Interleague Angel preview – Trout and company come to town

One year ago the Angels were 51 – 59, and many analysts were rightly mocking their big spending sprees on the likes of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Mike Scioscia was ridiculed for how he managed his team, and many felt the game had passed him by. The only thing Angel fans could look forward to was watching the greatest player of the 21st century.

Move forward one year and the Angels just might be the best team in baseball with a 65 -44 mark. Mike Trout is still the best player of the 21st century, however his incredible production has been enhanced by new talent, somewhat comeback years from Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Mike Scoscia is once again a “brilliant” manager.

The Angels have many of the old faces that Dodger fans recognize Kendrick, Aybar, Trout, Pujols, Hamilton, Weaver, CJ Wilson, but those old faces have been augmented by a plethora of new faces, so it is probably a good time to get a primer on who these Angels are.

1st Base – Albert Pujols has bounced back from last year, but a recent slump has made his numbers rather pedestrian again. Overall Albert has an OPS+ of 127, but in his last fourteen games his OPS sits at .675. Albert has hit one home run in the last 28 days. So while he has 20 home runs on the year, he comes into this series without a home run since July 9th. The 23 Million dollar 1st baseman is already a bad deal. Is CJ Cron who plays for the minimum already a better hitter?

2nd Base – Howie Kendick has now been the regular Angel second baseman since 2010, and has been playing for the Angels since 2006. Howie never won the batting title that some thought he’d achieve, but he does have a lifetime average of .291. He still has a ways to go to catch Bobby Grich, but he’s firmly ensconced as the second greatest second baseman in the history of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This year he’s doing what he always does. Solid BA at .285, a smattering of stolen bases (12), an OPS+ above 100 (108), and on his way to playing over 140 games.

SS – Erick Aybar become the Angel starting SS one year before Kendrick in 2009. Much like Howie he had been around since 2006. While never wowing with the bat, Aybar has been consistent. These guys are like two pea’s in a pod. Never great, mostly good, always available. Also just like Howie, Erick Aybar is clearly the second best Shortstop in the history of the Angels. He won’t catch Jim Fregosi, no one will.

3rd Base – David Freeze came over from the Cardinals last year and is experiencing his worst year since he came up in 2009. His OPS+ currently stands at just 93, 19 points below his career average of 112. At least he’s been consistently meh. His first half OPS was 669, his second OPS is 683.

C – Chris Ianetta and Hank Conger split this gig with Ianetta getting more games even though he’s the right hand hitter. Ianetta is having the best year of his career with an OPS+ of 129, driven by his first foray into the .270 BA area. Much like AJ Ellis his offensive contributions usually centered around his excellent walk rate, but unlike AJ, Chris also had a little more consistent pop. Hank Conger may be the wrong guy for the left hand hand platoon side. He’s a switch hitter who is getting almost exclusive abats against RHP and not doing much with it. He’s been particularly awful the last 28 days with a .570 OPS.

CF – Mike Trout is simply the greatest player of the 21st century at the age of 20, 21, and 22. It is a matter of debate if he is also the greatest player of the 20th century at the age of 20, 21, and 22. Many have said the same thing, but we are watching what 19 year Mickey Mantle would have been had he not torn up his knee because of a sprinkler in the 1951 World Series. I’d list all of Trout’s accomplishments by the age of 22, but trust me. They would just make you gag.

RF – Kole Calhoun – this guy must be the best RF in the game no one has heard of. All he’s done since taking over for a hurt Josh Hamilton in 2013 is hit. And Hit. Quick and dirty using OPS+ Kole Calhoun has been the second best hitting right field in the AL since he started getting full time at bats on July 28th, 2013. He’s the bargain basement guy who simply needed a chance and has run with it.

LF – Josh Hamilton – If anyone thinks the Pujols contract was absurd given his age, don’t peek at what they Angels will be paying Josh Hamilton from 2015-2017. Let’s just say it averages just a tad under $30,000,000. And while Josh Hamilton has bounced back from a tough 2013, his season this year is still simply OK. His OPS+ is 128, but only seven bombs in 236 at bats.

DH – CJ Cron – 1st round pick in 2011 didn’t really impress in the minors given his advanced age for the levels he was at, but since being brought up, he’s done exactly what all the other DH’s could not do. Hit, and hit for power. So far he’s basically been Mark Trumbo, lot of home runs per at bat, lot of K’s per at bat, very few walks.

Starting Pitching – The Dodgers will miss Jeff Weaver but get to see Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, Matt Shoemake, and C J Wilson.

Garrett Richards has kind of blown the roof off his suspected ceiling this year. I’ve heard talk of Cy Young contention which might be overstating his season, yet Garret Richard is clearly the ace of this team. From his 2.74 ERA, 11 – 4 record, 2.71 FIP, 8.9 K/bb ratio, 2.9 BB/ration, this is clearly an elite pitcher in 2014. For a guy who was the fifth starter entering the season, what a god’s send for the Angels.

Hector Santiago came over from the White Sox when the Angels sent Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks. Hector was supposed to be a vital part of the rotation but he was terrible in April, and was removed after his seventh start. He was sent to the minors for a few weeks, and came back to make some spot starts when Skaggs was hurt. Got to stick around when Wilson was hurt. Skaggs is hurt again so Hector gets this start. He’s dropped his ERA from over 5.00 to 3.76 since being demoted due to good work in the bullpen, and some decent starts. Hector has not pitched into the 6th inning but one time since June 10th, so even if he’s effective don’t expect him to be pitching in the 6th inning.

Matt Shoemaker – Life saver is what they should be calling him. When Hector Santiago was shitting the bed, when Skaggs kept getting hurt, when CJ Wilson got hurt, the crops were slim, and unlike the Dodgers, the Angels ignored Matt’s PCL numbers and brought him up, and he may never leave. Matt has not been great, but for a fifth starter on a potent offense he gives them a chance to win every game, and thus has a 9 – 3 record. Matt has a dynamite 5.20 SO/W ratio, so even though he gives up more hits per IP, his WHIP is still a respectable 1.216. Matt has made 12 starts and his 8 – 2 in those 12 starts. About those PCL starts. Five starts, 6.31 ERA, 25 IP, 34 hits, 1.675 WHIP.

CJ Wilson – who knows how this start is going to go. Wilson came off the DL on Saturday and didn’t last two innings. Is he still hurt? Rusty? Even before he hit the DL he wasn’t exactly vintage Wilson. Since June 24th Wilson had made five starts, and has given up 25 earned runs in 18 IP. Yikes

 

Bullpen – once a weakness the Angels can now boast Huston Street, Joe Smith, Jason Grilli, and Kevin Jepsen. Jepsen hasn’t given up an earned run since June 21st. During that time 19 IP, 7 hits, 0 ER, 5 walks, 21 K’s.

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