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.

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.

email

4/13-4/15 Series Preview: Anaheim Angels

(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.

Reports: Angels, Indians want Burnett too

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.

Angels to name Jerry Dipoto general manager

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.

Oppenheimer out of Angels GM mix; Eppler called for second interview

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.