Thursday, February 25, 2016

By Ellen Bell, Staff Reporter - 

Last Saturday, I joined a long line of Angels faithful, picked up my exclusive Mike Trout Bobblehead that was given only to me.....and a few thousand other season seat holders.. and settled in for Chalk Talk at The Big A. 

I had barely finished my complimentary hot dog before I was introduced to the new sheriff in town. Here are the Top 10 Things I learned about the Angels upcoming season and new GM, Billy Eppler.

1. You, Mr. Eppler, are no Jerry Dipoto.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Personally, I had nothing against the tightly-wound, shirt-tucked-into-jeans style of the Angels last GM. But to say he was a little stiff would be an understatement. I watched as Billy Eppler stood casually next to Tim Mead. Relaxed. Shirt free from the restraints of a belt. At ease. This is more than a fashion observation. If Jerry Dipoto was GM Ken Doll, Billy Eppler seems more like Stretch Armstrong...with a little more room for flexibility. I believe this is a plus.

2. Billy Eppler: Hybrid GM

The 40-year old Eppler has an interesting pedigree; a mixed bag of experiences that blend into a unique set of skills. Obviously he played the game; locally and against Troy Glaus no less. But it was what he did after his short collegiate playing career was ended by injury, that makes him special. MLB scouting gave him a foundation. Law School made him thoughtful, and 11 years with the Yankees gave him front line training in one of baseball’s most professional franchises. 

3. Baseball Geeks Take Note: Physics is the new Math.

Yes, sabermetrics are alive and well...But now velocity, location, and trajectory are the name of the game. Billy Eppler admitted that physics wasn’t his favorite subject in school, but he’s an avid student now. I did a little internet surfing when I got home to see what he was talking about and found a very interesting article about how boosting two factors -- the mass of the bat and the speed of the swing -- can raise batted ball speed (BBS), which adds distance to a hit. The magazine? Popular Mechanics. 

4. Baseball isn’t Rocket Science....Well Maybe it Is.

Once of Billy Eppler’s favorite additions to the Angels organization is the Quantitative Analysis Department, led by former missile defense analyst and propulsion engineer Jon Luman. The department will be a “one stop shop” for analysis, compiling all forms of baseball data for coaching needs. “If we win the information game,” said Eppler, “it enables us to make better decisions on the field.” 

5. Old Home Week

The 2016 Angels Coaching staff will look a little bit like a class reunion. With Bud Black in the front office and Ron Roenicke at Third Base, could Mickey Hatcher be far behind?

6. It Takes A Village to Run A Baseball Team

Consensus is key. Billy Eppler promises free flowing communication from all levels of baseball operations. He mentioned a “round table approach” that pulls ideas and insights from a variety of sources. But he was very clear that when it came to lineup and coaching decisions...”Sosh” is in charge. Which brings me to #7

7. Billy Eppler and Mike Scioscia are Buds

As I mentioned, he calls him “Sosh.” No frostiness here. These two don’t go for more than 48 hours without “cracking each other up.” It may be a bit of public relations contrast to the departing GM’s friction, but it does appear that Scioscia and Eppler share mutual respect...and a good sense of there’s that. 

8. Angels Season Seat Holders Don’t Throw Softballs.

During the Chalk Talk event, VP of Communications Tim Mead read questions that had been submitted from season seat holders. But there was no easy pass for the new GM. First question? 

“Why would you trade two top pitching prospects and a former All Star Player when the position didn’t need to be filled?” 

His response? 

First he laughed. “Really....? No... ‘what’s your favorite color?’ Then he answered. “We had an opportunity to pick up a unique player at a position that is very shallow when you look at future players in the pipeline. We thought it was too good to pass up.”

9. We Are What We Are

Aside from a few position battles, at second base and left field, the team is pretty much set for the start of the season. Maybe this wasn’t a new revelation, but at least it was fairly confirmed. But baseball is always a game of surprises...Who will make up the starting rotation....who will round out the bullpen? Question marks make life..and baseball...very interesting.

10. Stay Classy Tim Mead

Ok, so I didn’t learn this at Chalk Talk, but I was pleasantly reminded as I listened to Tim Mead take time to thank the “excellent grounds-keeping crew” that worked the field behind him. “Our job is to create a culture of winning,” he said.  In my mind, Tim Mead is always a winner. 
Love to hear what you think!
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