Archive for Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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

Things have gotten better in recent years, but Angels Stadium in Anaheim still isn’t a comfortable place for the Yankees. Not like Oakland, where they just took care of business by sweeping the Athletics. The Yankees took two of three from the Halos at Yankee Stadium in their home-opening series back in April.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Angels have been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball this season, but they’ve started to turn things around. They just swept a four-game series in Seattle and have won six straight overall. Anaheim is still one game below .500 at 24-25, but they’re now in second place in the AL West.

Offense

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

At 3.67 runs per game, the Angels are a bottom five offense. Ironically enough, they were scoring 3.71 runs per game before firing hitting coach Mickey Hatcher. They’ve dropped down 3.55 runs per game since. Turns out scapegoating the hitting coach doesn’t actual improve things.

Anyway, Albert Pujols (77 wRC+) has turned his season around just in time for the Yankees. He didn’t hit a lick for the 35 games but has clubbed six homers in 14 games since, including four in his last six games. Pujols isn’t walking as much these days (5.8 BB%), continuing a trend that started way back in 2009. Still, he’s incredibly dangerous and the Yankees would have had to be careful with him even if he hadn’t broken out of his slump these last two weeks or so.

Aside from Pujols, the biggest threats are rookie Mike Trout (141 wRC+) and second-year man Mark Trumbo (160 wRC+). Trumbo is the power guy but Trout does everything, include steal bases and hit the ball out of the park. Kendrys Morales (105 wRC+) has been okay but hasn’t returned to his previous level of production following the leg injury. Howie Kendrick (81 wRC+) is in a season-long funk, plus Chris Iannetta (94 wRC+) and Vernon Wells (95 wRC+) are hurt. Torii Hunter (107 wRC+) is away from the team dealing with his son’s legal problems.

The rest of the position player crop is just bad. Infielders Erick Aybar (44 wRC+), Alberto Callaspo (63 wRC+), and Maicer Izturis (88 wRC+) haven’t hit, ditto outfielder Peter Bourjos (50 wRC+). Rookie Kole Calhoun (110 wRC+ in very limited action) is up to help fill out the outfield during the injuries. Catching duties belong to Bobby Wilson (11 wRC+) and John Hester (81 wRC+ in limited time) with Iannetta out. Infielder Andrew Romine — Austin’s brother — is on the roster due to the injuries and has yet to appear in a game.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Jered Weaver
The Yankees are going to see the best of the Angels’ staff this week. Weaver has a 2.61 ERA and a 2.94 FIP with peripherals that are almost identical to last season — 7.43 K/9 (21.6 K%), 1.96 BB/9 (5.7 BB%), and 37.2% grounders. Jeff’s little brother throws six distinct pitches but uses four heavily: upper-80s two and four-seamers, low-80s slider, and upper-70s changeup. He’ll also throw the occasional upper-80s cutter and a low-70s curveball. The Yankees have hit Weaver kinda hard in the past, but I wouldn’t put much stock in that.

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Dan Haren
Haren may have a higher ERA than usual (3.76), but his underlying performance is still stellar (3.28 FIP). He’s striking guys out (8.21 K/9 and 22.2 K%), isn’t walking anyone (1.95 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%), and is giving up a bunch of easy-to-catch fly balls (40.8% grounders). Haren uses two different upper-80s fastballs (two and four-seamer) and two different mid-80s fastballs (cutter and splitter) almost exclusively. A mid-70s curveball is his rarely seen fifth pitch. Like Weaver, the Yankees did not see Haren at Yankee Stadium earlier this season.

Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Ervin Santana
Santana drew some attention for getting zero run support a few weeks ago, and I mean literally zero run support; the Angels were shut out in five of his first six starts. He hasn’t pitched all that well though, with a 4.45 ERA and a 5.52 FIP. His strikeouts are down (6.68 K/9 and 17.3 K%), his walks are up (3.76 BB/9 and 9.8 BB%), and he’s giving up a ton of homers (1.81 HR/9) despite a career-best ground ball rate (53.0%). Santana is primarily a two-pitch pitcher, living off his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and low-80s slider. He’ll occasionally throw a mid-80s changeup to lefties, but it’s a distant third pitch. The Yankees have historically crushed Santana whenever they’ve faced him.

(REUTERS/Alex Gallardo)

Bullpen Status
The bullpen has been a big weakness for the Angels this season, but they got some big time help by acquiring the unheralded Ernesto Frieri (2.51 FIP) from the Padres. The right-hander has thrown eleven hitless innings for the Halos with 22 strikeouts and seven walks. Yeah, he’s been quite good and that’s why the Yankees are lucky he’s appeared in each of the last two games. They won’t see him more than twice in this series, so consider that a win.

Left-hander Scott Downs (2.50 FIP) shares eighth and ninth inning duties with Frieri depending on the matchups. He’s appeared in three straight and is unlikely to pitch tonight. Ex-closer Jordan Walden (3.54 FIP) has appeared in two straight and is the seventh inning guy nowadays. Jason Isringhausen (4.14 FIP) is still around and kicking, ditto the left-hander Hisanori Takahashi (3.75 FIP). Youngsters Bobby Cassevah (3.66 FIP) and David Carpenter (2.55 FIP in limited action) fill out the bullpen. The Yankees are in pretty good shape after getting eight innings out of Hiroki Kuroda yesterday and seven innings each out CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova the previous two games. Check our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage.

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(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After playing .500 ball on the season-opening six-game road trip, the Yankees are finally coming home for the first time in 2012. Jorge Posada will help kick things off by throwing the ceremonial first pitch in this afternoon’s game. We’re going to get our first taste of FOX (Saturday afternoon) and ESPN (Sunday night) broadcasts this weekend as well, so hooray for that.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Halos are just 2-4 in the early going, losing two of three to the Royals and Twins. They won the first game of each series before dropping the final two. The Angels have scored the second most runs (30) and allowed the third most runs (also 30) in the league this year.

Offense

(REUTERS/Eric Miller)

The addition of Albert Pujols turned an okay offense into a good one, but not the powerhouse that seems to be the popular opinion. Their 107 wRC+ is the ninth best in baseball in the early going, five spots behind the Astros for perspective on how little that means. Pujols (71 wRC+) is off to a slow start, as are Erick Aybar (61), Vernon Wells (72), Howie Kendrick (78), and the finally healthy Kendrys Morales (77). The only regulars who have hit so far are Mark Trumbo (276 wRC+), Chris Iannetta (182), Peter Bourjos (128), and Torii Hunter (118).

As a team, the Halos have only hit three homers, and one of those was an inside-the-park job by Bourjos. Wells and Trumbo hit the other two. The stolen base game has been a bit better, with Maicer Izturis and Kendrick each swiping two. Bourjos and Trumbo have one each. The Angels are very right-handed heavy aside from the switch-hitting Morales and the occasional Bobby Abreu sighting, so they aren’t a great fit for Yankee Stadium. Of course, Pujols and Trumbo can hit it out of any part of any park.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Ervin Santana

Santana has been billed a Yankee Killer ever since Game Five of the 2005 ALDS, but they’ve tagged him for a .290/.373/.523 batting line and a 5.55 ERA in 326 regular season plate appearances against him (71.1 IP across a dozen starts). Santana allowed six runs in 5.2 IP to Kansas City in his first start, struggling to throw quality strikes and get ahead in the count. He’s almost exclusively a two-pitch pitcher — 91-95 mph fastball and a low-80s slider — though his platoon split isn’t extreme as you might expect. If Santana’s getting ahead in the count, the best plan of attack might be to swing early to avoid seeing that slider.

Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP C.J. Wilson

The $77.5M man, Wilson jumped ship and moved from the Rangers to their chief rival this offseason. You can’t blame him, he’s from Southern California and that’s a boatload of money. Plus that’s a good park to pitch in. Anyway, he held the Twins to one run on three hits across seven innings in his first start, though he walked four and struck out five. A true six-pitch guy, Wilson will use three low-90s fastballs — four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter — to set up his low-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball. Aside from the changeup, he’s used each pitch at least 10% of the time since becoming a starter. The Yankees have seen enough of Wilson over the last few years with Texas and have mixed results against him. Some good games, some bad.

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Sunday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jerome Williams (tentatively)

At the moment, the Angels’ starter for Sunday is officially listed as TBD. Williams is expected to make that start after getting through a rehab start on Tuesday with no issues. He’s been battling a hamstring problem and started the season on the DL. Once considered one of the five best right-handed pitching prospects in the game by Baseball America, the 30-year-old flamed out in 2007 before resurfacing with the Angels last year. He pitched to a 3.68 ERA with a 4.62 FIP in 44 IP last season. We don’t have much to go on because of the big gap in his big league history, but last summer Williams used low-90s four and two-seamers with an upper-80s slider and a low-80s changeup. The Yankees will be going into this one blind, so all intents and purposes.

Bullpen Status

Dan Haren and Jered Weaver managed just eleven combined innings against the lowly Twins the last two days, so the Angels have had to use their pen quite a bit lately. Left-hander Hisanori Takahashi has appeared in each of the last two games, throwing 27 combined pitches. Right-handers Kevin Jepsen (18 pitches) and Rich Thompson (39) pitched yesterday, as did lefty Scott Downs (five). Veteran righties LaTroy Hawkins (16) and Jason Isringhausen (ten) pitched on Wednesday. Closer Jordan Walden hasn’t pitched in four days simply because they haven’t had a save situation. The primary setup guys — Downs, Hawkins, Izzy — should be ready to go tonight and are hardly intimidating.

Despite being overworked on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Yankees had yesterday off and their bullpen should be fine for the series opener. Mariano Rivera pitched in three straight before the off day, so he might be somewhat limited in this series. If he pitches tonight, they might lay off him tomorrow. Everyone else should be good to go.

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Via Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman, both the Angels and Indians have expressed interest in trading for A.J. Burnett, though the Halos are one of ten teams included in his no-trade clause and he won’t waive it. Talks with the Tribe apparently revolve around Burnett and Travis Hafner, who’d fit that left-handed DH role beautifully. Cleveland isn’t exactly thrilled about that potential swap though, plus Pronk is owed $15.75M next year (including the buyout of his 2013 option). They’d have to figure out the money.

Over the weekend we heard that four teams have interest in Burnett, one being the Pirates and one being a club on his no-trade list. That means we’re down to just one mystery team.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League
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Via MLBTR, the Angels will name Diamondbacks’ exec Jerry Dipoto their new GM. That means the Yankees are likely to retain Billy Eppler, there pro scouting director, who was a candidate for the job and even called back for a second interview. Amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer was also up for the job, but he was told he was no longer considered a candidate after his first interview. Epp and Opp will get their shots at being GMs eventually, likely within a year or two, but I’m glad both are back. They do bang-up work.

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Via Jon Heyman and Mike DiGiovanna, Billy Eppler has been called by the Angels for a second interview about their GM job. Damon Oppenheimer was told that he is not longer being considered for the position, however. The Yankees gave the Halos permission to interview their two scouting directors, pro (Eppler) and amateur (Opp), earlier this month, and it seems like the Angels are starting to narrow the field down a bit. Dan Barbarisi wrote a great article about how Eppler and his department were able to unearth some hidden gems back in May.

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Update (Oct. 12th): Via Joel Sherman, and Mark Feinsand, the Angels have asked for and received permission from the Yankees to interview Oppenheimer and pro scouting director Billy Eppler for their GM vacancy. That’s kind of a big deal, they haven’t let them interview for GM jobs before (that we know of).

Original Post (Oct. 11th): Via Jon Heyman, the Angels have Yankees amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer on a list of candidates for their vacant GM position. Tony Reagins stepped down as GM last month, surely shamed by the Vernon Wells trade. Kidding, just kidding. Or am I?

Anyway, this is not the first time Oppenheimer has been a candidate for a GM job. The Diamondbacks wanted to speak to him last offseason, but the Yankees denied them permission to do so, their contractual right. Oppenheimer is a Southern California guy and is widely considered to be one of the top GM prospects in the game, so we’ll have to see how this goes. With Brian Cashman set to ink a new deal soon, it seems more and more likely that Opp’s first GM gig will come away from the Bronx.

Categories : Asides, Front Office
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(Photo Credit: Flickr user redheaded_pirate via Creative Commons license)

These September west coast trips are always the worst. It sucks having to stay up late for games, it sucks that the Yankees have to make two cross country flights so late in the season, and it really sucks having to stay up late for games. I think I said that already. The Yankees are in the Pacific time zone for the next six games, starting with three in SoCal against the Angels.

What Have The Angels Done Lately?

Life in the AL West means the Halos have played seven of their last ten games against the Mariners. In between the four-gamer and a three-gamer with Seattle was a three-game set with the Twins, and Angels went 6-4 during that ten game stretch. They have won four of their last five though, and remain 2.5 games back of the Rangers in the division. They’re seven games back for the wildcard, so that’s not really an option.

Angels On Offense

First Tim Salmon, now Mike Trout. Something fishy is going on in the Angels outfield. (Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Despite having some pretty big names in the lineup, the Angels are a slightly below-average offense with a .313 wOBA. Bobby Abreu has essentially been reduced to platoon status of late, even though he’s the team’s top OBP (.356) threat. His power (.110 ISO) is gone, though. Torii Hunter (.330 wOBA) still plays everyday, and Vernon Wells (.282 wOBA) is out there most days as well. Mark Trumbo is the Angels’ top power threat (26 homers and a .225 ISO), but that .295 OBP is atrocious. Howie Kendrick (.353 wOBA) has probably been their best hitter all year.

The rest of the lineup is subject to change by the day. Maicer Izturis (.322 wOBA) and Erick Aybar (.315 wOBA) have been tag teaming the leadoff spot, though the speedy Peter Bourjos (.339 wOBA) has seen time atop the order as well. Megaprospect Mike Trout (.328 wOBA in limited time) has been forcing his way into the lineup more and more each day, and if you think Brett Gardner is fast, wait until you see this kid run. Alberto Callaspo (.322 wOBA) and Russell Branyan (.328 wOBA) might show their faces as well. The catching trio of Jeff Mathis (.211 wOBA), Bobby Wilson (.239 wOBA), and Hank Conger (.277 wOBA) is just awful.

Overall, the Angels can do a little bit of everything but nothing outstandingly well. They’re top ten in steals (116 with Aybar, Bourjos, Abreu and Trout being the biggest threats) and middle of the road in power (.146), but they’re not very patient (just 7.4% walks) and aren’t great at avoiding strike three (17.8%). Not a scary offense, but not a total pushover either.

Angels On The Mound

Friday, RHP Jered Weaver (vs. Bartolo Colon): The Yankees missed Weaver the last time these two clubs faced because the right-hander was serving a suspension for throwing at Carlos Guillen. He’s having a great season (2.49 ERA and 3.02 FIP), but he’s also got a 6.67 ERA over his last five starts, including three absolute disasters. The recent death of his grandfather surely has to be considered a factor. Weaver legitimately throws five pitches, including two high-80′s fastballs (both two and four-seamers), a high-70′s slider, a high-80′s changeup, and low-70′s curveball. He excels at limiting walks (2.22 BB/9) and gets plenty of strikeouts (7.68 K/9), but he is an extreme fly ball pitcher (just 32.6% ground balls). The Yankees have seen Weaver once before this year, when he held them to two runs in seven innings back in early-June.

Saturday, RHP Dan Haren (vs. CC Sabathia): As good as Jeff’s kid brother has been this year, Haren has been even better. He doesn’t walk anyone (1.21 BB/9) and gets a decent amount of grounders (42.1%), and his strikeout rate (7.20 K/9) is tolerable. The 2.93 FIP and 3.20 ERA are pretty good representations of his true talent level. Haren features four different fastballs: a four-seamer, a two-seamer, a cutter, and a split-finger. All of them reside in the mid-to-high-80′s. A high-70′s curve and a mid-80′s change will also make an appearance. In his only start against the Yankees this year, Haren gave up four runs in six innings.

"I'll give you the ball as soon as you tell me why skip keeps putting you in the lineup." (Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Sunday, RHP Ervin Santana (vs. Freddy Garcia): Another low walk (2.58 BB/9) starter, Santana lags behind Weaver and Haren in the strikeout (6.95 HR/9) department. A 3.18 ERA and 3.72 FIP certainly indicate quality though. Amazingly enough, Santana’s basically a two-pitch pitcher, relying on his low-to-mid-90′s heat and low-80′s slider while throwing a mid-80′s changeup about once every 33 pitches. You’d expect a big platoon split with that repertoire, but Santana doesn’t have one this year. He does have one over the course of his career, however. The Yankees scored three runs in seven innings off him earlier this year.

Bullpen: Every team’s bullpen is packed to the gills with call-ups this time of year, but Mike Scioscia’s three primary bullpen guys are closer Jordan Walden (2.34 FIP), righty setup guy Fernando Rodney (4.55 FIP), and lefty setup guy Scott Downs (3.39 FIP). The versatile Hisanori Takahashi (4.06 FIP) and underrated Rich Thompson (3.28 FIP) are the next tier of relievers. A bunch of call-ups like Trevor Bell (3.48 FIP), Bobby Cassevah (3.61 FIP), and Horacio Ramirez (5.31 FIP) fill out the rest of the relief corps. Oh, and there’s Joel Pineiro (4.64 FIP). Here’s their long reliever after pitching his way out of the rotation.

Recommended Angels Reading: True Grich.

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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 MLB.com 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.

Categories : Series Preview
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Jun
03

Series Preview: Anaheim Angels

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Can't read my, can't read my, no you can't read Mike Scioscia face.

There once was a time when the Yankees simply could not beat the Angels. They were just 28-36 against the Halos from 2002 through 2008, but then things changed in 2009. After getting swept in Anaheim right before the 2009 All-Star break, the Yankees went on a big second half run that includes three wins in four regular season games against the Angels, and of course the four games to two series win in the ALDS. It’s been smooth sailing against Mike Scioscia’s fading club ever since.

What Have The Angels Done Lately?

Coming off two straight losses to the Royals, the Angels have won just lost eight of their last 13 games to push their record to 29-29. They do have a positive run different at +3, but for all intents and purposes it indicates that they are exactly what their record suggests they are: a .500 club.

Angels On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user djalpone vs Creative Commons license)

There’s one thing the Angels really lack on offense, and it’s power. As a team, they have just a .133 ISO and 49 homers, both good for tenth place in the American League. The lack of pop is even more noticeable with both Kendrys Morales and Vernon Wells on the disabled list. When Scioscia fills out his lineup card tonight, he’s going to have just two players with more than three long balls at his disposal: Torii Hunter (eight) and Mark Trumbo (ten). The Yankees, on the the other hand, have just one regular (Derek Jeter) with fewer than three homers.

In addition to Morales and Wells, the Halos are also without second baseman Howie Kendrick, who a) kills the Yankees (.371/.441/.481), and b) has been one of the best hitters in baseball this season (.322/.388/.520). It sounds like they might be able to activate him off the disabled list in time for Saturday’s game, however. Their best hitter aside from Kendrick has been Erik Aybar, who sports a .315/.356/.444 line with 14 steals out of the leadoff spot. Maicer Izturis (.285/.354/.414) is the only other regular with both a .310+ OBP and a .400+ SLG. Yep.

Old buddy Bobby Abreu is still doing the on base thing (.388 OBP) and stealing bases (eight), but his power is completely gone (.097 ISO). Hunter’s season line sits at .242/.325/.397, and Alberto Callaspo’s line is a lot like Abreu’s (.299/.371/.388). Trumbo, the rookie first baseman filling Morales’ shoes, is at .255/.305/.467 on the year but .320/.346/.680 over the last two weeks or so. He’ll get himself out on stuff off the plate, but don’t miss in the zone. Another rookie, Hank Conger, has done a decent job of taking playing time away from the certifiably awful Jeff Mathis, but he’s still at .234/.287/.364. The Angels recently picked up Russell Branyan to add some pop, but he wasn’t hitting with the Diamondbacks (.284 wOBA) and has done next to nothing (.095 wOBA) in seven games with Anaheim.

Like Justin Turner a few weeks ago, my pick to annoy the everliving hell out of the Yankees with weekend is Peter Bourjos. The rookie center fielder might be the best defensive outfielder in the game right now, and if you don’t believe me just check out his video highlights on MLB.com. Bourjos is only hitting .236/.292/.382 on the year, but don’t let that fool you. He has some pop and can run, and will do all the little things to annoy the crap out of you in this series. I guarantee he’ll hit at least one triple in these three games. It’s inevitable.

Angels On The Mound

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Friday, RHP Jered Weaver: The Yankees have been facing great pitchers all road trip, so there’s no point in stopping now. Jeff’s younger brother is sporting a 2.48 FIP through a dozen starts this year, striking out more than eight men while walking just over two for every nine innings pitched. He is a fly ball pitcher (37.3% grounders) but he has pretty considerable reverse split over the last two years because his changeup is really good. All those lefty bats – Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and switch hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher – are going to have to watch out for it. Weaver also throws four and two-seam fastballs right around 90 mph, and his out pitch is a slider in the upper-70′s. He’ll also bust out a curveball from time to time. I suppose the good news is that he’s cooled off after a scorching start, but he still sports at 3.18 ERA in his last five outings. Don’t hate on him for being a Weaver, Jered’s as good as it gets. But this is the third series in a row we’re writing this.

Saturday, RHP Dan Haren: As of this writing, it’s unclear if Haren will even make this start. He had to cut Thursday’s regular bullpen short because of back pain, and the Angels have yet to provide an update. I assume he’s still starting in that case. Anyway, Haren is in the middle of the best year in his career, rocking a 2.54 FIP on the strength of his always stingy walk rate (1.46 BB/9) and a strong homerun rate (0.52 HR/9) that comes from his best ground ball rate (44.6%) in years. He pounds the zone with two and four-seamers around 90 mph, a cutter in the mid-80′s, and then finishes batters off with a splitter around 90 and the occasional changeup or curveball. Only twice this year has he allowed more than three earned runs in a start, and only four times has he allowed more than two earned runs.

Sunday, RHP Ervin Santana: I have this weird disconnect between what I think Santana is and what he really is. He has a 5.55 ERA and a 5.94 FIP in ten career starts against the Yankees, but for whatever reason it’s stuck in my head that he always pitches well against them. It’s probably just me. Anyway, Santana has a respectable 3.81 ERA in 12 starts this season, and he’s actually sporting his best peripherals (7.75 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9) since 2008. The good news is that he’s allowed no fewer than four runs in six of his last nine starts, including four games of five or more runs. Looking at the PitchFX data, Santana’s just a two pitch pitcher these days. He throws his low-90′s fastball more than 60% of the time and his low-80′s slider more than 36% of the time. The other four percent or so is a changeup, but the usage of that pitch has continually decreased over the last few seasons. If Ervin’s going to come after the Yankees with just a fastball and a slider, well that’s just not a fight he’s going to win.

If Haren does not start on Saturday, the Angels will likely just move Santana up a day. He’d make that on regular rest because they had Thursday off. That would then put Joel Pineiro in line for Sunday’s start. The sinkerball extraordinaire missed the start of the season with a shoulder issue, but he’s posted a 3.55 ERA in seven starts since coming back, relying on his usual combination of no free baserunners (1.57 BB/9) and a healthy amount of grounders (52.3%).

Bullpen: Long gone are the days of Scot Shields crushing souls for two innings in front of Francisco Rodriguez, these Angels certainly feature a good ol’ fashioned lolpen. Their 4.28 FIP is fifth worst in all of baseball, and their 3.67 ERA would be a lot worse if not for a 77.4% strand rate. A 6.85 K/9 and 4.45 BB/9 are both bottom six marks in baseball.

Rookie closer Jordan Walden is legit, with an upper-90′s fastball and wipeout breaking ball, but he also walks 4.62 batters for every nine innings. Fernando Rodney walks two guys for every three innings pitched, and Scott Downs has suddenly forgotten how to strike people out (3.71 K/9). At least he has a 60% ground ball rate to get by with. Kevin Jepsen has walked seven and struck out four in ten innings, and Hisanori Takahashi is amazingly homer prone (1.62 HR/9). Long man Trevor Bell is another sub-4.00 K/9 guy (3.86, to be exact), but the secret weapon is Rich Thompson. The right-hander has struck out 9.99 batters per nine innings while keeping the walks down below three per nine. He’s legit, as is Walden, but everyone else is pretty sketchy.

Recommended Angels Reading: True Grich

Categories : Series Preview
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Tomorrow night, there will be baseball. Tomorrow night, the Yankees and the Angels will take the field, and at 7:57 p.m., CC Sabathia will throw the first pitch to Chone Figgins. As Thursday dawns, though, we still wait for that first ALCS in the Bronx in five years.

When last the Yankees reached the ALCS, they played a Red Sox team that had just dispatched the Angels in three straight games. This year, the Angels returned the favor, and the Yanks play a team they have beaten in three of their last four contests instead of eight of nine. Now, all that stands between the Yanks and the Fall Classic is a well-rounded ballclub from Orange County.

To prepare for the Angels, let’s look back at how these two teams fared in games against each other. On the season, the Angels outscored the Yanks 65-55, but the two clubs split 10 contests. The Yanks won the first two and last two but didn’t do too well in the middle.

April 30, 2009: Yankees 7, Angels 4 (Box Score) (RAB Recap)
WP: Phil Coke
LP: Justin Speier
SV: Mariano Rivera
HR: Mike Napoli, Johnny Damon
In the first match-up of the year between these two teams, A.J. Burnett faced off against Anthony Ortega, but neither starter would factor into the decision. Burnett worked his way through seven decent innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and a walk, and the Yanks tagged the forgettable Ortega for four runs over 6.1 innings. The Yanks wrapped this one up with a big 7th against Justin Speier. With one out, Robinson Cano singled, Jorge Posada hit a ground-rule double and Nick Swisher walked. Melky singled home Cano, and Ramiro Peña, playing for an injured A-Rod, doubled in Posada and Swisher. Read More→

Categories : Playoffs
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