Category Archives: Second base

Angels aren’t lookin’ so heavenly – are they a bust?

Are the Angels already a bust? The 6-10 record isn't a sign of any sort of success considering they spent $300 million in the off-season to bring in a premium bat in Pujols, who hasn't hit a home run for his new club yet and has a mere four runs batted in.

LIVINGSTONE: If the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim don’t start getting it together, that $300-million off-season spending spree is going to look like one of the biggest busts in the history of the game.

I know – we all know – Albert Pujols won’t under perform all season. In a couple of months we will be looking back at the start of the season, the first 16 games that have netted the Angels a 6-10 record good for last place in the division and seven games back of the juggernaut that is the Texas Rangers, and all will be forgotten.

Question is, will it be forgotten?

The Angels went out and landed the biggest free agent slugger in Pujols and the best pitching free agent in former Rangers starter C.J. Wilson with the hopes of putting the team, finally, into a good position to challenge for a World Series title after years of missing the mark. If you look at what the Angels have been doing in the first 16 games of the season, you have to wonder if the team is just too bloated with talent and can’t find a way for all that all-star power to gel together.

Outside of Wilson and Jered Weaver, who both post sub-2.50 ERAs in just a handful of starts into the season (they’re a combined 5-1), the starting rotation has looked anything but lights out.

Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have been appallingly bad. Haren (0-1) has an ERA above 4.00 in his first four starts, and is averaging 65 pitches a game. Santana (0-3) in three awful starts, giving up seven home runs  while putting up a 6.75 ERA. Anything but dominate. Fifth starter Jerome Williams has an ERA of 7.71 and a WHIP around 1.70 and Haren and Santana are both over 1.40

Then there is the bullpen. They’ve been pegged with four losses and have only one save to show for the dismal start. Closer Jordan Walden, who was expected to be a dominate guy in the ninth, has an ERA of 4.15 and a WHIP of 1.62 – on the flip, he’s got a K-per-9 innings of 12.36, which is what should be expected of him. But one save, yeesh. He isn’t getting the opportunity to close games because the bullpen is blowing them before he even gets the chance to warm-up in the bullpen.

Collectively, the pitching staff has an ERA of 4.47, a WHIP of 1.26 and has given up 18 home runs while putting together only eight quality starts. Things need to improve on this front or the bats waking up won’t matter.

Yes, Pujols is putting up underwhelming numbers so far this year. No home runs, four RBI, an OPS of .654 and a batting average of .283. He’s a career .328 hitter. He’ll come around, he started slow last season and came on late to post a solid year for the eventual World Series champs St. Louis. However, when you’re RBI leader after 16 games is your catcher (Chris Iannetta has 8 ribbies) and your home run leader is Vernon ‘I am very much overpaid for what I do’ Wells, things aren’t looking good.

Guys like Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo are hitting in the .200 zone after 16 games, something that needs to improve vastly to bring some stability and fear back into the line-up. These guys were pegged to be integral parts of the batting order and are so far not proving that. I don’t think it will be too long before we see Mike Trout in the line-up (he’s hitting a near-.400 in Triple-A).

No matter what – something needs to be done to get the team ignited.

Are they a bust? For all the hype surrounding this team coming into the season – in some ways, yes they certainly are a bust. Besides Mark Trumbo, who is batting .350-ish, this club isn’t putting together any solid performances a the plate – on the mound, Weaver and Wilson look good, but it’s downhill after those two.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the teams pulls itself together and gets onto a winning road, because the fans won’t patiently wait while this supposed-elite team continues to flounder.

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Bobby Valentine calling out Youkilis makes no sense

 

Sox Manager Bobby Valentine called out Kevin Youkilis for not being into the games physically and emotionally - after sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays. Say what?

McGILLIGAN: This better be some type of genius managerial strategy Bobby Valentine picked up in Japan because that’s the only way his Sunday night comments make sense.

Here’s what Valentine said on WHDH’s SportsXtra show regarding third baseman Kevin Youkilis:

“I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”

Kevin Youkilis struggled in the first two series of the season.

There weren’t many Boston Red Sox that didn’t. However, Youkilis hits in a coveted spot usually between Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, so his value is high for a team expected to have one of the best offenses this year.

So when he turned it around in the past three games – all wins against the Tampa Bay Rays – things seemed to be swinging in the Red Sox favour.

Then came the out-of-nowhere criticisms of Youkilis by Valentine following a 6-4 win on Sunday.

In three-straight wins, Youkilis is hitting .400 with three RBI and six runs scored. Prior to the three wins he was 2-20 with six strikeouts and 10 men left on base for a club that went 1-5.

This is why Valentine’s comments make no sense. If you criticize a guy in the media, it usually occurs when he’s playing poorly and the team is struggling, not when things are going good.

Another oddity of the statement is Youkilis “not being emotionally into the game.” This is something no one has ever said about the Greek God of Walks (to be fair I referred to him as the Greek God of Walking Back to the Dugout during his early struggles).

The statement led to some interesting comments from Red Sox leader Dustin Pedroia.

“I don’t know what Bobby’s trying to do, but that’s not the way we do things here,” said Pedroia on MLB.com. “Maybe that stuff works in Japan.”

Youkilis said he was confused by Valentine’s comments and said it wasn’t how he saw it. For his part Valentine apologized to Youkilis and offered this explanation on MLB.com.

“I answered the question that, I think the question was, ‘It’s not Youk-like the way he’s playing.’ I think that was the question I answered,” Valentine said. “I should have explained that his swing isn’t what he wants it to be. The physical part of his swing is frustrating. Frustration leads to emotion. I haven’t seen him break as many helmets as I’ve seen on TV. It just seemed different.

“At the end of the thing, I said I don’t know what the reason is because I haven’t been here long enough. I don’t know why his swing isn’t exactly the way he wants it to be and why he wasn’t throwing as many helmets. I thought it was rather innocuous. Matter of fact, it seemed like they were trying to bang him and I started out by saying how good his at-bats were that day, his two walks.”

The key statement is “I haven’t been here long enough.” I won’t pretend to know the intricacies of major league managing, but if you haven’t been there long enough to form an opinion why make a statement.

This may amount to nothing in the end, but isn’t it too early for the manager to be apologizing for statements (non-Castro related) and team leaders having to step in and defend teammates. Perhaps this is a strategy Bobby V is employing that will have long term benefits and I will look back and call him a genius. Perhaps.

Here’s the thing, the Sox are winning. So if that continue this all goes away, if not we should prepare ourselves for the inundation of stories and call-in shows asking the question ‘Has Bobby V already lost the clubhouse?’

One thing is for sure, there’s not going to be a dull moment this season in Beantown.

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Searching for Johnny Utah (aka Aaron Hill)

Aaron Hill might never be an MVP and his numbers have been in decline for a few years - he's still a damn likeable guy.

McGILLIGAN: When the 1991 action classic Point Break is on TV, which it seems to be every other weekend, I can’t help but watch. I’m compelled to do it. I know director Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker, but it doesn’t have the unbridled enthusiasm of Point Break.

Are there plot holes? For God’s sake its Keanu Reeves playing an ex-college football star turned FBI agent named Johnny Utah hunting down a pack of bank robbing surfers who dress in masks of ex-President’s to commit their crimes. Is the acting good? Who cares, it stars Reeves, Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey – not to mention a weird cameo by Red Hot Chili peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis.

Despite some hilariously bad scenes (firing the gun in the air by Reeves is priceless), the thing Point Break has that most other movies don’t is likeability. You can so easily overlook all of its flaws because it’s desperately trying to entertain you.

The entire film feels like it would have been fun to make. I picture everyone on the set having a good time and laughing.

With these factors in mind, I would suggest Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill is the baseball equivalent of Point Break. If Hill is at bat in a game on TV, granted this doesn’t happen often living on the East Coast, I will stop and watch. I know the D-backs have Justin Upton, but I will stop for Hill. This is the equivalent of Point Break vs. The Hurt Locker.

Are there problems in Hill’s game similar to plot holes in Point Break? Absolutely. Hill has never been able to put together a season like he did in 2009 hitting .286 with 36 homeruns and 108 RBI. After missing time with a concussion, Hill has seen his average and power decline dramatically. He’s always been a pretty solid defender. However, he puts together flashes of brilliance every once in a while that makes you forget about some issues. His most recent was a two homerun, three RBI game April 7 in a 5-4 win over the rival San Francisco Giants. Unlike The Hurt Locker, Hill isn’t going to win the MVP/Oscar, but he’s still capable of carrying you threw a tough Saturday just like Point Break on a rainy weekend.

Finally, Hill has the same likeability as Point Break. In the same way I picture everyone laughing it up on set, I picture Hill going to the ballpark with enthusiasm each day. He just seems like the type of guy who gets it. He knows how privileged he is to play the game for a living, works hard at it and appreciates it. I always get the impression that some players view it as a right and think they actually deserve the gobs of money thrown their way to play a game. Hill always appears to be a professional, out there playing hard and giving a solid effort. Just like Point Break never disappoints. You know what you’re getting from both and as long as you’re aware of it, you should get plenty of entertainment from watching.

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