Injury Bug hits Hamilton, Furcal, and Zimmerman…

Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, the reigning AL MVP, slid headfirst into home plate trying to avoid a tag from catcher Victor Martinez – an aggressive play in that he was tagging on a foul pop up – and broke the top of his right arm.  Dave Anderson, who was coaching at third, noticed that pitcher Brad Penny had not covered the plate, so he sent Hamilton – who later said he didn’t want to go and was worried that something would happen.  Afterwards, Hamilton called it a “stupid play” and threw his coach under the bus.  Hamilton will miss at least six weeks and likely two months.  [Fox Sports]

Sports Illustrated’s Joe Lemire (among others) suggested that the Rangers should be protecting their oft-injured prize.  [SI]

The Dodgers lost their leadoff hitter, shortstop Rafael Furcal, to a broken left thumb – also injured while sliding headfirst into a base (third).  Furcal won’t need surgery, but was so bothered by the injury that the word “retirement” crept into his post game comments.  He will be back in about six weeks.  While Jamey Carroll and Juan Uribe will get the bulk of the playing time, infielder Ivan DeJesus, Jr. was called up to be a bench player.  Of course, I am old enough to remember Ivan DeJesus, Sr. playing short and batting leadoff for the Cubs in the middle and late 1970s.  He’s coaching for the Cubs now and STILL looks fit enough to play.  [FoxSports]

I’m late in reporting this – sorry – but one of my favorite players, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, will miss time on the DL dealing with a strained abdominal muscle.  The Nationals, who don’t want to give fans the idea that they know what they are doing, recalled a third catcher in his place.  [FoxSports]

Start the Argument Now…

So who do you think has a tougher road out of the cellar, Boston or Tampa?  Here’s MLB’s Matthew Leach’s take. [MLB]

Proof that Winning Cures a Lot of Ills…

Michael Young no longer thinks about getting traded…  That is – until he gets traded.  With Hamilton going down, though, he’ll get more playing time.   Can he play left?  [FoxSports]

Let the Healing Begin…

It was opening day in Japan, and teams all around the country remembered those affected by the earthquake and tsumami that ravaged the northeastern islands.  In Sendai, the Rakuten Eagles won – while the aftershocks that continue weeks later were felt in the stadium during the game.  [SI]

Transactions:

The Angels activated outfielder Reggie Willits and pitcher Scott Downs from the DL.

The Blue Jays placed outfielder Rajai Davis on the DL with an ankle sprain, and activated outfielder Corey Patterson from the DL.

The Padres activated Mat Latos from the DL, optioning Wade LeBlanc to AAA.

The  Brewers placed reliever Takashi Saito on the DL with a hamstring injury and recalled pitcher Brandon Kintzler from the Nashville Sounds.  Never heard of Kintzler?  He was a late round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2004, but couldn’t stay healthy enough to make any progress.  After three seasons of independent baseball, he was picked up by the Brewers and has made progress as a reliever, even getting a cup of coffee with the team last year.  He throws a low 90s fastball and a slider.  For a couple of years, he worked at a Coldstone Creamery franchise owned by his sister; I was listening to a Reds broadcast where Kintzler pitched and the color guy said he must have strengthened his forearm scooping ice cream.

Happy Birthday!

Kid Elberfeld (1875) – once had the only four hits in a game against Rube Waddell
Red Killefer (1885)
Claude Hendrix (1889)
Mark Leiter (1963)
Hunter Pence (1983)
Lorenzo Cain (1986) – doesn’t he have a name that should be the lead of some detective movie?

Johnson, Wang Injure Shoulders; Manny Already Tired

Randy Johnson injured his throwing shoulder while batting in Sunday’s game against Houston. With the All-Star break coming, he’ll likely just miss one start and not need to go on the DL, but you never know. [MLB]

Manny Ramirez’s comeback lasted just two days, as he needed to take Sunday off to rest his legs. Eric Milton, who just came off the DL with back soreness, went back on the DL – which makes me wonder if he really was ready or not – so the Dodgers could recall Blake DeWitt.

This really shouldn’t be news, but it gives you an idea of how dedicated Manny is to the Dodgers. He couldn’t keep himself in shape while he was out, and he chose not to use all ten rehab games to get his wheels back. Apparently it’s hard to run back and forth to the outfield from the dugout between innings. [MLB]

2009 continues to haunt Chien-Ming Wang. Sunday, the Yankees placed Wang on the DL with a strained throwing shoulder – the injury suffered Saturday against Toronto. As of last night, the Yankees were evaluating their options for replacing him in the rotation, and it sounded like Phil Hughes won’t be the guy – at least not right away. [ESPN]

The Florida Marlins looking to bolster their bullpen, signed former Angel Brendan Donnelly. Donnelly will replace Chris Leroux, who went on the DL with shoulder inflammation. [ESPN]

Oakland gave up two prospects (Ryan Webb, Craig Italiano), and a player to be named later to acquire Scott Hairston from the Padres. FoxSports reporter Ken Rosenthal believes that this is a potential sign that Matt Holliday is on the trading block. Hairston is a good fourth outfielder type with some right-handed power. Ryan Webb is barely a prospect who happens to be doing okay in AAA Sacramento right now. He’s never had an ERA under 4.76 until this year. Italiano is better – had a killer year at A Kane County in 2008, and is doing okay at Stockton (A+). At least he has room to grow. To be honest, the A’s didn’t give up much to get Hairston.

If you haven’t seen this year’s All-Star Game rosters, give MLB’s coverage a look-see.

Welcome Back! Josh Hamilton returns Monday (Chris Davis was sent to AAA Oklahoma City to teach his bat to make contact), Phillies reliever Scott Eyre, Angels outfielder Reggie Willits, Yankees reliever Jonathan Albaladejo.

Hurry Back! Padres catcher Henry Blanco has a strained hamstring, earning a DL trip. Jose Lobaton gets the call from AAA Portland to be the backup catcher. The undrafted free agent has bounced around the minors and has been better when given stable work – but still really isn’t a prospect.

Batting Around; And Vlad is Back!

Chicks dig the long ball. Fans like offense. And on Memorial Day, everybody was happy.

Teams scoring a lot of runs? White Sox 17 – 3 over the Angels. The Manny-Free Dodgers put up 16 over Colorado. Detroit makes someone a winner in the 13 run pool by crushing KC, 13 – 1. New York, behind five A-Roid hits, wins 11 – 1 over Texas. Pittsburgh took advantage of bad seventh inning stretch singing by Mr. T to beat the Cubs 10 – 8. And, Cleveland hangs up seven in the ninth (for the first time since they were called the Blues and Nap Lajoie was playing second base) to beat Tampa Bay 11 – 10.

Jim Thome’s homer was #549, putting him one ahead of Michael Jack Schmidt.

Freddy Sanchez had six hits yesterday for Pittsburgh – the second player to do that in 2009 (Ian Kinsler).

The Padres have won 10 straight, the Cubs have lost eight straight. The Blue Jays dropped seven straight and slid into third place in the AL East. Houston lost #5 and suddenly is no longer on the fringe of the division race.

MLB is looking back at the 50th anniversary of Harvey Haddix throwing 12 perfect innings – but losing in the 13th inning to Milwaukee. And there’s a song about it!

White Sox Carlos Quentin’s painful season continues – he was pulled from yesterday’s game with an injured foot.

Pirate Matt Capps took a liner in the elbow and had the leave the game in the 9th inning. It was the first ball Geovany Soto had hit hard in weeks… Capps will have his battery of testing before determining when he can pitch again. It’s probably at least a few days, maybe a week. Sean Burnett got the save – but it’s unclear as to whether or not he’ll be the temporary closer while Capps heals.

Akinori Iwamura’s MRI revealed serious tears in knee ligiments, requiring surgery, which will end his season. After reading the story, the second question might be whether or not he actually comes back at all to Tampa. His contract is up, there’s a club option for 2010, and 1st round pick Reid Brignac may get the shot this year to be their second sacker of the future. Brignac hits for power and can run, he’s got a shortstop’s arm, but he could use a little patience at the plate. Otherwise, he’s not far off.

Astro Ivan Rodriguez is day to day with a sprained knee, but he says it’s not serious.

However, Mariner catcher Kenji Johjima’s left big toe is broken and he’ll be on the DL for the next couple of weeks. Johjima injured his toe in a home plate collision with Adam Kennedy.

Off to the DL? Brian Shouse, Tampa pitcher (elbow strain)

On the Mend? Luke Scott, Baltimore outfielder; Jesus Flores, Washington catcher; Logan Kensing, Washington reliever

Welcome Back! Vlad Guerrero, Angels DH/OF. Milwaukee called up Frank Catalanotto, likely to play second for Rickie Weeks. RJ Swindle gets swindled and is back in AAA. The Marlins will mess with Cristian Martinez’s head again – he’s back from AAA. Ricky Romero was recalled by Toronto.

See you soon? Reggie Willits, Angels outfielder, who can’t catch a break.

Is it over? Matt Belisle, Rockies pitcher, who might be looking for a new job soon. Say, insurance sales…

2009 Season Forecast: Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
100 – 62 (1st Place – AL West)
Runs Scored: 765
Runs Allowed: 697

2008 Season Summary:

Pretty simple, actually.  The Angels got off to a solid April, going 18 – 10, kept a winning record through May and June, then ran away with the division with a 19 – 6 July.  With a weak division, strong pitching, a closer having a record season, and just enough hitting, the Angels never had a losing month.

You know what’s really odd about the season?  They weren’t that good – rather, they weren’t as good as their record.  Based on the ratio of runs scored to runs allowed, you would expect them to win 90 games – still good, but not 100 wins good.

Four teams allowed fewer runs – one of them was Oakland – and nine teams scored more.  So, they weren’t blowing teams away.  When they got a lead, though, nobody could get past that bullpen – featuring the 62 saves of Francisco Rodriguez.  Heck, in close games Jose Arredondo won 10 and lost 2.  Five starters won 10 or more – that doesn’t happen very often at all.

What they were was a broadly talented team with few superstars having a bit more pitching than everyone else, and the ability to shut down games after the sixth inning.

How About That Offense:

The outfielders weren’t half bad.  Vlad Guerrero missed a little time, but still delivered punch, with 27 homers and a .303 average.  Torii Hunter, added from Minnesota, was just ordinary good – above average power and speed.  Garrett Anderson remains slightly above average offensively even as he ages.  The power numbers are down, but his batting average remains decent.  As always, he just doesn’t do anything else to get on base.  Backups Juan Rivera and Gary Matthews were okay, but actually below average offensive performers.

The infield was also a hair above ordinary.  Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar were a notch below average while Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman were a hair above average.  Until Mark Teixeira arrived, there were no bangers in the infield.  For all the talk about the two months that Manny Ramirez gave Los Angeles, was it that much better than what Tex did?  Teixeira batted .358, slugged .632, and drove in 43 runs in just 54 games.  Backups Robb Quinlan, Brandon Wood, and Macier Izturis were tolerable backups.

The combined performance of the catching was impressive – 29 homers, 91 RBI.  Of course, only Mike Napoli was really good.  Jeff Mathis hit .194, but with 42 RBI, so the few hits he had were important.

Tell Me About the Defense:

Defensively, the catching was tolerable – Mathis being the better of the two against the run (Napoli only caught 11 of 52 runners), far more mobile, though slightly more mistake prone.

The infield defense was above average – anchored by two good glovemen at first (Kotchman and Teixeira).  Howie Kendrick is slightly above average (1 play per 800 balls in play) and doesn’t hurt you on the double play or in making errors.  Erick Aybar is a gold glove candidate, while Chone Figgins is the best option at third (though Wood has more range).  Figgins was – 5 in terms of range, but doesn’t make mistakes, and so he doesn’t hurt you too much.

The outfield was average all the way around.  The best fielder is Gary Matthews, but he’s just everyone’s backup.  It’s time to admit that Torii Hunter is no longer the centerfielder he was five years ago – he just looks smooth.  Per 800 balls in play, Hunter is just one play better than average.  Matthews, by the way, was +10 – much better than Hunter, though in just 221 innings.  Garrett Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero were better than expected at this point by being league average.

Now Pitching:

The most complete rotation in the majors.  Ervin Santana was 24 runs better than the average pitcher and gave the Angels 219 innings.  Joe Saunders surprised everyone with 198 innings, won 17 games, and was 20 runs better than average.  John Lackey missed ten starts and still was 13 runs better than average.  Jered Weaver hasn’t blossomed into an ace, but he’s still slightly above average, too.  Only Jon Garland, who still went 14 – 8, was below the bar – 15 runs below average, but over 196.2 innings.  Dustin Mosely and Nick Adenhart picked up the missing 13 starts and weren’t ready yet but showed promise.

The bullpen was amazing, led by Rodriguez and the 14 runs he saved the team.  However, Arredondo was 17 runs to the good (42 hits in 61 innings), Scot Shields remained dependable, and Darren Oliver kicked in 72 solid innings.  Only the mop up guy, Justin Speier, was below average in any way.  Only Philadelphia had more bullpen weapons.

Looking Ahead to 2009:

The front four members of the rotation stay, and the lone weak spot (Garland) was allowed to leave.  Nick Adenhart or Dustin Moseley can be as good as Garland – at least not worse.

The bullpen lost Rodriguez and signed Brian Fuentes from Colorado – who, I am sure, is happy to be here.  I don’t buy that Arredondo can repeat his performance, and Joe Saunders might take a step back.  Darren Oliver won’t be 15 runs better than league average again.  I think it’s probably going to cost the Angels about 25 runs.

Defensively, Matthews is going to be a step up (it would be even better if he played center and moved Hunter to left or right).  Getting Vlad to the DH position and letting Juan Rivera play right isn’t going to be an improvement – so the net change will be balanced out.  And, the infield lost Teixeira to the Yankees – so the infield defense may lose 10 to 15 runs – maybe more – by playing Kendry Morales.

So – instead of allowing 697 runs, it might be more like 735.

Offensively, Matthews isn’t as good as Anderson, who is in Atlanta.  Hunter and Vlad may step a bit back.  The infield loses the big bat of Tex, but Morales will be better than Kotchman.  Still, the net loss will be another 30 runs.  So, the net runs scored will be around 735.

That puts Los Angeles at .500 – 81 and 81, and might not win the division.  My take on it is a disappointing second place.

Down on the Farm:

For the last three seasons, Baseball America has been calling Nick Adenhart one of the top two prospects in the chain.  Adenhart has been okay in AA and AAA, finishing 2008 with a 9 – 13 record in 26 starts, with less than promising command.  In fact, it’s gotten worse with each season in the minors.  I know people hit a ton in the PCL, but 75 walks in 145.1 innings should be a concern.  In his favor is his age – he’s just 22.  In fact, it’s hard to see who the prospect is at Salt Lake City.  Dustin Moseley got starts with the Angels but had a 6.94 ERA there.  Shane Loux was 12 – 6, doesn’t strike a ton of guys out, and is 28.  If Adenhart is a prospect, so is Nick Green, who had comparable numbers, is 23, and went 8 – 8.

Brandon Wood gets shots with the parent club and has real power, but the best hitter will be new first baseman Kendry Morales, who hit .341 at SLC with some power, makes great contact – but could be a little more selective at the plate.  Sean Rodriguez, a second baseman with power and discipline hit .306 with a .645 slugging percentage and a .397 OBP.  He won’t do that in the majors, but he can play.

No hitters at AA impressed me, but 23 year old Kevin Jepsen had a 1.42 ERA for Arkansas – a power pitcher who could work on his control a bit.  Steve Marek fanned 57 in just 46.2 innings and may be a reliever of the future.

Rancho Cucamonga (A+) featured several young arms, of which Sean O’Sullivan and Amalio Diaz stood out.  20 year old Alexander Torres will also get a long look in a couple of years.  He had nice strikeout numbers in ten starts.  Catcher HanK Conger is 20, hit .303 for the Quakes, and might be a long term Angel in 2012.