Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Chuck Richter, - 

I don't know about you, but last night's late inning meltdown by Ernesto Frieri against the Washington Nationals have left an excruciating sting inside. Typically I'd turn pages faster than Mike Scioscia and focus on silver linings, so naturally the next morning I was ready for the next contest, optimistic as ever. The way that the bullpen has performed so far have chipped away at my optimism and my overall excitement, despite a team that leads the majors in home runs and boasts a very good starting rotation for the first time in a couple years. It has been four years since we had a solid bullpen and its been even longer since we had BULLS in our pen. The days of Percival, K-Rod, Shields, Weber and Donnelly seem like ages ago.

What's incredibly frustrating this particular season is the Angels could easily be tied for first place with the Texas Rangers or at worst just a 1/2 game out and tied with the Oakland A's in the AL West if it wasn't for the bullpen struggling thus far. Angels closer Ernesto Frieri is 0-2 with a 9.35 earned-run average and two blown saves in 10 games this season, and he's given up five home runs in 82/3 innings.

It's well known that the Angels manager favors veteran and gives them a long rope when struggling, but Mike Scioscia needs to listen to his mind and not his heart and fix the mess that is the bullpen. After all this is a game in which wins dictate success, not clubhouse friendships. I mean, how many games do you have to lose in April before you make a change? The mind set from the front office down to the coaching staff was to get off to a better start in April so that the Angels are not chasing several games back from May through September. The Angels need to act fast and make changes yesterday. These games in April are very important, so the length of this proverbial veteran rope that is issued by Scioscia should be much shorter after four straight dismal campaigns. 

Without appearing to have all the answers and outsmarting Scioscia, to me it's a simple solution that will require just four in-house moves to reduce the amount of late inning debacles going forward. 

Step one:  Promote Joe Smith to the new closer role. Outside of one bad appearance for the Angels, he's the one guy that can get outs late in the ball game. Smith has been solid over 10 innings. He's posted a 3.60 ERA, with 11 strikeouts and three walks. 

Step two: Release Kevin Jepsen. I get it, he throws 94-95 MPH and has a curve that breaks hard. But stuff shouldn't buy you time on a major league roster if results contrast your abilities. Jepsen is the proud owner of a career 1.45 WHIP and 4.39 ERA over seven seasons and 250 games. Guys, that's just not good, especially as a late inning guy trying to hold score and keep the opponents off the bases.

Step three: Demote Frieri to take Jepsen's spot in the bullpen order until he figures shit out and gets his fastball command back. Clearly Frieri has no idea where his fastball is going. A quote from Frieri himself: "I'm missing with everything — my fastball, my changeup, my slider," Frieri said. "My arm feels good. My fastball is coming out good too. I'm just missing. … Even when I'm ahead in the count, man. I can't be leaving balls down the middle, because I'm going to get hurt." 

Do we really want a guy to close out a ball game that is "missing with everything"? The Angels starting pitchers have been fantastic and the Angels offense leads major league baseball in home runs and has put us in a position to win ball games despite the absence of Hamilton and Calhoun. It is a shame to have 8 innings of well pitched ball and runs put on the board, only to have it all erased by one player who cannot seem to locate his pitches. 

Step four: Promote one of Michael Morin, RJ Alvarez or Cam Bedrosian (more on them below) and have either one take the 7th inning spot in the bullpen. Michael Kohn who has been very effective can take the 8th inning while Joe Smith closes out ball games. After seeing 2-3 innings of fireballers, Joe Smith is even tougher to hit in the 9th.

As I mentioned above, Ernesto Frieri has given up 5 long balls across 8 2/3 innings already this season, something not even Joe Blanton could match. But just to bring some clarity as to how bad that is my friends, Angels top relief prospect RJ Alvarez has allowed less dingers over his three year career in the minors with 4. 

Let's take a closer look at the big three, equipped with some recent scouting reports I've captured this month.

R.J. Alvarez has allowed just 4 home runs in 86 1/3 innings. He has also struck out 131 batters across 86 1/3 minor league innings, while only giving up 59 hits. Alvarez has yet to be scored upon this season and boasts a .103 BAA (batting average against)

Scouting take: Alvarez has the best 1-2 combo of the three, with a fastball that reaches 97-99 MPH and a devastating slider that is a true major league out pitch. Alvarez has big league closer stuff. A slight change to his pitching mechanics have seen better results for Alvarez fastball command this season, resulting in just two free passes with the Travelers.

Michael Morin has allowed just 7 home runs in 112 2/3 career minor league innings. Morin has struck out 116 across 112 2/3 innings. The former UNC closer recorded 23 saves in 2013 out of 22 opportunities. 

Scouting take: Morin has the most experience in pressure situations late in the game, going back to his college days. Morin's fastball reaches 95 MPH, but generally sits at 92-93 MPH that he locates well and keeps down in the zone. His changeup is one of the best in the minors and is on the same level as Jered Weaver's. Morin's curveball is nothing spectacular, but he can get it over for strike and give the hitter something to think about. Morin is even better after facing hitters after his first appearance against them, which is usually the opposite. Morin will probably get the first shot of the three when the Angels reach down to their farm system for talent this season. 

Cam Bedrosian has not allowed a home run since his promotion to High-A last summer where he worked exclusively out of the bullpen. Combining his 2013 IE 66er's numbers with his work this season, Bedrock has struck out 30 batters across 16 1/3 innings. He's also given up just 5 hits over those 16.1 innings of relief. Bedrosian has yet to be scored upon this season and boasts a .42 BAA. 

Scouting take: Eddie Bane drafted Cam because of his arm and bloodlines, son of former big league closer Steve Bedrosian. Bedrock like his dad has a filthy slider that generates ugly swings and misses and a hard fastball that's tough to center because of the movement on the pitch. Cam is consistently in the 95-96 MPH range with his fastball, but since moving to the bullpen it touches 97-98 MPH when he wants to reach back for something extra. Cam also has a curveball and changeup, both of which are improving, but nowhere rival his fastball/slider combo.

Ladies and gents, these kids are good. Reminds me of the type of numbers we've seen from former Angel Francisco Rodriguez and current flamer thrower Michael Kohn who a year removed from Tommy John surgery had a decent return in 2013, only to return to his former self so far this season by sporting a 1.53 ERA, fanning 13 over 11 innings.

Dipoto, you've built a solid team to compete and do some damage in the playoffs. Please do not waste the talent on this roster by letting gazelle's out of the bullpen and round up some bulls like the Angels once had to buck this trend of late inning losses. 

By Glen McKee, Columnist & Satirist 

Good, good.   It’s been a while since I’ve truly felt the Yankee hatred in me, and quite frankly I’ve missed it.  I didn’t realize how just how much I missed it until I started to feel it again, a few days ago.  There were several factors that led to my recent Yankee apathy. 

First and foremost was that the Angels have had a bad run over the last four seasons and most of my baseball ill-will has been aimed at the home team.  It was difficult to generate hatred for another team (although I still maintained my hatred of the Red Sox – that well never dries) when my own team was woeful.  I couldn’t spare any hatred for the Yankees when we had Mathis on our team, or Wells, or various other scapegoats. 

Second was that the Yankees missed the playoffs last year.  Can I get an amen from the congregation!  That almost helped me forget how bad the year was for the Angels.  At the end of last season I also let myself believe, just for a little while, that the Yankees were serious about not going over the salary cap this year.  Yeah, I know. 

Third was that they have Alex Rodriguez on their team (and still do) and the attendant circus that goes with it.  Geddit?  Circus, centaur…ah, never mind.  I hoped that he would still be playing with them this year, and that the Yankees would be forced to pay his salary and stick him on the field.  Wrong again. 

So, the Yankees had slipped off my hatred radar.  And then, the offseason started.  First, they got the blocker, Brian McCann.  Yankees fans should love this bag of douche.  He got his panties in a twist because another douchebag, Carlos Gomez, showed up his former team, and McCann decided to play bridge troll and not let him pass, even though McCann was completely in the wrong.  A self-appointed enforcer of baseball’s unwritten rules will fit perfectly with their self-important fans.  My hatred was getting rekindled.  Good, good…

Next, Derek Jeter announced his retirement and my hatred once again ebbed.  Like most baseball fans, I like Jeter, even though he’s a Yankee (after this year, I’m glad to say, there is nobody on their roster I have to make excuses for liking – I can go back to 100% hatred).  Jeter was a perfect ambassador for baseball and his conduct off the field will forever have my admiration – I’ll never look at gift baskets the same way.  Fortunately, Jeter’s retirement didn’t extinguish the embers of my hatred, because…

The Yankees outbid everybody else for Tanaka.  Damn, I wanted him on the Angels.  I figured he would be good and he’d at least be worth the chance if you could afford him, and I assume Arte Moreno can.  But of course the Yankees wouldn’t be outbid and of course he’s in pinstripes and doing well (so far).  I certainly don’t blame him for chasing the money; I would do the same if I was in his shoes.  Seeing him pitch well is another log on the bonfire of my Yankee hatred.

Also mixed in with the offseason was the Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury from the Red Sox.  This move left me conflicted.  Part of me liked it because it pissed off the Red Sox fans, and anything that pisses off the chowds is at least somewhat good.  However, it also stoked the embers a bit because it showed the Yankees in panic mode, signing all the big free agents.  What a bunch of a-holes, signing everybody willy-nilly.  See, it’s different with the Angels and Pujols and Hamilton because, well…it just is.  We’re not the Yankees, OK?

And then the Yankees got off to a good start.  The flames, like in the Johnny Cash song, went higher.  And then I realized that in a few days the Angels are going to Yankee stadium, and the fire burned!  God, it feels good to be thawed by that righteous heat.  Coupled with the Angels typical slow start, the fire raged, and it’s about to see its culmination. 

Add to all of this that Michael Pineda got caught cheating for a second time.  This time it was so obvious that MLB in general and the umpires and Red Sox in particular couldn’t ignore it or make excuses for it.  I look forward to Joe Girardi explaining how he didn’t know what his pitcher was doing, both times he did it.  Are you kidding me?  I know that all baseball teams at least try to cheat, but most of them at least give fans the courtesy of hiding the evidence of said cheating.  Pineda was so arrogant that even after he was caught doing it once he figured he was aces to do it again.  The arrogance of those pinstripes, I tell ya.

I want the Angels to go into Yankee Stadium (or whatever dumb name they have for their new place – Dingusville?  AttentionWhore Stadium?) and to destroy them in three games with a cumulative score of 33-1.  Give them a run in each game for some false hope; maybe even have Jeter hit a home run just so ESPN has something to put in the spank bank.  I look at the schedule on and for each game the Yankee pitcher is listed as TBA.  I want them DOA.  I want the Angels to face Sabbathia and beat him so bad that he starts binge-eating and ends up like White Goodman at the end of Dodgeball (I know, he pitches on Thursday so we won’t see him.  Let me rant.)  I want Brian McCann to illegally block the plate while Erick Aybar is trying to score, and Aybar to pile-drive him and send him to the 60-day DL with a fractured skull and displaced labia.  Yes, I’m wishing injury on somebody, but he plays for the Yankees.  Check the bible; it’s OK to wish harm on a sports figure as long as he plays for the Yankees or Red Sox.  I don’t know enough about Ellsbury to wish any harm on him, other than the general malaise that I wish on all Yankees players (Except for Jeter, of course.  Everybody loves Jeter.) – a pox of some sort would do just fine.  OK, I hope he makes a crucial error that costs the Yankees a game and sends them into a downward spiral. 

Furthermore, I hope that those rich fans that half-fill the ultra-expensive seats behind home plate leave each game feeling like they wasted their money and contemplating the life choices that led to them supporting the Yankees and going to a game.  I hope all the other Yankee fans get paper cuts from their tickets, and the ones that have paperless tickets get a benign tumor from their cellphones.  I hope they all spill at least one expensive beer right after purchasing it.  I want that stadium burned to the ground (figuratively, of course) after we pull chocks on Sunday.  Is that too much to ask?

Good, good.  Let the hatred flow through you…

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Angles 4 - Nationals 5 

Angels starter Jered Weaver provided a quality start allowing one run on seven hits over six innings. The Halos were poised to sweep the Nationals with a 4-1 lead into the ninth, but closer Ernesto Frieri allowed four runs, including a home run and two-run double, leading to the game winning hit off Fernado Salas by Nats first baseman Adam LaRoche.

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By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

As a high school teacher, I have found that students are exposed to all sorts of numbers all the time. However, without context, most students can’t make any meaningful understandings from the numbers. Instead, they just treat them as a bunch of repeated digits.

For example, when teaching students about the national debt, I can get them to write down the number, in trillions, of the national debt. But, it’s not until I make them calculate their personal share of the national debt, and, further, calculate how long it would take them to earn that much money at minimum wage, that they understand the importance and concern of its size.

As I thought about Albert Pujols hitting his 500th homerun, I tried to contextualize that number into things that I do to understand its significance. I started with basic things, such as going to the movies. At 42 years old, I would have had to go to about 12 movies for my entire lifetime in order to get to 500. While as a teenager I went to a lot of movies, since having kids I rarely go to the movies, so I’m not sure that I’ve been to 500 movies in my lifetime.

Going to the movies though, is a pretty passive act. It doesn’t require the work and effort that it takes to constantly keep in shape like hitting a homerun requires. So, I thought next about reading books. Reading requires effort and work. To understand Pujols’ feat, I thought how hard it would be for most adults to read a 500 books during a 13-year time span —the equivalent of Pujols hitting 500 homeruns during his career. Most adults would not come close to that level of reading, just like most baseball sluggers don’t come close to hitting 500 homeruns in their careers.

Still though, going to the movies and reading books don’t quite capture the full effect of hitting 500 homeruns. Neither one was a part of my work. And, neither one required a lifetime of dedication and training to accomplish.

So, I thought about my job. I have been a teacher almost as long as Pujols has been a Major Leaguer (I came to teaching later in life and started in 2002). I take my job very seriously, continuously reading the latest research on the subjects I teach, the latest research on how to improve my teaching, and on the latest changes to education such as Common Core to be the best teacher that I can be. 

In a typical year, I typically have several hundred interactions with my students ranging from taking attendance to providing instruction. On any given day, there are numerous possibilities that can happen from all of these interactions. Occasionally, I hit a homerun with a student and have a meaningful impact on his or her life. Sometimes I help a student realize his or her potential. Sometimes I help a student through a difficult personal issue. Sometimes I just make the student smile and feel safe in my classroom. I don’t always hit a homerun with every student, but I sure try to every day. 

Similarly, Pujols dedicates himself very seriously to being a baseball player. He takes each game very seriously, continually researching the opposing pitcher, how to improve his swing, and staying in the best shape he can. Hours before the game even starts, he gets mentally and physically prepared for that night’s game. Over the course of a season, he has hundreds of plate appearances. He doesn’t always hit a homerun, but every time he steps up to the plate, he sure tries. 

Most people, though, aren’t so lucky. They don’t have the opportunity to do something as special as hitting a homerun. Think about your job. What would be a homerun? How long would it take you to achieve that 500 times in your career? How hard and how long would you have to work to achieve that goal?

What struck me most about how Pujols handled accomplishing this incredible feat is how he also handled the aftermath of the achievement. To say that Pujols is a class act is an understatement.

When asked about how he felt becoming one of just 26 Major Leaguers to ever hit 500 homeruns, Pujols thanked in order G-d, all those who coached or helped him along the way, and credited all of his hard work. Afterward, he thanked all of his teammates for their role in helping him achieve the feat. As a father, I want my sons, who are big Pujols fans, to understand the importance of that lesson in humility.

More importantly, coming into the game, more of the media focus was on the Trout/Harper matchup. Starting the series, the storyline was on the next generation—it was as if Pujols had been forgotten. However, Pujols didn’t take that as a slight—he just went out there and played his game. His 500th homerun did what it had to do—helped his team get back to .500 baseball.

A lot has been made about the lack of hype about Pujols’ 500th homerun. No doubt the steroid era played a huge role in that as there have been many recent and tainted entrants into the 500 homerun club. But that’s not Albert Pujols. He plays the game right, and in so doing, is showing a new generation how the game once was—and still should be—played.

What I like most about Albert Pujols is the way he plays the game with respect. Whether it’s not offending an icon from his former team by being called “The Man” in Spanish out of respect for Stan “The Man” Musial, to being an All-Star off the field in his support for children with Down’s Syndrome, he shows respect to all parts of the game.

As a fan of the game of baseball, I’m thrilled that Albert Pujols hit his 500th homerun. As an Angels fan, I’m thrilled it came with our team, and in a team victory. I cannot wait to see him get to 600 and beyond.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Angels 7 - Nationals 2

The night belonged to Albert Pujols. In the first, Pujols launched a three-run home run to give the Angels the early lead. In the fifth, he took a 1-2 pitch from Nationals starter Taylor Jordan and blasted it over the center field wall for his 500th career home run. Tyler Skaggs allowed just two runs on three hits over seven innings in a dominant performance.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Angels 4 - Nationals 2 

With the Angels struggling to capitalize with runners in scoring postion, Eric Aybar broke through with a clutch hit in the eighth to tie the game at one. Raul Ibanez follwed with a pinch-hit bases loaded double to score three more runs. Starting pitcher Garrett Richards allowed just one run on one hit over six innings with strong support from the bullpen.

Click here to download the scorecard.

If your new to scoring baseball or just need help interpreting some of the markup, download the key here.

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