The Angels provide 4 consecutive games of baseball played in front of a full stadium of rollicking fans. Hopefully, this confuses the Oakland A's players and allows the Halos to extend their AL West lead over the stupified Green & Gold.
At the start of the season, the thinking was that we had a strong front half rotation, mystery meat bullpen, and WS caliber offense. We have been through a lot of surprises so far, as is usual with any year. We know that our offense remains WS caliber, if spotty at times. Our bullpen turns out to be our greatest strength, and our starting rotation is flipped upside down, literally. Look at how our primary starters compare:
Richards is, of course, done. His ERA will be impossible to beat but his K total should hold at least to #2. Shoemaker is, at his current rate, poised to claim the tag of most successful starter by the time all things are said and done, and that is after coming out of nowhere. Weaver is figuring to come in at the 2/3 range with Wilson bringing up the rear, ahead of the likes of a once-demoted Hector Santiago and the injured Skaggs.
Where am I going with all of this? The weekend at hand. Those are the 4 guys we would have thrown at Oakland in this critical series. One of those guys has slipped, another is slipping, a third has yet to face Oakland at all, and the 4th is lost altogether. It'll be a delightful surprise if we get through this unscathed.
- Methinks The-A's Doth Protest Too Much: I confess to having spent many of Erick Aybar's pro seasons mocking him for being a knucklehead player on the field. So it is with much respect and contrition that I praise him for being a pretty damned sharp cookie anymore. For example, the 9th inning infield play last night where he broke left and right while running up the 1st base path and then chose to crash right into the A's pitcher &first baseman who had clogged the path AND the runners lane was, well, inspired. Good, heads up, fast-thinking baseball right there. The A's protested the game on the play and that protest was not going to go anywhere but it was all flushed down the toilet with a Mike Trout infield ground out with the bases loaded to cough up a chance to close out the game entirely. (And, by the way, their more silly fans are protesting a bit themselves.)............But hellooo walk-off! Howie Kendrick took an 8-pitch at-bat in the bottom of the 10th and stroked a deep line drive to left field that allowed Albert Pujols to stroll in with the game-winning run to put the Angels 2 games up in the AL West with a 4-3 victory............By the way, the A's have been down by as much as 2 whole games in the AL West race exactly 3 days now: April 2nd, April 5th and August 28th. They have never been down by more.
- C.J. Wilson: You all know that Wilson is a thinker. With his outing last night now in our rear view mirror, and don't you wish he had the cajones to last a little longer in his outings, let's take a closer look a what was probably going through his head. Fangraphs does this for us. "When I throw a really good game, I feel like I’ve pulled off a master heist. I’ve stolen their ability to win that day with a well-thought-out, totally under control, non-emotional, logical plan. I knew exactly how much time I had before they called the cops on me." I wonder what he thinks about his cops and robbers gambit when he throws a really bad game? By the way, the dude knows his Internet and data: "PITCHf/x sometimes doesn’t read my pitches accurately. My pitch types are kind of malleable. Sometimes I create extra break on my slider and turn it into a curveball. I throw cutters anywhere from 85 to 91 and have gotten misreads on it. I throw a split and I don’t think they recognize that. They did get the knuckleballs I’ve thrown this year."
- Albert Pujols: Oh, Albert. Even as the world observes your latent talent rising to surface more often than expected, and praising you for it, you still can't shake the need for self-righteous indignation. "...and said he learned to ignore critics who snipe from afar without all the facts...Those genius think that, why they don't come and try and hit a ball? They're sitting behind a desk or punching numbers in a computer or writing in the paper." And he says this to Helene Elliott, the Albert Pujols of hockey journalists. Look, I love the guy. And I think that he is going to give us some solid WAR when peanut butter spread over the first 5 or 6 years of his contract. And I think that is precisely what every living soul not named Pujols or not having burned his Pujols Cardinals jersey believes as well. And if Pujols wishes to rage against the forces of mother nature well, then, good on him. But somebody needs to teach him a fresh argument as it pertains to those enthusiasts in the universe of baseball who are not sitting in the dugout. That one is old, and tired, and wrong.
- Mike Trout: Just an observation. Now that Trout has reached 30 homers for 2014, a look at his counting stats shows that he also has 94 RBI and we just finished game #133, there are 29 games left for Trout to hit another 10 homers. By so doing, this ensures he surpasses 100 RBI and he would have his first 40HR/100RBI season. So the key is, can Mike hit 10 homers in 29 games? Well, although not probable it IS possible. He has done it before, even this season. From June 14th through July 18th he played 29 games and hit 10 homers. And from May 15th through June 20th he played 29 games and hit 9 homers. So if he is heating back up now then, yeah, Trout could get his first Old-School Main Stream Media Super Value Coupon.
This Date In Baseball History: 1948 - Jackie Robinson hits for The Cycle collecting, in order, a home run followed by a triple followed by a double followed by a single..........1951 - The Yankees trade Lew Burdette to the Milwaukee Braves. Big mistake. Six years later the same Burdette is going to mow down the Yankees in the 1957 World Series, pitching three complete game victories as the Braves defeat the Yankee in seven games...........1966 - The Beatles perform in Candlestick Park, in what will be the final public performance by the group. (Trivia question: this group at one time spelled their name "Beetles". Why did they change the spelling in their name to "Beatles"? Your answer will probably reveal your Google skills.)...........1977 - Nolan Ryan strikes out 11 Orioles, surpassing 300 single season strikeouts for the 5th time. It doesn't help, as the Orioles win 6-1 over the anemic Angels (with Don Baylor as DH)............1985 - Kirk McCaskill of the Angels plunks Don Baylor (one and the same) of the Yankees, and Baylor breaks the AL career record for HBP previously owned by Minnie Minoso...........1986 - The Angels enter the bottom of the 9th trailing the Tigers 12-4, but reel off 9 runs to steal the win as Dick Schofield comes up for the second time in the inning and blasts a walk-off grand slam...........2002 - With the MLB strike scheduled to begin the next day, fans in Anaheim shower the field with foul balls and trash during a game between the Angels and Devil Rays. Fans chant "Don't Strike! Don't Strike!" during the 7th inning stretch, which works, apparently, since the strike is averted the following day. (read 71-year-old usher Joe Navarro's prayer in the article linked!).........2010 - MLB umpires invoke video review to overturn an on-field call of a double and turn it into a walk-off home run, as Brian McCann leads the Braves a 7-6 win over the Marlins. It's the first time replay is used to rule a walk-off.
- Here Come The Cubs: A couple of years ago, and then again last year, I was warning folks around here about the thunder on the horizon that are the Seattle Mariners. I got poo-poo'd for that but, whatevs. I think it helps our cause because it elevates the AL West overall and I love the regional power shift in the AL. Well, it's happening in the NL, too, and I love the potential that Major League Baseball can reap overall as the Chicago Cubs start to become a valid force. "The minor-league stats of their top young players are in many cases nothing short of eye-popping, but the very best news may be the progress of young first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro, who are already locked up to lucrative long-term deals and needed bounce-back seasons following struggles in 2013."
- Women in Baseball: Here is something I admit to not having given enough thought: women playing MLB. I believe that it is totally doable and eventually will happen. "But it would be a harder slog in general for reasons other than prejudice. There is no escaping the fact that there is some degree of sexual dimorphism among human beings and that, for a lot of things in baseball, overall strength and speed does matter. That doesn’t mean that no woman could do it, of course — there are TONS of women stronger and faster than men who play sports — it’s just that there would be some natural funneling of the talent pool based on the basic competitive requirements of the sport, making it harder for women. Some percentage of women could do it that is less than the percentage of men who could do it even if there are lots of women who could do it." Sure, as the article suggests, knuckleball pitcher seems the most probable. But I have another idea: with the changing rules concerning obstruction to prevent home plate collisions, why not catcher? I can easily see a female signal caller and defender. Maybe throwing out base stealers would be the greatest hiccup, but when you think about, it's not like male catchers have a high rate of success there already.
- Shifty Shift-Shiftyism: I remember the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the 2002 WS, and ring-bearing ex-player after ring-bearing ex-player stepped to the podium and advised the current roster to not play selfishly, but play for the team. I am certainly projecting, but my takeaway was to focus on how today's players take a monolithic approach to their at-bats that just rubs me as selfish. And if batters are going to be stubborn, then defenses are going to reap the rewards. Without getting into the argument of whether or not a leopard can change his spots, the author makes a more interesting point: "The more accurate view, I would wager, is that hitting has never been harder. Batters have been selected for their ability to hit big flies, not to play small ball, and pitchers have been selected for their ability to miss bats. If hitters are less likely to make contact, it stands to reason that they’d also be less likely to make contact they can control. What worked for Cobb and a few of his contemporaries might not work now.'
Video Of The Week
(Because, you know, Aliens)
Buy Stuff - Crazy-ass Baseball Stuff On the Internet:
This year my Big Hairy Christmas Gift is pretty much locked down. But next year, this would be extremely cool to have bolted down in my garage for visitors to use when stopping by while I am doing some Sunday afternoon project. Everybody take note. You can pass a hat and take up a collection next October.
With Oakland in town, maybe we should lead off with a candid look into their fanbase, as obno drum crew trying hard to fill the noise void that comes from the chasm of empty seats, passes judgement upon one another............One way to look at the AL West is to think that the Rangers have actually caught a huge break. Yu Darvish being shut down when the season is lost is a huge advantage over shutting him down in a tight playoff race or looking to compete in the post-season............The very best way to endear yourself to your fanbase, after spending years sucking their money as you suck, is to call them out after finally a few games............Do you know what we don't have in 2014? We don't have enough people on board with the anybody-but-Trout-MVP bandwagon. So thank the stars for Kansas City..........Dipoto must be some kind of genius, because just when he builds one of the very best bullpens in Major League Baseball, we find that Bullpens Took Over Modern Baseball...........I'm surprised to be reminded that the Houston Astros - Brady Aiken draft-bot-don't-sign ordeal is still ongoing...........Billy Beane, whistling in the dark?............This makes me sad (erp): Derek Jeter's Farewell yank is grinding on the chances of the Yankees. Wouldn't that be ironic for the MFY to miss the playoffs by a single game?.........Hahahahaha!!! The Yankees end up winning nearly 80% of their Instant Replay Challenges. That is, as it happens, the top result in MLB. And, by coincidence, those challenges are reviewed by people who live in, and work in , New York. Awesome.............A ruckus between a Dodger fan and DBacks stadium employees gets solved via twitter. We live in a world that Murray Chase can no longer understand.
And now, being the full service weekend linkage institution that we are, here is the obligatory moment we take out of each Friday...for beer...
Saturday: The Orange International Street Fair continues..........Maniac Mike's Cafe at Cable Airport in Upland is hosting For What Ales Ya 2014 Charity Beer Event..........Brews & Bites takes place at SLO Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo.............25th Annual Foam Fest can be found at Squaw Valley
Sunday: The Orange International Street Fair concludes..........Harrah's Resort at Valley Center is doing Hop Heads & Dreads Beer Festival............6th Annual SoHum Beerfest & BBQ will be happening at Mateel Community Center in Redway