Are the Angels a Playoff Team?

With the Dodgers in the midst of a season for the ages, it’s been awfully easy to overlook the Angels, who most people wrote off for 2017, figuring their only battle would be to avoid the American League West cellar. With what looked like a pretty decent offense and an excellent as always and actually much improved defense, it was the state of the pitching staff that seemed to be the one giant elephant on the field of dreams. Those pitching prognostications were correct, and reality was even worse, with a starting staff going into the season riddled by serious injuries and a likelihood that substantial starts and innings would have to be taken by journeymen and never-weres. That reality has proven even gloomier when some of those who were healthy and counted on at the season’s start were themselves then injured, necessitating the addition of several untried and likely not-yet-ready (if ever) fill ins.

And then only a few weeks into the season, the worst possible event that could happen happened, an injury to Mike Trout, keeping him off the field for several weeks. But

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amazing things have happened since, and today, in early August, two-thirds into the 2017 season, the Angels are smack-dab in the heat of the AL Wild Card race. And that with a starting staff whose three top members over the past several weeks have been Parker Bridwell, Alex Meyer and JC Ramirez, and with former wash-out starter Bud Norris as the closer.

Will wonders never cease? Continue reading

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Hit, Hit, Homer – the Tony Cingrani Story

Batter Up! Single
Batter Up! Single
Batter Up! After a Wild Pitch, HOME RUN!

The Tony Cingrani Story, in a nutshell.

I have great problems with the awful trade that brought tonight’s starter Yu Darvish to the Dodgers, but Darvish does have a measure of ability and a reputation that lead many “experts” to consider him a top level performer. Not so with Cingrani, who granted can throw hard (mid 90s and up) but who is NOT a major league quality pitcher, period.

His record since 2014 including his home runs allowed per nine innings:


He came to the Dodgers having allowed nine home runs in 23-1/3 inning pitched this season and with a 5.40 ERA. He made his Dodgers’ debut last evening, coming into the game with a 7-1 lead to pitch the ninth inning. Hit – Hit – Wild Pitch – Home Run, and suddenly it was a 7-4 game. He did then get three outs, but not until seeing the game get unnecessarily close, and his ERA go from 5.40 to 6.29.

WHY would Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers trade for this guy? Why do they think he can 1) Pitch in the major leagues, and 2) Pitch for the best team in the major leagues? Continue reading

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More on the Folly of the Darvish Trade

The thought of Yu Darvish, a declining, over-rated barely .500 pitcher possibly replacing Kenta Maeda in the Dodgers’ starting rotation is very depressing. As I wrote after the trade, giving up power hitting Willie Calhoun, who strikes out just about 10% of the time while hitting for average as well as hitting home runs, plus two other young farmhands, was a major mistake that will do little to help the team achieve its World Championship goal of this year, and will in ten years be looked back upon in the same light as those miserable trades that gave away the likes of Pedro Martinez and Mike Piazza.

After a slow start to 2017, Maeda has been lights out over the past months, and his performance last night, seven shutout innings allowing only two hits, was indicative of his

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talent and his importance to the Dodgers’ rotation. As I described a couple of days ago, while Darvish began his major league career on a high note with two solid seasons, those were now quite awhile ago, and looking at his recent performances shows a very different pitcher, one who has complied a 6-9 won-lost record over this season, with an ERA over 5.00 for his last dozen starts and whose team has won only one of his last eight decisions. Continue reading

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Dodgers’ Deals Today Were BAD NEWS

The world of Dodgers’ fandom is rejoicing, thinking with the moves the team made today that a world series title has been assured. People in the media and fans across SoCal have not bought into hype like this since the LA Rams brain trust said they were drafting a franchise QB in Jared Goff. Two of the three deals made today are just as good as the deal the Rams made trading away gold for a rusty tin pipe.

First the good news. The Dodgers did acquire a quality left-handed relief pitcher in 32-year-old Tony Watson, and to do so they only had to part with a couple of lower level prospects that were not on their radar for the near future, Oneil Cruz, a 18-year-old third baseman in low “A” and Angel German, a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher who has gone 3-15 with a 5.10 ERA so far in the low minors, but who has shown marked improvement in

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21 games this season at Great Lakes in the Midwest League (1.91 ERA over 33 innings with 37 strikeouts). Watson is a solid major league-quality reliever who pitches in 70-plus games every season and who over six seasons has compiled a solid 2.68 ERA along with a fine 31-16 won-lost record and a 1.09 WHIP. He’s been that seventh or eighth-inning guy, and he’s also been a closer, though in that role he has not been overly successful. But he fits the bill for a solid, late-inning lefty.

And then there is that other lefty reliever that the Dodgers traded for today, Tony Cingrani, a 28-year-old, five-year veteran who had an excellent first full year in 2013 and who has been awful since. He is in no way a major league quality pitcher, period. Continue reading

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Angels’ Pitching, Always an Issue

Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Haney, Tyler Skaggs and Nick Tropeano. Nice sounding rotation. Solid guys with a track record in Richards and Shoemaker, top-of-rotation talent in the phenom Heaney, and solid young prospects in Skaggs and Tropeano. Well, as of July 20, 2017, Shoemaker has pitched 77-2/3 innings this season, and the total amassed by the other four is all of 34 innings, 4-2/3 from Richards and 29-1/3 from Skaggs. Heaney and Tropeano have yet to see a major league stadium, as all five are on the LA Angels’ disabled list. That is Bad News Part One. Good news Part One is despite the heart of their pitching talent spending virtually all of 2017 disabled, in many cases recovering from major surgery and bottom line unable to pitch, the team and manager Mike Scioscia have pieced together a starting rotation composed of journeymen,

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has-beens, never-weres and “really, him?” guys culled from the scrap heap of baseball, to sit, after 97 games, only three games out of a wild-card spot, even after losing Mike Trout for 45 games.

But there is also Good News Part Two, and that is the fact that two of the injured five starters, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney, plus similarly injured relieved Andrew Bailey, have all now embarked on rehab assignments. Continue reading

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Dodgers Strike Out in Today’s Personnel Moves

A couple of days ago, the Dodgers’ had completed a sweep of the Colorado Rockies, extending their winning streak to ten games, and increasing their National League West lead. However since then, they first learned that outfielder Franklin Gutierrez has had a flair-up of his chronic arthritis, and was headed for a stint on the disabled list. Called up to replace him was left-hand hitting infielder-outfielder Mike Freeman who previously saw time in the majors with both Arizona and Seattle. Not replacing Gutierrez with another right handed hitter seemed unusual, but a testament to the fine play of Yasiel Puig and Chris Taylor, who have been outstanding in right and left field, respectively.

Then today there was word that rightly starter Brandon McCarthy had suffered a knee injury and that he also was headed to the DL. The Dodgers recalled fellow rightly Brock

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Stewart, but in other moves that boggle the mind, they also sent down to Oklahoma City righty Ross Stripling, who has struggled some of late, and recalled a righty-hitting outfielder that they felt unneeded just a couple of days earlier. Among the choices at Oklahoma City for that outfield spot were veteran Scott Van Slyke, the most obvious and best choice, a veteran with power and solid defense who can play first base as well as all three outfield spots. They also could have chosen to recall 27-year-old righty-hitting outfielder O’Koyea Dickson, who has played almost every day for the OK City Dodgers in left field, and hit 17 home runs. They could also have turned to the organization’s top outfield prospect, 21-year-old Alex Verdugo, Continue reading

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Magic-Pelinka Partnership Off To Great Start

When Magic Johnson was appointed President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers, on one hand it was an absolute step forward to remove the moribund Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak regime, but on the other hand, the list of star NBA ball players who successfully transitioned to top caliber management or personnel executives can be counted on the fingers of a single hand. Though a fine player and great coach, there is no argument that Phil Jackson has failed miserably as the guy making personnel decision for the New York Knicks. And who in LA will forget the great play and awful executive career of Elgin Baylor? Sure, Magic was a great player, has been a success in the business world, and has that engaging personality, but he did fail as a coach and fail as a TV host. That sounds like he’s batting 50-50 and his history is thus no prognosticator of what might come next.

Rob Pelinka was a players’ agent and a successful one, but does that translate into becoming a successful General Manager? My first reaction is an absolute No as a general

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rule, but hey, maybe this guy has something that could work. As do many top level agents, he is well educated, with both a law degree and a business degree, each earned from the University of Michigan.

Well, the two of them came in with their work cut out for them, and with plenty of room for world-class mistakes. The biggest single challenge that developed was what to do with the second pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Continue reading

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Urias’ Career Derailed, He’s No Longer a Top Prospect

There have been a couple of monumental advances in sports injury medicine over the past few decades that produced surgical procedures that have saved the careers of untold numbers of players, stars and journeyman alike, from the pioneering work of Dr. Frank Jobe in developing the ulnar collateral ligament transplant, commonly referred to as “Tommy John Surgery”, that reconstructs the elbow and in 90% of instances returns the player to his former elbow strength, to micro-fracture surgery, developed by Dr. Richard Steadman, a surgical process that for the first time enables the actual repair of knee cartilage, as opposed to traditional surgical procedures that could only remove damaged cartilage. As with “Tommy John Surgery”, micro-fracture surgery has resurrected and extended the professional careers of significant numbers of athletes, from baseball players to football players and to others around the world.

But when it comes to significant injuries to other areas of the body, and in particular to professional baseball players and among them to pitchers, medical advances over the years

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have been far less successful, and most significant among those where success is yet to be found involve injuries to the shoulder. It was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s that sports’ injuries to the rotator cuff first began to be diagnosed, and the immediate medical response was surgery, surgery to repair tears to any of the four muscles that attach at different sites on the scapula, a.k.a. the shoulder blade, either the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor or the subscapularis. Back in the 1970s, guinea pigs such as star Continue reading

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Suddenly Need Pitching? NOT Jose Quintana

How quickly fortunes change in baseball. It seems like it was just hours ago when the Dodgers were rich in starting pitching, with manager Dave Roberts juggling seven starters by putting healthy pitchers on the ten-day disabled list here and there, and shuttling starters and relievers back and forth to Triple-A. Well, just guess what happened.

First, the inevitable happened with the team’s latest $48 Million Dollar Give-A-Way, Rich Hill. First it was missing time with his usual state of affairs, the blister, and then lo-and-behold, his lack of pitching ability caught up to him! As I’ve written so often, the journeyman walking injury, on the scrap heap for most of 2015 after an undistinguished career of demotions, releases and waivers among five major league teams, the then 35-year-old Hill was picked up by the Red Sox and pitched four solid games in September.

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That netted him a million-dollar deal in Oakland for 2016, and after his usual DL stints and all of 76 inning pitched through the first four months of the season, the Dodgers load up the truck and let the A’s steal the silver in a horrible deal for Hill and the totally non-productive free-agent-to-be Josh Reddick. Once he got off the DL, Hill managed a grand total of 34-1/3 innings for the Dodgers, for which he was rewarded with his three-year, $48 M deal, the sort of thing art thieves and incompetent cooked politicians dream of. Continue reading

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