December 18, 2012

It needs to be said...

I firmly believe the Angels are a better team with Peter Bourjos on the field.  So, I’m sure you can imagine that as the rumors surrounding the possibility of trading Bourjos circulate, I feel like standing on top of the 'Big A' and shouting “NOOOOOOO!” 

When most people look at Bourjos, they see a guy with “game-changing” speed, a great glove and not much more.  When I think of Bourjos, I think of Jacoby Ellsbury.  That’s right – Jacoby Ellsbury.

Both players are 6’ 1” and Bourjos weighs just ten pounds less (175 lbs.).  Bourjos happens to be four years younger than Ellsbury and in my mind – could be the same kind of player.  Ellsbury made his major league debut when he was 23; as did Bourjos.   In 2011 at 24 years of age, Bourjos gave us a glimpse of what he could become.

That year he hit .270 with 12 homeruns, 11 triples, 22 stolen bases, with a respectable 4.8 WAR.  That 4.8 WAR is better than 5 of the 6 seasons Ellsbury has had in the big leagues.  And when you consider Ellsbury didn’t have his break out season until he was 27 years old, it gives us reason for optimism.

Given the playing time and appropriate number of at-bats, Peter Bourjos could be a star in this league.  Is that a reach?   I don’t think so.  Maybe he won’t hit 32 homeruns like Ellsbury did in 2011, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he hit more than 20.  If you’ve ever seen Bourjos in person, one of the things you might notice is how muscular his forearms are.  Okay, I know that probably sounds strange, but I remember the first time I noticed because it really surprised me.  He’s not some skinny kid with a lot of speed.  He’s an athlete who was made to play baseball.

Look, I know that I’m the last person in the world who should try to play talent evaluator and I have no idea how to break down a player’s swing, but I have seen Bourjos do things on a field that help his team win ball games.  His background as the son of coach and as a player who had made adjustments at every stop in his baseball career, suggest to me that he could be something special.

We already know what he can do on defense and on the base paths and I think it’s time to see what he can do with 500-600 at bats as well.  The upside is too great to pass up.  I believe in Bourjos’ bat and I’m basing that on what he was able to do in 2011.  In three of the months of that year (April, June and August) he hit over .300; in fact he had an OBP of .340, .365, and .367 in those months as well.  Those numbers are good enough for me to believe there’s a lot of potential there.

There’s no question that an outfield that has both Trout and Bourjos in it would be among the best in baseball.    Factor in Josh Hamilton, who is no slouch as a defender and you have a group of players that will help the Angels pitching staff sleep better at night.

I know the Angels will most likely make a move to add pitching depth and that will come at the expense of one of their players.  Given the choice – I would rather see the Angels move 29 year old Kendrys Morales and keep Bourjos (and Mark Trumbo for that matter). 

Which lineup would you prefer; a line up with Trumbo as DH and Bourjos in CF or a lineup with Trumbo in LF and Morales at DH (take the poll on the right)?  Given the choice, I’ll take the one with Bourjos for the better all-around lineup. I understand that Morales helps balance the lineup as a switch-hitter, but he's going to walk next year and Bourjos just makes the team better as a whole, in my opinion.

It needs to be said; Keep Peter Bourjos!  Angel fans have already had to watch fan favorite, Torii Hunter go to another team; don't add insult to injury by trading Bourjos as well.  

December 17, 2012

Getting my geek on

My mind has been racing since the news broke about the Angels signing Josh Hamilton.  I began to look at some interesting facts (mostly statistics), ask some big questions and formulate a few predictions.  You could say I decided to get my “geek” on.  The results of that process follows below.

FACT:  The Angels have six players who have hit at least 30 homeruns in a season on their current roster: Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, Vernon Wells, and Kendrys Morales.  QUESTION: How many Angels will hit 30 or more homeruns in 2013?  PREDICTION: Realistically, I can see Pujols, Hamilton, Trumbo and Trout hitting more than 30.  There’s an outside shot that Morales could join that group if he makes progress in coming back to being the player he was in 2009 when he hit 34 homers.  Vernon Wells isn’t likely to get enough playing time to sniff the possibility of that many homers. 

FACT: Chris Iannetta and Howie Kendrick have both hit 18 in a season.  QUESTION: Perhaps the question we should be asking is how many Angels could hit more than 20 homeruns in 2013?  PREDICTION:  I’ll say five (Pujols, Hamilton, Trumbo, Trout, and Morales); although there’s an outside shot that eight (add Iannetta and Kendrick) could, if Peter Bourjos isn’t traded and has a break-out season.

FACT: The statistic that measures “total bases” is somewhat misleading in that it only includes singles, doubles, triples, and homeruns.  I would have thought that walks and stolen bases would be included, but they’re not.  I started thinking about this statistic as it relates to Mike Trout, who figures to cover a lot of bases in 2013.  Trout is often compared to Rickey Henderson, and Henderson’s single season high for total bases in just 285.  Trout had 315 last season; despite missing all of April.  The other player, Trout is often compared to is Mickey Mantle, who led the league in total bases in 1956 with his career high of 376.  Only 29 players have had more than 400 for a season, with the most being 457 by Babe Ruth in 1921.  QUESTION:  Can Mike Trout lead the league in total bases and how many will he have in 2013?  PREDICTION:  As much as I’d like to believe Trout could set some records here – he’s more likely to approach the 350 mark at some point, but there are other records he could assault….

FACT:  The single season record for most runs scored is 198 by Billy Hamilton in 1866 with 198.  Babe Ruth scored 177 in 1921 and Lou Gehrig scored 167 in 1936 and 163 in 1931.  The active player with the most runs scored in a single season is Alex Rodriguez with 143 in 2007.  QUESTION:  How many runs will Mike Trout score in 2013?  PREDICTION: He scored 129 in 2013 and it’s certainly feasible that he can score more than 150 in my opinion and given the lineup that will have Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton hitting behind him, it’s conceivable that he be in the top five for runs scored in a single season (167). 

FACT:  Albert Pujols is currently tied with Stan Musial and Willie Stargell at 28th all time for homeruns with 475. QUESTION:  Where will Pujols rank by the end of the 2013 season?  PREDICTION:  If Pujols hits 35 homeruns he would move up to 24th all-time with 510; which would put him one ahead of Gary Sheffield and one behind Mel Ott.  I predict he will hit 34 (four more than in 2012) and end up typing Gary Sheffield on the all-time list.

FACT:  Mike Trout has the highest single season WAR of any active player (10.7).  QUESTION: Well, the first question those who aren’t sabermetrically inclined is going to ask is what is WAR?  Per  WAR is a single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player (think AAA or AAAA) would add. Scale for a single-season: 8+ MVP Quality, 5+ All-Star Quality, 2+ Starter, 0-2 Reserve, < 0 Replacement Level Developed by Sean Smith of  With that in mind, the bigger question is what kind of WAR can Mike Trout put up in 2013?  PREDICTION:  Your guess is as a good as mine; in fact, it’s probably better since I couldn’t tell you how this statistic is computed to save my life, but it's fun to think that Trout could set a record here.

FACT:  Ichiro Suzuki set the single season record for hits in 2004 with 262.  QUESTION:  Could Mike Trout break the record?  PREDICTION:  I’ll say that’s somewhat unlikely, but not highly unlikely.  Look, Mike Trout is going to get a lot of plate appearance if the Angels lineup turns over as often as I think it will, given the lineup and when you consider that Trout is a good hitter, he’s got a shot at making some noise here.  He could certainly eclipse Darin Erstad’s record for most hits in a season by an Angel of 240 in 2000 and given his talent, I’m not about to sell him short.

FACT: Jimmy Rolling holds the single season record for most plate appearances with 778 in 2007.  QUESTION: Could Mike Trout eclipse that record?  PREDICTION:  This is obviously something that’s not in Mike Trout’s control, but given the lineup, he could certainly set a new Angels record; which is currently held by Darin Erstad with 747, which ranks 39th all time.

One of the more intriguing statistics to me (especially since the Angels have Mike Trout) is the statistic that measures power and speed.  The definition: Power/Speed Number 2 x (Home Runs x Stolen Bases)/(Stolen Bases + Home Runs) The harmonic mean of HR and SB. To do well you need a lot of both. Developed by Bill James.

FACT: Alex Rodriguez has the highest score in this category at 43.91.  Mike Trout’s 2012 performance ranks 25th with 37.22 and is the best among any Angels all-time.  It’s also the highest score for 2012.  The list is peppered with guys who have gone 30/30 or better (30+ homeruns and 30 or more stolen bases) Rickey Henderson ranks 4th all-time with a 42.36 and since Trout is often compared to him, I’ll ask the QUESTION:  What will Mike Trout do in 2013?  PREDICTION: If Trout hits 30 homeruns again and steals 60 bases, his score would be 40.  I don’t think that’s unreasonable and there’s a good chance he could do better than that.  A score of 40 would put him 10th all-time.  A-Rod’s score was based on a season where he hit 42 homeruns and stole 46 bases.  Forty homeruns might be within Trout’s reach; however, I’m betting that it’s more likely that his stolen base numbers go up instead.

One of the lists a player doesn’t want to be on is the list of number of times they grounded into a double-play (GIDP).  FACT: Jim Rice holds the record at 36 times and he did that in 1984.  Albert Pujols is tied for 17th on this list with 29 GIDP in 2011.  Howie Kendrick did this an alarming 26 times in 2012 – which tied him for second place last year with Michael Young.  Interestingly, the AL MVP, Miguel Cabrera led the league with 28.  QUESTION:  Are any Angels candidates for this dubious distinction in 2013?  PREDICTION:  Let’s hope not; in fact, let’s predict that no Angel will make the top 5 in 2013.  *Gulp.*

In anticipation of the ball flying out of the ball-park whenever the Angels are on offense in 2013, I thought it would be interesting to see who has led the league in homeruns per at-bats.   FACT: Last year, Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins lead the majors with a homerun every 12.14 at-bats.  Josh Hamilton was third with a dinger every 13.07 at-bats.  Albert Pujols finished second in this category in 2010 and 2009.  In fact he’s been in the top ten, six out of the last nine years.  The single season record holder is Barry Bonds who homered an astonishing once in every 6.52 at-bats.  QUESTION: Will an Angel lead the league in this category in 2013?  PREDICTION:  Given that half the games are played in Anaheim where the ball doesn’t travel particularly well at night, I’d say that’s not likely.  Consider this – Jim Edmonds made the top ten list three times after leaving Anaheim and going to St. Louis.  Troy Glaus is the one recent Angel to make the list and he did that in 2000 with a homerun every 11.98 at-bats.   Note: Albert Pujols is 9th all-time with a homerun every 14.57 at-bats in his career and Troy Glaus is 48th all-time with a round-tripper every 16.91 at-bats.

We could do this all day and given the projected line-up for the 2013 Angels, we might find some areas where the Angels could indeed have a record breaking season.  I guess we'll see, won't we?

December 14, 2012

Oh my Josh!

When the news broke about the possibility that the Angels were going to sign Josh Hamilton, I felt excited and nervous at the same time.  Excited that one of the best hitters in baseball might be coming to Anaheim and concerned about the cost that might come with such a signing.  I know most fans don’t consider the cost, but I’m not most fans….

It didn’t take long for us to learn that the Angels would be signing Hamilton for five years and $125 million.  Two more years than any other team would reportedly go for.

It was at this point that it was time to take a deep breath.

If I’m eight years old, I’m jumping for joy and saying “We got JOSH HAMILTON!!”  In fact, that’s what most Angel fans are probably doing and rightfully so.  On the other hand, some of us are realizing that Arte Moreno just walked into the big stakes poker room and pushed all his chips in on the table and when that happens – there are only two possible outcomes.  Either, you win big or you lose big.

This is the price of doing business as a big time franchise, with huge expectations and an owner who wants to win at all costs and a fan base that can become disengaged and uninterested if their team isn’t winning.  Having great players like Mike Trout isn’t enough to fill the stands to capacity – for better or worse, it’s all about winning.

Win and the fans keep coming.  Don’t win and you’ll find tickets on StubHub for a $1. 

Like it or not, the Angels are playing “big boy baseball.”  Players like Arte Moreno operate in a different stratosphere.  Teams with revenue streams like the Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers view the world in a different way.  They’re not interested in waiting for tomorrow if the chance to win today is right in front of them.  They’re willing to gamble on today and if you’re faint of heart that scares the crap out of you.

If you are focused on what might happen four, five, six-plus years from now – you’re going to hate the idea of contracts like those given to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols.  If you’re focused on the possibility of what might transpire this coming season and the next 2-3 years, you’re smiling like a Cheshire cat.

You see for some fans – there’s no down side to a signing like Josh Hamilton or even Albert Pujols for that matter.  If the Angels become champions, fans will show up to be a part of the party.  If they fail – most of those fans will find other things or even other teams to occupy their time.  The die-hard fans, the ones that live and die with their team will be left to suffer through seasons where aging stars play out the twilight of their careers.

Like I said earlier – it’s all about wining and I’m grateful that my favorite team has a chance to win it all right now.  Winning isn’t easy and even though some teams try to take a short-cut by signing incredible players to unbelievable contracts – nothing is guaranteed.  I know that, you know that and the Angels certainly know that.

So you’re probably thinking - why all the angst, right?  Live for the moment; ride the wave, right?

 I wish it was that easy.  When the Angels signed Vlad Guerrero  in 2004, I was all in; in fact that’s when Cheryl and I bought season tickets.  When they signed Albert Pujols, we had visions of championships like you wouldn’t believe.  In both cases, our expectations weren’t met and we were incredibly disappointed.

When baseball season rolls around – and I’m talking as early as when pitchers and catchers report – Cheryl and I will invest a lot of time and energy to being fans.  We simply hope that investment pays off and that the journey to get there is a lot of fun, filled with incredible memories.  That’s asking a lot, but that’s what it’s all about.

I will admit, when the Dodgers signed Zack Greinke I felt a slight twinge of jealousy.  I knew that feeling of having hope and excitement the Dodgers were feeling.  I had resigned myself to believing the Angels would not be making that kind of splash and that what we had was going to have to be good enough.

The Angels have missed out on some big free agents during the Arte Moreno years.  Names like Paul Konerko, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carl Crawford, Carlos Beltran and others slipped away because the price was too high.  Despite that, the Angels managed to stay competitive.  Arte Moreno even started to get the reputation of being somewhat “cheap” and even though that sounds absurd (all things considered) that was the buzz on the message boards and call-in shows. 

It’s amazing how all of that has changed. 

Now, if Arte wants a player – Arte is going to get that player.  Funny, but as a fan – that takes some getting used to.

Well, here we go.  Welcome to Anaheim Josh Hamilton.  Now, get to work and bring us that championship we all want so badly.  Please.  Pretty, please.