Game 161, Angels at Mariners

marc w · October 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Dan Haren, 7:10pm

Welcome to the final night game of 2012, a contest between two teams just playing out the string. This year’s been terrible for Seattle, but I bet last night was difficult for Angels fans – Pujols and Wilson brought in, Greinke acquired, Mike Trout having an historic season – and they’re knocked out of the (expanded) playoffs by the Oakland A’s, a team that could make its annual payroll with whatever’s in Vernon Wells wallet right now.

I think this hypothetical Angels fan would console himself with the fact that their team has the aforementioned Trout, Greinke, Pujols and Wilson and the cable TV revenue to keep them happy and surrounded by a talented supporting cast. But for an evening, they may have felt as snakebit as one of us. They just get to forget about it the next day, and get to think about how to improve a 90-win roster. We…uh…Justin Smoak looks better, and you know, Hisashi Iwakuma’s outpitched Dan Haren, and…ah, nevermind.

Really, the Angels playoff hopes have been materially harmed by the following, which I will enumerate because schadenfreude’s all I have for game 161:
1) Starting Mike Trout in AAA. This was undoubtedly a move based on his team control, but man did this blow up in the Angels’ face. Trout first suited up for the Angels this year on April 28th. On April 27th, the Angels were 6-14 and had lost 5 straight. Since his call-up, the Angels are 81-57. Before his call-up, Vernon Wells was the starter and compiled a .696 OPS over that stretch (as a left-fielder). The Angels didn’t miss by much, and replacing a, er, replacement-level player with a 10-win one, even for just a month, would’ve been huge.
2) The Angels play in the AL West. OK, this isn’t their fault, but in all the MVP debate about Cabrera willing his team to the playoffs, people have tended to overlook the fact that the Angels are, by pretty much any measure, *better* than the Tigers. It’s just that playoff spots aren’t awarded to teams that excel in stat-nerd/philosophical nonsense like “having more wins” or “being better” but in the concrete currency of being the best amongst one of two loose geographical groupings.
3) Horrible luck in the bullpen. I don’t mean that their ERAs were worse than their FIP; as a group, the reverse was true. But this was a group that the Angels counted on, especially after 2011′s solid season (especially after jettisoning Fernando Rodney, who was clearly past his prime. I bet that guy’s not even in baseball anymore). Sure, Ernesto Frieri has been solid, but Jordan Walden, Scott Downs, and LaTroy Hawkins have had down years, and the bullpen’s WPA’s tumbled. As many have pointed out, this highlights how hard it is to build a consistently great bullpen, and how volatile individual bullpen arms can be.
4) Homers have killed them. The Angels have the best position players in baseball, but they’ve given up the 5th most HRs in the league. This is why their FIP-based WAR is the lowest in the division, despite having what looked to be a historically awesome rotation (before adding Zack Greinke). This can’t happen when you play half your games in a ballpark that limits HRs, and then you play intra-divisional games in Safeco and the Oakland Coliseum. Ervin Santana’s astonishing late-season run pushed him past Jason Vargas for the most HRs allowed, and tonight’s starter Dan Haren’s tied for 13th.

Since this match-up just happened a week ago, I’m not going to rehash what I’ve said about Harenthe last time he faced off against Iwakuma or the time before that. Both Iwakuma and Haren are slightly homer-prone starters in homer-suppressing environments. Iwakuma’s kept that particular problem under control recently, and he’s quietly putting together an excellent rookie season. Here’s hoping he sticks around, and that the new Safeco dimensions don’t trouble him.

The line-up:
1: Ackley
2: Wells
3: Seager
4: Jaso (C)
5: Smoak
6: Montero (DH)
7: Saunders
8: Robinson
9: Kawasaki
SP: Iwakuma

Still no Gutierrez, which is sadly unsurprising. Shut him down and tell him to avoid strenuous activity, sharp things, large people and dogs, cooking utensils and anything capable of producing heat above 100 Fahrenheit this offseason. In a chat this morning, Jeff Sullivan idly wondered how much his UZR would suffer if he played in full football pads. Something for Tony Blengino’s group to take a look at, I think.

I suppose I waded into it above, so I may as well come out and say that if I had an MVP vote, it would go to Mike Trout. I can’t imagine that’s too controversial at a site like this, but the debate’s certainly been as contentious as I can remember. I think writers as diverse as Geoff Baker and Colin Wyers have tried to stress that both are deserving – Baker’s pushed the view that the writers themselves determine how to measure “value,” and that seems true enough. But I think too often this debate has been about the decimal places in WAR, or about those communist defensive ratings, or the differences between Fangraphs’, Baseball Prospectus’ and Baseball-Reference’s WAR stats. As of today, Mike Trout has produced more batting runs than Miguel Cabrera. Put defense aside – put your own numbers to it, throw them out, whatever. Just looking at batting, Trout’s had the superior season. That’s because Trout’s numbers have been compiled in a pitcher’s park whereas Cabrera’s have been racked up in a hitter’s park. This isn’t just some Fangraphs thing, either. BPRo’s stats show the same thing, as do BB-Ref’s. Adding defense to the equation just stretches Trout’s lead, and the argument that Cabrera carried his team to the playoffs while Trout didn’t doesn’t hold much water with me given the strength of the two divisions.

All of that said, I think a vote for Cabrera isn’t the end of the world. I think some writers legitimately feel that Miggy’s 2nd half stats and what he did during the Tigers’ run to pass the White Sox should be a thumb on the scale and overcome the clear and nearly-universally acknowledged performance gap he faces. The question is how heavy is that thumb? How much do we want to weight 2nd half performance, and will we do so consistently in the future? In the end, I think Cabrera wins the award going away, and I won’t whine too much if the same writers saying that Cabrera’s batting stats in August/September give him the edge turn around and make the exact opposite argument next year.

I’m just glad that we’re not going to have an actual travesty of an MVP winner. We debate these things openly now, and beat writers lay out their reasoning ahead of time, which is actually quite cool. I grew up in the 1980s, when we got a series of bizarre awards, like George Bell in 1987, or Don Mattingly in 1985 and almost no one saw that as weird. This continued into the mid-90s with the notorious 1995 AL MVP award to Mo Vaughn, a player transparently worse in every way than Albert Belle and Edgar Martinez (both of whose teams made the playoffs). The excuse in 1995 was that Belle was kind of a jerk to the press sometimes. Seriously. At this point, I was about done with the MVP, but the following year A-Rod was snubbed because Juan Gonzalez had more RBIs and that was essentially that. It’s the nature of the internet that the debate’s gotten so loud (and so intemperate), but I can’t fathom ‘outrage’ about the outcome of the 2012 AL MVP.

Comments

50 Responses to “Game 161, Angels at Mariners”

  1. MojoMark on October 2nd, 2012 4:56 pm

    As much as not having Trout for the first month of the season hurt them, not having a functional Albert Pujols for the first two months of the season was as big (if not bigger) factor. I don’t have the stats handy (and am too lazy to look), but didn’t he hit sub-.200 until June?

  2. Mariners35 on October 2nd, 2012 5:20 pm

    Perhaps the Angels can go have a beer with the Jays about fielding a decent team yet getting overmatched in their own division anyway. Or have them time-travel back to the 93-win M’s teams that got overwhelmed by A’s powerhouse teams. Oops, never mind; the Angels’ only WS ring was one of those seasons, heh.

    Anyway. If this just helps build credibility for the West so that future AL West winners don’t get looked at like this year’s Tigers are, well, so much the better. No longer need to hear about coming from a weak division.

    What’s that you say? Astros incoming? Hm.

  3. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 5:26 pm

    Hard to believe there’s just a couple games left. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m actually excited about the off-season. With all the FA outfielders available, and considerably less committed salaries, the M’s should be poised to acquire some useful bats. Maybe a trade or two as well?

    Having said that, I’m really going to try to enjoy these last two games. Oh, and I’m buying a round for everyone here. Just go to your favorite bar, tell ‘em the first one’s on me.

  4. californiamariner on October 2nd, 2012 5:36 pm

    I agree with Steve about the offseason. Most excited I’ve been going into an offseason in a few years.

  5. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 5:46 pm

    Just because I like to find *something* to complain about…

    Why is Wells hitting second against a right handed pitcher? Don’t get me wrong – I do like the lineup, and I do like that Wells has gotten a string of playing time recently. It’s just that sometimes I get the notion that Wedge is deliberately messing with us.

  6. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 5:55 pm

    Yeah, I’d probably have Saunders hitting second, but whatever. At least we get Jaso tonight!

  7. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 6:46 pm

    I am old enough to remember Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez sharing the NL MVP Award in 1979, but I was young enough at the time to not really give a damn.

    It would be perfectly fine with me now if Cabrera and Trout were to end up sharing this years award, but the odds of a perfectly split vote are remote. And, I am old enough now to not really give a damn. Maybe a half-damn … Which means my emotion is a perfect split, itself.

  8. dogkahuna on October 2nd, 2012 7:02 pm

    Haven’t seen Jack Z on camera for awhile–interesting how he addresses the camera and not the interviewer (though I probably wouldn’t want to look at Brad for fear of laughing.) Jack’s answers about Iwakuma and the free agent market were typically misleading and BS, I think. He’s being cagey but it’s pretty transparent.

  9. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 7:09 pm

    I liked how the example they used regarding the change in fences was Pujols’ double last night. :-D

  10. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 7:27 pm

    Seager!!!

  11. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 7:29 pm

    20!

  12. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 7:30 pm

    SEAGER!

    That’ll be a homer next year as well. ;-)

  13. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 7:38 pm

    Wouldn’t it have to be? They aren’t moving the fences backward.

  14. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 7:43 pm

    They’re counting this years hits next year?

  15. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 7:45 pm

    Which Seattle writer is going to give either Trout or Cabrera a 7th place MVP vote? I am not saying the characature that was secretly known as A-Rod didn’t eventually prove to deserve it, but I certainly didn’t agree with it at the time.

  16. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 7:46 pm

    Steve, I like your answer better. Even if it was really a question.

  17. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 7:47 pm

    I wonder if Verlander will get any votes, Mike. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Seattle writer went that route.

  18. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 7:49 pm

    Steal second, steal third – get thrown out trying to steal home.

  19. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 7:50 pm

    There’s one. Here comes #2

  20. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 7:50 pm

    Crap. Wild pitch.

  21. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 7:51 pm

    Wow, can’t believe Trout ran.

    Really, why on Earth wouldn’t they pitch-out, or take a shot at pickin’ him off? Everyone knew he was going!

  22. DarkKnight1680 on October 2nd, 2012 7:55 pm

    Griffey deserved the 1996 MVP anyway. Better on the basepaths, best fielder in the game that year, top dog on the team, lead in 2 of 3 Triple Crown categories and the best WAR to boot. I never really got the “A-Rod was jobbed!” argument when Griffey was better.

  23. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 7:55 pm

    Verlander will probably get some third place votes. I Don’t know how people will vote, but NOTHING will surprise me. Someone who is a big supporter of one can give the other a ridiculously low vote and fuck up the whole parade. They might as well have Olympic gymnastic judges decide these things.

  24. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 8:08 pm

    Yeah, good point darknight. Where did Griffey finish in the voting, that year?

  25. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 8:11 pm

    Next year, Trout will just have to climb the wall to rob Ackley of a hit/HR on that ball.

  26. DarkKnight1680 on October 2nd, 2012 8:13 pm

    msfanmike – Kenny was 4th

  27. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 8:13 pm

    That’s OK, Mike. Making him work harder isn’t a bad thing! He’s made things look way too easy this year.

  28. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 8:23 pm

    I have to admit, I really loved how Smoak hit that. Wasn’t thrilled about the idea of stretching it, but the fact he went the other way and made them pay for the shift, was really nice!

  29. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 8:23 pm

    Smoak can all of a ‘sudden’ hit the ball the other way. He did it last night, too. El Septiembre non stinko strikes again. Even in Octobre’

  30. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 8:29 pm

    I wish they had held off on the announcement of the fences til after the season concluded.

  31. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 8:38 pm

    Me too, kinda. Plus, the Saunders ball would have hit 4′ higher on next years fence. It wouldn’t have gone out, correct? It hit approx 2′ – 3′ above the ground on this years fence.

    Oh boy, a phantom score report for next years fence distances. What else can you talk about during a spring training game in October.

  32. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 8:43 pm

    Seager – 20 HR, 33 doubles, 1 triple
    Saunders – 19 HR, 30 doubles, 3 triples

    Pretty nice considering very few people thought we’d get anything near that level of production from either guy.

  33. Sowulo on October 2nd, 2012 8:44 pm

    Saunders hit that ball off the fence in left-center where the fence will be 17′ shorter next year. That ball is way out next year.

    Saunders hits a lot of balls like that to left-center. Many have gone for doubles and many have been caught.

    If nothing changes but the fences, we could see Saunders hit 30 bombs next year.

  34. stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2012 8:46 pm

    I’m not sure where that was, I was just happy to see Saunders hit it hard!

  35. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 8:48 pm

    I don’t know if I believe Saunders will get all that many more homers next year. Many of his homers this year have been no-doubters.

    Same with Monty.

    Smoak, though… he’s hit a lot of cheapies.

    (all this is obviously idle speculation on my part)

  36. msfanmike on October 2nd, 2012 8:54 pm

    Ah, yes … Left center field. For some reason, I thought Saunders hit it to right center.

    If the power alley in left center is moved from 388 or 390 (depending on which one to believe) back to 378′, where exactly is the 17′ reduction going to be. Pythagoras has left the building. So did Isosceles.

    Does anybody have the 17′ intel? I saw it written, too … But it wasn’t clear to me exactly where it would be.

  37. Sowulo on October 2nd, 2012 8:54 pm

    From what I’m remembering having seen, Saunders, Seager and Montero have all hit a lot of deep flies to that left-center power alley–either off the wall or up against it. They are the current M’s I think will benefit the most from the changes.

  38. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 9:01 pm

    It’s funny how, in this game, the Angels have also hit a number of very deep fly balls.

    It’s like the teams are both intentionally giving the TV and radio guys something to talk about. “Yup, that’ll be a homer next year. Call up that graphic again…”

  39. G-Man on October 2nd, 2012 9:03 pm

    “Pythagoras has left the building. So did Isosceles.”

    Heh. mike, I didn’t quite get the 17′ either, but when I looked at the diagram, it did seem like that could possibly be the biggest gap. Someone needs to put a scale to that diagram.

  40. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 9:04 pm

    Hahaha, that hit by Seager was a result of two very fast outfielders both getting to it. :-D

  41. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 9:05 pm

    Wow, that was a whiff by Morales.

  42. G-Man on October 2nd, 2012 9:06 pm

    That’s a hit, and Smoak’s was an error?

  43. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 9:09 pm

    MAN. The Angels are stinking up the joint.

    And boy is Monty slow. Breathtakingly slow. If he hadn’t been ahead of Saunders, Michael would’ve had a triple.

  44. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 9:29 pm

    Hahaha, ANOTHER “next year” homer – this time by Wells.

  45. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 9:36 pm

    Boy, that last curve (?) by Capps really had some nasty movement to it.

  46. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 9:45 pm

    Only Monty could hit a ball that gets by the right fielder… and still ends up only on first.

    Good grief he is slow. 2012 Edgar Martinez could probably outrun him.

  47. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2012 9:58 pm

    Condor, that’s TWO bobbles tonight!! What’s up with that?

  48. justdave on October 2nd, 2012 10:09 pm

    We reaally need to re-sign ‘kuma, especially with the fences moving in, can’t have too much pitching.

  49. terryoftacoma on October 2nd, 2012 10:17 pm

    Nice win guys!

    I really haven’t heard much talk about MVP. Most of the fans(people) I know don’t care about the end of season awards. Honestly, neither do I.

  50. Jordan on October 2nd, 2012 10:20 pm

    Did Kreuger seriously just say T. Hunter would be a good fit next year? Is he friends with Baker?

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