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.

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.

Angels, Madson set the market for Soria

The Angels have signed Ryan Madson to a one-year contract according to multiple reports, and the deal will pay the right-hander a $3.5M base salary. He can earn another $2.5M in roster bonuses (based on days on the active roster) and $1M in incentives (bases on games finished).

The 32-year-old Madson was one of two formerly-elite relievers recovering from Tommy John surgery on the free agent market this winter, joining Joakim Soria. Soria, 28, has indicated a willingness to setup for the Yankees just so he could be around his idol Mariano Rivera, and now we have an idea of what it would take to sign him. Soria is several years younger than Madson with a much longer track record in the closer’s role (saves pay) though, but he’s also coming off his second Tommy John surgery. It would be a pretty big coup if the Yankees could add him to their bullpen with a similarly structured contract, say a one-year deal worth $5M with another $3M in bonuses.

Possible Trade Partner: Los Angeles Angels

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

The Angels and Yankees have developed a long-distance rivalry over the last decade or so, and as a result they’ve only made two trades with each other since 1996: Jeff Kennard for Jose Molina (2007) and Bret Prinz for Wil Nieves (2005). That’s it, two swaps involving spare arms and backup catchers. The Halos have since appointed a new GM however, plus they haven’t made the playoff since losing the 2009 ALCS to the Yankees, so perhaps they’re a little more open to the idea of trading with a rival for the sake of improving the club.

Los Angeles Anaheim spent big bucks on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last year but fell into the trap of being top heavy. They had little depth, especially on the pitching side, meaning they had few alternatives when Ervin Santana stunk and while Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Scott Downs were on the DL. The end result was a third place finish and another offseason spent trying to figure out how to compete with the Rangers (and now the Athletics as well). The Angels have a few pieces who could help the Yankees, so perhaps the two sides could get together for the rare deal.

Alberto Callaspo & Andrew Romine
The Yankees are said to be seeking a utility infielder this winter, specifically someone who can play shortstop and third base a combined 100 times next year while representing an upgrade over Jayson Nix. It sounds simple enough, but that will be one very tough position to fill. The “super-sub” player who can play a different position everyday and actual hit doesn’t really exist. It’s a┬áromanticization of what people used to think Chone Figgins and Mark DeRosa were.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Anyway, the Angels do have some infield depth despite the defection of Maicer Izturis. The 29-year-old Callaspo has taken over as the Angels mostly full-time third baseman in recent years but has plenty of experience at the other infield spots. He’s just a .266/.338/.358 (96 wRC+) hitter over the last three seasons, but he’s also a switch-hitter who can at least hold his own on both sides of the plate (108 wRC+ vs. LHP and 92 vs. RHP). Callaspo’s strength is his command of the strike zone (9.8 BB%) and freakish ability to get the bat on the ball (90.9% contact rate). He’s walked (126) more than he’s struck out (120) over the last three years, and only nine hitters have swung and missed less often since 2010. One of them is not Ichiro Suzuki (90.2%), just for perspective.

The problem with Callaspo — more than the utter lack of power (.096 ISO) and speed (17-for-24 in steal attempts since 2010) — is that he hasn’t played shortstop at all since 2009 and regularly since basically ever. He’s a career second and third baseman who could probably fill in at short in case of emergency, kinda like Nix. He’s also had several run-ins with the law in the past, which might not satisfy the whole “good makeup and character” requirement. Callaspo projects to earn $4.2M in his final trip through arbitration this winter, so he’s not exactly cheap either.

The Angels also have the 26-year-old Romine (Austin’s older brother) on the infield depth chart, but he’s far less established that Callaspo. Romine owns a 49 wRC+ in 51 career big league plate appearances and a .283/.350/.367 (86 wRC+) in over 800 career Triple-A plate appearances. He’s a left-handed hitter and a true shortstop (his defense is his best tool by far) with experience elsewhere on the infield. With all due respect, I think I’d rather see the Yankees try to make Eduardo Nunez into a utility guy again rather than play the elder Romine as much as they seem to looking to play their utility infielder.

Kole Calhoun
I wrote about Calhoun in-depth prior to the trade deadline, so I’ll point you to that and give you the short version here: he’s a left-handed hitting corner outfielder who can hold his own against southpaws, spot start at first base, and offer both patience and some power. He’s also gotten slapped with the “gamer” tag because he’s short, white, runs really hard, and hasn’t gotten a big contract yet. The Angels are still being hung by the Vernon Wells noose and will likely use him as the fourth outfielder behind Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, and Peter Bourjos this year, meaning Calhoun will probably spend another year in Triple-A waiting for someone ahead of him on the depth chart to get hurt. The Yankees are looking at life after Nick Swisher right now, and the 25-year-old Calhoun offers pretty much everything they’re looking for in Swisher’s replacement, at least on paper.

* * *

The Angels were reportedly seeking a quality left-handed reliever prior to the trade deadline and are said to be focusing on pitching in general this winter, meaning both starters and relievers. The Yankees don’t have much starting pitching to offer at the moment, at least not until Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are re-signed/viable replacements are acquired, but they do have some left-handed relief depth. Boone Logan, who is coming off a career-high workload (55.1 innings and 80 appearances) and is due to be a free agent after 2013, is theoretically made expendable by Clay Rapada, the recently-claimed Josh Spence, and the soon-to-be healthy Cesar Cabral.

Obviously it’s very unlikely that one year of Logan can fetch the Yankees any of the players above, but at least he’s a piece who might entice Angels GM Jerry Dipoto. A conversation starter, something like that. I have no reason to suspect the Angels would have interest in acquiring Alex Rodriguez even if the Yankees ate a big chunk of his contract, so I’m not even going to discuss the possibility. Finding the right prospects or young big leaguers to package with Logan in a trade would be the key for New York, who could theoretically plug their utility infielder and right field holes in one fell swoop. It takes two to tango, of course.

7/13-7/15 Series Preview: Anaheim Angels

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Hooray for not playing in Anaheim. The Yankees and Angels have played twice already this season, with New York taking two of three in the Bronx back in April before the Halos responded by taking two of three in SoCal in May. They’ll wrap up the season series this weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?

Prior to the All-Star break, the Angels took three of four from the Orioles but are just 5-5 in their last ten games. At 48-38 with a +44 run differential, they have the third best record and fourth best run differential in the league.


(AP/Fred Thornhill)

Mike Scioscia’s club has one of the better offenses in the league, with a team 104 wRC+ and an average of 4.4 runs per game. It all starts at the top of surefire Rookie of the Year and legit MVP candidate Mike Trout, who owns a 172 wRC+ and leads the league with 4.8 fWAR. He can beat you with his legs (26 steals) or his power (12 homers).

The other big bats belong to Albert Pujols (duh) and Mark Trumbo, who have a 114 and 160 wRC+, respectively. Between those two and Trout, the Halos have some serious right-handed thump. Torii Hunter (111 wRC+) and Kendrys Morales (107 wRC+) are the only other regulars who have been above average producers with the stick, though you and I both know Howie Kendrick (86 wRC+) kills the Yankees. That’s the meat of the order right there, those five guys.

The rest of the lineup is filled out by various annoying bit players, like Alberto Callaspo (95 wRC+), Erick Aybar (80 wRC+), Maicer Izturis (75 wRC+), and Peter Bourjos (75 wRC+). Catching duties belong to Bobby Wilson (31 wRC+) and John Hester (80 wRC+) while the backup infielder is Andrew Romine (285 wRC+ in six plate appearances), brother of Austin. It’s a very good but top-heavy offense, one with a few breaks towards the bottom of the lineup.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
One of the few free agent pitchers who has lived up to his contract (so far, anyway), Wilson has pitched to a 2.43 ERA (3.63 FIP) during his first season with the Angels and was a deserving All-Star. His strikeout rate (7.11 K/9 and 19.4 K%) is down slightly and his walk rate (3.96 BB/9 and 10.8 BB%) has shot back up to its pre-2011 levels, but at least he still gets a ton of grounders (51.6%). Wilson is a true six-pitch guy, using each offering at least 10% of the time. His primary weapons are his three fastballs, low-90s two and four-seamers plus an upper-80s cutter. A mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball are the three offspeed pitchers. The Yankees have seen Wilson plenty of times with the Rangers over the last few seasons as well as once this April.

Saturday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Jerome Williams
Williams resurrected his career last season, five years after he last pitched in the big leagues. The 30-year-old right-hander has pitched to a 4.46 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 82.2 innings this year with a weak strikeout rate (6.10 K/9 and 15.8 K%) but strong walk (2.83 BB/9 and 7.3 BB%) and ground ball (55.6%) numbers. Williams is a bit unorthodox in the sense that he’s a low-90s sinker/upper-80s cutter guy who will mix in the occasional low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball. The Yankee tagged Williams for five runs in just 2.2 innings earlier this year, that ESPN Sunday Night game when Raul Ibanez hit a ball nearly into the upper deck.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Sunday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jered Weaver
Owner of baseball’s very best ERA (1.96), Weaver threw an inning in the All-Star Game on Tuesday and brings a massive home/road split to the Bronx this weekend: 0.58 ERA (2.04 FIP) at home compared to a 3.24 ERA (3.78 FIP) on the road. He does it by limiting walks (2.05 BB/9 and 6.0 BB%) and homers (0.47 HR/9), not by striking guys out (6.80 K/9 and 19.7 K%) or getting ground balls (38.2%). A kitchen sink guy with six pitches, Jeff’s younger brother sits in the upper-80s with his two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter. Weaver’s top offspeed offering is a low-80s slider but he’ll also throw an upper-70s changeup and a low-70s curveball. He’s a tough assignment, just not as tough when he’s on the road and hitters don’t have to try to pick up the ball in the rockpile.

Bullpen Status
Both teams have had the last four days off, so everyone’s fresh in the bullpen. The Angels have a co-closer thing going, with Ernesto Frieri (2.04 FIP) handling the righties and Scott Downs (2.40 FIP) taking care of the lefties. The hard-throwing Jordan Walden (3.42 FIP) is also in the late-game mix, ditto former Yankee LaTroy Hawkins (3.06 FIP) and former Met Jason Isringhausen (4.40 FIP). Hisanori Takahashi (4.05 FIP) is the middle innings lefty specialist while right-handers David Carpenter (3.52 FIP) and Kevin Jepsen (4.16 FIP) handle the garbage time innings.

Joe Girardi‘s relief crew really needed the time off after the grueling series with the Red Sox before the break. Hopefully the lack of lefties in Anaheim’s lineup means Boone Logan and his league-leading 43 appearances will get a few more days of rest. There aren’t many Angels blogs out there, not good ones anyway, so I have nowhere to send you for the latest and greatest news on the team. I’d rather read nothing.

5/28-5/30 Series Preview: Anaheim Angels

(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.


(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.