The Blue Jays will try to shake off a disappointing series at Fenway, but to do so they'll have to beat the red-hot Angels. Los Angeles/Anaheim is 24-8 since May 22nd, and they've won 6 of their last 7. Toronto, meanwhile, continues to shuffle around at .500, which just means they're falling further and further behind in the AL East. Although they are only 3.5 out of the Wild Card, three teams currently stand between them and the playoffs. To make up ground they'll have to knock the tar out of the ball, because their pitching, what little there is of it, doesn't seem capable of keeping the team in games. What's gonna happen? Damned if I know. Advance Scout!
Thursday: Dan Haren v. Brett Cecil
Dan Haren's ERA sits at 4.24, but is mostly a product of the highest BABIP mark of his career. His strikeout and walk ratios are well in line with his career marks, as are his home run and strand rates. His control is merely very good, as opposed to exceptional as he has been in past years, but make no mistake, Haren is a very good pitcher. His heater is down a couple of ticks this year; he throws both a two and four seamer than on average punch in at 88-89 this year, down about a MPH on the year. Still, Haren doesn't rely overly on his heater, throwing it around 40% of the time. Haren uses a cutter (84-85) and splitter (83-84) heavily, all of which he'll throw at any point in the count, which means hitters are forced to guess between four different fastball variants at slightly different speeds. For fun Haren will toss in a spike curve (mid-70s) every now and then. He'll use the cutter more against righties, and the two-seamer against lefties. Haren's been bombed his last three starts, giving up 4, 5 and 5 runs while on pitching 16.2 innings. Lifetime JPA is 1/12, Jose Bautista 5/17 with 2 home runs, E5 7/20 with 2 home runs, Yunel 5/18, Kelly Johnson 5/11 with 4 doubles, Colby Rasmu 4/22, and Omar Vizquel 4/28.
Friday: Ervin Santana v. Carlos Villanueva
Magic Santana has actually been the Angels 6th best starting pitcher this year, surprisingly - I never would have termed him very good, but he's been extremely solid for the last couple of years. Things are a bit off the rails though, as his strikeouts have dropped and his walks risen. Bad combo. As a result his K/BB has fallen below 2/1 (just barely) for the first time in his career. He's also allowing more home runs than every before. That his ERA isn't worse than a hair under 5 is a result of a .245 BABIP. Santana may be turning things around; he threw a 1-hit shut out and 8 innings of 2-run ball in his last two starts. However they were against NL teams, so take that with a rock of salt - he got hammered by Colorado and Seattle in his previous two starts. Santana is a fastball/slider/change guy, coming in around 92, 83 an 85, respectively. His fastball is a set up pitch, and the change doesn't have a ton going for it; when Santana's on he relies on his wicked slider, one of the best in baseball. Even in a down year it's where he's been experiencing success (guys are really, really going to town on his fastball). Lifetime: Bautista 6/20 (2 2B, 2 HR), Rajai Davis 1/14, EE 1/11, Yunel Escobar 5/14, KJ 1/10, Adam Lind 6/27 (2 HR).
Saturday: Garrett Richards v. Henderson Alvarez
This will be Garrett Richards' 8th big league start; so far this year he's been filling in for the injured Jared Weaver, and now the injured Jerome Williams. Richards is big and throws hard, regularly working his 4-seam/2-seam combo in the mid-90s; he's being held back at this point by sub par control, allowing almost 12% of batters faced to reach via the BB (more than double Haren's rate, for context). Richards strikes out a fair number - 1 in 5 batters, roughly - but he'll need to improve on his 1.69/1 K/BB if he's going to succeed long term. Still, he's only 24, and he's allowed 5 runs in 4 starts, so he's doing something right, or at least getting lucky. Richards basically relies on his fastball and slider, which comes in at around 85-86; he'll throw a couple of change ups, also at 85, and maybe a curve once in a blue moon.
Sunday: C.J. Wilson v. Aaron Laffey
The Angels' big free agent signing, Wilson has not disappointed: he'll cross the 100 inning threshold in the first of Sunday's game, and unless he gets hammered he'll do so with an ERA in the low-2s. Wilson's numbers aren't appreciably different than Haren's - he's thrown 6 more innings, and actually walks more and strikes out fewer. However he gets more than half his outs on the ground, and as such gives up fewer hits and home runs (well below average BABIPs and HR/FB% help in this regard also). Wilson doesn't work especially deep into games, but of late it hasn't really mattered, as he's simply been on fire. In his last 7 starts CJ hasn't pitched fewer than 6 innings (nor more than 8), and he's allowed 0, 1, 0, 1, 1, 3 and 1 earned runs. Wilson utilizes a wide array of pitches, throwing a 4-seamer and 2-seamer, both around 90-93, a slider (83-85), cutter (high 80s), curve (high 70s) and change (mid-80s). All his secondary offerings are pretty decent, with no real weak links, but in the main Wilson lives off his very good fastball. He doesn't really throw the change or cutter to lefties. Wilson abstains from drugs and alcohol, and races cars. Duality!
Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo LF
Kendry Morales DH
Howie Kendrick 2B
Alberto Callaspo/Maicer Izturis 3B
Erick Aybar SS
Bobby Wilson/John Hester C
Bear with me here, cause the Angels do a bunch of funky things. General takeaways: Mark Trumbo, Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales all play first base, but more often than not all three are in the lineup together, which usually means that Trumbo goes to a corner outfield spot. When Trumbo or Morales sit, Peter Bourjos plays CF, with Mike Trout taking the corner. Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis seemingly alternate at third, though Callaspo gets the bulk of the time at third, with much of Izturis' time coming backing up at short and second. Bobby Wilson is the starting catcher, as Chris Iannetta is injured; John Hester is the backup. The outfield log jam has mostly been resolved by the release of Bobby Abreu and the injury to Vernon Wells (he's out until at least August). Bourjos often comes in as a defensive replacement.
What is there left to say about Mike Trout at this point? It's not even July and both ROTY races have already been decided. Trout was in the minors for the first 20 games of the season or so but still ranks 6th in the majors in fWAR. He leads the majors in steals (he's 21/24) and is in the top 5 in BA and top 10 in OBP, and he's a phenomenal defensive outfielder to boot. You know, like this catch yesterday, which was almost as good as Dewayne Wise's catch the other day. A lot of this is BABIP drive (he's over .400) but Trout has a pretty decent K rate, walks enough and is of course blindingly fast, with respectable power...Albert Pujols is posting the worst BABIP of his career (.255), and his power and walks are both well below his career marks, so his .773 OPS isn't totally undeserved. However he's rapidly pulling himself out of the early tailspin he was in; over his last 39 games he's hitting a robust .322/.402/.616, with 11 home runs and a 21/16 BB/K...I'm pretty sure the only difference between Mark Trumbo last year and this year is that his BABIP and HR/FB % are 70 points and 7% higher, respectively. He's walking slightly more, but striking out more, and let's just say I'm still not sold long term. His slash numbers are pretty great as a result, though... Trout and Trumbo, and now Pujols, are really carrying the offense; Torii Hunter's been pretty good, but not enough to move the needle.
Infirmary: Chris Iannetta (C) is out until July with a wrist injury. Michael Kohn (P) is out for the year with TJ surgery, while Jeremy Moore (P) is out indefinitely recovering from a hip injury. Old friend Vernon Wells (OF) has a torn UCL in his right knee and has a month rest before he can start rehab. Jerome Williams (P) has a respiratory issue, and is working his way back into game shape.
Song to Advance Scout By: I'm supporting Italy personally, but in honor of Germany beating Spain in the finals on Sunday, our song today is a novelty single supporting the German football team, from the 2006 World Cup.
Chart: Use your imaginations!