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Here are all of our Blog entries from our talented group of writers, imported from our homepage at AngelsWin.com

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Zack Cozart on his first career walk off

Our good friends at the MLB Network Greg Amsinger, Eric Byrnes and Bill Ripken spoke with Angels infielder Zack Cozart about his approach to the at-bat that beat the Indians in extra innings, 3-2. On his first career walk-off, Cozart said, “It was awesome. Honestly, I was just trying not to strike out right there, put the ball in play, try to get on for Trouty and I guess that’s what made that swing that much better, was I wasn’t trying to do too much. Man, the feeling’s awesome. We grinded out a lot of at-bats, pitchers did great today and [it’s a] big win for us.”  
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AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

Why Mike Trout Might Be the Most Dominant Player Ever

By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Contributor What I’m about to share with you is so mind-blowing that it is worth its own thread outside of the Troutstanding one. Let me take you for a journey… I went through every seven-year span in baseball history, from 1871-77 to the current one, 2012-18, and looked at WAR leaders over those seven year stretches. Why seven years? Because that is how long Trout has been a major league regular, so it encapsulates the fullness of his career thus far. I then compared the WAR leader to the runner-up, and noted the gap the two. Why? Well, when we are talking about dominance it is always relative to his peers. I would argue that the best definition of dominance is just that: how good a player is relative to his peers. There have been many players who have had truly amazing years, but seven years gives us a sense of sustained dominance, and the true greats combine peak greatness and sustained dominance. For instance, Norm Cash (10.2 fWAR in 1961), Darin Erstad (8.7 fWAR in 2000), and Jacoby Ellsbury (9.4 fWAR in 2011) have all had seasons that could safely fit into a Hall of Famer’s peak, but the difference is that players like Mantle, Bonds, and Trout have those kinds of performances season after season. Anyhow, so we’re looking at 142 seven-year spans of time, from 1871-77 to 2012-18. There are 33 players who have had the most dominant seven-year spans, from Ross Barnes to Mike Trout. Trout has done it for three years in a row, starting in 2010-16 even though he didn’t play in 2010 and barely in 2011. The current span, 2012-18, is his first full seven-year stretch and, of course, we’ve still got 90 games to play. Here’s the current WAR leaders (Fangraphs) for 2012-18: 1. MIke Trout 60.4 2. Josh Donaldson 35.9 3. Andrew McCutchen 34.9 Anything look funny there? Well, the gap between Trout and Donaldson is huge: 24.5 WAR, or 3.5 WAR a year! Trout has averaged  8.6 WAR during that span vs. Donaldson’s 5.1. Think about that for a moment. OK, so how does that 24.5 seven-year gap compare to the rest of baseball history? How many seven year gaps are as big or bigger? The answer is…. NONE. And none are particularly close. The second largest gap is 1989-95 when Barry Bonds accumulated 58.5 fWAR over Cal RIpken’s 38.6, a gap of 19.9 WAR. And no, it wasn’t early 00s Bondzilla, when Alex Rodriguez was always relatively close and a terrifically great (if roided) player in his own right. And no, it wasn’t Babe Ruth, when the often under-remembered Rogers Hornsby was a strong second fiddle (although the two of them were often quite far ahead of the rest of the pack). So let me put this another way: Mike Trout has been more dominant relative to his peers over the last seven years than any position player in major league history. Let that sink in. I’ll say it again in a slightly different way for effect, so you really get it: Over the course of Trout’s full-time career, he has been more dominant relative to the field of position players than any player has been in all of baseball history. According to fWAR, of course. So let me ask you. If that is the case, is it not then the case that Trout–so far, at least–has been the greatest player ever? I mean, isn’t that the logical extension? We can leave that as an open-ended question, because I’m not quite ready to answer in the affirmative, even though the numbers say as much. But let’s finish up with a bit more. So there have been 33 “7WAR” leaders (seven-year span fWAR leaders). Of the 33, 20 have done it at least three times – which is Trout’s current total. Given Trout’s lead over the lack, he is an absolute lock to do it at least two more times, so five. So far only 12 players lead 7WAR five or more times. Chances are Trout will do it a time or two more. And the most? No, it isn’t Ruth, its Bonds, with 15. Yes, that’s right. Bonds has been the 7WAR leader 15 different times, every year from 1986-92 to 2000-06. What a beast. OK, I’m done. Hope you had a cloth of some kind nearby.
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AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

Why Angels' GM Billy Eppler's patience with the farm may lead to sustained future success

By Chuck Richter, AngelsWin.com Founder The San Diego Padres were just ranked as having the best farm system in baseball by Baseball America. Did you know the last time the Angels were ranked with the #1 farm system in baseball? 2005. Unlike the Padres, who haven’t been in the playoffs since 2006, the ’05 Angels made the playoffs the year prior to being ranked as the No. 1 farm system, and were the World Series champions three years prior to that. After being ranked as having the best farm system in baseball in 2005, the Angels went on to make the playoffs in four of the next five seasons. The Angels’ top 30 prospects in 2005 had a bunch of talent that made it to the big leagues. Twenty of them made it to the big leagues, and half of them had a solid career. That was an incredible amount of talent. Check it out. Now, think think about the fact that we finally have a top 10 farm system again. Combine that with the talent we have on the Major League club such as Trout, Ohtani, Simmons, Upton, Skaggs, Heaney, Barria, Buttrey, and Anderson. I liken our 2019 club to our 2006 team. We graduated most of those ’05 top 30 prospects that year and they began contributing along with our existing core of vets in Vlad, GA, OC, Weaver, Lackey, K-Rod, Shields, Escobar, Colon. This year, we should do the same with many of our current top 30 prospects starting to contribute along with our current core of vets. Now consider that next year, in our 2020 season, we’ll have an established mix of veterans and young core that can hit the ground running. That could lead to a magical run like 2007-2009. While it may wear on our patience at times that the 2019 Los Angeles Angels may resemble the 2006 club, especially by missing the playoffs, ultimately, we need to see that this year will be a stepping stone, much like 2006 was. Making the playoffs for 3 straight years couldn’t have happened without that transitional season in 2006. We needed the ’06 season to introduce to the prospects to the Majors and give them the opportunity to succeed. I believe the present Angels may have a chance to be a bit better and sustain longer success than they did from ’07-’09. Eppler appears to have set up this club up for more success than we had in 2007-2009. His one year deals for veteran help this season could catapult the Angels into a playoff berth this year. Or, they could end up being yet another boon to the farm system by adding more players like they did in the Maldonado and Kinsler trades. The Angels have the talent to acquire a piece in a trade, if warranted, or, can continue to stock up on talent to sustain the parent club for years. By the end of 2019, the Angels could very well be a top 3 farm system. And, at the same time, they could be on the verge of challenging the Houston Astros in the standings. This season will be an integral part of a larger plan to vault the Angels back into dominance of the A. L. West for a long time.
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AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

Who's In Your Angels Legendary Lineup?

CIRCA 1970’s: Nolan Ryan #34 of the California Angles pitches during circa mid 1970’s Major League Baseball game. Ryan played for the Angles from 1972-79. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer One of the many joys of having children is that as they grow up, you can have much deeper conversations about things, and they can understand so much more. The passions that you have can become their passions, and you can teach them about why you love the things that you do. When my sons woke up Sunday morning, they started working on sorting and organizing their baseball card collections. Like them, when I was young, I had a decent sized baseball card collection, and still have some of my favorite cards. At lunch, one of my sons asked me “Dad, who would you say were the best Angels players in Angels history?” One of my twins decided to take it to another level (because the best isn’t good enough for him) and asked me who were the most legendary Angels players. At first we had to decide what “legendary” meant because lots of players could be legendary for positive or negative things. We decided that to be a legendary Angels player, a player had to play a substantial portion of his career with the Angels and be forever associated with the team and a position. Once we had the definition in place, we spent the rest of the lunch we discussed who would in my 25-man roster. It was not an easy process as there were many players up for consideration. There were many positional battles, and sometimes players had to be moved to make it all work out (or at least work out in a way that made me happy). Some players who had great years with the Angels ultimately had to be cut. Towards the end, it got brutal, to be honest. Ironically, and unbeknownst to us, at the same time, Topps Beckett Media is doing its 30 Teams in 30 Weeks as it counts down to the most Legendary Lineup for every Major League baseball team. You can check out their lineup for the Angels here. When I came up with my team, I had no idea who would be on their team, as their team wasn’t unveiled until today. Since today is an off-day today, let’s discuss my team. Who did I leave off of your list? Who did I get right? Compare my list to the Topps Becket Media list. Which one is better? Where did they get it right and I got it wrong? And, if you want to have fun, you can start making your own Angels legendary lineup. Here’s a reference that will surely help. Catcher: Bob Boone This wasn’t easy. For me, it came down to Boone and Bengie Molina. Both were incredible, but I consider Boone a bit better defensively. Since catching is a defensive position, that tilts the scale over Molina’s better offense. It really is close between these two. Since all teams really need two catchers, Molina will make it on the bench, and the two of them will split the season with each playing about half the games. That way, they both will be rested, and will both be that much better. First Base: Wally Joyner When I think of an Angels 1B, I can’t help but think of the joy and fun that Wally brought to Anaheim. If you were an Angels fan in the mid 80s to early 90s, all you heard at times was: Wally! Wally! Wally! Albert Pujols is the best first baseman to ever play the position for the Angels, but Wallyworld will forever be synonymous with the Angels. That’s legendary. I heavily debated Rod Carew, but in the end, I thought that Carew would be associated more with the Twins than the Angels as he played far more seasons there and had more of his hits with them. Second Base: Bobby Grich This was the second easiest position to decide for me (if you can’t figure out the easiest one, then you haven’t been paying attention as an Angels fan). Sure, he spent the first part of his career with Baltimore, but, Grich was part of the Angels first three playoff appearances and played the majority of his career with the Angels. He was part of the big spending spree by Gene Autry, and put up offensive numbers from a position that at the time generally was not known for much offense. The only other choice who garnered any consideration was Howie Kendrick. While he was a great player, and has the 8th best batting average and 5th most doubles for any qualified Angels player, Grich had the overall better Angels career in my opinion. Shortstop: Jim Fregosi I never got to see him play, but I’ve seen footage. And, before he passed, I got to meet him a few times. In talking with veterans from the era, he was the real deal. An All-Star almost every year he was a Halo, he has to be the choice. The only real competition at the position for me was Andrelton Simmons. I’ve said on many occasions that Simba’s defense is worth the price of admission, and I mean it. If he continues for about 5 more years as an Angel at the level he’s playing, he may surpass Fregosi to be the most legendary Angels shortstop. His defense is amazing, and fans will discuss it for years. But, he needs more time to become legendary. So, for now, that honor still resides with Fregosi. Third Base: Troy Glaus This position came down to two people: Troy Glaus and Doug DeCinces. Comparing the two, Glaus had better overall numbers as an Angel Glaus bests DeCinces in HRs, doubles, and OB%. And, most importantly, Glaus was part of our only World Series win. DeCinces did help the team reach the playoffs twice, but, also spent the majority of his career in Baltimore. Like Carew, DeCinces will probably always be more associated with another team rather than the Angels whereas Glaus and the 2002 team will become the stuff of legends. Right Field: Tim Salmon Any legendary Angels team has to have the King Fish. He spent his entire career with the Angels, during the free agent era, and leads the team in homeruns hit as an Angels. When you’re known as Mr. Angel, you are the icon. But he had a lot of competition. Thank goodness there is a DH spot to help make this all work out. Sure, Vlad is our first-ever Hall of Famer, but the legend belongs to Salmon (don’t worry Vlad will make the team elsewhere). Vlad definitely has the stronger arm in the field, but Salmon was the more consistent defender. And, since it is a legendary team, Mr. Angel gets the nod in Right Field for me. Center Field: Mike Trout Ummmm . . . this was the easiest decision of all. It helps that he’s the best baseball player in his generation, and keeps getting better every year. This was by far the easiest position to decide. Left Field: Garret Anderson Okay, I know a lot of fans have mixed feeling on GA. But, as the last several years have shown, having a consistent presence in the lineup is a very valuable thing. How many left fielders have we gone through to get to a consistent level of play from that position since GA left? Fans underestimate consistency, but for fun, go through the historical offensive stats for the Angels. GA ranks in the top-5 players in almost every single category. Year after year, GA went out there and put up solid numbers. He wasn’t the most flashy, he did sing his own praises, he just did his job on the field, and he was good at it. I’d take that any day in my lineup. It might not be the most exciting legend, but, it sure did get the job done. DH: Vladimir Guerrero Okay, this one was tough. How can I not place the first-ever Angels Hall of Famer on the legendary team? His numbers were unreal. His style was unreal. When he first came to the Angels, the entire stadium would hush during his at bats. He brought an electricity that has only been matched by Shohei Ohtani. But, by choosing him, I had to exclude every other player whom I could have placed here. Names like Downing, Baylor, Reggie, Erstad. Those weren’t easy choices. One could make a strong case for any of those players. But, in the end, Vlad has to be on the team, and as I said in the Right Field discussion, King Fish starts in the field, so Vlad gets the DH spot. Rotation: 1. Nolan Ryan 2. Frank Tanana 3. Chuck Finley 4. Jered Weaver 5. Mike Witt. 6. Shohei Ohtani The first decision I had to make was whether to go with a 4-man, 5-man, or 6-man rotation. And, before I get ripped too much for including Ohtani on this list, think about this: this is the iconic list. For the next 30 years, any broadcast involving a team using the 6-man rotation will forever discuss the Angels and Ohtani. Any team that has a player who tries to be a 2-way player will forever include a discussion of Ohtani. I know it’s only been a month, but if he becomes the player and we become the team for the discussion of an issue, that, by its own definition, is legendary. So, Ohtani has to be on the list. He’s already become legendary with his pitch velocity, his exit velocity, and his running speed. Plus it really helps the team to have his left-handed bat off the bench! As for the others, they are mostly self-explanatory. I’ll take Mike Witt with his perfect game and combined no-hitter as my #5 starter. He has the 4th most wins in our team’s history and the 4th most strikeouts. There are others, and you can pick them from other eras, but, he is one of my favorite players, and he’s who I’d want to see on the mound. As for Nolan Ryan, it’s always bothered me that he isn’t more associated with the Angels. I remember when and how he left, and it wasn’t pleasant. But, his numbers for the Angels were unreal. In an era when batters did not like to strike out (unlike today), he set a record that will most likely never be broken–383. He had 5 seasons with more than 300 strikeouts with the Angels, and oh yeah, 4 no-hitters. How he isn’t considered our preeminent pitcher is astounding. I still blame Bavasi for that. Any Angels fan from that era will forever talk about him, so he is by far-and-away, our most legendary pitcher. Closer: Frankie Rodriguez In 2002, the Angels added K-Rod to the postseason roster, and forever altered the team’s dynamics. Frankie set the single-season record for Saves as an Angel. Sure, Percival had more saves, but, in the end, when K-Rod had his stuff, he was electric. Sure Percival had “the stare”, but for me, Frankie was the more legendary closer. Bullpen: 1. Troy Percival 2. Bryan Harvey 3. Scot Shields 4. Jim Abbott I’m going to go with a 5-man bullpen so that I can fit other position players on my iconic team. So, all the other dominant closers for the Angels have a spot here. And, we are including the rubber-armed Scot Shields. Having him to go 1 or more innings multiple times a week made our bullpen so much more effective. And, before I get too much grief for putting Jim Abbott in the bullpen, yes, I know he was a starter, not a reliever. But, he is by far one of my all-time favorite players. His story is so compelling. And, the Angels really don’t have any major standout lefties from the pen. So, humor me as a writer here for giving him a spot in my pen. It’s my legendary team, you can debate me with your choices in the discussion. But, his story will forever be tied with the Angels. He is part of our lore, and as such, has to make the team. Bench: 1. Brian Downing 2. Darin Erstad 3. Bengie Molina 4. Chone Figgins With the roster choices that I’ve made, I only have a 4-man bench. I couldn’t leave Brian Downing off of the team, but he lost out in left field to GA. And, as iconic as he was as the Angels DH for so many years, he lost that battle to Vlad. He’s too legendary of an Angel to leave off the team, so he has to be one of my batters on the bench. With Erstad, I can think of 26 words that will forever justify him on the team. They are: “Here’s the pitch to Lofton. Fly ball, center field. Erstad says he’s got it. Erstad makes the catch! The Anaheim Angels are the champions of baseball!” Who still doesn’t get chills whenever they hear that? And, if we ever need a team meeting to motivate the players, he’s the guy I want in the clubhouse. Bengie Molina was discussed in the Catchers section. Chone Figgins. Yes, we’re getting Figgy with it. Sure, he wasn’t the same once he left us, but, he could play 3B, SS, 2B, and the OF. He is the epitome of a utility player. He could work a walk and steal a base. If I’m making a true team, I need a true utility player. In a pinch, Erstad could cover 1B, which means that all the remaining positions have to be covered by one player. And for me, that’s Figgins. Okay, there’s my team. As I said, it’s an off day. Go ahead, criticize mine and make your own. Compare it to the Topps Becket Media roster. No matter what, you’ll have fun. And, the more you dig into it, the more you’ll see how difficult it is to do. Yet, at the same time, the more you dig into it, the more you’ll enjoy it. We have an off-day today, so let’s debate. Where do you agree with me? Where do you disagree? What do think of the Topps Beckett Media lineup?
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AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

Where Baseballs Go to Die

Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout dives for a fly ball against the Seattle Mariners in a baseball game Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Today the Los Angeles Angels announced they have signed SS Zack Cozart to a 3 year, $38M contract. Now, of course, the Angels will not use Cozart at SS because they have an even better defensive player at the position in Andrelton Simmons (and this is saying a lot because Zack plays elite level defense at SS). Instead Zack will be taking his talents to the hot corner where he will join Andrelton and Ian in what can only be described as a defensive black hole where baseballs go to die. Eppler has certainly held true to his words about trying to fill every position around the diamond with above average defensive players. Barring Pujols he has essentially reached this goal with the additions of Upton, Kinsler, and now Cozart. If you are a casual fan you may not be seeing the full value in the acquisitions Billy has made this off-season and how it contributes to our increased odds of success in 2018. Pictures speak a thousand words and videos speak ten thousand so let us take a little walk down memory lane to better illustrate how truly sick the Los Angeles Angels defense will be next season (note there are offensive highlights mixed into some of these videos): Mike Trout Andrelton Simmons Martin Maldonado Ian Kinsler Zack Cozart Link to MLB highlights, here. Justin Upton Kole Calhoun It cannot be stressed enough how special team defense will be in 2018. Yes the Angels have improved their lineup as well and that should be a more productive unit, one through nine in the order, but this is perhaps the finest defensive team in baseball heading into 2018 and beyond. It will be a real treat to watch!

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AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

What 2019 Really Is (and why Angels GM Billy Eppler is taking the right course)

By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer There are some who are disappointed with Eppler’s relatively modest off-season so far: he didn’t sign any big name free agents, whether intentionally or because they simply wanted to play elsewhere. No Corbin, Ramos, Happ, Eovaldi, Morton, Donaldson, Familia, etc – all players that would have significantly improved the team. Instead we got a strange group of players in  Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, Justin Bour, Jonathan Lucroy, and Kevan Smith–not to mention his usual few clean peanuts. Now the offseason isn’t over. The two biggest fish–Bryce Harper and Manny Machado–remain on the board, as well as the top free agent catcher, Yasmani Grandal, and top reliever, Craig Kimbrel. There are also quite a few other interesting options such as David Robertson, Jed Lowrie, Dallas Keuchel, Mike Moustakas, Asdrubal Cabrera, Marwin Gonzalez, DJ Le Mahieu, Brian Dozier, etc. And of course there’s Kikuchi. But the Angels, presumably, only have another $10-15M to spend. That pretty much prices them out of Harper, Machado, and Keuchel. Kimbrel seems unlikely, and if Grandal still expects 4/$60M+, he won’t be donning an Angels uniform. Maybe the Angels take a flier on a reliever as well as an infielder, although it is also possible they are basically set with what they have. Eppler has been known to surprise us (e.g. the Andrelton Simmons trade). But the moves so far tell us quite a bit about what  his plan is. Consider that they are all one-year deals for players mostly coming off down years, who are solid bets to provide decent returns, but also with small chances of being huge bargains if they rediscover former glories. In other words, they aren’t the type of players that you acquire if you are dead-set on competing in 2019; they are the type of players you acquire if your focus is on the future and are filling holes in the mean-time, yet also don’t want to write off your chances of competing in 2019. In other words, they are the type of players that you can hope will surprise, but probably shoudn’t expect to. If Eppler was focusing on the so-called “Trout Window” of 2019-20, he’d have gone hard after a more reliable starter–if not Corbin, then certainly Keuchel or Happ. He’d have signed at least one elite reliever, and have upgraded the offense in some significant way – either offering more to Ramos or signing Grandal. He also could have traded some of their prospect capital for further upgrades. A few other tweaks and the team could have been a good bet for 90 wins. Yes, it would have pushed the budget up higher, but he could have done so while staying under the salary cap. But the problem with that approach is that while it makes the team better over the next few years, it lessens the chances of long-term success through tying up funds in more good but non-premium players (Keuchel being a prime example). The Angels already have a near-term salary problem, with $80M owed to three players in 2019 (Trout, Pujols, Upton), $84M to the same three in 2020 (plus another $15M to Simmons, to make it $100M for four), and if we assume that Trout is extended for $40M/year and Simmons for $20M/yr starting in 2021, that’s $113M for four players in 2021. That’s also the year Tyler Skaggs hits free agency and Shohei Ohtani has his first arbitration year. Thankfully Cozart ($12.67M/yr) comes off the books, so that helps a bit. In 2022, the Angels will (hopefully) be paying Trout, Simmons, and Upton something like $90M, but then Upton comes off the books, but then you have to factor in extensions for various players, rising arbitration, etc. Fielding a competitive baseball team is expensive. Unless you’re willing to spend $200M+ a year, you need to be savvy and try to fill as much of your roster with low-cost talent. The best way to do that is through farm development. You focus on growing talent from within, then you extend the best of that talent, and augment the team through free agency and trades. But you protect that farm talent as best you can, because it is the source of your low-cost talent. The temptation for many a GM is to trade that talent for “Proven Veterans.” Sometimes this is the right thing to do (e.g. Simmons), but sometimes it is devastating, both by leaving the farm barren of talent and requiring more money spent on free agency, and you end up with crippling albatrosses like Wells, Pujols, and Hamilton. Back to 2019. What I see Eppler doing is focusing on the 2020s. He hopes to be competitive in 2019–that’s why he did spend some money, rather than just “playing the kids.” But he refuses to dip into the quickly improving–but still delicate–farm system. The Angels, by general consensus, have a farm system ranked somewhere around 10th in the majors. A big trade or two could quickly set them back to around 20th. Continued careful cultivation for another year or two puts them in the top 5. Now the farm rankings aren’t important – they are rather subjective and conjectural, after all. But what they represent is the point: the quantity and quality of talent. The farm system is getting riper year by year, but isn’t quite there yet. In another year or so, it will really start bearing fruit as players like Canning, Suarez, Thaiss, Rengifo, Adell, Marsh, Jones, and Sandoval start contributing on the major league level. Further waves include Soriano, C Rodriguez, Hernandez, Bradish, Jackson, Knowles, Adams, Deveaux, and Maitan. Last year we saw rookies such as Ohtani, Barria, Anderson, Buttrey, Fletcher, Ward, and Hermosillo. Most of these guys will get better in 2019, when we’ll see Canning, Suarez, Rengifo, and probably Thaiss and Adell. In 2020 we’ll see Marsh, Jones, Sandoval, and probably others. In other words, each year will see the graduation of promising young talent, with a cumulative effect of both increasing the talent in Anaheim, and also decreasing the need for higher price free agents. Eppler knows this, and doesn’t want to a) trade this talent away, and b) block the talent with older, more expensive and lower upside players. Now obviously there’s a balance. It is easy to overrate prospects, and probably only a few of the guys I mentioned will become stars, a few more impact players, some quality regulars, and a bunch will be either bench players or minor league flame-outs. But again, that talent pool represents the priceless commodity of “low-cost, high-upside talent” and it has to be protected. The plan for 2019 is, again, to try to field a wildcard-capable team, but not at the expense of the future. My guess is that Eppler looks at the AL and thinks, “I can either spend big and trade away talent and improve my chances of making a wildcard but not win the division, or spend less, keep the talent, and still have a decent shot at a wildcard.” In other words, the Angels almost certainly couldn’t seriously compete for the division or be a lock for the playoffs in 2019, and the cost to simply improve wildcard chances in the short term is just too great, and too debilitating to the franchise in the long-term. 2020 will be a further step forward, with more of that young talent graduating and maturing. By 2021 that young talent should be really starting to flourish and be the core of the 25-man roster. In fact, I could see a 2021 team that is comprised mostly of players below age 28, except for a few notable exceptions: Trout, Simmons, possibly Upton, maybe one of Skaggs or Heaney, a few others. So the Eppler plan is to continue strengthening the farm, while retooling in the majors in ways that give the team a chance to compete over the next couple years, but with the eye of turning this franchise into a farm-driven powerhouse in the 2020s. Its a good plan, but requires patience.
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AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

WATCH: Mike Trout crushes ball at batting practice, already in midseason form

Angels slugger Mike Trout is a true five-tool player, as he truly can do it all. Trout can run, catch, he can absolutely rake. Spring training is where — like NFL training camps — players attempt to get back in shape, having spent time away from the weight room and baseball diamond. Apparently, Trout didn’t stop working out, because he showed up to spring training not even skipping a beat from where he left off at the end of last season. Check out this video of him in the batting cage, where he absolutely annihilated a baseball, then had a great reaction afterward. “Ooh, I almost hit a trash can,” Trout remarked. It’s hard not to feel bad for the trash can.
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AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

Watch Shohei Ohtani strike out side to begin MLB career

Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani made his first career MLB start in a regular-season game on Sunday, and it’s safe to say he delivered. Ohtani began by taking the mound in the top of the first inning, and he struck out all three A’s batters he faced. Check out the swing-and-miss action here.

AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

Up-ton here, Up-ton here: Angels acquire Justin Upton

The Angels have been unlikely contenders for an American League Wild Card spot in a season where Mike Trout has missed significant time and a barrage of injuries have hit the starting rotation yet again. After a 3 game sweep of the Oakland Athletics to start the week, the Angels were sitting one game behind the Minnesota Twins for the 2nd Wild Card spot. With the August trade deadline approaching, Angels general manager Billy Eppler decided to make a big splash to bolster the roster. He acquired Tigers outfielder Justin Upton. For the past several weeks, Justin Upton, along with starting pitcher Justin Verlander, had been heavily discussed as August trade candidates with the Tigers heading towards a big rebuild. Upton, who is owed 88.5 million dollars from 2018-2021, presented a tricky trade candidate because he has an opt out clause after this season that realistically may be exercised with the year he is having. The Angels will employ Upton for at least one month but they run the risk of trading for him and seeing him leave very quickly. For the Angels, this move is very sensible. With the Angels being so close to a playoff spot, there was an obvious need to either add a frontline starting pitcher or legitimate middle of the order bat to help push this team into the playoffs. Justin Upton represents a legitimate middle of the order bat. Upton is having a huge year after posting down numbers in 2016 as he’s currently hitting .279/.362/.542 with a 138 wRC+ that ranks 21st among qualified MLB hitters. Upton is a bit more than just a big bat, however, as he’s been a well rounded player for a while. His 4.1 fWAR ranks 23rd among all position players and is the 3rd highest total he’s posted in a season. He’s stole 10 bases this year and he’s saved 10 runs defensively(DRS), which furthers his value beyond the batter’s box. Justin Upton looks even better if you look at his past calendar year. Look where he ranks dating back to this exact date a year ago: Justin Upton has been a top 10 hitter and a top 15 position player for the last 365 days. He has hit 41 home runs in that span. Angels left fielders have hit 34 combined home runs since the beginning of 2016. Upton represents a massive offensive upgrade over the Angels left fielders of the past and he instantly becomes the 2nd best hitter on the team. A middle of the order featuring Mike Trout and Justin Upton immediately becomes a terrifying proposition for opposing pitchers. On the opposite side, Detroit will receive Grayson Long, who MLB.com ranked as the Angels 9th best prospect, along with a player to be named later(PTBNL). Grayson Long has a variety of different views from several pundits, with some believing he’s a fringe starting pitcher(such as Fangraphs), while MLB.com view him as a potential innings eating 4th/5th starter. He’s a fine piece for the Tigers to receive given the circumstances and Long is close to MLB ready. It’ll be interesting to see who the PTBNL ends up being but given Jon Morosi reported it’s a low level player, it’s likely a raw talent with plenty of issues to iron out. As a follow up move, the Angels exposed Cameron Maybin to waivers and he was plucked by the Houston Astros, who will pay the remaining of Maybin’s 2017 salary without giving up any talent in return. With rosters expanding soon, it was feasible that Maybin could’ve stuck around as a really nice 4th outfielder who could steal some bags off the bench. Instead, the Angels save some cash and will use Ben Revere in that same role. With Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and now Justin Upton occupying 3 outfield spots, you could probably understand the logic in saving some cash by letting Maybin go. The Angels decided standing pat when they were so close to a playoff spot wasn’t a smart plan. Justin Upton could be an Angel for a month and the Angels could miss the playoffs. It’s also possible the Angels make the playoffs and Justin Upton decides to not opt out after the season. There’s a few scenarios that will play out but whatever does happen, today’s trade signals that the Angels are serious about playing in October and Upton adds a legitimate presence to the Angels lineup. Here is some video of Justin Upton hitting the snot out of the baseball in 2017.  

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AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

Trout and Pujols on “30 Clubs in 30 Days”

Following MLB Network’s visit to Angels’ camp yesterday, AngelsWin.com received some clips from MLBN’s Brian Kenny and Carlos Peña discussing Spring Training and the 2018 season with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on 30 Clubs in 30 Days, which can be seen here and here. On what skills he continues to work on during Spring Training, Trout said, “Obviously there’s always things you can always get better at. Defensively: first step. We’re preaching on that pretty good this year, getting good jumps in the outfield. At the plate, just being consistent and try to limit the little skids and just try to work hard on defense and accuracy with the arm.” On the team’s outlook for the 2018 season, Pujols said, “We have a good team this year. Hopefully we can stay healthy. Last year we had a great team too, but right away we lost Garrett Richards, we lost a couple of guys. When you lose like your starting pitcher, it’s tough to replace those guys. This year, I think we really have a really good team. I think the main thing is to try to take care of our business, don’t worry about the other 29 teams and try to stay healthy. Hopefully we can be one of those eight teams in the Postseason and hopefully win a championship.” To get all the coverage from 30 Clubs in 30 Days, click here. There are great clips from Simmons on his goal of improving,  Richards on his preparation for 2018, Kinsler on joining the Angels,  Upton on returning to the Angels, Calhoun on his style and what being an Angel means to him, and many more. It is coverage definitely worth watching.  There’s even a segment by Jonathan Mayo talking about the Angels’ top prospects. We’re getting closer to the start of the regular season, and it’s great to be back talking Angels baseball!
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AngelsWin.com

 

Tim Mead’s Spring Training Dugout Talk with AngelsWin.com

For AngelsWin.com fans, one of the highlights of Spring Training is when we get to talk with Tim Mead, the Los Angeles Angels’ Vice President of Communications. Commonly known as the “Dugout Talk”, it’s a chance for fans to get to hear from an insider about all the Angels’ offseason efforts and what’s going on in Spring Training. The best part about it for us, the fans, is that Tim doesn’t pull any punches. He answers questions as best and honestly as he can. And, he doesn’t shy away from the tough questions–whether it’s about an offseason transaction or about part of the overall entertainment experience at the stadium. It’s a chance for fans to get their questions directly answered in an unusually candid conversation. Originally this talk started behind the Angels dugout. But, as the Angels’ Spring Training camp grew, and as the media presence expanded, and with the occasional help from the weather, we have often had to relocate to one of the food court areas in Tempe Diablo Stadium. No matter where it’s held, though, what remains constant is the nature of the questions and answers given. One minor program note: At approximately 17 minutes into the recording, there was a minor technical issue that forced some of Tim Mead’s answer to a question to be cut out. Rather than deleting the entire question and answer, we kept the portions that were salvageable because in that portion, Tim gives worthwhile information. So, relax, put your feet up, and enjoy watching Tim Mead’s talk with AngelsWin.com. It’s some of the best baseball you’ll hear. Tim Mead’s Dugout Talk Spring Training 2018 from AngelsWin.com on Vimeo.  
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AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com

 

Thoughts on Signing Ohtani

ANAHEIM, CA – DECEMBER 09: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Arte Moreno introduces Shohei Ohtani to the team at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on December 9, 2017 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer   I’m still a bit giddy about the Angels signing Shohei Ohtani. Attending the press conference was an incredible experience, and I was thrilled to get to ask a question on behalf of the fans.   As I’m processing all the information that came out, I had some thoughts on the signing and the implications going forward. Rather than write a series of long columns, I’m just going to get the thoughts out in bullet form. These are all just opinions, but, they have been the ones that have been dominating my thoughts since the press conference.   *  Watching Ohtani in the press conference, he has a lot of poise. I, like many others, was surprised at his sense of humor and his humility. Having interviewed many of our prospects, it’s often hard for younger players to be able to handle the pressure of interviews. They often struggle giving answers to open-ended questions. For a long time, the Angels haven’t had a player who could give great post-game quotes. Ohtani looks like he will make for some great lines which will make reading about the Angels a lot more fun.   *  Physically, I was surprised by how big he was. Prior to the press conference, I only had pictures and video to go off of, which often doesn’t give an accurate size comparison. Sometimes, when I meet players for the first time, especially prospects, I have one impression going in and come away with an entirely different impression. In the case of Ohtani, he really did impress as someone with a power arm and a power bat potential.   *  About nicknames, I directly asked Ohtani if he had any nicknames to date or if he had any good luck items that he liked to see on signs. He said “I saw some guys out there with Ohtani jerseys already, so that made me very happy. But, I don’t really have a nickname, so hopefully they [the fans] will come up with one.” Right now, I’m partial to Sho-Time, especially on games that he pitches. But I also know that there are plenty of fans with better ideas out there. I encourage you to do so!   *  As much as fans like to worry about Mike Trout, and whether he’d stay long-term as an Angel, I think we have a good answer to that question. Clearly, talking with Mike Trout made an incredible impression on Shohei. Whatever Mike Trout said or did during the meeting was pivotal in the decision-making process. I can’t imagine Mike Trout playing that instrumental a role for an organization that he didn’t like long-term. And, I know the Angels will do everything to keep Mike Trout as an Angel. So, I’m even more excited about watching these two phenomenal players spend many years together in Anaheim.   *  If you’ve been on the fence about buying Angels season ticket plans, you really should do so now. The excitement is palpable. It hasn’t felt like that since the Angels signed Pujols. There is definitely something in the air, and I expect Angels tickets will be selling at a premium, especially on games when he pitches. I remember going to watch Nolan Ryan pitch, but wasn’t old enough to buy the tickets. But, in talking with those who did, they’d always talk about the crowds swelling on days he pitched. With Ohtani, I fully expect the same thing. And, in talking with Scioscia, he’s not ready to commit to any Opening Day starter at this point, so trying to calculate what days Ohtani will pitch will be nearly impossible. At the very least, I’d strongly encourage people to buy at least a 20-game mini plan.   *  More on the schedule: I have no doubt that the Angels will add more promotional items next season related to Ohtani. From what I was told, the Angels sold out of Ohtani jerseys prior to the press conference. With the way that Ohtani spoke, and connected with the fans, I can easily see him becoming highly marketed. You will want those items, so again, I’d consider getting a 20-game mini plan at the least.   *  I asked Billy Eppler about the dueling trades for international money with Minnesota. He didn’t want to get into the fan narrative that trade was made solely for Ohtani or that it was a dueling trade with the Mariners. He said that the Angels have some “agreements in principle” in reference to the Braves prospects, but that they hadn’t been finalized before the Ohtani signing. He said that the Angels weren’t sure about the timing of the deals with the prospects and Ohtani, and that the Pearson deal was made with overall strategy to maximize the Angels’ flexibility. With extra international money that they received in the trade, the Angels could switch the pool of money used for the Braves prospects in the event they lost out on Ohtani. As much as fans wanted to make more of it as a competing deal with the Mariners, I think that is more of a fan narrative. As confirmed, though, Ohtani will get the entire amount of the Angels’ remaining international money.   *  The Angels are going to be busy at the Winter Meetings. They may or may not make any trades or signings during this week specifically, but from all appearances, they expect a long and busy week in Florida. They are definitely less interested in upgrading 1B, but, I don’t think they’d pass up a good deal to improve the position. Albert will hopefully cover the position for about 50 games a season. I expect him to get more rest this year–maybe resting on day games after night games, especially if he starts the night game. So, I can’t entirely rule out an upgrade to 1B, but definitely see 2B as an absolute priority, followed by adding to the rotation, and upgrading 3B. Anything beyond that, such as a bullpen arm, would be gravy.   *  Why the concern about upgrading the rotation? The Angels really seem open to the idea of a 6-man rotation. That would keep Ohtani on his usual schedule, and might cut down on the wear-and-tear on the rest of our starters. Don’t be surprised if we are connected with several (or every) mid-tier pitching FAs or possible trades.   *  If we go to a 6-man rotation, we will be down to a slim bench. I can see the need for adding a defensive SS/2B utility player to provide backup. David Fletcher, one of our Minor League prospects who can play both positions will become more important next year for depth. I think he will stay in AAA next year to keep developing his bat, but, I do think that he will get a long look in Spring Training.   *  Scioscia really will be flexible with how he develops Ohtani in Spring Training. There really isn’t a rule book on this. And, as Scioscia pointed out, Spring Training will be shorter this year than in years past. So, he and the Angels will be working closely with Ohtani and his people to develop a plan to get him ready for the season as both a pitcher and a hitter. There will be some experimentation, but Ohtani will be in the driver’s seat on the whole process.   *  As fans, we all need to remember that Ohtani is still just 23. Most players that age are still in the Minor Leagues. As much as Scioscia and Eppler raved about Ohtani’s pitching and hitting, and talked about his potential, they also wanted us to know that Ohtani is still developing. Regardless of what happens, we, as fans, need to take it in stride. If Ohtani struggles with one aspect of his game, we need to have patience. Let’s resist the urge to overreact to every little detail of the season. There’s no doubt that Ohtani is a special talent, but everyone struggles at some point. Let’s not let our passions overcome our reason, and let’s remember, he is a 23 year old player trying to do something at the Major League level that hasn’t been done in a long time. There may be some growing pains, but that’s okay.   *  The Angels are going to need another press box. The amount of coverage that Ohtani will generate will be staggering. The current press box holds very few people, and in no way could accommodate all the media that will be in attendance. I could easily see the Angels taking one seldom used section, maybe way out in the 400s/500s and turning it into another press box. One or two advertisements in the stadium could easily pay for that improvement.   *  In trying to figure out how important this deal was for the Angels, I tried to estimate how much of an increase signing Ohtani would make to the Angels value as a franchise. With this move, the Angels became a global brand, and I can easily see this adding up to $500 million in value to the franchise, and possibly more, depending on how well Ohtani does as a player. With the potential for international marketing, broadcasting rights, etc., it will be interesting to see how Forbes ranks the value of the franchise in the future.   I’m sure there are a lot more thoughts and opinions that will come up in the ensuing days. But, these are the ones that I’ve been thinking about the most so far.        

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AngelsWin.com

 

Thoughts on Managing Baseball

By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer There are many reasons why I’ve been away from the keyboard lately. It’s not that I haven’t had things to say about the Angels (I have–they are improved and have more depth–I’m more optimistic about this season), it’s that I’ve really lacked the time to say them.  While my time to write about baseball has been limited, my time spent with baseball has dramatically increased. After years of being an assistant coach for both of my sons’ teams, this year I stepped up to manage teams in two different levels of Little League. My eldest plays in AAA (10-11 year olds) and my twins play in AA (9-10 year olds). And, when no one else in the league stepped up to manage teams, I found myself saying “yes” to fill the vacuum.  What I didn’t know at the time I agreed to take on the challenge of managing was just how different managing a team is from coaching a team and just how much it would affect how I perceive the game, especially at the Major League level.  In terms of time, I understood, I think, more than most fans, when professional baseball players and coaches talk about the grind of the season. I’ve seen how much they work. I know how many more hours they put in during a day beyond the time spent playing the game.  Most fans have no idea just how many hours around the ballpark players, coaches, and managers spend each day. It’s a lot more than one would think. After a while, it’s a grind.  So too is managing Little League. And I mean, a real grind. I have practices or games at least 6 days a week between the two teams. That’s on top of a full-time job, and all the things I have to do as a parent. Most of the time, I have something to do for one of the teams everyday of the week. And if I don’t my boys still want to go outside to work on some aspect of their games. I’ll admit it: I’m tired. I’m just not as young as I once was (though I think doing all of this is keeping me younger than I would be). My taxes still aren’t paid, and I haven’t balanced my checkbook in 2 months. But, my teams are doing well.  Mentally, it’s a grind. We’re playing the same opponents all the time. After a while, the games are becoming a blur. We play some interleague games as well, which means we’re travelling. I never really know where I’m playing until the day before the game (even though it’s all on my calendar), or if I’m the home team or away team. No two fields are the same. The rules may be the same, but when there’s big tree in a neighbor’s yard beyond the left field fence that may or may not be in play, it plays differently. When pros talk about the grind of waking up in different cities all the time and going to different ballparks, I’m starting to get it. Most Saturdays, I’m on the field managing my teams for 10-12 hours. I’ll start at 8:00 and often go until dark. And then, one or more of my coaches will want to meet up later to review what we observed during the games, develop the agendas for the upcoming week’s practices, and let loose for a little bit. Some adult beverages may flow, but we’re still focused on the team.  A little while back, on a Saturday, a miracle happened. I got off the field around 2:30 (I had overlapping games and had to leave one game to start managing the other). I didn’t know what to do with myself. So, I went home, plopped on the couch, and of course, put on the Angels game. I can never get enough Angels baseball.  And then it happened. I had an epiphany. Deep in exhaustion, while watching the Angels play, I began to wonder: how far off is it from managing a Little League team from a Major League game. And I mean this in all seriousness. I know on our site we have lots of people who have managed Little League teams, Pony Ball teams, and travel ball teams. And I want to open up the discussion to get your thoughts. Sure, we’ll never know just how tough it is to manage in the Major Leagues, but, there are many similarities between managing, and in some ways, each present unique challenges.  I remember the exact moment I had this thought–it was when Scioscia got thrown out of the game, ostensibly for arguing balls and strikes (and, maybe it wasn’t him so much as the other players and coaches). I was thinking back on a pitch that one of my players got called out on by a 12-year old umpire, that bounced in the dirt in front of the plate and was at least a foot off of the plate (I know, I could see the mark in the dirt from the pitch). There’s nothing I can do as a manager except look at my player and tell him that it’s okay and wasn’t his fault. I know the umpire messed up. The umpire knows he messed up. He’s a kid and still learning. Honestly, I’m happy he’s out there, and at least gave a clear and definitive call, even if it was the wrong call. There was no point in arguing the call, no matter how bad it was, because it wouldn’t accomplish anything except prolong my frustration with it. In the end, it’s a kid’s game, and I left it in the hands of the kids. We went on to win, and the player forgot all about the bad call, especially when he got his snack shack ticket after the game.  But, before this goes any further, I want to be clear: this is not an epic Scioscia is a good/bad manager or should be/shouldn’t be fired thread. If you want to write on that subject, take it elsewhere. This is my article and thread. It’s about the joys and challenging of managing baseball for kids and comparing it to managing professional players. I’d appreciate people keeping it about that. While I will talk about Scioscia, in this thread, he’s a generic fill-in for any Major League manager.  At the heart of my epiphany was this: In the Major Leagues, the tolerance for variance in the play is minimal, but the consequences are substantial. Put an inferior team up against a superior lineup, and they will lose most of the time. If the pitcher misses his spots, he will get lit up. And, the consequences can be millions of dollars, both the players and the teams, as ultimately every game affects the standings for the playoffs.  When managing kids, it’s the exact opposite. You can have the best team, but something can happen at school, and they will have a bad day. If they don’t have a good night’s sleep or a good snack before the game, who knows what will happen. Throw in the effects of the umpires, and any team can win or lose every game. Except in the end, it’s not really about winning and losing–it’s about community, friendship, and developing skills. And, if that isn’t enough, after every game, everyone gets a snack shack ticket, which makes it all worthwhile.  So which is the more stressful situation?  I mean, think about it for a second. If a Major League starter goes down, he will be replaced by someone, who may not be quite as talented, but is still better than 99.99999% of the population. The difference between a starter in the Major Leagues is whether he is better than 99.9999% or 99.99999% of the population–or about 0.00009%. The difference on a Little League team, is to quote “Airplane 2” a “tad” bigger. Anyone that Scioscia brings in as a replacement will still be capable of making all the fundamental plays and will know the rules of the game. In Little League, well, the players are more like a box of chocolate–you never know what you’re going to get.  For those of us who have managed, coached, played, or watched a Little League game, let’s face it, there’s a wide range between the abilities on the field. I never really know which team will show up–the one that can record all 18 outs in a game (we play 6-inning games) via strikeout, or the one that gives up 5 runs on no hits and 12 errors in an inning. A player may not have his/her best stuff (yes, there are some girls playing in our league, and, they are really good players–one may be the best hitter in her division), but the consequences for that might not be so bad. The other team is made up of kids too, and they have their up and down days. They may swing at plenty of pitches out of the zone to help my struggling pitcher get through an inning. Or, they may make a bunch of errors too.  And in the end, it’s all supposed to be about fun and community, so it’s not like anything major depends on it.  And, that goes for the umpires too. What passes as an acceptable performance is pretty wide. The differences between the strike zones in the Majors might be a difference of a fraction of an inch. I’ve seen strike zones in Little Leagues that have varied by several feet.  How all of this plays out is extremely stressful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving every minute of it. But, I also fully believe that if I make it through this season, managing two teams, I can skip seeing my cardiologist for the year.  So it started me wondering how Scioscia would hold up over the course of a season managing a Little League team? What if he had to abide by the same rules and pressures that I had? Similarly, how much easier would my season be if my players were more comparable in skill and ability, like Major Leaguers? What if I had to handle more of the duties of a Major League manager?  As I started to think deeply on the subject, I realized that there are parts to our jobs that are very similar. I have to fill out a lineup every game, just like Scioscia does. Juggling the lineup is a hallmark of managing. And, it’s one of the most profound ways that a manager can affect the game.  But, just because we both fill out lineup cards doesn’t mean that it’s entirely the same. In Little League, every player gets to play (and I’m glad it’s that way). And, in many levels, every player has a minimum number of innings that they have to play in the outfield AND the infield. Imagine if Scioscia had to play every pitcher at least 1 inning defensively in the infield and outfield of every game! Can you imagine having to play Garret Richards at third base and replacing Mike Trout in centerfield with Martin Maldonado every game? That makes it very complicated to say the least. Balancing the defensive alignments is way more complicated than adjusting for any right/lefty split.  Injuries happen too, at both levels, but again, it isn’t the same. If I run out of players, I don’t have a Minor League system to rely upon–I’ve got to beg, borrow, and scrounge to get a replacement player from another team. And, I can only play them in the outfield. If one of my players gets hurt for a week, I will have a much harder time fielding a team, even with fewer games, than Scioscia will if one of the starting players goes down for a similar injury. He has a much bigger bench and the whole organization to rely upon, whereas I have the players on my team.  Another area of overlap is in managing pitchers. We both have to deal with pitch counts. Scioscia has some players coming back from injuries and doesn’t want to overuse them. But again, the margins and consequences are very different. If I, as a manager, allow a player to throw too many pitches, no matter how tired s/he is, or how well s/he is doing, s/he will be ineligible to pitch for a set number of days. I am required to keep a running log on every pitcher and the total number of pitches thrown each and every game. If I violate that, I will be banned for a game. If Scioscia goes too far with a pitcher, the consequences aren’t as steep. No manager has ever been banned for a game because he was riding a hot pitcher, especially through the playoffs, or while pitching a no-hitter.  As for dealing with the press, I get that it’s an important part of the game in the Major Leagues, which makes managing even more difficult. But, I know most of the beat reporters for the Angels, and guys like Jeff Fletcher and Mike DiGiovanna are good guys. They are serious reporters and they ask tough, probing questions. But to be honest, that’s nothing compared to an upset parent who is convinced that batting her son 8th in the lineup is going to cost him a future baseball scholarship. The more I’ve dealt with parents, and to be honest, the parents on my teams are great (that didn’t happen to me–it did happen to my friend who coaches in a different league), I’d say they are way more difficult than fielding questions from parents about what’s going on in the game. Imagine if Scioscia had to explain to Cliff Pennington’s parents about his batting order or give them tips on things to work on at home to improve his swing. I now get why Scioscia speaks in cliches. It’s a lot easier to answer the questions with stock answers than having to tell the truth at times. What if Scioscia had to give out a game ball after every game the Angels played? How would he answer it for every loss? The answer is in cliches.  Now all of this isn’t to say that I think I can manage in the Major Leagues. I’m not that foolish. But, it does make me wonder which is more stressful. While Scioscia did have his son Matt in the Angels organization for a while , he didn’t have to manage him through all the ups and downs of a season. He didn’t have to take his son off of the mound when he couldn’t find the strike zone. While Scioscia is very intense throughout the game, and is very mentally and emotionally committed to the game, it’s not quite the same as when it is your son up there are the plate, with the game on the line, and down to his last strike.  Sometimes, though, I do think it would be more fun if a Major League game were played like a Little League game every now and then. At least 3 times a game, we have to call timeouts because one or more players have to tie their shoes. There are times when I’ve seen coaches and managers go and tie a player’s shoes when s/he is at-bat because it’s too difficult for the player to do so while wearing batting gloves. And, there’s nothing like watching a kid in right field dancing to his/her own music during an inning. It’s even better when they’re doing the potty dance, and then having to call a timeout to replace the player in the field. Imagine if Manny Ramirez had to do that instead of the Phillies had to slow-walk to the plate to buy more time for Angel Pagan.  The way I see it, the difference between managing in Little League and the Majors is that in Little League, the tolerance for variance is huge, but the consequences are tiny. In the Major Leagues, the tolerance for variance is minor, but the consequences are huge. It’s the same game, with different priorities.  So now, I’d like to open it up to you. How about sharing your thoughts on managing and coaching in Little League (or equivalent) versus doing so in the Majors? What are some of your best memories? What were some of your biggest challenges?  I will get back to writing more about the Angels now that the season is back. I do have a lot of thoughts and opinions about the team, and, as my schedule winds down with Little League and work, I’ll get back to writing about the Major Leagues.
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There’s a lot riding on Alex Meyer

Baseball is already a hard enough game without all the pressure that comes along with it.  And fair or not, there seems to be a ton on Alex Meyer and the Angels right now.  First we need to understand that the team is currently in a tailspin, and it’s awfully early to be crashing and burning.  Oddly enough, it has very little to do with what most skeptics thought, pitching.  Sure, the starting pitchers scuffled to start the year, but the bullpen more than made up for this deficit and the offense clawed it’s way back into games. No, this time it’s the offense.  As simple as I can possibly put it, the Angels offense is Mike Trout and not a whole lot else.  There’s no one on in front of him, our corner outfielders aren’t hitting, neither is Pujols or C.J. Cron.  They’re sputtering big time.  And now that the starting rotation is starting to get it together, they’ll need the offense to perform. But this recent performance from the Angels starting rotation is unlikely to last.  History tells us that Skaggs, Shoemaker, Nolasco and Chavez are all best suited as #4/5 starters.  The Angels need an ace.  Someone they can depend on to get this team back on track when it’s down.  That was supposed to be Garrett Richards, who has all the talent to be that guy for the Angels.  But he’s on the shelf with some sort of bicep weakness and has no timetable for his return. Enter Alex Meyer.  Other than the fact that he throws hard and is a former top prospect, there’s nothing to suggest that Alex Meyer can be that guy for the Angels.  He’s been hurt frequently, he’s unproven in the majors, scouts think he profiles better as a reliever, and is just now learning a completely new delivery.  Not the best circumstances.  Not by a long shot.  But Meyer is the only pitcher with the upside to be that guy they can count on to stop the skid on a consistent basis. It all starts with his arsenal.  Fastball that sits 96-98 and moves.  When he spots it on the inner and outer half and keeps it low, he can generate a lot of swings and misses and weak contact.  Then there’s the slider, the one he’s better at throwing for a strike than his fastball.  It’s definitely a swing and miss offering, especially when they don’t know it’s coming.  And finally there’s the change up.  Meyer has always had a better than advertised change up, he just never used it effectively in the minors and always struggled locating it.  If he does, it becomes a third weapon. Then there’s the future to think about.  Right now, it’s just a spot start, because J.C. Ramirez is holding his own in the rotation.  He’s a much better weapon in relief, where he can shorten games by two innings at a time, and his presence in the rotation puts the bullpen at a disadvantage.  But if Meyer shows what he’s capable of, the Angels might find themselves in a good spot to win some games with Meyer in the rotation.  Furthermore, the better Meyer does, the less Daniel Wright we’ll see, which works out to everyone’s advantage. And in the unlikely event that Richards returns soon and is in ace form, a Richards-Meyer duo could suddenly give the Angels just what they need. Yes, it’s a long shot.  Yes, it’s only a spot start.  Yes, there’s no reason to believe Meyer is any of the things I say he can be.  But for Meyer’s sake, and the Angels sake, he might just need to be.

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The Unofficial Angels Offseason Predictions Blog

By Glen McKee, Angelswin.com Prognosticator I know, it’s December and that means it’s late to be making an offseason prediction thread.  That’s OK though because not much has happened yet.  I still have time.  Without further ado, here is what will happen over the next three-plus months.  Bookmark this page and come back to it on March 1, and be amazed at how accurate these predictions are. Justin Upton will avoid opting out and sign a new contract with the Angels, giving him an extra year. It just makes too much sense.  It should have already happened. Yusmeiro Petit will sign with the Athletics. Again, it seems like it should already have happened.  He’ll be their closer and dominate us.  But don’t worry, if the Angels need a closer in June they can trade with the As to get him back.  Beane is a genius! Albert Pujols will show up for spring training in the best shape of his month. He will even have a decent spring, giving us false hope. The Angels will trade for a 2B. Who will it be?  Hernandez or Gordon?  Prying Cesar Hernandez from the Phillies would give me a stiffie so hard that Wolverine’s claws couldn’t cut it, so that won’t happen.  It’s gonna be Gordon.  Oh, and don’t get your hopes up because… The Angels will not trade for Mikecarlos Stanton. It’s the Dodgers or bust for Stanton.  You know it, I know it, Stanton knows it, even that moron you work with (you know who I’m talking about) knows it.  Oh yeah, and while we’re riding the train of bad news… The Angels will not sign Shohei Ohtani. I know the odds are slim, but really, they’re not slim.  They’re none.  There are tiers for teams in the major league. The top tier has the destination teams: the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Cubs.  They get first dibs at the international dinner table.  The Angels are in the second tier: they get to root around through the leftovers and hope they find something tasty.  Editorial note: When I started writing this the Angels weren’t in the Ohtani discussion.  You’re welcome. Mike Scioscia will return as manager, and during the spring he’ll sign a three – year extension. I’ve come to peace with this even though I disagree with it.  It will be great for board traffic, though.  Guaranteed 15 pages in the first day after the extension is announced. Luis Valbuena will be the opening day 3B. If the Angels upgrade at 2B (they will, sorta, with Gordon) and 1B (wait for it…) then having Valbuena at 3B won’t be too bad.  It will be like the doctor saying you have a hernia, but it’s just a small one so there’s not much you can do about it except wait for it to pop.  That’s Valbuena, our little hernia. The Angels opening day 1B will be…Logan Morrison.   GMs are getting smarterer about contracts.  I know that’s true because I read it somewhere on the internet.  Anyhoo…that means that they’ll look beyond Morrison’s anomaly of a year in 2017 and realize he isn’t worth the megabucks.  That’s will Eppler will swoop in and sign him for a three-year deal.  And ya know what?  That sucks because it will mean CJ Cron is gonna be traded for a spare part.  Why does it suck?  Simple math, my friend.  LoMo has produced 5.2 WAR over 2953 AB (I’m using Baseball Reference, nerds), or 1 WAR for every 568 AB (roughly every year).  CJ has produced 2.8 WAR over 1366 AB, or 1 WAR for every 488 AB.  Cron will be cheaper and let’s face it, Cron is more fun to look at.  Based on this simple math and five minutes of agonizing research, I’d like to plead with Eppler to stick with CJ and also submit it as my resume to be an assistant assistant GM.  Billy, if you’re reading this, I’m trying to save the team millions of dollars.  You can use those savings to hire me, I’ll start in the mid three-figure range.  Call me. Using the above math, how about some Trout porn? 2018 will be Mike Trout’s seventh full season.  Man, where did all that time go?  Trout has produced 55.2 WAR over 3399 AB.  That’s 1 WAR for every…wait for it…60 AB.  Damn, son.  For comparison, Bryce Harper produces 1 WAR for every 106 AB.  Giancarlo Stanton, every 102 AB.  Jose Altuve, every 133 AB (that indicates the weakness of the basis for statistical argument but I’m sticking with it).  For giggles, I checked out Barry Bonds.  1 WAR for every 61 AB.  Trout>Bonds, if only just barely. What about the pitching staff? Eppler has already said he’s not going to acquire a starting pitcher, so I fully expect Eppler will acquire a starting pitcher.  John Lackey and Joe Blanton are available!  Seriously, though, the Angels will add a starting pitcher.  Not an ace, not even a sub-ace, but another Parker Bridwell type that nobody will see coming.  Eppler is crafty like that with pitchers; he’s the anti-Dipoto. There will be two equally obscure relievers signed. Who are they?  I don’t know, they’re obscure.  Are you even reading this?  Check out Ettin’s excellently researched article to get a few names.  Editorial note: shortly after I wrote this, Eppler traded for Jim Johnson.  I’m sticking by this. Kaleb Cowart will be a bench guy, again. I love the trochaic meter of his name (That’s a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable, you troglodytes.  Yes, I had to look it up).  Kaleb Cowart.  Maybe his name is why he has some of us, myself included, hypnotized.  Name aside, he’s a solid late-inning defensive replacement.  If LOOGY is a thing, then Cowart is a LIDR.  Dibs on that term.  Note: I googled it and there was no notation of it being used before.  LIDR is my “fetch.”  You could even combine LIDR with another acronym, Helping Offense Score Ein ruN, or LIDR-HOSEN. That’s all for now, folks.  These are all guaranteed to happen or your money back.  Feel free to post your own predictions or foolishly tell me how wrong I am.  You’ll regret it.

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The tragic downfall of Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols is 5 home runs away from reaching the prestigious 600 home run mark, a number only 8 other players in MLB history have reached. His 3,000th hit is in sight to be reached possibly next season. It should be a time for celebration for Albert Pujols and the illustrious Hall of Fame numbers he’s accumulated. Yet, there is still a huge feeling of dissatisfaction among the Angels fan base and, presumably, the Angels organization. The feeling of wanting just a bit more from “The Machine” has been in existence since the very first month Albert Pujols played in an Angels uniform and it’s still present today. On December 8th, 2011, the Angels shocked the baseball world when they signed Albert Pujols to a 10 year 240 million dollar deal. At the time, Pujols was arguably one of the most valuable players in all of baseball and was on a surefire Hall of Fame path. The Angels knew the deal would likely not end very well on the backend years but the rationale behind it was to get a ton of production up front, plus a World Series title or 2, and deal with not so great production on the back end. As you may know by now, the Angels received neither great production up front nor any World Series titles. The first 5 years of the Pujols deal paid him 100 million dollars. On the open market, free agents are generally paid 8 million dollar per 1 Win Above Replacement(WAR). If you include inflation that has occurred since 2011, Pujols should’ve roughly been paid 7-8 million dollars per 1 WAR. Pujols, through his 1st 5 years as an Angel, racked up 9.8 WAR, which comes out to a rough estimate of 68.6-78.4 million dollars that he should have earned. In the years that were supposed to be the most productive years of the deal, Pujols fell short, by a wide margin, mainly due to declining plate discipline, athletic ability and constant injuries. If the original deal had been a 5/100 deal, the bad press that Pujols has received likely wouldn’t have occurred. The issue is he is owed a whopping 140 million dollars for the next 5 seasons, which doesn’t include incentives Pujols may make, including 3 million dollars for his 3,000th hit. Entering the 6th year of the deal, expectations were moderate for Pujols, with the simply hope that he could avoid declining even more. The signs so far in 2017 are not pretty, as the 37 year old is really struggling out of the gate. After undergoing another offseason surgery on his foot, Pujols came into Spring Training a tad rusty, just like in 2016 and the seasons before, and he has started slow as a result. While the previous seasons saw a slow start due to a little bit of bad luck, this year doesn’t just look like bad luck. Through 138 plate appearances, the numbers are down across the board in every possible way. Here are his career numbers lined up next to his 2017 numbers, all of which would represent career worst marks. Pujols is striking out more than ever while walking less. He’s pulling the ball more than ever but not in the way you’d want him to: he’s hitting a bunch of ground balls into the shift. He’s making less hard contact, hitting the ball on the ground more than ever and he’s hitting more infield fly balls. A look into his Statcast numbers line up exactly with his statistics he has posted so far. Albert Pujols has a 87.3 mph average exit velocity this year, compared to 92.5 mph in 2016 . He has only barreled up 4.9% of his batted balls in 2017(balls expected to have .500+ batting average and 1.500+ slugging percentage) compared to his 9.5% mark in 2016. Sure, he’s driving in runs, as evidenced by his 24 RBIs, which rank 19th in baseball, but it’s a byproduct of hitting behind the best player in baseball. Many fans and writers have claimed that Pujols is a “clutch hitter”, which is an argument that just isn’t factually correct and is an argument that has had plenty of research done on it. Many hitters hit better with runners in scoring position due to the fact that plenty of pitchers struggle to pitch out of the stretch compared to the windup so Pujols isn’t some special case. Pujols has been better with runners in scoring position(208 wRC+) compared to no runners on(16 wRC+) this year in a small sample. He was also better with runners on base last season. However, he was worse with runners on by a wide margin in 2015 and 2014. He was better with runners on in an injury shortened 2013 year and was just about equal in 2012, his 1st year with the Angels. Since he became an Angel, Pujols has a 112 wRC+ with no runners on compared to a 121 wRC+ with runners in scoring position. That’s a bit better but again, most hitters do a bit better with runners on. Pujols has driven in runs because Mike Trout is consistently on base in front of him. There’s also a theory floating around that Albert Pujols changes his approach with runners on base, essentially trying to put the ball in play, drive the ball away from the shift and just drive guys in. Pujols does have a significantly higher BB/K ratio with runners on(1.36) compared to the bases empty(0.42). Part of that is due to teams deciding to not pitch to Pujols and just loading the bases to face whoever is hitting behind him. Pujols does deserve some credit for that but those 52 intentional walks he’s received since 2012 have bloated his walk rate without him changing too much, which isn’t helping support the changed approach theory. Nothing changes with the way Pujols tries to hit the ball, however. With the bases empty since 2012, Pujols has a 43.2% ground ball rate, 38.6% fly ball rate, 49.4% pull rate and 17.4% opposite field rate. With runners on, Pujols has a 44.7% ground ball rate, 37.3% fly ball rate, 49.4% pull rate and 17.7% opposite field rate. So there is something to the idea that Pujols is better at putting the ball in play and has a more selective eye with runners on but he’s doing nothing differently with the way he’s hitting the baseball and the overall results don’t really portray a better Albert Pujols with runners on. Albert Pujols may be a shell of his former self but he does deserve credit for a number of achievements. Since he became an Angel, Pujols has posted a 118 wRC+ and 9.7 WAR, hardly disastrous numbers, just numbers that fall well short of the expectations you receive from signing a mega contract. Pujols has played through a number of injuries throughout this process, which is better than the Angels simply paying him to be on and off the disabled list and provide nothing for the team. He’s also still one of the most respected players in baseball, providing a clubhouse presence for many Angels players and has apparently been a huge help for Mike Trout since he arrived in his rookie year, which was coincidentally in 2012. The reality is Albert Pujols has performed at a level that would earn him half of the contract he signed but he hasn’t been a complete zero with the Angels. Unfortunately, Albert Pujols will be getting a raise each year until his contract ends in the year 2021. Barring Pujols retiring before the contract is up, something that probably shouldn’t be counted on, there are some potentially ugly years coming up in this deal. At 37 years old, Father Time is starting to really creep in and sap Albert Pujols of any baseball skills he might have remaining. The hope for the Angels is that Pujols is just starting slow and he can still be a 110-115 wRC+ bat just for a few more years but the early signs point to a potentially league average or worse bat going forward. It has been a remarkable career for Albert Pujols but the days of the elite level MVP performer, even above average player, may be gone.  

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The Sports Daily MLB Power Rankings

New for the 2017 season are the Sports Daily Major League Baseball Power Rankings. Comprised of writers from Burning River Baseball, Cards Diaspora, Metstradamus, Angels Win and The Giants Cove, every month we’ll get together to determine who is the best of the best and rank all 30 MLB teams. 1. Chicago Cubs – 2016 Record: 103-58 – World Champions No longer the lovable losers, the Cubs are poised to be the most dominant MLB franchise since the late 90’s Yankees. Las Vegas has them as the heavy favorite to repeat as World Series Champions (4/1) and why wouldn’t they? With all the young talent having shed 108 years of baggage, they’re free to ball. Oh… and they get Kyle Schwarber back for a full season. – Aaron Hooks 2T. Boston Red Sox – 93-69 – AL East Champions The Red Sox look to be a team vying for the American League Crown this season. They did lose David Ortiz to retirement and it will prove interesting to see how he is replaced both on the lineup as well as in the clubhouse, but they bolstered their pitching staff with the addition of Chris Sale and still have MVP candidate Mookie Betts returning. – Danny Cunningham 2T. Cleveland Indians – 94-67 – AL Champions The Indians have been dealing with health concerns at every corner this camps as they look to defend their AL crown. Andrew Miller ramped up early for the WBC, Carlos Carrasco had an up and down camp health wise, Jason Kipnis is out a month and Cody Anderson, one of their depth starters, is out for the season. Michael Brantley appears to be back though and they scored the most runs in the Cactus League (212). – Justin Lada 4. Los Angeles Dodgers – 91-71 – NL West Champions The Dodgers are built to be balanced offensively and defensively, with quality multi-positional hitters and a flexible bullpen. They start the 2017 season ready for post season play in October. – Richard Dyer 5. Washington Nationals – 95-67 – NL East Champions Blake Treinen has been named the Nationals closer. With the rest of the team so stacked, the Nats hope that they don’t have a luxury car with two dollar brakes. – John Coppinger 6. Houston Astros – 84-78 On paper one of the better lineups in all of baseball, top to bottom, but will they have enough starting pitching to challenge their Texas rival? One thing is for certain, they have a loaded farm system so I expect them to make a trade mid-season for a top tier starting pitcher. Jose Quintana anyone? – Chuck Richter 7. New York Mets – 87-75 – NL Wild Card With Steven Matz starting the season on the DL, the Mets’ “Big Five” might never be in the same rotation at the same time. Luckily, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo give the rotation some depth. – John Coppinger 8. San Francisco Giants – 87-75 – NL Wild Card The Giants strength is that they will throw Bumgarner and Cueto in every 2017 series, but this is a one-dimensional 25 man roster that has no league-average replacements, and a terrible farm system. – Richard Dyer 9. Texas Rangers – 95-67 – AL West Champion The Rangers are the team to beat in the AL West with the best 1-2 punch out of the rotation in the division in Darvish and Hamels. If starters 3-5 out of the rotation are solid, combined with a strong lineup, this team could be a force in the AL all season. – Chuck Richter 10. Toronto Blue Jays – 89-73 – AL Wild Card The Blue Jays powered their way to conescutive ALCS losses and will bring back most of that offense, with the exception of Encarnacion who was lost to the team that beat them in the ALCS in 2016. They probably can’t hold off the Red Sox, but are definitely in the hunt for another play-off appearance. – Joseph Coblitz 11. St. Louis Cardinals – 86-76 Will adding Dexter Fowler (via free agency) and Lance Lynn (back from surgery) be enough to close the 17.5 game gap they had with the Cubs in 2016? Probably not, but after missing postseason action via the wild card by only only 1 game last year, the Cardinals are willing to live by the old “make it to October and see what happens” mantra in 2017. – Aaron Hooks 12. Seattle Mariners – 86-76 The Mariners have a good blend of offense, speed and defense heading into the 2017 campaign. With big boppers like Cano, Cruz and Seager and newcomers Segura and Haniger atop the lineup, the M’s look poised for another winning season. The rotation 1-4 while not spectacular, is solid. – Chuck Richter 13. Baltimore Orioles – 89-73 – AL Wild Card The Baltimore Orioles are in an interesting position having one of the games’ most enjoyable players to watch in Adam Jones as well as one of baseball’s best relieves in Zach Britton. It will be interesting to see how they compete in the AL East with Boston looking to hold on to that crown. – Danny Cunningham 14. New York Yankees – 84-78 The Yankees have some of baseball’s best young hitters and, after resigning Aroldis Chapman, have a top-notch bullpen. If the rotation performs and the young players meet expectations, the Bronx Bombers could one of the game’s most dangerous teams. – Gavin Potter 15T. Pittsburgh Pirates – 78-83 The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in the middle of what could be baseball’s best division. The reigning world champion Chicago Cubs as well as the most consistent team in baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals will fight for the top spot. It seems as if the best Andrew McCutchen and the Buccos can hope for is a WC spot. – Danny Cunningham 15T. Colorado Rockies – 75-87 The Rockies have a talented young starting staff and a potent bullpen. Oh, and the best offense in the Majors. If it all comes together Colorado could be the surprise team of 2017. – Richard Dyer 17. Detroit Tigers – 86-75 Detroit’s best players – led by Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander – are as good as anyone’s. How the team addresses concerns in the bullpen and outfield will determine whether the Tigers can play in October. – Gavin Potter 18. Miami Marlins – 79-82 It’s up to Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich to carry this team. Yelich has been solid between spring training and the WBC. Stanton is starting slow though. Without him, it’ll be a long season in Miami. – John Coppinger 19. Kansas City Royals – 81-81 The Royals were barely hanging onto contention hopes early in the off-season, but the untimely death of Yordano Ventura hurt the team more than any other loss could have. With a very thin rotation and an otherwise unremarkable team, they’ll probably hang towards the middle of the AL Central this year. – Joseph Coblitz 20. Tampa Bay Rays – 68-94 It’s hard to believe that a team with this much good starting pitching only won 68 games a season ago. Chris Archer will finally get the results he deserves, when Wilson Ramos returns this offense is interesting and they have depth behind their starting five. Don’t count them out for a playoff run. – Justin Lada 21. Arizona Diamondbacks – 69-93 The DBacks thought they would be contenders in 2016, but many set backs hurt them before they even got started. They have multiple potential bounce back players and at least they aren’t as bad as San Diego, but they aren’t likely to contend with the Dodgers and Giants at the top of the West. – Joseph Coblitz 22. Philadelphia Phillies – 71-91 Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders are nice improvements. The Phillies will need a big year from Clay Buchholz and young pitchers like Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez, but even if it all goes right, it may not matter. The Phillies Pythagorean W-L was nine wins below their actual record. They could improve and nobody would notice. – John Coppinger 23. Atlanta Braves – 68-93 Atlanta was 31-25 after the acquisition of Matt Kemp last season. While Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey seem like a risk, even a normal season from them will be much better than what that rotation had in 2016. – John Coppinger 24. Los Angeles Angels – 74-88 Don’t sleep on the Angels. They were riddled with injuries last season and have improved their overall roster depth. The Angels biggest weaknesses last season were all addressed: LF (Revere/Maybin), 2B (Espinosa) and overall pitching depth. If Richards and Skaggs can stay healthy all season to go along with Shoemaker and opening day starter Rickey Nolasco, they will challenge both Texas clubs for the top spot in the division. – Chuck Richter 25. Milwaukee Brewers – 73-89 From Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton,Domingo Santana, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and Jonathan Villar, this offense has the potential to score some runs. Waiver pickup Jesus Aguilar had an incredible camp adding to the offense. Beyond Junior Guerra, this pitching rotation has the potential to put the team in some very high scoring games. – Justin Lada 26. Minnesota Twins – 59-103 The Twins may have been the worst team in baseball last year, but don’t look for them to lose 100 this year. They have a decent mix of talented young players with a few veterans mixed in that has nowhere to go, but up. – Joseph Coblitz 27. Oakland Athletics – 69-93 The Athletics won just 69 games last season and they may not do any better in 2017. Still, there’s optimism in the development of players like Healy, Semien, Manaea, Cotton and their opening day starter Kendall Graveman. Khris Davis clubbed a career high with 42 home runs and 102 RBI last season and is surrounded by vets Joyce, Plouffe, Alonso, Davis and Lowrie in the lineup. – Chuck Richter 28. Chicago White Sox – 78-84 It’s going to be a brutal ’17 for the Sox. But. BUT. Unlike the last two years where high off-season exceptions were parlayed into 170 total losses, this year everyone is on front street about sucking. The long-awaited rebuild is underway for the South Siders and while it won’t help the win/loss column this year… Sox fans can take solace in a farm system that went from meh to YEAH in a single winter. – Aaron Hooks 29. Cincinnati Reds – 68-94 The Reds were really bad in 2016 and will continue to be so in 2017. If healthy, their rotation would be one of the worst in baseball, but they rarely are even able to send out the top five. This will be ugly, but at least enjoy the chase for another great draft pick. It worked for the Cubs, Astros and Nats. – Joseph Coblitz 30. San Diego Padres – 68-94 The Pads are a year or two away from contending, but credit their extensive investment in the international player market and their six-year $83 million extension of first baseman Wil Myers as a start in the right direction. – Richard Dyer

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The significance of Mike Trout’s injury

Through 54 games in 2017, the Angels have managed to pull off a decent 26-28 record. Just consider how remarkable that is. Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano and Alex Meyer, the makings of a potential good starting rotation, are all on the disabled list. The injuries have hit the bullpen too, sending Cam Bedrosian, Huston Street and Andrew Bailey on the shelf for an extended period of time. The offense has significantly underperformed to the tune of a 93 wRC+ and ranks 12th in the American League in runs scored, thanks to down performances from Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Danny Espinosa and the trio of Angels 1st baseman(C.J. Cron, Jefry Marte, Luis Valbuena). The team has managed to hover around .500, even though their BaseRuns record says they should be a 25-29 team. The Angels have managed to do this because their bullpen has been better than expected and they have some guy named Mike Trout. Once again, Trout has been the driving force of success for the Angels but he’ll hit the disabled list for the 1st time in his incredible career. On Sunday afternoon in Miami, Trout slide into 2nd base and appeared to hurt his thumb, although the severity of this injury was unknown until Monday night. The bad news was announced during the Angels home game vs the Atlanta Braves and it was not what the Angels, or their fans, wanted to hear. While the Angels won’t openly admit it, this is the type of injury that may derail the Angels season. It was already a question if the Angels could compete with the reigning MVP in their lineup and without him for at least a month and a half, the team would have to significantly over perform for a large sample just to stay afloat. Not only does this news suck on a team level but it sucks on a personal level for Trout, who was experiencing his best MLB season yet, which is really saying something. Through 47 games, Trout racked up 3.6 fWAR thanks to an absurd .337/.461/.742 batting line along with 16 home runs and 10 stolen bases. He was not only the main reason why the Angels were competing in most ball games but he was on pace for a record shattering season, possibly eclipsing the 11 WAR threshold that few others in MLB history have reached(all of those players are Hall of Famers). The most important aspect of this Trout injury directly relates to the Angels and their rest of the season path. There’s only one logical way for the Angels to go now. Had Mike Trout stayed healthy and the Angels returned some pitchers, it wasn’t asinine to think the team could hover around .500, possibly get hot for a few weeks and put themselves into a Wild Card picture(they were never catching the 36-16 Houston Astros). Had that occurred, the team could have hypothetically added a few small pieces at the trade deadline, which would make a fairly big impact on the farm system and the potential 2018 roster. With Trout out for a significant amount of time, it’ll take a miracle for the team to enter this position, which means the team will look to sell for the 2nd straight season. The question is who they decide to sell and how far they want to go in this process. There are obvious trade candidates. Cameron Maybin, Yunel Escobar, Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Yusmeiro Petit, Ricky Nolasco, Jesse Chavez, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Ben Revere, Cliff Pennington and Danny Espinosa are all slated to be free agents after this season. Realistically, the first 5 names on that list are the only players who will garner any significant attention on the trade block. Between those 5 players, you’re potentially looking at grabbing a handful of 40-45 FV(Future Value) prospects, which isn’t a small addition to a bottom tier farm system. It’s possible they can squeeze more value out of some of those other soon to be free agents, although those players would have to perform pretty damn well until late July for that to occur. The Angels can also look to extend some of those players, such as Maybin, Norris or Parker, who still fill holes for 2018. This is the likely route the Angels go, selling some of the rental players and going year by year with players once again this coming offseason. There is another route the Angels could go, one that would stir up controversy. Kole Calhoun, Matt Shoemaker and Andrelton Simmons are all players who are in the middle of their prime and are under club control for very affordable prices through 2020. Trading these players would net significant prospects but would all but put the “rebuild” label on the Angels for the coming seasons, which creates a huge dilemma while employing Mike Trout in center field through that same time period. This route is unlikely, although the team may be headed for their 2nd straight losing season and 3rd straight season with 85 or fewer wins, which means exploring another route isn’t entirely out of the question. It probably won’t happen but Billy Eppler has to get creative with planning out his next few seasons so a big and unexpected trade may be in the cards. Mike Trout’s loss for the Angels is more than just the team losing its’ best player for 6-8 weeks. It represents the type of loss the team could ill afford, given the lack of depth across the roster, and makes competing the rest of the season an unlikely circumstance. Without Trout, the Angels just don’t have enough star power or roster depth to compete night in and night out, which means the option of selling players is going to be talked about all the way through the trade deadline. Another aspect of this Trout injury is the timing of it. In June alone, the Angels have a 6 game stretch vs the Yankees and Astros, then a 10 game stretch vs the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers later in the month. Half of their games in the month of June will come against legitimate top tier teams, meaning Trout’s absence will be felt even more. Angels general manager Billy Eppler had a fine offseason, acquiring enough players to supplement the 2017 Angels roster without crippling payroll flexibility or wiping out the farm system. Unfortunately for Eppler and the Angels, the team was walking on eggshells, hoping to stay healthy and get enough performances from players to be in the mix for a Wild Card spot. The opposite has occurred, however, as the team has now lost its’ best player and a huge chunk of the pitching staff, all before the month of May has concluded. If the team manages to stay in the race until Mike Trout returns, Mike Scioscia deserves another 10 year extension(*sarcasm on*). The likelihood is the team swims into treacherous waters and enters selling mode for the 2nd straight season. Tough times in Anaheim are coming.

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The Scioscia Era – Where did it go wrong?

by Nathan Trop, AngelsWin.com Columnist The Angels, once a perennial playoff contender and World Champions in 2002, are coming off their sixth season missing the playoffs in the last 7 years, the only playoff appearance being a division series sweep by eventual Champions, the Kansas City Royals.  For the last five years they have had the best player in baseball, payroll is as high as it has ever been, and yet outside of the 2014 season the teams have been average at best.  I thought I would look back at the events that I feel changed the course of the franchise and derailed the Scioscia era, leading them to where they are now, .500 at the end of May, a distant third place in the AL west and likely destined for another season of failure.   January, 2005 – Name changed to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Ok, I honestly just threw this in here because we can still all agree that this name is stupid right?  Other than making the Angels the punchline of an endless number of jokes, it had no impact on the future of the franchise.   November, 2005 – Angels sign Gary Matthews Jr to five year $50 million contract I almost left this off of the list because by comparison it doesn’t seem like a lot of money, and the Angels kept winning despite the fact that Matthews was absolutely terrible.  It was a signing that at the time was panned by just about every baseball pundit on the planet and should have been a lesson learned by the Angels and owner Arte Moreno.   February, 2006 – Bengie Molina signs a one year $5 million contract with the Blue Jays Molina, an excellent defensive catcher and clutch hitter was not re-signed by the Angels, eventually signing a very affordable contract with the Blue Jays.  The Angels were certain their top prospect, Jeff Mathis could do the job.   But Jeff Mathis sucked.   October, 2007 – Bill Stoneman steps down as GM and Tony Reagins takes the reigns Bill “sit on his hands” Stoneman was for better or worse the most successful GM in Angels history, quickly hiring Mike Scioscia and building a World Champion team in 2002.  As a fan it was frustrating, even maddening dealing with the fact that he would never make a deal.  After all, he held onto Brandon Wood instead of trading for Miguel Cabrera.  One thing stands out though, the Angels had an incredibly deep and talented organization and the effects of excellent draft strategy and organizational management lead to the most successful era in Angels baseball, by a long shot.  David Eckstein, Ervin Santana, Erick Aybar, Kendrys Morales, Howie Kendrick, Nick Adenhart, Joe Saunders, Mike Napoli, Scot Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, Chone Figgins, John Lakcey and the list goes on, so much young (and cheap) talent.   Reagins tenure with the Angels started out fine, he signed Torii Hunter and made a mostly neutral trade of fan favorite Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland.  In 2008 the Angels won the division and 100 games, in part because of a huge acquisition of Mark Tiexeira, unfortunately the Angels were unable sign Tiexeira to a free agent contract during the off season due to his, or maybe his wife’s, preference to play on the east coast, leading to a petty and childish feud between Arte Moreno and super-agent, Scott Boras.  Beyond that, it always felt like Reagins was just Scioscia’s pawn, unable to make the right deals and mostly inept highlighted by a very one-sided trade for Dan Haren in 2010 that saw all of the Angels minor league pitching depth traded away.   January, 2009 – Scioscia signs ten year contract extension I am not the biggest fan of Mike Scioscia, but at this point in his career, signing him to an extension is a no-brainer.  The issue is how long the extension was for.  Perhaps Arte was worried that the rival Dodgers, Scioscia’s former team, would try to pry him away from the Angels, but a ten year extension is unheard of.  There are so many reasons not to make a deal like that.  For one it removes all pressure to perform, worst case is you get fired and have a multi-year golden parachute.  It also basically requires giving the manager more control over the organization, and while Scioscia at this point has proven that he is an excellent manager, you don’t want your manager making organizational decisions.  By definition of their job, Managers want to win now, they only care about the team they are putting on the field tomorrow, and this weekend.  The long term health of the organization is not their primary concern, nor should it be.   June, 2009 – Angels draft Mike Trout in the first round of the draft With the 25th pick in the 2009 MLB draft, the Angels got the best player in baseball.  As Angels fans, we are so lucky to be able to watch Trout play day in and day out, and equally lucky that he is such a down to earth and good person.  In the last few years when the Angels have been a bad team, there has been one bright spot and that is Mike Trout.  If you were to ask me if I would trade Mike Trout for playoff appearances the last five years, I wouldn’t even consider it.  I think all sports fans can appreciate world class talent, but when that talent is on your team it is so much more satisfying.  The problem with is, how have the Angels not been able to win with the best player on the planet, potentially one of the best all-time.  Everyone is familiar with the notion of Mike Trout being wasted and I do believe that is true, although not in the “Angels should trade him” or “he will sign elsewhere” sense, just the sense that it takes some level of organizational incompetence to not win with such a talent.   I think we are lucky that Trout is a down to earth and unassuming star.  I don’t know if he would want to leave the Angels at the end of his current contract for a contender closer to his home in South Jersey, teams in larger media markets.  I do know without a doubt, someone as good as competitive as Trout is must want to win something meaningful, I just hope it is with the Angels and we get to experience the next 15 years of his career like we have the first five plus.   June 2009 – Angels fire Supervisor of International Scouting Clay Daniel and several other international scouts Amid a scandal breaking out surrounding skimming of bonuses for Latin American players, the Angels fire the International Scouting director and many other international scouts, gutting the organizations international scouting department.  In my opinion the team still has not recovered from the loss of international presence.  Consider all of the great Latin American players that the Angels had contributing to the team up to this point, Ervin Santana, K Rod, Kendrys Morales, Erick Aybar, etc.   May, 2010 – Kendrys Morales breaks his leg After starting the season slowly (a Mike Scioscia era trend) the Angels got hot and slugger Kendry Morales was mashing when Morales broke his leg celebrating a walk off grand slam, the Angels stayed hot in June but never was able to replace his bat in the lineup and ultimately finished the season under .500 the beginning of the Scioscia era downward spiral.  Kendry eventually came back in the plural form more than a year later, after a leg transplant, probably, but never did regain his singular form.   September, 2010 – Scouting Director Eddie Bane is fired At the time I was not as outraged at this move as some others were.  Bane certainly was a friend of the AW community, providing access to the team’s player development and draft strategy that was unrivaled.  However the lack of young talent in the farm system was starting to show, which in hindsight (my own), was more to do with bad trades and free agency signings than anything else.  Bane’s last draft for the Angels included one Mike Trout and Garrett Richards.  The stability and consistent quality provided by Bane in the seven years he was with the Angels has not been found since he was fired.   January, 2011 – Angels trade Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells In 2011 the Angels went into the off season desperate to improve the offense and it seemed destined to sign Carl Crawford a player that it seemed would fill several needs, but he ended up signing a big contract with the Red Sox and the Angels ultimately dodged a bullet because he did not live up to his contract.  From there the Angels pivoted to Adrian Beltre, the Angels reportedly had offered a five year contract but were unwilling to match the six years that the Texas Rangers offered, in my opinion starting a downward spiral that is still felt today.  That contract ended up being a great deal for the Rangers, Beltre hit the ball consistently while also providing gold glove defense at third base, leading the Rangers to division titles and failed World Series runs, meanwhile the Angels were still without a big bat to hit in the middle of the lineup with Torii Hunter.   That is when Arte Moreno reportedly threatened Tony Reagins to either trade for Vernon Wells in the next 24 hours or be fired.  The Angels traded slugging catcher Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells, Napoli was quickly traded to the Rangers and went on the absolutely crush the Angels every time he faced them.  Meanwhile the offensive black hole that is Jeff Mathis continued to be a drag on the lineup and Vernon Wells quickly joined him.  After two terrible years the Angels traded Wells to the Yankees, somehow retaining only $28 million of the $42 million he was owed ending what was an absolutely terrible relationship.   I always point to this as being the downfall of the Scioscia era, losing out on Beltre, an incredibly talented player that would have been perfect for many reasons and making the stupid reactive move for Wells put this team in a hole that could not be gotten out of.   October, 2011 – Tony Reagins is fired and Jerry Dipoto becomes the next Angels GM Two straight seasons of missing the playoffs and some big trade and free agency flops lead to Reagins being fired and Jerry Dipoto, a disciple of Bill James’ analytics is hired.  Dipoto signaled a big change for the Angels who up until this point were not practicing the “Money ball” philosophy.  Ultimately it was a huge failure, Dipoto’s version of “Money Ball” turned out to be spending huge amounts of money on free agents and trading away all the young talent for rentals and over-priced veterans.  Additionally he never seemed to get along with Scioscia, an old school ball player and manager, at one point making roster moves to force Scioscia to stop putting players in the lineup.  Scioscia definitely didn’t seem to appreciate having his power taken away and a different philosophy forced on him either.   Ultimately Dipoto threw a temper tantrum and quit in the middle of the 2015 season.   December, 2011 – Angels sign Albert Pujols to a ten year $254 million contract The Angels, mostly known for stealthy free agency signings like the signing of Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter, struck again, out-of-nowhere signing the at the time best player in baseball, Albert Pujols to a gigantic ten year $254 million contract.  While most people seemed to think that the later years of the contract would probably not work out, the first few years would be fruitful, Pujols, the most well rounded hitter in the game would immediately have a huge impact on the Angels, or so we all thought/hoped.   Unfortunately persistent nagging injuries and poor performance have led to this being the second biggest free agency bust for the Angels.  The contract which is as un-tradable as the no-trade clause has put the Angels in a very poor position, considering that the farm system has been barren and they are up against the luxury tax threshold.  With five years and $150m+ left to go on the contract the Angels are significantly limited when it comes to filling the holes in the roster and it really is too bad because as my Point/Counterpoint partner Glen mentioned to me in a conversation yesterday, can you imagine how good Mike Trout would be with a good hitter hitting behind him?  That hitter should be Albert Pujols but while he does occupy the lineup spot after Trout, he doesn’t hit behind him.   December, 2012 – Angels sign Josh Hamilton to a five year $125 million contract Much like the Gary Matthews Jr. signing, he only had a couple years of big numbers to back a big contract, but more worryingly a substance abuse history that erased years of his MLB career.  Again like Pujols and Matthews, Hamilton never really got going; a decent first year was followed up with an absolutely awful second year including an 0-fer in the playoffs.   That offseason while on the mend from shoulder surgery Hamilton self-reported a drug relapse and while the MLB decided that they could not suspend him for self-reporting, Arte was furious, basically publically demanding that the MLB suspend him and saying that he didn’t want Hamilton back on the team.  An embarrassing moment in Angels history, while I agree with Arte’s frustration, his $125 million under-performing player is out partying instead of training.  You can’t have that kind of drama in public.  Do it behind closed doors, express your anger, but ultimately, addiction is a disease and addicts need support.  How could the Angels not have expected or at least planned for that outcome when they signed him to the contract in the first place?   Arte got his way and Hamilton was traded to the Rangers in April 2015 for peanuts and the Angels are still paying him nearly $25 million this season to loaf around on the couch somewhere in Texas.   2015-2016 – Several major arm injuries and Billy Eppler becomes the GM The Angels suffered a rash of serious arm injuries to their young but effective pitching staff and because of a payroll near the luxury tax threshold and a lack of organizational depth they have been doomed to poor records and journeymen pitchers like Brooks Pounders and Doug Fister.   Eppler has made some strong signings and acquisitions in Andrelton Simmons, Cameron Maybin and Yunel Escobar.  He seems to work well with Scioscia and the farm system is improving.   Conclusion There are other events that I left out like the tragic loss of Nick Adenhart and the signing of CJ Wilson.  The early Scioscia years included some excellent assistant coaches like Bud Black, Joe Maddon and Ron Roenicke.   The 2015 free agency class was one of the best in recent years but because the Angels were so saddled with bad contracts and a need for pitching because of injuries, past their prime/milquetoast starters like Weaver and Wilson, and all of the talent that Dipoto traded away they couldn’t get the bat they needed to hit behind Mike Trout, just imagine how much better he would be with Yoenis Cespedes hitting behind him.  Pitching is much more expensive than hitting in today’s MLB, and you don’t get what you pay for.   When looking through this timeline it is hard to place blame on one person, I think that Arte Moreno made some really bad choices for GM hires and with the contract he gave to Scioscia.  The GMs mistakes have led to the Angels not being able to build a competent team arounds the best player on the planet.  I also think that the Angels org reacted to playoff losses to “Moneyball” teams and try to build teams that didn’t jive with Scioscia.  What made Scioscia teams so great was their aggressiveness at the plate and on the bases.  Once they started filling the roster with station to station high strikeout power hitter types it just didn’t work.  Additionally the lack of organizational depth and high payroll left the team very few options for filling the roster.   With that said I think Scioscia is too stubborn and stuck in his ways and in many ways the game has passed him by.  That isn’t to say that he couldn’t go to another team and make a huge impact, but I think his time with the Angels has run its course though I do not think he will be fired before his contract runs out.   I hope with the Hamilton contract coming off the books that the Angels can make some smart FA signings and even negotiate a large extension for Trout, it would be a dream come true to see him holding up the World Series trophy in Anaheim.

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The Scioscia Era – Where did it go wrong?

The Angels, once a perennial playoff contender and World Champions in 2002, are coming off their sixth season missing the playoffs in the last 7 years, the only playoff appearance being a division series sweep by eventual Champions, the Kansas City Royals.  For the last five years they have had the best player in baseball, payroll is as high as it has ever been, and yet outside of the 2014 season the teams have been average at best.  I thought I would look back at the events that I feel changed the course of the franchise and derailed the Scioscia era, leading them to where they are now, .500 at the end of May, a distant third place in the AL west and likely destined for another season of failure.   January, 2005 – Name changed to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Ok, I honestly just threw this in here because we can still all agree that this name is stupid right?  Other than making the Angels the punchline of an endless number of jokes, it had no impact on the future of the franchise.   November, 2005 – Angels sign Gary Matthews Jr to five year $50 million contract I almost left this off of the list because by comparison it doesn’t seem like a lot of money, and the Angels kept winning despite the fact that Matthews was absolutely terrible.  It was a signing that at the time was panned by just about every baseball pundit on the planet and should have been a lesson learned by the Angels and owner Arte Moreno.   February, 2006 – Bengie Molina signs a one year $5 million contract with the Blue Jays Molina, an excellent defensive catcher and clutch hitter was not re-signed by the Angels, eventually signing a very affordable contract with the Blue Jays.  The Angels were certain their top prospect, Jeff Mathis could do the job.   But Jeff Mathis sucked.   October, 2007 – Bill Stoneman steps down as GM and Tony Reagins takes the reigns Bill “sit on his hands” Stoneman was for better or worse the most successful GM in Angels history, quickly hiring Mike Scioscia and building a World Champion team in 2002.  As a fan it was frustrating, even maddening dealing with the fact that he would never make a deal.  After all, he held onto Brandon Wood instead of trading for Miguel Cabrera.  One thing stands out though, the Angels had an incredibly deep and talented organization and the effects of excellent draft strategy and organizational management lead to the most successful era in Angels baseball, by a long shot.  David Eckstein, Ervin Santana, Erick Aybar, Kendrys Morales, Howie Kendrick, Nick Adenhart, Joe Saunders, Mike Napoli, Scot Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, Chone Figgins, John Lakcey and the list goes on, so much young (and cheap) talent.   Reagins tenure with the Angels started out fine, he signed Torii Hunter and made a mostly neutral trade of fan favorite Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland.  In 2008 the Angels won the division and 100 games, in part because of a huge acquisition of Mark Tiexeira, unfortunately the Angels were unable sign Tiexeira to a free agent contract during the off season due to his, or maybe his wife’s, preference to play on the east coast, leading to a petty and childish feud between Arte Moreno and super-agent, Scott Boras.  Beyond that, it always felt like Reagins was just Scioscia’s pawn, unable to make the right deals and mostly inept highlighted by a very one-sided trade for Dan Haren in 2010 that saw all of the Angels minor league pitching depth traded away.   January, 2009 – Scioscia signs ten year contract extension I am not the biggest fan of Mike Scioscia, but at this point in his career, signing him to an extension is a no-brainer.  The issue is how long the extension was for.  Perhaps Arte was worried that the rival Dodgers, Scioscia’s former team, would try to pry him away from the Angels, but a ten year extension is unheard of.  There are so many reasons not to make a deal like that.  For one it removes all pressure to perform, worst case is you get fired and have a multi-year golden parachute.  It also basically requires giving the manager more control over the organization, and while Scioscia at this point has proven that he is an excellent manager, you don’t want your manager making organizational decisions.  By definition of their job, Managers want to win now, they only care about the team they are putting on the field tomorrow, and this weekend.  The long term health of the organization is not their primary concern, nor should it be.   June, 2009 – Angels draft Mike Trout in the first round of the draft With the 25th pick in the 2009 MLB draft, the Angels got the best player in baseball.  As Angels fans, we are so lucky to be able to watch Trout play day in and day out, and equally lucky that he is such a down to earth and good person.  In the last few years when the Angels have been a bad team, there has been one bright spot and that is Mike Trout.  If you were to ask me if I would trade Mike Trout for playoff appearances the last five years, I wouldn’t even consider it.  I think all sports fans can appreciate world class talent, but when that talent is on your team it is so much more satisfying.  The problem with is, how have the Angels not been able to win with the best player on the planet, potentially one of the best all-time.  Everyone is familiar with the notion of Mike Trout being wasted and I do believe that is true, although not in the “Angels should trade him” or “he will sign elsewhere” sense, just the sense that it takes some level of organizational incompetence to not win with such a talent.   I think we are lucky that Trout is a down to earth and unassuming star.  I don’t know if he would want to leave the Angels at the end of his current contract for a contender closer to his home in South Jersey, teams in larger media markets.  I do know without a doubt, someone as good as competitive as Trout is must want to win something meaningful, I just hope it is with the Angels and we get to experience the next 15 years of his career like we have the first five plus.   June 2009 – Angels fire Supervisor of International Scouting Clay Daniel and several other international scouts Amid a scandal breaking out surrounding skimming of bonuses for Latin American players, the Angels fire the International Scouting director and many other international scouts, gutting the organizations international scouting department.  In my opinion the team still has not recovered from the loss of international presence.  Consider all of the great Latin American players that the Angels had contributing to the team up to this point, Ervin Santana, K Rod, Kendrys Morales, Erick Aybar, etc.   May, 2010 – Kendrys Morales breaks his leg After starting the season slowly (a Mike Scioscia era trend) the Angels got hot and slugger Kendry Morales was mashing when Morales broke his leg celebrating a walk off grand slam, the Angels stayed hot in June but never was able to replace his bat in the lineup and ultimately finished the season under .500 the beginning of the Scioscia era downward spiral.  Kendry eventually came back in the plural form more than a year later, after a leg transplant, probably, but never did regain his singular form.   September, 2010 – Scouting Director Eddie Bane is fired At the time I was not as outraged at this move as some others were.  Bane certainly was a friend of the AW community, providing access to the team’s player development and draft strategy that was unrivaled.  However the lack of young talent in the farm system was starting to show, which in hindsight (my own), was more to do with bad trades and free agency signings than anything else.  Bane’s last draft for the Angels included one Mike Trout and Garrett Richards.  The stability and consistent quality provided by Bane in the seven years he was with the Angels has not been found since he was fired.   January, 2011 – Angels trade Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells In 2011 the Angels went into the off season desperate to improve the offense and it seemed destined to sign Carl Crawford a player that it seemed would fill several needs, but he ended up signing a big contract with the Red Sox and the Angels ultimately dodged a bullet because he did not live up to his contract.  From there the Angels pivoted to Adrian Beltre, the Angels reportedly had offered a five year contract but were unwilling to match the six years that the Texas Rangers offered, in my opinion starting a downward spiral that is still felt today.  That contract ended up being a great deal for the Rangers, Beltre hit the ball consistently while also providing gold glove defense at third base, leading the Rangers to division titles and failed World Series runs, meanwhile the Angels were still without a big bat to hit in the middle of the lineup with Torii Hunter.   That is when Arte Moreno reportedly threatened Tony Reagins to either trade for Vernon Wells in the next 24 hours or be fired.  The Angels traded slugging catcher Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells, Napoli was quickly traded to the Rangers and went on the absolutely crush the Angels every time he faced them.  Meanwhile the offensive black hole that is Jeff Mathis continued to be a drag on the lineup and Vernon Wells quickly joined him.  After two terrible years the Angels traded Wells to the Yankees, somehow retaining only $28 million of the $42 million he was owed ending what was an absolutely terrible relationship.   I always point to this as being the downfall of the Scioscia era, losing out on Beltre, an incredibly talented player that would have been perfect for many reasons and making the stupid reactive move for Wells put this team in a hole that could not be gotten out of.   October, 2011 – Tony Reagins is fired and Jerry Dipoto becomes the next Angels GM Two straight seasons of missing the playoffs and some big trade and free agency flops lead to Reagins being fired and Jerry Dipoto, a disciple of Bill James’ analytics is hired.  Dipoto signaled a big change for the Angels who up until this point were not practicing the “Money ball” philosophy.  Ultimately it was a huge failure, Dipoto’s version of “Money Ball” turned out to be spending huge amounts of money on free agents and trading away all the young talent for rentals and over-priced veterans.  Additionally he never seemed to get along with Scioscia, an old school ball player and manager, at one point making roster moves to force Scioscia to stop putting players in the lineup.  Scioscia definitely didn’t seem to appreciate having his power taken away and a different philosophy forced on him either.   Ultimately Dipoto threw a temper tantrum and quit in the middle of the 2015 season.   December, 2011 – Angels sign Albert Pujols to a ten year $254 million contract The Angels, mostly known for stealthy free agency signings like the signing of Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter, struck again, out-of-nowhere signing the at the time best player in baseball, Albert Pujols to a gigantic ten year $254 million contract.  While most people seemed to think that the later years of the contract would probably not work out, the first few years would be fruitful, Pujols, the most well rounded hitter in the game would immediately have a huge impact on the Angels, or so we all thought/hoped.   Unfortunately persistent nagging injuries and poor performance have led to this being the second biggest free agency bust for the Angels.  The contract which is as un-tradable as the no-trade clause has put the Angels in a very poor position, considering that the farm system has been barren and they are up against the luxury tax threshold.  With five years and $150m+ left to go on the contract the Angels are significantly limited when it comes to filling the holes in the roster and it really is too bad because as my Point/Counterpoint partner Glen mentioned to me in a conversation yesterday, can you imagine how good Mike Trout would be with a good hitter hitting behind him?  That hitter should be Albert Pujols but while he does occupy the lineup spot after Trout, he doesn’t hit behind him.   December, 2012 – Angels sign Josh Hamilton to a five year $125 million contract Much like the Gary Matthews Jr. signing, he only had a couple years of big numbers to back a big contract, but more worryingly a substance abuse history that erased years of his MLB career.  Again like Pujols and Matthews, Hamilton never really got going; a decent first year was followed up with an absolutely awful second year including an 0-fer in the playoffs.   That offseason while on the mend from shoulder surgery Hamilton self-reported a drug relapse and while the MLB decided that they could not suspend him for self-reporting, Arte was furious, basically publically demanding that the MLB suspend him and saying that he didn’t want Hamilton back on the team.  An embarrassing moment in Angels history, while I agree with Arte’s frustration, his $125 million under-performing player is out partying instead of training.  You can’t have that kind of drama in public.  Do it behind closed doors, express your anger, but ultimately, addiction is a disease and addicts need support.  How could the Angels not have expected or at least planned for that outcome when they signed him to the contract in the first place?   Arte got his way and Hamilton was traded to the Rangers in April 2015 for peanuts and the Angels are still paying him nearly $25 million this season to loaf around on the couch somewhere in Texas.   2015-2016 – Several major arm injuries and Billy Eppler becomes the GM The Angels suffered a rash of serious arm injuries to their young but effective pitching staff and because of a payroll near the luxury tax threshold and a lack of organizational depth they have been doomed to poor records and journeymen pitchers like Brooks Pounders and Doug Fister.   Eppler has made some strong signings and acquisitions in Andrelton Simmons, Cameron Maybin and Yunel Escobar.  He seems to work well with Scioscia and the farm system is improving.   Conclusion There are other events that I left out like the tragic loss of Nick Adenhart and the signing of CJ Wilson.  The early Scioscia years included some excellent assistant coaches like Bud Black, Joe Maddon and Ron Roenicke.   The 2015 free agency class was one of the best in recent years but because the Angels were so saddled with bad contracts and a need for pitching because of injuries, past their prime/milquetoast starters like Weaver and Wilson, and all of the talent that Dipoto traded away they couldn’t get the bat they needed to hit behind Mike Trout, just imagine how much better he would be with Yoenis Cespedes hitting behind him.  Pitching is much more expensive than hitting in today’s MLB, and you don’t get what you pay for.   When looking through this timeline it is hard to place blame on one person, I think that Arte Moreno made some really bad choices for GM hires and with the contract he gave to Scioscia.  The GMs mistakes have led to the Angels not being able to build a competent team arounds the best player on the planet.  I also think that the Angels org reacted to playoff losses to “Moneyball” teams and try to build teams that didn’t jive with Scioscia.  What made Scioscia teams so great was their aggressiveness at the plate and on the bases.  Once they started filling the roster with station to station high strikeout power hitter types it just didn’t work.  Additionally the lack of organizational depth and high payroll left the team very few options for filling the roster.   With that said I think Scioscia is too stubborn and stuck in his ways and in many ways the game has passed him by.  That isn’t to say that he couldn’t go to another team and make a huge impact, but I think his time with the Angels has run its course though I do not think he will be fired before his contract runs out.   I hope with the Hamilton contract coming off the books that the Angels can make some smart FA signings and even negotiate a large extension for Trout, it would be a dream come true to see him holding up the World Series trophy in Anaheim.

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The perennially great yet different Mike Trout

It’s 2017 and Mike Trout still remains very good at playing baseball. This is not a surprise. He has been great in every single full season he has had in the big leagues dating back to 2012. So far in 2017, Mike Trout is hitting .352/.450/.752 along with a 225 wRC+ that ranks 1st in baseball. Trout just homered in his 4th straight game and has the chance to homer in 5 straight games Tuesday, which would tie an Angels record(Bobby Bonds in 1977). He also led baseball with a 171 wRC+ last year. Trout ranked 3rd in wRC+ in 2015 and 2014, 2nd in 2013 and 1st in 2012. Mike Trout is not only the best all around player in baseball; he’s the best hitter in baseball. Through today, Trout is neck and neck with Bryce Harper for the WAR(Wins Above Replacement) lead, coming in at 2.7 fWAR compared to Harper’s 2.8 mark. In his career, Trout has ranged between 7.9-10.5 WAR, leading baseball in that category ever year outside of 2015(Harper was 1st). None of this should be surprising to people. What is perhaps surprising is the manner in which Mike Trout is always great at baseball. Trout has been great every year by any measure you look at but if you break down each year, Trout has reached his all time greatness in different ways.   -In 2012, Trout was an all around monster, leading baseball in wRC+, WAR(10.3), BsR(Base Running Runs) and was the 17th best defender according to Fangraphs defensive rating. He finished 2nd in a highly controversial AL MVP race to Miguel Cabrera but took home the Rookie of the Year award . Trout was the better hitter, runner and defender than Cabrera but thats none of my business. *insert Kermit the Frog sipping coffee meme* -In 2013, Trout was a less effective base runner and defender but he cut back his strikeouts by 2.9%, cranked his walk rate up by 4.9% and was again baseball’s best player by WAR(10.5). Trout again lost to Miguel Cabrera, thanks to Cabrera winning the 1st AL Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Still, Cabrera wasn’t even the 2nd best AL player that year, ranking 3rd in WAR behind Josh Donaldson(7.6) and Trout. -2014 was Mike Trout’s “down year” where he only racked up 7.9 WAR due to a ballooned strikeout rate(26.1%), lower walk rate and poor defense and he had the worst 2nd half of his career(.257/.347/.502). Yet, Trout was an integral part of a 98 win Angels team, the only Angels team that has made it to the playoffs with Trout on it. He took home his 1st AL MVP. -Mike Trout continued to slip on the bases in 2015, only stealing 11 bags and posting his worst BsR but he cranked out a career high 41 home runs and saw his WAR bounce up to 9, showing 2014 was just a minor blip on the radar and not a sign of a declining Mike Trout. -Just when you thought you figured Mike Trout out going into 2016, he decided to go crazy and slash .315/.441/.550 and steal 30 bags, the most since 2013. He took home AL MVP honors while playing for an extremely poor Angels club. So far in 2017, Mike Trout is his usual great self but once again, he’s doing things differently and is even getting some luck on his side, according to a new recent stat that surfaced. Statcast rolled out a new statistic called xwOBA(Expected Weighted On Base Average), which looks at your exit velocity and launch angle to calculate what your expected wOBA should be. Mike Trout is currently running a .487 wOBA, while his xwOBA is .430. This is due to the fact that Trout’s average exit velocity is down from 90.8 mph in 2016 to 87.9 mph this year. Trout is also running a lower walk rate. However, a lot of this performance has to due with Trout’s new approach at the plate in 2017. Mike Trout is swinging more than ever(42.7 swing%) and is making contact just below his career best mark(82% this year, 82.1% in 2011 and 2013). More baseballs put in play means less overall damage will be done on baseballs but this approach is certainly working for him. He’s currently posting career best marks in average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and wRC+ and he has a career low strikeout rate(17.9%). He’s even running a lower BABIP than he did in 2016(.364 this year, .371 last year), which signals Trout could be getting unlucky in some regard. With his speed and his contact oriented approach this year, it’s very possible he could post a .370-.390 BABIP and end up with a batting average around .330-.340 this season. Once again, Michael Nelson Trout is having a phenomenal year but he’s doing it in a different way, just like he’s done in each individual year in his career. There was always a thought that Trout could decide to put every ball in play one year and not only is he doing that this year, he’s still doing damage on baseballs. Depending on what measurement you look at, Trout could either regress or he could possibly get even better, which doesn’t seem physically possible. Trout is averaging .077 WAR/game, which puts him on pace to rack up 11-12 WAR in 2017 if he reached 150+ games. It feels like Trout is still underrated in a sense. Playing for a mediocre ball club will do that to you but Trout is on a path to becoming one of the best players to ever play the game and he’s still not talked about with the likes of the sports greats today like LeBron James, Tom Brady and others. The combination of Trout’s laid back personality, lack off off the field drama and his team performance are main culprits but as an individual, Mike Trout deserves more attention. If you’re a baseball fan whose not appreciating what Trout is doing on a daily basis, start appreciating. If you’re an Angels fan whose discouraged with the team performance and don’t want to attend games, go to Angel Stadium to watch Mike Trout play. He is our modern day Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb. Mike Trout is on his way to an all time great career and that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

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The Los Angeles Angels Sign Shohei Ohtani

By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer What seemed impossible at the beginning of the off-season has now turned into a very sharp reality as the Los Angeles Angels signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani per Joel Sherman on Twitter. In one fell swoop Billy Eppler, as we discussed at the end of our Eppler Strategy section in the Angelswin.com 2018 Primer Series, has smeared his fingerprints all over the 2017-2018 off-season, setting a course, full-speed ahead, toward a much stronger future for the Angels franchise. Not only is Shohei Ohtani going to lead the Angels rotation with an average 97 mile per hour fastball he is going to hit out of the designated hitter spot on a regular basis adding a nice left-handed bat with power to our lineup. Ohtani not only lengthens and strengthens our starting pitching staff he can combine with current team ace Garrett Richards for a 1-2 punch in the playoffs creating a dynamic duo that will give the Halos a real fighting chance to make a deep push toward another World Series Championship. Beyond his actual ability, Shohei will have a significant impact to team payroll and to overall team finances. Ticket sales should hit an all-time high as the excitement for the 2018 season crests and overflows the dam. Ohtani’s popularity will bleed over into Anaheim and almost certainly drive up merchandise sales and interest in the “Babe Ruth of Japan”. Most importantly though, the Angels will control Shohei for at least the next six seasons and maybe longer if Eppler winds up extending him at some point down the road. Per the International signing rules, Ohtani must be treated like a normal drafted prospect meaning he is controlled for three years of pre-arbitration, making the League minimum salary, and then three years of arbitration control. Of course it is likely that the Angels will give him an extension contract in the next 1-3 years before he hits arbitration. Major League Baseball will be watching this situation closely as they are prepared to punish the Angels if they see any improper conduct in the way Eppler and company handle their new found prospect. The important thing to understand is this: Shohei will, at least for 2018, only add $545,000 to team payroll! This means the Angels still have a lot of payroll flexibility this year and possibly longer (perhaps for 2019 and 2020 as well) so Eppler’s ability to continue improving the team will go unhindered across the remainder of the off-season. Here at Angelswin.com we believed that this off-season could provide a dramatic turn for the Angels fortunes and, with the signing of Shohei Ohtani today, Billy Eppler will continue to make a full-court press to help the Los Angeles Angels return to dominance in the American League West. Tip of the hat to Arte Moreno, Billy Eppler, and the entire front office staff!

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The Line

By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer Over the weekend, I was talking with one of my friends, Chad, about the start of the upcoming 2017 season. And, he said to me that outside of his favorite team (the Cubs), up until a few years ago, he didn’t follow the other teams and leagues as much unless he had something vested in the game—maybe a $1 bet or so. When he got into fantasy baseball, it made more games a lot more interesting for him. Knowing that many others on AngelsWin.com might feel the same way, I reached out to a website called BetOnline.ag. In no way am I recommending online betting. I don’t know the legality of it and would suggest you check up on that before engaging in any online bets. And, I don’t personally bet online, and haven’t used this site. But, they were kind enough to provide some information about the odds for various bets, and for that I am very appreciative. So, look below, pick a stat, and share which ones you’d take or which ones you wouldn’t make. Here are some of the odds concerning the American League: (Again, all these odds are as provided to me from BetOnline.ag. Other sites may have different odds.) Odds to Win the AL West Houston Astros +105 Los Angeles Angels +900 Oakland Athletics +2500 Seattle Mariners +300 Texas Rangers +325   *** Odds to win the American League Baltimore Orioles +1800 Boston Red Sox +340 Chicago White Sox +6600 Cleveland Indians +350 Detroit Tigers +1400 Houston Astros +500 Kansas City Royals +2200 Los Angeles Angels +4000 Minnesota Twins +8000 New York Yankees +1200 Oakland Athletics +8000 Seattle Mariners +1100 Tampa Bay Rays +3300 Texas Rangers +1100 Toronto Blue Jays +1000   ***   2017 MLB Home Run Leader (Top 10) Chris Davis (BAL) +800 Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) +800 Nolan Arenado (COL) +800 Kris Bryant (CHC) +900 Nelson Cruz (SEA) +1400 Edwin Encarnacion (CLE) +1400 Mark Trumbo (BAL) +1400 Manny Machado (BAL) +1400 Mike Trout (LAA) +1600 Josh Donaldson (TOR) +2000 ***   Odds to win the 2017 American League MVP Award Mike Trout (LAA) +125 Josh Donaldson (TOR) +650 Manny Machado (BAL) +650 Mookie Betts (BOS) +750 Carlos Correa (HOU) +1000 Here are some of the odds specifically related to the Angels 2017 Home Run Leader Mike Trout (LAA) +1600 (Bet $100 to profit $1600) Albert Pujols (LAA) +10000 (Bet $100 to profit $10000) 2017 Regular Season MVP Mike Trout (LAA) +125 (Bet $100 to profit $125) 2017 Regular Season Batting Average For Mike Trout Over .301 Yes -125 (Bet $125 to profit $100) No -105 (Bet $105 to profit $100) Total Stolen Bases by Mike Trout (LAA)  Over 22½ Stolen Bases -130 (Bet $130 to Profit $100) Under 22½ Stolen Bases +100 (Bet $100 to Profit $100) Total Home Runs by Mike Trout (LAA)  Over 33½ Home Runs +100 (Bet $100 to Profit $100) Under 33½ Home Runs -130 (Bet $130 to Profit $100) Los Angeles Angels to Make the 2017 Playoffs Yes +325 (Bet $100 to Profit $325) No -450 (Bet $450 to Profit $100) Total Regular Season Wins — Los Angeles Angels Over 79½ Wins -120 (Bet $120 to profit $100) Under 79½ Wins -110 (Bet $110 to profit $100) To Win American League Pennant Los Angeles Angels +4000 (Bet $100 to Profit $4000) To Win 2017 World Series Los Angeles Angels +8000 (Bet $100 to Profit $8000) To Win American League West Los Angeles Angels +900 (Bet $100 to Profit $900) Putting it all together, it looks like this site’s odds are that Trout will hit 34 HRs, exactly 300, and will steal 22 bases on route to his 3rd MVP title. Unfortunately, that won’t be enough for the Angels to win more than 80 games, and the team will finish in 4th place. Personally, I don’t know about that. I’d take the over on wins for the Angels. I’d take the over on Trout’s HR totals and SB totals for the year. If we consider making a “playoff game” to include the chance of the Angels playing a 1-game tie-breaker to make it as the last Wild Card team, I’d take the odds of the Angels making the 2017 playoffs. And, since Trout will be propelling us to the playoffs this year, I’d take the bet that he will win another MVP award. What do you think?

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The life of a baseball “stringer”

The development of tracking baseball on applications, such as MLB Gameday, for phones and computers would not be possible if not for particular people who attend each game. With the upbringing of Pitch/FX, Trackman and Statcast, the need for able workers to track each pitch and play has been a necessity to keep baseball up to date with informing its’ fans. Some of these workers are known as stringers, who are now not only tracking Major League Baseball but Minor League Baseball and even some College Baseball. Nick Jones, the current Inland Empire 66ers stringer, who also happens to be a longtime family friend of mine, was kind enough to answer some questions about his daily tasks as a stringer for a minor league team. Brent Maguire: What are your daily tasks as a stringer for the Inland Empire 66ers? Nick Jones: “I first arrive to the ballpark about an hour before game time. I go to my room in the press box, turn on my laptop, and before doing anything else, I sign in to AOL Instant Messenger (using the 66ers team account) and wait for a message from a Major League Baseball staff member who is assigned to be my support for the game. Every single stringer is assigned their own support person. This MLB representative is with me the entire game to make sure everything goes smoothly and to correct any mistakes that I might make during the game. Once I’m connected with the MLB support person, I load up the online Stringer Client (the software that stringers use) and begin entering pregame information. I first check the paper rosters with the system’s rosters to make sure every player is in the system. After that, I enter in the starting lineups, umpires and official scorer, and weather information. When all that’s done, I connect to the MLB servers. From there, I wait around until both starting pitchers begin to warm up in their respective bullpens, and then I click a button labeled “Send Warmups” which notifies whoever is following the game that the game is about to start. Once the game starts, I enter in the results of every single pitch and game event. That information is updated live on all Minor League Baseball applications (like online and on their “First Pitch” app). With any play that is not obvious (like whether a ball in play was a hit or an error), I always follow the official scorekeeper’s decision. He sits right next to me, so it’s easy to see what he decides right away, and I enter in the play accordingly. Once the game is over, I enter in the attendance and the time of the game. Then I go over my results with the official scorer, and if everything checks out, then I send in the final data to Major League Baseball, and I’m free to go.” Brent Maguire: Can you explain how you track each pitch location, hit location and ball in play and how that whole process works for those who may be unfamiliar with it?  Nick Jones: “For pitch location, it’s actually a complete estimation on my part. I’m not connected to any pitch tracking technology, so I just have to click where I thought the pitch was (which isn’t exactly easy when I’m up in the press box). For hit location, it’s the same sort of thing. I click on the software’s field diagram in the general location of where the ball landed or was fielded (it’s a lot easier than pitch location). I then click on the fielders in the order that they were involved in the play. For example, on a groundout to shortstop, I would click where the shortstop fielded the ball, select “groundball” for hit type, and then click on the shortstop and first baseman, in that order, to signify that it was a 6-3 groundout.” Brent Maguire: Do you have access to any of the newer statistical measurements, such as launch angle and exit velocity, through the trackman systems at the ballpark? If so, how cool is it to be handling information that is generally not available to the public? Nick Jones: “I don’t use Trackman myself; however, a man named Ethan sits right next to me in the press box, and he’s the one dealing with Trackman. So while the software I’m using is completely separate from Trackman, I still do have access to some of the newer statistical measurements (and “normal” measurements like pitch speed) because of Ethan. Sometimes he’ll tell me a certain pitch’s spin rate or a ball’s exit velocity. Other times, if I’m curious, I’ll ask him something about the last pitch or the last ball hit, and he’ll tell me what I want to know. It’s very cool having access to these kinds of advanced measurements. It’s so interesting to learn about all the data that’s tracked on each pitch.” Brent Maguire: As a stringer, you have more access to see pitch locations, pitch types, etc that others might not have access to seeing. Does this enhance the baseball experience for you at a game or does your job keep you so occupied that the game sometimes comes too quick?  Nick Jones: “I would say it definitely enhances my experience in terms of my attention to detail. I’ve always loved watching baseball, but obviously this job requires me to pay attention to every single pitch and every little thing that goes on during each play. Watching the game this closely has helped me learn more about stuff like pitcher tendencies, pitch types, exit velocity (the speed of the ball off the bat), and picking these sort of things up without the help of technology. After watching so many pitches so closely, it’s easier for me now to tell what type of pitch was just thrown without any technological assistance. Another thing is that I’ve become more knowledgeable in determining earned vs. unearned runs, and that has helped me out a lot when entering in plays as a stringer.” Brent Maguire: What do you find to be the hardest part of being a stringer?  Nick Jones: “The hardest part about being a stringer would have to be entering in crazy or really strange plays where a lot of stuff happens in the field. This is one of the few times when things start to get stressful and the game really speeds up on you. I of course have to wait until the play is over and the official scorer has made his decisions before entering in all the information, so if something happens that involves a bunch of different fielders, a possible error or two, a mix of earned and unearned runs, and a runner being thrown out somewhere, it gets very hectic for me trying to correctly input all of it before the next pitch. It’s times like these where I wish there was a pause button. It’s not fun when I get behind and have to watch the next few pitches, and remember the results, while still finishing up the previous play.” Brent Maguire: How did you become a stringer? Was it a very competitive job to get hired for and how was that process of trying to get this job?  Nick Jones: “It was sort of a unique process for me getting this job. In September of 2016, I emailed 3 different Minor League General Managers (one of which being Joe Hudson, the GM of the 66ers) asking for their advice on how to get into a career in baseball. I didn’t ask for a job, just for a chance to talk to them and hopefully get some valuable advice while also getting my name out there. Joe Hudson replied to me a few weeks later and we set up a phone call. We talked for a little bit, but he couldn’t quite help me with what I wanted to do because I’m looking to get into the Sabermetrics side of baseball, and as a Minor League GM he doesn’t deal with that kind of stuff. However, he said to contact him again in February, closer to when the season started, to see what jobs might be available at the stadium. Fast forward to February, and I was able to set up a meeting with him in person, as I figured it’s always best to talk to someone face to face. I brought in a generic stadium application, but Joe said he would talk to someone to see if there was anything available that was more suited for someone like me. A couple weeks later I got a call from another person from the 66ers who said I’d be “working stats” for them (very vague, but I was excited nonetheless). Later in March I went to an Employee Orientation, and it was there that I was told I would be a stringer and work the Minor League Baseball applications. Looking back, I really just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Joe Hudson really helped me out and I’m very thankful for this opportunity.” Brent Maguire: This is obviously your first step into exploring careers in the baseball field. What do you think is next in line for you after this job?  Nick Jones: “I’ll be entering my senior year of college after I’m done with this job, so with school winding down and me finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Statistics, I’m thinking next in line for me would be an internship with an MLB team or even a data analyst type of job. Obviously I’d prefer a job related to baseball in some way, but at the same time it would be very beneficial to gain experience with different statistical software and become more skilled in data analysis. The one thing that’s certain is that I’m very passionate about baseball, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get where I want to be.”

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The importance of the 2017 MLB Draft for the Angels

The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft is the most complex draft among all the major american sports. The draft lasts 40 rounds, partially due to the necessity to fill out various minor league baseball rosters. Teams have allotted amounts of money to spend for each pick, so picking the best available talent in every single round isn’t a realistic option, although it’s a bit easier to pick the best available early on this year thanks to the new CBA agreement on slot values. The trickiest part of the draft, however, is trying to evaluate what these players will do 2-6 years down the line. Unlike the NFL and NBA draft, MLB teams aren’t selecting players who will be ready to play in the big leagues from Day 1. Projecting how a player will progress through the Single A, Double A, Triple A and eventually the MLB levels of baseball is without a doubt one of the toughest job in professional sports. For the Angels, the draft has been a major weak spot for nearly a decade now. The 2017 MLB Draft might represent the most important draft in recent memory for the Angels. The 2009 MLB Draft brought the Angels Mike Trout(along with Garrett Richards, Randall Grichuk, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin), a draft that is reaping major benefits today. Since then, however, the club has been one of the worst, if not the worst, at evaluating talent in the draft. Since the 2010 MLB Draft, the only players the team has drafted to appear in the major leagues include: Cam Bedrosian, Kaleb Cowart, Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Nick Maronde, Mike Clevinger, R.J. Alvarez, Michael Roth, Mike Morin, Keynan Middleton and Greg Mahle. That is simply not a good enough crop of talent to supplement a MLB roster and the results have shown. The Angels had 5 picks in the top 40 in 2010 but then general manager Tony Reagins and scouting director Eddie Bane botched several picks. Only Cam Bedrosian and Kole Calhoun have been real impact talents at the big league level. In Ric Wilson’s first draft in 2011, he selected C.J. Cron, who was a fine pick but he’s the only impact player so far. Jerry Dipoto took over in 2012 and essentially botched back to back drafts that year and in 2013, without the luxury of having 1st round picks those years. The 2014 draft netted the Angels Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis, who were flipped for 5 years of Andrelton Simmons, so you can view that draft in a positive manner. Jahmai Jones’ selection in the 2015 draft was a big one and the rest of the draft class actually looks ok. The Angels have been to the playoffs once in that 2010-2016 span, winning 98 games in 2014 but getting swept by the Kansas City Royals in the division series. The Angels organization needs to follow up a very good 2016 draft with another good 2017 draft to get the health of the organization in a better place. The Angels have the 10th pick in the 2017 draft. They also select 47th and 85th in the top 100 picks. The 10th overall pick represents the highest pick since they picked 12th in the 2004 draft, when they selected selected Jered Weaver, who had one of the best careers in Angels team history. Luckily for the Angels, the crop of 2017 players is filled with a lot of similarly valuable player after the top 3(Hunter Greene, Brendan McKay and Kyle Wright)and the team has the chance to draft a high talent with the 10th pick. There’s no question the team will be able to draft a good player. The real question is who will they select and what kind of strategy will the team abide by? In the 2016 draft, new general manager Billy Eppler clearly showed his influence on the draft, helping Ric Wilson select some bigger talents in Wilson’s final year of of being the Angels scouting director. Unlike his previous predecessor in Jerry Dipoto, Eppler showed a propensity to acquire high upside talent rather than draft players with higher floors. While the Angels selected Matt Thaiss in the first round, a lower ceiling 1st baseman with a higher floor, the team saved that money to acquire high school talents with big upside who commanded more money(Brandon Marsh, Nonie Williams, Chris Rodriguez and Cole Duensing). This is the type of strategy that had been lacking since the glory days of Angels drafting, when they targeted high upside talents such as Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick, Jered Weaver and various others. Jerry Dipoto and Ric Wilson, the previous general manager/scouting director duo, stuck to their guns and wanted to pick high floor players who had the chance to advance quicker and fill holes at the major league level. That duo developed neither high floor players nor high ceiling players so kudos to them on that achievement. That group also played at a gigantic disadvantage after signing numerous high level free agents, costing the Angels the 2012 1st round pick(Albert Pujols), a 2012 supplemental round pick(C.J. Wilson) and the 2013 1st round pick(Josh Hamilton). The 2010-2015 draft period looks completely barren of real impact level(so far) outside of Kole Calhoun, Cam Bedrosian, C.J. Cron and Keynan Middleton. The 2017 draft features a ton of talent, which is mostly heavy on college pitching, but the Angels can go a number of different ways with the #10 pick. A blueprint of the 2016 draft could be realistic, with the Angels possibly exploring the advanced college position player route(Virginia outfielder Adam Haseley, Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith, North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth). Going that route likely signals the Angels don’t like whoever is available at #10 or they just potentially trust going the college hitter route. This would allow the team to save funds, grab high upside picks in the later rounds and have a more balanced draft approach. Last year’s draft looked great on paper and with the Angels selecting 47th overall as well, they have a very good opportunity to grab a high upside pick at that spot. The 2nd scenario would be to draft a college pitcher, considering this draft is flush with pitchers from the college ranks. J.B. Bukauskas, Alex Faedo, Seth Romero, Tanner Houck and David Peterson all represent pitchers who may be available at the 10th pick, with several of them offering high floors and the ability to move through the system quick. The Angels system is very thin on impact pitching and the MLB club is also lacking in this area, causing some draft experts to think the Angels could go this route. This tends to be the most controversial approach to the draft, basing your pick on needs in the farm system rather than drafting the best available talent you can grab. The Angels might opt for drafting players who can help supplement Mike Trout quicker, which is a questionable strategy but given the absurd amount of college pitchers, this might be the likeliest scenario. It’s also possible Billy Eppler likes college pitching, although he certainly didn’t show that last year, selecting only 1 college pitcher in the first 10 rounds. The 3rd scenario is the one many fans would like to see the Angels go and it’s very possible it happens. This is the first time in 17 years the Angels will have a pick in the top 10 of the draft and based on how much talent is available that early, it seems more feasible that the team will draft one of the talented players who manage to fall to them at 10. This could be the local Royce Lewis from Junipero Serra High School, the top prep left handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, toolsy outfielder Jordon Adell, or Austin Beck, who possesses the best bat speed of any player in this draft. Billy Eppler showed his desire to acquire high upside talent in last year’s draft and with new scouting director Matt Swanson drafting for the first time, the Angels may want to start off the draft with a bang. It’s unlikely Lewis or Gore manage to fall that far but if they do, it completely changes the complexion of this draft for the Angels. At the 10th pick, there are so many different scenarios that could play out for the Angels. When you’re selecting within the top 5 picks, you can target 3-5 players who you really like and have an easier time drafting. When you’re down at #10, however, there are seemingly endless scenarios which can play out, leading to players you expected to be there to be gone or players you didn’t expect to be sitting in your lap. Recent mock drafts believe the Angels will explore the college route, based on how heavy the college ranks are this year, but there’s no indication on who they may want to take. Baseball America had the Angels selecting 2B/DH Keston Hiura from UC Irvine, RHP Alex Faedo from Florida and J.B. Bukauskas from North Carolina in separate mock drafts. John Sickels had the Angels taking Pavin Smith in his recent mock draft. Teams never lead you to believe they want a particular player because keeping their lip tights may help their particular draft strategy but pundits aren’t really sure which way the Angels will go. Whatever the Angels decide to do this draft will shape the future of the organization in a huge way. A big draft would go a long way in helping transform the farm system, adding talent to a system that got a much needed boost in 2016. With a good draft this year and an active international signing period, which will begin in July following the draft, the organization can start to get back to its’ roots of the mid 90’s and 2000’s, when the team drafted and signed players with the best of teams. While the team should certainly be focused on trying to maximize Mike Trout’s window, the organization desperately needs to start hitting on some draft picks to create an influx of young players down the road. The biggest issue for the club in recent years has been payroll and roster inflexibility, not having the young players to call up to fill spots nor the available funds to plug holes across the roster. If Billy Eppler and Matt Swanson can nail this draft, it will create some optimism for the team going forward. If the draft is another bust, it will continue the recent trends of the MLB club not having enough young talent to build a winning roster. No pressure Angels.

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