Friday, October 7, 2016

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By Glen McKee, Senior Columnist - 

October 2, 2016. That’s when the season officially concluded for the Angels, but it ended well before then. Some would say it ended before the season ever began; I call those people idiots. Baseball is about optimism in the face of ridiculous odds, and if you’re lamenting the season before it starts then, well…

That said, it was a frustrating season for reasons nobody could have anticipated.  That said, there was still some good to be found; a piece of furniture that didn’t burn in the house fire, if you will.  You generally find what you’re looking for.  If you focus on the negative, you’ll see the negative.  If you focus on the positive, you’ll see the positive.  If you focus on both, well, you can write for and have the opportunity to google pics of hot babes (and occasionally dudes), and do a substandard imitation of Bill Simmons.  Enough preamble, on with the show.  This may be conflicting for some of you because I’m gonna have something for everyone in here.  I’m not responsible for any confusing arousal that results from reading this.

The Bad.  The worst thing about this season was the injuries.  Injuries are part of any normal baseball season and a team is expected to deal with them, but it was ridiculous this year.  We lost more arms this year than Hillary Clinton did when she was Secretary of State!  Political zinger.  Seriously though…the amount of injuries to the pitching staff was incredible.  You know what else is incredible?  The sexiest man alive in 2016 (David Beckham) and the sexiest woman alive in 2016 (Scarlett Johannsson)!

 - The Record.  The Angels finished the year at 74-88, 10th worst record in MLB (BUT WE GOT OUR PROTECTED DRAFT PICK!) and second worst in the AL West.  Suck it, nine other teams including Oakland!  This was the worst season the Angels have had since the last time their record was this bad or worse.  That was probably a while ago.  I dunno, you do the research.

- Johnny Giavotella.  The feel-good story of 2015, he was supposed to make small strides (geddit?  He’s short!) this year and perhaps lock down the 2B job that’s been open since that one black dude went to the Dodgers (not racist, just observing.  Miss you, Howie.).  He hit .260 with a .662 OPS before being DFAed at the end of August.  Just to give you an idea of how bad his OPS was, it was a full .118 below what superstar Albert Pujols put up this year.  Horrible!  We’ll miss ya, Johnny!  On to the next Eckstein.

- CJ Wilson.  Here are CJs stats for the year: __________.  He didn’t even show up.  It would be easy to make a joke about him injuring one of his female body parts, but let’s give the guy some credit.  This was the last year of his contract and now he’s a huge question mark; missing this season had to lower his value at least somewhat.  Speaking of question marks, remember that horrible Batman movie with Jim Carrey as the Riddler?  Well, a long time ago Jim Carrey dated Lauren Holly, and while Jim’s sperm has been proven to absolutely wreck women (if you doubt me, look it up) there was a time BJ (Before Jim) when Lauren was incredible.

- Matt Shoemaker.  I’m gonna be serious here for a moment.  Shoe started the season terribly and then suddenly found his stuff again and turned into an ace.  He was incredible until he got beaned with a line drive.  Like all of us here I like Shoe a lot and wish him the best, and hope he returns to form and entertains us on the field again next season.  Best wishes, Matt.

- Brett Oberholtzer.  Brett was yet another attempt at a clean peanut (with a nod to Tdawg).  On August 9 the Angels got him off of waivers from the Phillies, a team that finished worse than us.  In August he posted a 5.25 ERA and in September he gave up a robust 12 runs per nine innings.  That’s so bad that a team as pitching-starved as the Angels should have no place for him next year.  But don’t worry, he’s a sure bet to pull a Blanton and wind up pitching well on a playoff-bound team in a few seasons.

- Shane Robinson.  He was supposed to be a platoon in LF with Ji-Man Choi but he spent a lot of the season injured, and the rest of it stinking up the joint.  .173 average, .492 OPS.  Yikes.  I’ll just add Ji-Man here as well.  Between the two of them in 210 AB they hit 6 HR and had 22 RBI.  LF is yet again a need for next season, but there is an in-house solution (more on him below).

- The bullpen.  For the most part the bullpen was a dumpster fire.  There were a few bright spots that give us some hope for next year, but as a group they were…well, maybe not as awful as you think.  They were 18th in ERA at 3.77 (I know, I don’t believe it either!); playoff teams Texas and Toronto both had worse bullpen ERAs (4.40 and 4.11 respectively).  Surprisingly, they only pitched the 13th-most innings at 544.0.  So, when they were bad they were awful, but when they were good they were…well, good.

- Albert Pujols.  It’s difficult to get past his contract and look at his stats in a vacuum.  Yes, he hit 31 HR and had 119 RBI, both best on the team.  That .780 OPS, though.  That bugs me.  It keeps trending downward and there’s no reason to expect it to get any better.  Five more years.  Albert will still have one more year left after whomever is elected president this year finishes their term.  But hey, Albert is from the Dominican Republic, and so are Amelia Vega and Shalim Ortiz.

The Good.  Hey, that’s enough bad.  Feel free to add yours to the list.  Now let’s take a look at the good and yes, there was a lot of good this year.  There’s only one person to start this list with…

- MIKE TROUT!  He only hit 29 HR (boo, for not making an arbitrary number!) but he once again finished with an OPS above .980 and he increased his SB total from 11 last year to 30 this year.  Once again he should be the MVP despite being on a lousy team, and once again I have faith that the people who vote for MVP will screw it up.  He’s an incredible player and we’re lucky to have him.  Also worth noting is that he (just barely) had his second-lowest strikeout total for a full season and his highest BB total.  Good to see those numbers trending in the right direction.

- Juan Graterol.  What?  Who?  Yep, my new favorite player.  I love his name, I love his look (wait for it…), and I love his performance in the smallest of sample sizes: 14 AB, .286 average.  And just look at this mug!

- Andrelton Simmons.  A lot of people were pissed that we traded our best pitching prospect for Andrelton.  Get over it.  Dude is staggering on D and he also posted his best average and OBP for a full season (yay for cherry-picking stats!).  I do miss me some Aybar but Simmons cushions the blow.  It will be good to have Simmons on the team for at least a few more years.

- Andrew Bailey.  Another peanut picked up from Philly, Bailey turned out to be clean for us.  In September he posted a 2.60 ERA serving as de facto closer and converted 6/6 save opportunities.  There’s no telling if he can repeat September next year but ya know what?  He’s worth a shot.  Maybe, just maybe, for once it can be the Angels that find a gem in the scrap pile, and make the team that released him question their sanity.

- Jefry Marte.  Remember how I mentioned LF a while ago and said we have a solution in-house?  Say hello to my little friend Jefry.  Actually, he’s not little at all.  Anyway…as I mentioned before he was our best HR hitter this season, hitting a HR every 17.2 AB.  I can hear you yell “Sample size!” and you have a point, but why not Marte?  We all know his name rhymes with party and he had a better OPS than…you guessed it, Albert Pujols.  He can play 1B, 3B, and LF.  I like that versatility.

- Fill-in starters.  Ricky Nolasco, after a few rough starts, pitched well enough down the stretch to warrant a spot in the rotation next year.  Alex Meyer showed some potential.  Jhoulys Chacin was erratic but finished with three strong starts, making him our next potential Ervin Santana.  Seriously, look at his ERA by month: 3.27, 5.23, 8.59, 4.19, 5.79, 3.38, and 0.00 (In October, one game pitched).  He’s an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, smothered in mediocre sauce.

- Kole Calhoun.  Some say he’s overrated, some say he’s underrated, still others say he’s just rated.  I fall between the latter two.  This season he posted career highs in runs, 2B, 3B, BB, and OBP, and dropped his strikeouts markedly (from 164 in 2015 to 118 this season).  Sure, he’s no Randall Grichuk, but he’ll do.  Plus, he’s a ginger, and we all love gingers, right?  Sorry, ladies.

- Mike Scioscia.  It didn’t take long for the Angels to announce that Scioscia would be back after this terrible, no good season, and really, why not?  I, too, look forward to the time when the team has moved on from Sosh but this year wasn’t on him.  At the ASB the Angels were 37-52.  After the ASB, with a patchwork pitching staff the Angels went 37-36.  The Angels had every reason to tank, yet they remained competitive and still managed to get that protected draft pick.  If they had blown goats after the ASB then Sosh would rightly be under fire.  They didn’t, so he gets the credit.  Well, done, Sosh.  See ya next season.

The rest.  Sure, a lot of other things happened during the season.  More players than I mentioned had a bad year, and more players than I mentioned had at least a decent season.  Feel free to point them out.  One thing worth noting is that we may have seen the last of Jered Weaver as an Angel.  I’m not conflicted about this.  He had a solid career with us and in a few years, I’ll have forgotten his last two (or three if he’s back next year, gah).  He was always entertaining and I’ll never forget how he took a team-friendly contract to stay here.

If you go somewhere else then I wish you the best, and if you come back here for another year I wish you even better.  Just please don’t come back and suck.  It’s always better to retire a year too early than a year too late, said the guy who isn’t turning down millions of dollars to come back.

What’s next? The playoffs, where we’ll probably get to watch Napoli crush it and have a lot of posters lamenting his departure.  A World Series that hopefully doesn’t feature Texas or Los Angeles (the other, real Los Angeles).  A loooooong offseason where a lot could happen.  A break for me from writing about the Angels unless I’m inspired, which will happen occasionally.  And then, eventually, spring training when our hopes are born again, unless we’re bad people.  It’s been a blast writing these, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them.
Love to hear what you think!

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