Results tagged ‘ Angels ’

The Walter Johnson Award

Every year, the Baseball Bloggers Association honors MLB’s best pitchers in the NL and AL with the Walter Johnson Award.

As an AL team blogger, it’s my privilege to place my votes for the AL version of the Johnson Award.

This year it’s not even close. In fact, with a required five pitchers on the ballot, it’s actually kind of tough to fill out the 4th and 5th this year. Quite frankly, they’d be so far below #1 you might scoff at some of them.

At best this was a two pitcher race. In the #1 slot is Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. Verlander was head and shoulders above the pack in the AL, achieving the pitching Triple Crown: leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Verlander won six more games than CC Sabathia, the AL pitcher who finished second in wins. His 250 strikeouts was 20 better than #2 James Shields and his 2.40 ERA just nosed out Jered Weaver’s 2.41. Add in an opponents batting average of just .192 against a pitcher who threw 251 innings and a WHIP of 0.92 and you’ve got the makings of an award winner, probably by unanimous consent. Verlander is the easy choice for #1.

The closest to achieving what Verlander did, in my mind, was my #2 pick Jered Weaver. He barely lost out to Verlander for the ERA crown, compiled an 18-8 record and a 1.01 WHIP. Had Mike Scioscia not deemed it necessary to pitch Weaver on three days rest on a couple of occasions down the stretch in an attempt to catch the Rangers in the AL West, Weaver may have won the ERA title in 2011. The three days rest thing didn’t work for him too well.

The third through fifth positions could easily be restacked and reconfigured, because I think they’re all just about equal.

Number 3 on the list is the Comeback Pitcher of the Year: James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays. Shields had a miserable 2010. Even though he had a respectable 13 wins, his ERA was a sky-high 5.18, leading the AL in the negative categories of hits allowed and Earned Runs allowed. To say he turned it around in 2011 hardly does Shields justice. He had three more wins and three fewer losses, finishing at 16-12. He threw 46 more innings than he did in 2010 while giving up 51 LESS hits and a whopping 39 LESS earned runs. He struck out 225 batters, threw 4 shutouts and led the AL with 11 complete games.

In the 4 spot, I put a pitcher that had a much better year in the end than I expected him to have: CC Sabathia of the Yankees. While Sabathia is a workhorse year in and year out, I’ve never really thought of him as a low-ERA kind of guy. And yet, there he was at the end of 2011, with an ERA right at an even 3.00, second in the league in wins with 19 and second in strikeouts with 230. A pretty good year. It will be very interesting to see if Sabathia decides to opt out of the last year of his Yankees contract in the off-season.

Rounding out the list, I’m going to mention a Texas Ranger: CJ Wilson. There are all kinds of other players I could mention at this point: Jose Valverde, Ricky Romero, Dan Haren, etc. As mentioned earlier, though, does it really matter? Nobody I put here would have any chance of finishing first in the voting. I don’t think anyone that ANYBODY puts in this position has a chance of finishing first. Or second. Or probably even third. So I’ll go with my team and name CJ. His post-season hasn’t been very memorable, but he put together a fine campaign with 16 wins, a sub-3.00 ERA and over 200 strikeouts. So there, I said it and I’m not taking it back!

So there you go, my official ballot. To recap:

1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

2. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

3. James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays

4. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

5. CJ Wilson, Texas Rangers

The Willie Mays Award Ballot

The Rookie. Most players with that designation never amount to much. Some will eventually become utility players or middle relievers, playing for as many as ten different MLB clubs before all is said and done. One or two look to have outstanding careers ahead of them, only to see physical ailments sideline them entirely too soon. For some, it’s a cup of coffee in the majors before returning to a long, unmemorable career in the minors. For a select few, however, it marks the launch of a path to stardom.

Like baseball itself, rookie years are unpredictable. Some of the best rookies never came close to duplicating their first year numbers again. Some superstars had unimpressive first-year campaigns. Where this year’s rookies will end up in the course of a career is anybody’s guess. But here are my votes for the BBA Willie Mays Award for top AL Rookie.

On offense, the main candidates are Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals, JP Arencibia of the Toronto Blue Jays, Mark Trumbo of the LA Angels and the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley. Pitching candidates include Jordan Walden of the Angels, the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson, Zach Britton of the Orioles, the Yankees’ Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda of the Mariners.

By process of elimination, I’m taking out Walden because, even though his ERA was good and he amassed 32 saves, he also blew ten saves, which is far too many in my book. I like Arencibia, who was a pain to Texas pitching this season, but he didn’t bat well against anyone else, ending up at .219. Ackley looks like he’s going to be a star in the AL, but he’s one of those guys who came up a little too late and, with only 90 games, just didn’t play enough to get my consideration.

Michael Pineda had a hot start but cooled off after the All-Star break and then had his innings limited as a precaution. Britton did well to go 11-11 for a last place Orioles team, but the 4.61 ERA kind of dooms him.

That leaves four candidates. Eric Hosmer looks like a future star for the Royals. He wasn’t with the big club from the start of the season, but played regularly once he got the call, appearing in 128 games while compiling a .293 average with 19 HR’s and 78 RBI’s. He had the highest average among rookies with 100+ games.

Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays is the only one of the three still in the post-season. He led all rookies in innings pitched and had the lowest ERA of all rookie starters at 2.95. He amassed 13 wins for the Rays with two complete games and one shutout.

Nova led all rookie pitchers with 16 wins for the Yankees. After a very shaky start and a mid-season demotion to the minors, Nova came back and pitched strong down the stretch, maybe even earning the right to be New York’s #2 starter in the playoffs. He was 3rd among AL rookies in innings pitched.

Mark Trumbo came out of nowhere and was a big reason for the Angels contending in the AL West in 2011. The Halos had been counting on a successful return of Kendrys Morales at first base and were startled when it was determined Morales would miss the entirety of 2011 due to complications from last year’s broken leg injury. Trumbo came in and solidified first base for the Angels, playing in all but 13 games in 2011. Trumbo hit .254 with a rookie class leading 29 longballs and 87 RBI’s.

Since I’m only supposed to vote for 3, I have to take someone off the final list. I’m afraid the loser here is Nova. I take him off only because he was demoted in mid-season, which is not something you would expect to see from someone considered THE top rookie of the year.

That leaves me with three names. My picks are:

1. Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays

2. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

3. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels

A New Record

True in two ways: The Rangers set a new team record for most wins in a season with their 96th in the 2011 finale. Also true is effective today, that record is 0-0 and all that counts now is getting to 11 wins before anyone else.

I’ve been wrong this season. A lot. Early in the year, I thought Houston would surprise a lot of people this year. Well, they surprised me with how truly awful they were. Most recently, I told my son, 18-Year-Ranger-Fan, that it was doubtful the R’s would set a single season win record, as it would require winning out on the road against the Angels. Wrong again (happily). Lastly, for over a week, my mindset has been on a first round match-up with the Yankees and, if not the Yankees, then the Red Sox. Guess again, genius. Instead we get a rematch with the Tampa Bay Rays, with the only difference being this time, the Rangers have home field advantage. Of course, last year the road team won every game of the series so that might not be a good thing.

What the Rangers have done in September offensively has been nothing short of incredible. Get ready for this eye-popper: In the month of September, the Rangers AS A TEAM has hit .320, with 49 home runs in 25 games for an OPS of .916. I believe it was reported in the game telecast that it has been the single best offensive month by a major league team since 1946.

And it hasn’t been just power. Only the Orioles and the Rays had more stolen bases in September than Texas as well. On the other side of the coin, Texas also led the AL in pitching in September with a 3.22 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and 219 strikeouts in 221 innings. Only the Tigers had a better September record than the Rangers and that was only because they played one more game (20-6 vs. 19-6 for Texas).

Plain and simple, this team is on a roll. The Rangers ended the regular season with three players hitting 30 HR’s or more: Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and, with 4 HR’s in the last two games, Mike Napoli, who had a career year in 2011. Nelson Cruz came within two feet last night of being the 4th 30-HR batter in the Rangers line-up. Beltre and Michael Young both eclipsed the century mark in RBI’s, with Josh Hamilton in the 90′s and Cruz at 89. In the pitching department, all 5 Rangers starters ended the year with at least 13 wins. I haven’t checked, but I’d wager the Rangers had more starts from their starting five than any team in baseball. They were remarkably sturdy in 2011.

All that goes out the window starting tomorrow when the ALDS begins at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington at 4:07 PM CDT. Texas was 5-4 vs. the Rays in 2011, with three of the wins by shutout. CJ Wilson, who was 2-0 against Tampa this season, gets the ball in Game 1. The Rays haven’t determined who will face him, but it won’t be David Price, who pitched the finale last night against the Yankees. I’m willing to bet it’ll be James Shields, who has half of his team’s wins against the Rangers this year.

Ideally, the Rays and Red Sox would have had a one game playoff today, thus giving Texas an advantage with a better-rested bullpen. That was not to be. Still, I like the Rangers’ chances in this first round.

Day off today. Showtime tomorrow. Bring it on.

Opinions On Every Subject

Since the Rangers have clinched the West and the last 3 games are on the left coast and past my bedtime, I’ll take the last few days before the playoffs to spout off, make awards picks and other miscellaneous stuff I’ve been meaning to get to but never did.

SUBJECT #1: MIKE SCIOSCIA’S RANT

Well, maybe not a rant, but I was amused with his remarks the other day concerning the end of the season. The Angels’ skipper was quoted as saying it was unfair, while his team was in a pennant race, to send his team on an East Coast road trip to face the Orioles and Blue Jays with just two weeks left in the season. Now, had he stopped there, I would have had no problem with it. The AL West has four teams and that makes sense. And even if they were to be sent on a road trip out of the division, at least make it against an AL Central team, so they don’t have as much jet lag to contend with.

But no, Mr. Mike didn’t let it end there. He then stated it was high time for the AL West to have 5 teams, just like the other two divisions in the American League. Um, Mike, do you mind if I call you Mike? Have you ever though about what would happen if the AL West had 5 teams? Seems to me that would mean at least one team in the division would always have to play a game outside their division every day in the last weeks of the season. In a pennant race. Which you stated just a minute before that you were against. And you’re considered a genius manager?

SUBJECT #2: EXPANDED PLAYOFFS

The talk is the next collective bargaining agreement will expand by one Wild Card team in each league, withe the two wild cards squaring off against each other in a one game playoff, winner goes to the LDS.

Look, I know it’s a money grab and part of me as a fan doesn’t like the idea. But I understand it and can even see some of the reasonings behind it. It’s a Win-Win for owners and players. First off, 50 more players will get extra coin in their pockets for making the playoffs. Then, think of the implications for the division winners. By having just a one game playoff, the winning Wild Card team moves on with a disadvantage because of the pitchers they had to use to get there. The Wild Card team has made it to the World Series a number of times and some think it demeans the work that went into winning a division. So this gives the division winners a little more advantage. I mentioned this to Holden Kushner and Jim Duquette on MLB Radio over the weekend and they disagreed, saying a one game playoff often features your third or fourth best pitcher starting so the ace is ready for Game one of the LDS. I disagree. That may be the case when two teams tie for the division title. But what if a team like this year’s Yankees had been one of the two wild cards with a one game sudden death playoff to determine who goes to the LDS. Do you think a team like the Yankees will start AJ Burnett or Bartolo Colon in a game like that? Nope, they’ll go with one of their top 2, giving them the disadvantage of a Wild Card team if the win and move on. This way, the odds become better for the best match-up in the World Series to occur, which then hopefully translates into better ratings and more money all around.  A best of three Wild Card Series won’t do that, as a team’s pitching staff has more time to recover.

SUBJECT #3: COMMISSIONER FOR A DAY

If I were Commissioner of Baseball for a day, I wouldn’t pick on the DH Rule or Pete Rose’s ban from baseball. No, I’d go for something new and different. How about a slight revision to the Save Rule?

As it is, the only pitcher who can earn a Save is the last pitcher of the game for the winning team. And yet, if a relief pitcher enters a 1-run game in the 6th and gives up the tying run, he’s charged with a blown save. Most of the time, this is a pitcher who never would qualify for a save under any circumstances, as he’s only considered a 6th inning guy.

Here’s my proposal: A pitcher other than the last pitcher of a game can be credited with a save IF: 1) he appeared in what would be a 9th inning save situation; and 2) his team goes on and maintains the lead or extends the lead that is never relinquished. This allows a guy who already can get credited with a blown save to actually earn a real save. Also, if the reliever goes in and shuts the door when his team is up by maybe a single run and then his team adds two runs to the lead, he gets credit for the save instead of the guy who has a three run cushion to work with in the 9th. And he earns a save if his team subsequently goes up by 4 runs or more, because he shut the opposition down when the lead was in jeopardy. If the early reliever shuts the door with his team up by 2 or 3 and another reliever comes in and coughs up a run, the early save rule would not be in effect. Any takers?

That’s enough for now. Post-season awards voting coming in the days ahead.

The Final Countdown: Rangers, Angels Both Lose

The Rangers lost Thursday but so did the Angels, which brings your scribe to a mathematical dilemma. The Magic Number to clinch the West now stands at:

Two

Now, as a fan, naturally I would love to end the suspense Friday night. Let the Rangers win and the Angels lose and it’s all over. This, however, is something I cannot do for purely selfish reasons. For it turns out I have tickets to Saturday’s nationally televised game against the Mariners. In fact, I’ve had those tickets since the week before the 2011 season opened. And when one is making an eight hour trek to go to the game as I happen to be doing, it would sure be nice if the Magic Number stood at One going into play on Saturday.

 
So, if the Rangers are to win Friday night, I want the Angels to win as well. If the Rangers lose, I want the Angels to lose as well. Take just one off the Magic Number on Friday. For if the Rangers lose and the Angels win, keeping the Magic Number at 2, then Saturday’s game won’t decide the West, at least not until the Angels-A’s game later on that night. If the Rangers win and the Angels lose on Friday, it’s all over and I attend an anti-climactic game. But if, just if, the Rangers and Angels both win or both lose on Friday then the Magic Number is 1 going into Saturday and I could actually be in attendance for the clinching game.
 
Now that would be magic!
 

The Final Countdown (REM Edition): Rangers 3, A’s 2

On the day REM announced “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, And I Feel  Fine” once again, becuase a number was shaved off the magic number with the Rangers’ come from behind 3-2 win over the A’s. Rangers fans are “Shiny Happy People” while in Anaheim, “Everybody Hurts”. Since the countdown began at ten, the Rangers have successfully gotten at least one step closer for seven consecutive days. No doubt about it, this diehard Texas Rangers fan is not “Losing My Religion”. In fact, I see the team as “Superman.” I will gladly “Stand” to cheer them on any day, since, as far as sports teams go they are “The One I Love.”

 

Three

 

The Final Countdown: Rangers 7, A’s 2

Angels win, but the Rangers drive another nail in the coffin. Rich Harden FINALLY does his part to bring the Rangers an AL West title. Texas just had to get rid of him to do it…

Four

 

The Final Countdown: Blue Jays 3, Angels 2

Off day for the Texas Rangers, a loss for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Five

 

Five game lead with nine games to go. Getting so close I can taste it.

Hello Mr. Wilson!

Who knew it would take over 40 years to make me want to act like Dennis The Menace and just drop by CJ Wilson‘s house to bug him. But I do. I want to march over to his house right now and repeat “Please re-sign with the Rangers” over and over and over and over and over and over until he has no recourse but to re-sign, if only to get me off his back and off of his property.

Mr. Wilson took the mound Sunday after the Rangers had seen their AL West lead shrink to a mere game and a half over the second place Angels and proceeded to pitch eight innings of shutout baseball in leading Texas to an 8-1 win and a 2-1 series win over the Oakland A’s. A money performance from a money pitcher, and one who is now working on a 17 inning scoreless streak. Meanwhile, the Angels blew a chance to sweep the Yankees, with a dropped fly ball leading to two Yankees runs which put the lead back to 2 1/2 games, now with only 15 games to go.

To take a little bit of the luster off the Rangers win yesterday and the 11 strikeout performance, the A’s did rest a lot of their regulars in the game, so CJ wasn’t exactly facing an optimal line-up. On the other hand, how many times have you seen your own team rest certain regulars when facing another team’s bona fide ace? For much of the season, the Rangers have been known as having a good starting pitching staff but one without a true ace. It’s becoming more and more apparent that Wilson is turning into an ace right before our eyes, and it couldn’t come at a better time.

Even more heartening than Wilson’s Sunday performance was the one turned in by Adrian Beltre. The third baseman has hit for average since returning from the disabled list, but the power hasn’t been there. Ron Washington has been batting Beltre 5th in the order, saying he’s looking for signs he’s ready to return to the clean-up spot.  One big humongous sign was shown yesterday. Beltre had a double with authority in his first at bat. His third at bat cleared the left field fence, but not by much, for his first post-DL home run. His 4th at bat was a no doubter, easily clearing the fence onto the green in center field for his second dinger of the day. I’d say there’s a pretty good chance Beltre is back in the 4-hole come Tuesday night.

Beltre’s bat is sorely needed because, quite frankly, Josh Hamilton has only been an average hitter over the past month plus. It certainly wasn’t expected for Hambone to match last year’s MVP performance numbers in 2011, but something just doesn’t look quite right with Josh. While much has been made about how poorly Hamilton has done in day games, overall he just hasn’t hit the ball with much authority. Since the beginning of August, he’s been respectable, with 7 doubles, a triple, 6 Homers and 24 RBI, but his batting average has been a pedestrian .274. To add a little perspective, in the same span, Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Ian Kinsler all have more RBI’s than Hamilton, David Murphy has only one less. Napoli and Kinsler have both hit more home runs and Kinsler has more doubles as well. And all the aforementioned except for Kinsler have hit for a higher average as well.

Certainly it’s a good problem to have, as it shows what a consistent threat the Rangers offensive line-up is, even without Nelson Cruz. Still, a nice Hamilton hot streak would be more than welcome right around now. I’m beginning to wonder if the broken bone in his upper arm that he suffered in April has caused a slight adjustment to his swing that’s affected his average and power. Anything’s possible.

Hamilton’s problem isn’t nearly as worrisome as former high school teammates and now Rangers teammates Koji Uehara and Yoshinori Tateyama. Uehara hasn’t been very good since coming over from the Orioles and Tateyama has been even worse over the past two weeks.

When Uehara was traded to the Rangers, he sported a 1.72 ERA, a .152 opponents batting average and he had given up 4 home runs in 47 innings of work. Since arriving in the Lone Star State, Koji’s given up 5 home runs in just 13 innings of work, with a .226 opponents BA and a 5.27 ERA.

But that’s nothing compared to Tateyama. On August 23rd Yoshi’s ERA had reached its lowest point of the season at 2.37. Since that time, he’s pitched 4 innings, given up 11 hits and twelve runs, all earned, for a 27.00 ERA. Adding insult to injury, the last two batters he’s faced have both hit grand slams off him. Saturday’s grand slam broke open a 3-3 game and helped the A’s break a 10-game losing streak against Texas.

With only 2 1/2 weeks remaining in the regular season, Wash doesn’t have a lot of time left to figure out who will fill what bullpen roles come playoff time (assuming the Rangers get there). The recent performances of the two Japanese imports, as well as Mark Lowe and Mike Gonzalez, aren’t making the skipper’s decision any easier.

Off day today so the R’s can root for the A’s against the Angels tonight, then Cleveland comes to town Tuesday.

In closing, I’d just like Mr. Wilson to know this: Please resign with the Rangers, please re-sign with the Rangers, please re-sign with the Rangers, please re-sign with the Rangers…..

Remain Calm

I’m as reactionary a fan as there is. When my Texas Rangers lose a game, I can get downright surly along the lines of the famous George Carlin joke, “Behind every silver cloud, there’s a dark lining.”

It would be easy, therefore, to imagine my having bitten my fingernails all the way PAST the bone when, following the Rangers’ series-ending loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, combined with the Angels come from behind 3-1 win over the Mariners, the Rangers’ AL West lead over the Angels had shrunk to a mere 2 1/2 games.

In this case, however, you would be wrong. Your less-than-humble scribe is surprisingly calm on this, the next to the last off day of the regular season for Texas. In fact, the current small gap in the standings was anticipated.

It is true that, with a mere 18 games remaining on the schedule, I would have preferred a bit more than a 2 1/2 game lead over my closest rivals. For that, the Rangers have no one to blame but themselves. The talent is there to have put at least three more wins on the board by this time, but the fact is they didn’t, so 2 1/2 games is where they’re at.

The reason for my sedateness is this: The Rangers have just completed a 16-game stretch, 1/10th of the season, where they’ve played nobody but the 2nd place Angels, the AL East leading Red Sox and the best team not going to the playoffs this year, the Tampa Bay Rays. Texas got through this grueling stretch with a respectable 8-8 record. The Angels in this same time span, got to play the White Sox, Mariners and the Twins in addition to their 3-game set in Arlington. They went 9-6 in the same stretch against obviously lesser competition and they only managed to gain 1 1/2 games on the Rangers.

 Now the tide begins to turn. Of their remaining 18 games, the Rangers have 12 against the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners, with three more games at home against the fading Cleveland Indians and, of course, the season-ending series at Los Angeles against the Angels. The Halos, meanwhile, have 19 games remaining, and while it includes six games against the A’s and three against the Baltimore Orioles, they also have three games with the Yankees, four on the road in Toronto and the three-game set with Texas. Take out the commonalities and Texas has Seattle and Cleveland while Anaheim gets New York and Toronto.

That’s why the word “panic” is not in my vocabulary right now.

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