getting grounders (46.0%). Wilson will hand out some free passes (3.49 BB/9 and 8.9 BB%), however. Three fastballs (low-90s two and four-seamers, upper-80s cutters) and three offspeed pitches (mid-80s changeup, low-80s sliders, and upper-70s curveballs) fill out his six-pitch arsenal. It’s worth noting Wilson has had some trouble against righties this year (.314 wOBA), but he’s done the job against lefties (.252 wOBA). The Yankees have faced the former Rangers southpaw a whole bunch of times these last few seasons. No secrets here.

Frieri. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
Frieri. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

Bullpen Status
With a 4.37 ERA (4.10 FIP), the Angels have one of the worst bullpens in baseball. Their big free agent signings (RHP Ryan Madson and LHP Sean Burnett) haven’t worked due to injury, and closer RHP Ernesto Frieri (4.11 FIP) has been meltdown-prone. RHP Kevin Jepsen (2.92 FIP) and former Yankees farmhand RHP Dane De La Rosa (3.03 FIP) has been very good in setup roles, but the rest of the bullpen is a skeleton crew: RHP J.C. Gutierrez (4.03 FIP), LHP Nick Maronde (7.55 FIP in very limited time), LHP Buddy Boshers (0.05 FIP in super limited time), RHP Michael Kohn (4.64 FIP), and Blanton.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have a heavily used and worn out bullpen at the moment. Their four best relievers all threw 19+ pitches yesterday and, outside of Adam Warren, their B-squad threw 30+ pitches on Saturday. Dellin Betances was called up yesterday to give the team a fresh arm, but it’s clear Joe Girardi doesn’t trust him in important spots yet — Joba Chamberlain was warming up for the potential tenth inning yesterday after throwing 30 pitches the day before. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out True Grich for the best Angels blogginess around.

6/14-6/16 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels

(Photo Credit: Flickr user redheaded_pirate via Creative Commons license)
(Photo Credit: Flickr user redheaded_pirate via Creative Commons license)

Ten-game West Coast trips are hard enough, but as an added bonus, the Yankees will wrap this trip up with three games in the house of horrors known as Angel Stadium. They actually won a three-game series in Anaheim back in 2011, but they’ve still only won two of 12 series at the ballpark since the Angels traded in Anaheim for Los Angeles in their name in 2005. That includes three sweeps. Thankfully, this is the only time the Bombers will play the Halos in Southern California this year.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Halos put together a come from behind win against the Orioles on Wednesday, but otherwise they’ve lost four of their last five and nine of their last 12 games. Yeah, they’re bad. The Angels are comfortably in fourth place in the AL West at 28-38 with a -20 run differential. They’ve been one of the five or six worst teams in baseball pretty much all year.

Offense
At 3.76 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, Mike Scioscia’s team somehow manages to score runs at a rate below the league average despite doing an above-average amount of damage at the plate. They’re essentially league average with runners in scoring position too (98 wRC+), so it’s not like they’ve stranded a ton of runners either. Very weird. Kinda glad I don’t have to watch everyday. They’re perfectly healthy on offense, no position players on the DL at all.

(Harry How/Getty)
Trout. (Harry How/Getty)

In an effort to get RF Josh Hamilton (81 wRC+) going, Scioscia recently started batting him second behind OF Mike Trout (152 wRC+) and 1B/DH Albert Pujols (103 wRC+). Pujols is a physical wreck due to offseason knee surgery and lingering plantar fasciitis, so much so that he’s started more games at DH (35) than at first base (29). He’s in year two of a ten-year contract. Yikes. 1B/RF Mark Trumbo (132 wRC+) cleans up and 2B Howie Kendrick typically bats fifth (132 wRC+). He’s having an awesome year and he tends to crush the Yankees (all AL East teams, really), as you surely remember.

C Chris Iannetta (109 wRC+) has been his typically solid self and both CF Peter Bourjos (124 wRC+) and SS Erick Aybar (77 wRC+) recently returned from lengthy DL stints. 3B Alberto Callaspo (84 wRC+) has been disappointing. The Angels have a pretty weak bench headlined by backup C Hank Conger (119 wRC+). IF Brendan Harris (75 wRC+) and OF J.B. Shuck (89 wRC+) have been tolerable at best, and OF Brad Hawpe (20 wRC+ in very, very limited time) recently resurfaced after spending last season in Double-A (!). The Angels can hit, but they haven’t gotten nearly enough from Hamilton and Pujols.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Tommy Hanson
It wasn’t too long ago that Hanson was one of the very best young pitchers in baseball, but injuries have made him a shell of his former self. The 26-year-old owns a 4.12 ERA (5.68 FIP) in seven starts this year — he missed more than a month following the death of his stepbrother — which include some very ugly peripherals: 5.26 K/9 (13.1 K%), 3.20 BB/9 (8.0 BB%), 1.83 HR/9 (12.7% HR/FB) and 34.8% grounders. Ugly. Hanson now sits in the upper-80s with his fastball and has been trending in the wrong direction velocity-wise for several years now. He throws his upper-70s slider almost 40% of the time, and still throws his low-80s changeup and low-70s curveball about a quarter of the time. The fastball is almost a show-me pitch at this point. The Yankees have faced Hanson twice before, once when he was good (2009) and once when he was very bad (2012).

Wilson. (Scott Halleran/Getty)
Wilson. (Scott Halleran/Getty)

Saturday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
Wilson, 32, is in the middle of his worst year since becoming a full-time starter, pitching to a 4.02 ERA (3.83 FIP) with very good strikeout (8.70 K/9 and 21.7 K%) and ground ball (45.6%) rates. He does walk a few too many (3.90 BB/9 and 9.8 BB%) and will give up some homers (0.89 HR/9 and 10.4% HR/FB). Wilson uses three 88-92 mph fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) regularly to setup his mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and upper-70s curveball. He’s a true six-pitch pitcher and that’s why he has no platoon split. The Yankees have seen Wilson as a starter plenty of times over the years with the Rangers, both the good and bad versions.

Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jered Weaver
This was supposed to be Joe Blanton’s spot, but the Angels are wisely taking advantage of yesterday’s off-day to skip the portly right-hander and his 5.87 ERA (4.42 FIP). The 30-year-old Weaver missed six weeks with a fractured non-pitching elbow earlier this year and is currently sitting on a 3.77 ERA (4.00 FIP) in just five starts. His peripheral stats — 6.59 K/9 (17.4 K%), 2.51 BB/9 (6.6 BB%), 0.94 HR/9 (7.3% HR/FB), and 34.1% grounders — are right in line with where they’ve been for the last several years. Weaver’s established himself as a guy who outpitches who peripherals and gets by with a ton of weakly hit fly balls and pop-ups, the kind that easily turn into outs — his .264 BABIP is his highest in three years. Like Hanson, Weaver’s fastball velocity is trending the wrong way and has him in the mid-to-upper-80s most nights. He uses two-seamers, four-seamers, and cutters to setup low-80s sliders, upper-70s changeups, and low-70s curveballs. So the kitchen sink, basically. The Bombers have seen Weaver plenty of the years and generally hit him pretty hard (4.97 ERA in 63.1 innings). Harder than most, anyway.

Downs. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)
Downs. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Like I said, the Halos were off yesterday, so Scioscia’s bullpen is nice and fresh. RHP Ernesto Frieri (4.84 FIP) is closing since RHP Ryan Madson continues to have setbacks following Tommy John surgery. LHP Scott Downs (2.78 FIP) does most of the setup work along with former Yankees farmhand RHP Dane De La Rosa (2.99 FIP). RHP Garrett Richards (3.64 FIP) and RHP Kevin Jepsen (3.50 FIP) get the bulk of the middle innings work along with RHP Michael Kohn (3.40 FIP). Blanton might be available in long relief this weekend as well.

The Yankees, on the other hand, have a tired and worn out bullpen following yesterday’s 18-inning marathon loss. Joe Girardi indicated they will call up a fresh arm(s) today, meaning Preston Claiborne and Adam Warren are likely to get the shaft after pitching so well this year. They’ve been worked hard of late and have options though, and that’s the life of a rookie. Both Ivan Nova and Brett Marshall pitched recently, so they’re not going to be options. Dellin Betances could be though, maybe even Cesar Cabral. We’ll see. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here is True Grich, the best Angels blog on the web.

Angels claim Chris Nelson off waivers from Yankees

Via Bill Shaikin: The Angels have claimed Chris Nelson off waivers from the Yankees. New York designated the infielder for assignment when David Adams was called up this past week.

Nelson, 27, hit .222/.243/.278 (36 wRC+) in 37 plate appearances for the Yankees after being acquired from the Rockies earlier this month. He finished up his tenure with the team with a nice little 8-for-26 (.308) road trip. The Yankees acquired infielder Reid Brignac from the Rockies earlier today, replacing Alberto Gonzalez.

Angels land Josh Hamilton

According to multiple reports, the Angels have agreed to sign Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract worth $125M. The Yankees were never really in the hunt for the slugger outside of a report that they were looking into his background, but it’s a major move that changes the AL landscape nonetheless. Gotta figure the Rangers, who are quietly having a nightmare offseason after a disastrous end to the season, will look into Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to replace some of the lost production.