Friday, July 8, 2011

Halo Phoenix!

ANAHEIM—With the 82nd Mid-Summer classic less than a week away, two Halo players were preparing to head to Phoenix for the All-Star Game. Make that three.

It was announced on Thursday that rookie flame throwing closer Jordan Walden will join his teammates Jered Weaver and Howard Kendrick to help the A.L. earn the prize possession of home field advantage in the 2011 World Series. The 23 year-old was added to the American League roster , replacing Yankee’s Mariano Rivera. Rivera whose All-Star selection was the 12th of his career, is nursing a sore right tricep.

Walden will be the first Angel rookie named to the Mid-Summer classic since RHP Jason Dickson in 1997. Kendrick, who is making his first All-Star Game appearance, will be the first second baseman named to the team since Johnny Ray in 1988.For Weaver, this will be his second consecutive All-Star appearance while becoming the first starting pitcher in the organization to achieve that feat since Chuck Finley in 1995 and 1996. If he is named as the American League starter, which is very likely, he will be the first Angel starter to do so since Mark Langston did it 1993.

Weaver put the exclamation point his first half last night as he defeated the Seattle Mariners 5-1. The right-hander notched his 11th win in his eighth career complete game, fourth this season. In his last seven outings, he is 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA, and he still leads the majors with a 1.86 ERA.

The club will play two more games at home against Seattle before the boys pack up and head to Arizona. The Angles have won five of six games, eight of their last 10 and are 11-3 in their last 14 affairs. Tonight they will play the 11th game of their season long 13 game home-stand vs. Washington (3-0), LAD (2-1), Detroit (2-1), and Seattle (1-0).

RHP Blake Beavan (1-0, 1.29 ERA) will take on Ervin Santana (4-8, 3.89 ERA) Friday night as the Angels work to take over first place in the AL West.  The squad is 17-7 in their last 24 games and have cut 5.0 games off the Texas Rangers lead in the division, entering today one game back.

The Angels will play 20 of their first 29 games after the break on the road. 

Catch of the Day, Mike Trout

ANAHEIM— Mike Trout is his name, and he’s the catch of the day for the Los Angeles Angels.   Following last night’s game, the Angels selected the contract of young 19 year-old outfielder from Double-A Arkansas.

The decision to call up the New Jersey native Trout came after Thursday night’s 5-1 win over the Seattle Mariners.  Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Tony Reagins knew the timing was right after center fielder Peter Bourjos came out of the game in the eighth inning nursing right hamstring tightness.  With the addition of Trout, wearing uniform #27, the Halos current 25-man roster features nine players ages of 25-or-younger (Bell, Bourjos, Cassevah, Chatwood, Conger, Kohn, Trout, Trumbo & Walden).

Trout is widely considered the top prospect in baseball by many publications, and in 75 games with the Arkansas this season, he is batting .324 (94/290) with 32 extra-base hits, a .415 on-base percentage, and a Texas League-leading 28 stolen bases. The young 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has a known presence in the minors for due to his lighting speed, ability to hit for a high average, and savvy on the base-paths. He will fill the role Bourjos well, taking over the center field spot in arguably the best outfields in baseball. Both young outfielders aren’t known for their power, but Bourjos has Trout beat in the arm strength category. 

In 2010, Trout was names Topps “Minor League Player of the Year” at age 19, becoming the youngest recipient in the history of the award. He recently played in the Texas League All-Star Game and was scheduled to play in the All-Star Futures Game in Phoenix on Sunday.

The most remarkable thing about Trout is that he is 19 years, 355 days old today, which makes him the youngest player in MLB and will be the youngest player to make his big league debut for the Angels since May 30, 1971, when Andy Hassler debuted at age 19 years, 224 days.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Southern California Rivalry Heats up Again in Anaheim

ANAHEIM—Temperatures across Southern California are heating up on this holiday weekend which means that a cross town rivalry between the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers must be brewing.

The Angels took two of three in the first meeting, June 24-26 at Dodger Stadium, outscoring the Dodgers 16-7. This time the stage is set for a three-game series in Orange County.

As for who is the better team? Clearly, the Halos run the show looking back throughout recent years.

The Angels have won seven of the last nine overall games against the Dodgers, while posting a 13-5 record since 2005 down in the OC. Halos are 26-14 at home, 22-21 on the road, and 48-35 overall against the Dodgers.

One person in particular who is more than ready for the sweltering weekend is Angel manager Mike Scioscia. As the skipper of the Halos going head-to-head with his former team, he holds a 43-26 (.623) record, and is confident that his club will be packing heat once again.

Speaking of sparks and former club, Fernando Valenzuela will throw out the first pitch to Mike Scioscia on Friday night as part of 81 alumni first pitches during the Angels 50th anniversary season. Fernando made 239 starts with Scioscia as his starting catcher and was 104-87 with a 3.31 ERA in those outings (1 no no). A fan favorite in the Southland during his 11 seasons with the Dodgers, Fernando appeared with the Angels during his 1991 campaign.

Fernando will set the tone for the weekend as quality pitching will be seen early and often. Rookie RHP Tyler Chatwood (5-4) 3.64 ERA will continue his dominant ways against the N.L. Friday night as he faces off with RHP Hiroki Kuroda (5-9) 3.10 ERA. Chatwood is making his second career start against the Dodgers, and second start of 2011. Over a week ago he defeated the Dodgers 6-1 for his third straight interleague victory, and is 1-0 with a 1.28 ERA (7IP—1ER). In three interleague starts (ATL, NYM, LAD), he owns a 3-0 record with a 0.86 ERA (21IP — 2ER).

The showdown before the fireworks emerge on Monday evening promises to be eventful as LHP Clayton Kershaw (8-3, 2.93) will take on RHP Jered Weaver (9-4, 1.97) on Saturday evening, and RHP Chad Billingsly (7-6, 4.22) will bump heads with RHP Ervin Santana (3-8, 4.08) Sunday night. Clearly Saturday’s match-up will hold precedence over all as two of the top pitcher in baseball will square off. Weaver’s 1.97 ERA currently ranks first in MLB, and is a qualifying pitcher with a sub-2.00 ERA through June 30th since Geoff Zahn in 1984 (1.89 ERA). This will be his ninth start against the Dodgers, as he is 4-2 lifetime with a 2.89 ERA (46.2 IP – 15ER).
The Angels pitching staff has posted 51 quality starts, ranking second best in baseball behind the Philadelphia Phillies(55), but credit must be given as of lately to the hitters for their run support. Scoring four or more runs has become a trend that everybody seems to like, especially the pitching staff, as the club has won 16 consecutive games when scoring four or more runs. This is the longest streak by any team this season, and the Angels are 35-7 (.833) when scoring four-plus runs (2nd best in A.L. to TB 36-7).

If the team continues this pattern, the starting rotation should have no problem sealing the deal on some wins this weekend.

Also noteworthy, Howie Kendrick is riding a season high nine-game hit streak (.324 12/37), and the Angels should expect large crowds this weekend to add to their already staggering average of 38,619 fans per game.

Bust out the Brooms, Halos are National Threat

ANAHEIM—It is about time the Angels get to bust out the brooms in their neck of the woods.  This week’s three game interleague sweep of the Washington Nationals marks their first one at home this season.

The battle in the A.L. West has been tough for the Halos, but they are feverishly sticking right with the pack.  The squad has the day off today (Thursday June 30th) which means their month of competition is officially wrapped up on a positive note.  Finishing 13-12 heading into July’s festive All-Star month, the boys in red have won six of their last seven and are 12-5 in their last 17 games.  As of Tuesday nights 11-5 slugfest win at The Big A, the Angels have moved two games over .500(42-40) for the first time since June 3rd(30-29).  En route to this solid record, the club has made up significant ground in the division cutting their deficit down from -6.0 games to -1.5 games back of the Texas Rangers.

If this pattern continues, we could easily see a new leader on top of this division and would likely see the Angels fighting for postseason baseball.  Did I just talk about the playoffs before the All-Star break? Every month counts in baseball and the Angels are making sure they don’t look back with any regrets.
The Halos have won five consecutive series and recently have been doing everything right.  The club has double digit hits in seven of their last ten games batting .301 (105/349), and posted 15 home runs (1 HR over previous 11 games) over their last 14 games. In that same span, the team ERA is 2.95 (124.2IP -42ER) after a 4.12 mark in 11 games prior.

Run support has been key for the Angels offense this season as no player hotter than veteran Vernon Wells has been leading the charge.  In the last 17 games with the club on an 12-5 run, Wells is batting .299 (20/67) with 6 HR and 13 RBI. Following in his footsteps is Scott Downs who is 4-1 with a .186 BAA his last 18 outings, continuing a flawless stretch of 26 of 30 appearances this season being scoreless. Erick Aybar was riding a nine-game hit streak until last night, batting .310 (13/42), while Peter Bourjos is batting .328 (23/70) this month after hitting .176 in May.

The month of July is one where the Angels will look to continue their consistent ways, but they will not be happy to see the close of interleague play. The Halos posing as a national threat are 10-4 against the National League this season and their 129-83 record since 2000 is tops in baseball.  Also noteworthy, Mike Scioscia’s 129 wins during interleague play ranks second all-time to Joe Torre (131).

Tomorrow the club will play their 14th of 16 consecutive games against the National League: June 17-19 @ NYM (2-1): June 20-22 @FLA (2-1): June 24-26 @ LAD (2-1): June 27-29 vs. WAS (3-0): July 1-3 vs. LAD.  The Angels will wrap up interleague play this weekend at Angel Stadium against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and won’t be leaving California until July 22nd when they travel to Baltimore.  After the Dodger’s they will see Detriot come to town (7/4-6) and Seattle (7/7-10).

The club is 15-10-2 through 27 series played this season.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Angels Select C.J. Cron

ANAHEIM – With the 17th pick in the first round of the MLB Draft, the Angels selected 6-foot-4, 230 pound first baseman C.J. Cron out of the University of Utah. 

The 21 year-old junior hit .434 with 15 home runs, 26 doubles, and 59 RBI. Cron is the first collegiate player the Angels have taken in the first round since Jered Weaver in 2004 (Long Beach State) and the first college position player chosen in the first round since Troy Glaus in 1997 (UCLA).

Cron’s father appeared with the Angels in 1991 and currently manages in the Detroit Tigers farm system. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

May Gray Invites June Bloom for Halos

ANAHEIM – On Wednesday, the Halos concluded a stretch of 20 games in 20 days (8-12) with the final game (3-3) of a six-game trip to Minnesota (2-1) and Kansas City (1-2). Yesterday’s day off was the first for the Angels since May 12th.

The month of May was one that will hopefully not be repeated or regrettably remembered as the season pushes towards the All-Star break.  In what seemed like a bad dream full of one-run losses (13, 2nd in MLB), extra-inning affairs (12, Tied for most in MLB), and shut outs (8), the Angels are still hanging in with the AL West pack.  Sitting at .500 (29-29) in the tightly knitted division, the Halos finished the month with a 14-16 record after a 15-12 mark in March/April. During this time they batted.256 with 22 home runs while logging a team ERA of 3.98 (2.68 March/April).

Posting some spectacular individual efforts during this inconsistent period proved to keep the Angels within striking distance of first place. Torii Hunter led the way, living up to his veteran presence, knocking four home runs and 19 RBI in the month. Erick Aybar, healthy and athletic as ever, followed closely behind posting a .285 AVG, slugging three home runs and driving in 19 runs. One of seven Halos under the age of 25 certainly pulled his weight in the month, as rookie Mark Trumbo blasted six bombs and posted 15RBI.  Newly acquired this season and returning from an early season injury is Scott Downs, who is setting the tone for the Angels bullpen by stepping up in May with a 3-1 record and 0.66 ERA.

With the game of baseball thriving off momentum, the Halos have a lot to look forward to in June.

Currently sitting in 3rd place in the A.L. west (-2.5), the Angels open up a nine-game homestand hosting the New York Yankees (June 3-5), Tampa Bay Rays (June 6-8), and Kansas City Royals (June 10-12).  The tides can very well turn in their favor as they have been spectacular at home, posting an 11-4 record in their last 15 games at Angel Stadium.
That positive energy is a direct reflection of the way ace Jered Weaver has been hurling lately, only allowing one run in his last 19 innings pitched.  Young right-handed flame thrower Jordan Walden is settling into his closing groove as he has registered five saves in his last five outings after blowing three of his previous five opportunities.

Not a bad time for the AL East leading New York Yankees (31-23) to show up to beautiful Orange County. The Angels are welcoming them with open wings mainly because they have taken 20 of the last 28 from the Bronx Bombers in their home park.  Weaver(6-4, 2.10 ERA) will confidently take the mound tonight in the series opener having the second best home ERA in the A.L. at 1.82 (29.2 IP – 6ER). He will square off against RHP Ivan Nova (4-3, 4.67 ERA).

There are multiple exciting news stories within the Halo organization, beginning with the return of both Cy Young Award Winners in club history at Angel Stadium this weekend.  The 1964 winner Dean Chance will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Saturday, and the 2005 winner Bartolo Colon starts for New York on Sunday.

The Angels are currently four wins shy of 4,000 in franchise history, and big congratulations goes out to former Angel Darren Erstad who was named head baseball coach at the University of Nebraska yesterday.
Last but not least, the 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft will air live on MLB Network, Monday June 6th at 7PM ET. The Angels look to add to their already flourishing young talent crop while having the 17th pick in the first round of the draft. They will not pick again until the third round (Pick #104), as last year they had five of the first overall 40 selections. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Texas Rangers 2011 Season Preview

Coming off their first World Series appearance in franchise history, the Texas Rangers are looking to defend the American League title along with their American League West Championship.  Manager, Ron Washington has always preached that pitching and defense will be the driving force in taking it all, but he is well aware that his ball club packs a lot of offensive power, too. 

The Texas Rangers are a post-season caliber type of team where the core of this ball club will be staying  together for this coming year and the near future. Last year, Nolan Ryan, demanded that their pitchers go deep into games, which would result in a long successful season. Pitching coach, Mike Maddux, instilled this into his staff and ended up seeing a tremendous amout of results. This year is going to be different, though, as the Rangers will have a target on their back, and are being considered as hunted, not the hunter.

Wrapping up the successful 2010 season were two guys who came away with post-season hardware, and carried this ball club towards success. Josh Hamilton won MVP on the strength of  his .359 BA, and young closer,  Neftali Feliz, completed 40 of 43 saves, earning the 2010 AL Rookie of the Year Award. These players helped the Rangers make history,  appearing in their first World Series ever and contributing to a record of 90-72 (.556). This was the first time the Texas Rangers have won their division, the American League West, since 1999. This also marked the  first time they made the playoffs since 1999. 

Rangers transactions this off-season:

Additions to the 2011 Rangers: SP Dave Bush, SP Brandon Webb, RP Arthur Rhodes, RP Yoshinori Tateyama, #B Adrian Beltre, C Yorvit Torreable, C Mike Napoli

Subtrations from the 2011 Rangers: SP CLiff Lee, SP Rich Harden, SP Brandon McCarthy, RP Frank Francisco, IF Jorge Cantu, OF Jeff Francoeur, DH Vladimir Guerrero

This was a crazy off-season as the biggest subtraction proves to be lefty ace of the staff, Cliff Lee.  His presence gave the Rangers instant credibility as a guy to turn to as the big game pitcher. He was the legitimate number one reason that the Rangers were able to get into the League Championship Series. General Manager, Jon Daniels, made every effort to try to sign him but ended up losing him to Philadelphia. In the loss, Texas was able to gain versatility, adding UTL Mike Napoli, and his ability to play multiple positions.  Adrian Beltre was another big pick up for the Rangers, but some fear that he might not be able to replace the bat of  Vladamir Guerrero. Th plus side of this is that he has the ability to hit in the middle of the lineup and add a solid defensive glove to the left side of the infield. 

A huge topic of this off-season was what will happen to the Six-Time All-Star, and Mr. Ranger himself, Micheal Young. This championship type player has championship type leadership, and he knows what is best for the team.  Talk was flying around that he wanted to be traded which shed a negative light on him. Much of the speculation was not accurate, and once Young arrived at spring training camp, it was business as usual. Gearing up for a 'super utility role, first base seems to be the biggest adjustment for Michael Young. Working on pick offs, footwork, etc. will be the biggest challenge for the 2008 Gold Glove winner.  

Rangers Starting Rotation Options after (#1)C.J. Wilson and (#2)Colby Lewis:

Tommy Hunter (Won 13 games for Rangers)
Brandon Webb
Neftali Feliz
Alexi Ogando
Tanner Scheppers
Eric Hurley

Derek Holland
Matt Harrison
Micheal Kirkman

2011 Rangers Bullpen Options:

Darren Oliver
Arthur Rhodes
Matt Harrison
Derek Holland (Front of rotation type of stuff)
Micheal Kirkman (PCL Player of the year in 2010)

Neftali Feliz (Won 2010 AL Rookie of the year)
Darren O'Day
Alexi Ogando
Mark Lowe
Pedro Strop

The Rangers have an amazing pitching coach in, Mike Maddux, but there are still questions about their starting rotation after not being able to sign Cliff Lee. They took a chance signing the 2006 NL Cy Young winner,Brandon Webb, who after getting injured and rehabbing, has not pitched in the big leagues for two years. The bright side of this picture is that Webb feels great now, and is coming back healthy with a record of 22-7 with a 3.30 ERA, in 2008. Webb's fastball is currently sitting at 89-92MPH with a bowling ball type sinker. It will remain to be seen if he he can throw that same pitch and stay healthy. 

2011 Texas Rangers Projected Starting Lineup:

2B Ian Kinsler .286 AVG, 45 RBI
SS Elvis Andrus .265 AVG, 32 SB
LF Josh Hamilton .359 AVG, 32 HR
3B Adrian Beltre, .321 AVG, 102 RBI
RF Nelson Cruz, .318 AVG, 78 RBI
DH Michael Young .284 AVG, 91 RBI
1B Mitch Moreland .255 AVG, 47 Games
C Yorvit Torrealba .271 AVG, 37 RBI
CF Julio Borbon .276 AVG, 15 SB

The Rangers offense in 2010 posted outstanding numbers which carried them all the way to the World Series.  They scored 787 runs (5th), batted .276 (1st), with 162 Home Runs (T-10th), and 123 Stolen Bases (7th).

Kinsler and Andrus Run are  key at the top of this lineup as they will hit, hit for average, and for power. This offense is well balanced changing Kinsler to the top of the order was huge. Kinsler has the ability to be a 30HR and 30 SB guy, with Andrus behind him who can move runners and bunt very well. The 3-4-5 of this lineup need to stay healthy because their five tool style of play will be carrying this club. If the Rangers are going to win the AL West again and make it back to where they were last year, they will need Hamilton and Beltre, and Cruz to stay healthy. Nelson Cruz has raw pop from the right side and the heart of this order has plans to tear apart many major league pitching staffs. Heading toward the bottom half of this lineup, Micheal Young, consistently hits 20 plus homers, and drives in 90 runs a year, which makes him perfect for the run producing role in the 6-hole. Torrealba, Moreland, Borbon, Napoli are good productive players that will fit in at the bottom of this order. The Rangers have options, too, as they can add David Murphy to the lineup where he proved to produce like a regular.  

Texas rangers Top Prospects:

Position/Name                      AGE                 MLB READY
LHP Martin Perez                    19                      2012
RHP Tanne Scheppers             24                      2011 
SS Jurickson Profar                 18                      2014 
(Great feel for the game, and excellent make-up for a young kid)
OF Engel Beltre                       21                      2013
LHP Robbie Erlin                    20                       2013 
(Drafed 2009, Great feel for the game, commands pitched well, wins games) 
LHP Micheal Kirkman            24                       2011
LHP Robbie Ross                   21                       2013
3B  Mike Olt                          22                       2013

Texas will be a good ball club again this year and they have everything on paper to repeat as AL West champs. The key challenge for them is to deal with the adversity when it comes. They are playing in a tough division with the Oakland A's having a lot of your pitching on the way, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim bringing the heat with a healthy lineup. 
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