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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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…]
Although the Yankees are keeping their pitching plans under wraps for now, Mike Scioscia has unveiled the Angels’ ALCS rotation. John Lackey will get the Game 1 start against CC Sabathia with Joe Saunders to follow in Game 2. Jered Weaver will pitch Game 3, and Scott Kazmir draws the start for Game 4. I’m intrigued by the decision to go with Saunders in Game 2. Joe will have more analysis on that move later tonight, but Saunders does not match up particularly well against the Yanks in New York.
Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has announced the umpire crew for the ALCS. The good news: No Phil Cuzzi or C.B. Bucknor. Tim McClelland, a 28-year vet, will be the Crew Chief, and joining him will be Dale Scott, Jerry Layne, Fieldin Culbreth, Laz Diaz and Bill Miller. That strikes me a solid bunch of men in blue.