Tag Archives: Pitching

Pitching The Key For Angels In 2014

2014 Angels

Angeles

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim open up the 2014 MLB Season on March 31, 2014 against the 240 Million Dollar man Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium. Angels Opening Day Tickets are available now.

Other than the superlative play of second year outfielder Mike Trout the 2013 season was a disaster for the Los Angeles Angels. After adding outfielder Josh Hamilton via a massive free agent contract the Angels entered last season with a $135 million payroll. Hamilton struggled all season and based on his play over the past year and a half its hard to imagine the former Ranger and Red ever living up to the investment that Artie Moreno and the Angels made in him. Albert Pujols, the former four-time NL MVP, struggled with plantar fasciitis all season and has a greatly disappointing season by his standards. The powerful Mark Trumbo started strong but had a rough second half.

It was a long year in Anaheim.

Still, even with all the superstar struggles the Angels had a surprisingly efficient offensive attack, finishing in the upper third of the American League in most categories. While Pujols and Hamilton struggled Trout put together one of the greatest seasons in history by a second year player. In a season full in injuries at many positions manager Mike Scioscia was able to get surprising performances from a variety of players, many who didn’t start the season on the Angels roster. As the Angels head into the 2014 the Angels should feel confidence in their offenses ability to again put runs on the board, with the potential of even greater productivity next season should Hamilton and Pujols regain their former glory. Hamilton’s post All-Star break numbers a solid increase over his first half, but still nowhere near the numbers he regularly put up in Texas. If Pujols can stay healthy and produce numbers comparable to his first year as an Angel the club should be in good shape offensively. Add David Freese to the mix, acquired from the Cardinals in a package that included Peter Bourjas, and the Angels offense will be just fine.

The issue though is the Angels pitching staff which was near the bottom of the American League. The Angels were 24th in all of Major League Baseball in earned run average at 4.23. Opponents batted .261 off the Angels pitching staff, 26th in baseball. In virtually every major pitching category the Angels pitching staff was in the lower third of major league baseball. The Angels clearly need to upgrade both their starting rotation and bullpen but that process isn’t as easy as in years past. Teams have become wiser and many young starters are locked up to long-term deals before they reach free agency. Those who do reach free agency are often over priced and teams end up paying a premium for them. A perfect case in point is the San Francisco Giants paying Tim Lincecum $15 million per year and the Minnesota Twins paying over market value for the combination of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.

The Angels are set at the top of their rotation with Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson and young Garrett Richards. After those three it’s murky at best how the Angels will fill out their rotation. Jason Vargas left for Kansas City and a four-year deal. Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson struggled last season and clearly are not the answer. If Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka ends up becoming available the Angels will likely bid, but so will the Dodgers and several other clubs. The rest of the free agent crop of pitchers is underwhelming and several of them have already signed. That leaves a group that includes Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Hiroki Kuroda, Bartolo Colon and Ubaldo Jimenez.

It’s an interesting crop of free agent pitchers, better than last season but diminished with several already signing, including Scott Kazmir who signed Monday with the Oakland Athletics. Of the remaining group the biggest ace is likely Matt Garza, but the well traveled right-hander will likely come at a pretty hefty price tag. Several teams are rumored to be looking at Garza, including large market clubs like the Yankees. Beyond Garza there is always the option to trade for David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays ace lefty would give the Angels one of the best number one starters in all of baseball but the Angels would likely have to give up more than they’d like to acquire price.

Of the remaining group Bronson Arroyo is an interesting option that may come at a reasonable price tag and be a solid middle of the rotation starter. He’s a workhorse who regularly pitches 200 innings per year and has consistently put up solid numbers in a hitters park. The negative is that Arroyo regularly leads the NL in homers and would be making the transition to the American League at the age of 37. Bartolo Colon has made an impressive comeback over the past couple of seasons, but is now forty. He’s re-defined himself as a strike-thrower the past couple of seasons and may be a decent arm to look at on a shorter, more incentive laden deal. Much like Colon is the option of looking at Roy Halladay. The likely future Hall of Famer had a sudden fall from elite status last season where he was battered with an ERA over six. If healthy the former Cy Young Award winner may be worth a look as a mid-rotation starter. He’s a tremdendous asset to any team due to his impressive work ethic and leadership.

Beyond the starting rotation the Angels bullpen should be in good shape. They acquired Fernando Salas from the Cardinals in the Peter Bourjas trade and Salas, along with free agent signee Joe Smith should shore up the bullpen. The side-armer Smith put up elite numbers with the Indians the past three seasons. He’ll join a bullpen that already includes right-handed set-up men Dane De La Rosa, Michael Kohn and Kevin Jepsen, lefty Sean Burnett and closer Ernesto Frieri.

Like last season it may all come down to pitching for the Angels in 2014. With many free agent starters jumping out of the market quickly the Angels will need to quickly move to shore up their rotation for the upcoming season.

Opening Day Angels

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By: Chris Cabrera

NLCS Preview Los Angeles Dodgers Vs St Louis Cadinals

NLCS Dodgers Vs Cardinals

Dodgers Vs Cardinals

With the St. Louis Cardinals defeat of the Pittsburgh Pirates the National League Championship is set and will begin Friday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis with the Cardinals taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Down 2-1 in the NLDS the Cardinals won consecutive elimination games behind dominant starting pitching by Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright. The matchup between two of the most storied franchises in all of baseball is the first postseason series between the two clubs since the Dodgers swept the Cardinals in the 2009 NLDS. The two franchises boast seventeen combined World Series titles, with the Cardinals second all-time with eleven.

Here are three things to watch in the NLCS:

Elite Starting Pitching: The Los Angeles Dodgers boast arguably the top 1-2 pitching combination in all of baseball in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. The Dodgers twenty-five year-old lefthander Kershaw is the odds on favorite to earn his second Cy Young Award in four seasons.  Greinke, who the Dodgers acquired via free agency this offseason, has long been one of the dominant right-handers in the game and won 15 games this season against only four defeats with an outstanding 2.63 ERA.  In the Dodgers 3-1 series victory over the Braves in the NLDS Kershaw had two outstanding starts, striking out 18 batters in just thirteen innings pitched with just one earned run given up. Due to the Dodgers decision to start Kershaw in game four of the Braves series the Dodgers will start Greinke in game one, followed by Kershaw on Saturday.

The Cardinals have their own trio of outstanding starters in veteran ace Adam Wainwright and rookie Michael Wacha. Wainwright closed out the Pittsburgh series with a dominating start in game five. He’s joined in the rotation by Wacha who pitched seven perfect innings in Pittsburgh in game four before giving up a solo home run in the seventh inning. Wacha exited the game with just one hit allowed and one earned run in an incredibly boisterous road environment.  The twenty-one year- old was a late call-up who nearly pitched a perfect game during the regular season. The remainder of the Cardinals postseason roster is to be determined, with a choice between Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller.

The Season Series: The Dodgers took five of seven from the Cardinals this season including taking three of four in St. Louis in early August.  In the August series the Dodgers received outstanding starting performances from Ricky Nolasco, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke.  Ironically the lone Cardinals victory was the one game started by Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw gave up just two earned runs but the Dodgers were unable to provide their starter much run support, ending the Dodgers club record fifteen game road winning streak. In the first game of the series Greinke out-dueled Wainwright in a tight battle.

For the Dodgers to prevail they’ll need Nolasco and Ryu to recapture the form they showed during the late summer Dodgers hot streak. After being acquired by the Dodgers from the Marlins Nolasco was outstanding, but struggled at the end of the season, perhaps due to throwing so many innings this season. Ryu, the Korean rookie, had a strong regular season but struggled in game three of the Braves series. The playoff schedule may allow the Dodgers to go with a three-man rotation, but it’s likely they’ll have to start Nolasco in game four back in Los Angeles.  They’ll need the right-hander to recapture the form he showed right after his acquisition.

The Cardinals Lineup:  The Cardinals don’t have the superstar they once had in Albert Pujols, but do have one of the deepest and most efficient batting lineups in baseball. The Cardinals are third in baseball in runs scored and on base percentage and fourth in batting average. The Cardinals had five players drive in at least seventy-five runs this season, with four regulars batting over .300. Second Baseman Matt Carpenter led the NL in hits, batting .318. Superstar catcher Yadier Molina hit .319 with 80 runs batted in.  Molina is on track for his seventh gold glove. Allen Craig led the National League in batting average with runners in scoring position, hitting .315 with 97 runs batted in. Both Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran hit near .300 with between 22 and 24 home runs and 80 runs batted in. The Cardinals lineup will be a big challenge to the Dodgers pitching staff. One bright spot for the Dodgers is the Cardinals inconsistent offensive showing in the NLDS.  After leading the Cardinals all season in batting Carpenter hit just .067 in the NLDS with David Freese, Matt Holliday and John Jay also struggling at the plate.

The biggest key to victory for the Dodgers is getting off to a strong start in St. Louis, just like in Atlanta. If Greinke and Kershaw can be their dominant self the Dodgers have a strong opportunity to reclaim home field advantage upon their return to Los Angeles. The Cardinals are a battle tested club with significant postseason experience.  The spotlight won’t be too big for them and the Dodgers will face a hostile environment this weekend in St. Louis. With Wainwright starting game five the Dodgers have the luxury of avoiding the Cardinals ace in St. Louis. Wainwright will likely start game three in Los Angeles. The Cardinals game one and two starters are still to be announced but likely will be either Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller or Lance Lynn in game one and Michael Wacha in game two. Lynn struggled in game two versus the Pirates and Kelly and Miller both have very little postseason experience. The veteran Dodgers club may have an advantage versus the very young Cardinals rotation as the pressure gets ramped up even more in the NLCS.

Prediction: The Dodgers ride Kershaw and Greinke into the World Series, out-dueling the young Cardinals rotation. Dodgers win 4-2.

By:Chris Michaels