July 2008

Mark Trumbo the Angels’ Future at First Base?

Newly acquired Mark Teixeira will stay at the Newport Beach home of his agent Scott Boras for the rest of the season, the Orange County Register reports.

Casey Kotchman, meanwhile, is saying all the right things with the Atlanta Braves.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Casey seemed quite happy — I’d say “Chipper” but the Braves already have one of those — to be closer to home.

Some local news reports have suggested that Casey didn’t get along with manager Mike Scioscia, that Casey didn’t like sitting once in a while so Robb Quinlan could get some at-bats. I don’t know any player who’s happy to sit.

I’ve no idea whether it’s true or not. My beef with this deal is that Teixeira is a free agent in three months. Whether or not he re-signs is irrelevant, as they could have signed him anyway in the off-season. It’s an all too expensive rental.

Should Teixeira move on, Kendry Morales is the leading candidate for the first base job in 2009, but Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sportswriter Todd Traub suggests Mark Trumbo will be on deck pretty soon.

Entering Tuesday, Trumbo was tied with Class AAA Charlotte’s Brad Eldred for fourth in the minor league home runs race with 28. Former Traveler Dallas McPherson (2003-2004) led the minors with 38.

“It’s progressed,” Trumbo said of his power stroke. “That’s probably one of the main reasons why I got drafted. They like the power, and it’s come a long way.”

I interviewed Mark on July 13. We talked quite a bit about how he’s altered his mechanics and his approach at the plate — stuff you don’t learn from a calculator, which is why the statheads wrote him off last winter. Mark hit another homer last night, so he’s up to 29.

In closing, the Provo Daily Herald has a nice article today about Tom Kotchman, who will be honored by the Orem Owlz tonight for winning his 1,500th game. Some people have asked me over the years why Kotch isn’t managing or coaching in the big leagues. Read this article. Casey will tell you why.

Angels Trade Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek to Atlanta for Mark Teixeira

“Finally, you really did it! You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to Hell!”

Charlton Heston
Planet of the Apes

Would you trade fifteen years for three months?

That’s what the Angels may have done today when they swapped Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek to the Atlanta Braves for Mark Teixeira.

The switch-hitting Teixeira has been one of the more prolific power hitters in the major leagues during his career. He hit 43 homers in 2005 and 33 in 2006 for Texas. After hitting another 13 for Texas in 2007, he was swapped to the Braves on July 31 for a boatload of prospects.

Teixeira didn’t do the Braves much good, which should be a warning to those who think flushing the farm system for a “name” somehow guarantees a world championship. (Believe me, those people are out there. Read the fan boards.) Not his fault, but individuals don’t win championships. Teams do.

So trading Casey Kotchman, one of the best young hitters in the game, along with bullpen prospect Stephen Marek for Teixeira strikes me as giving in to all those instant gratification people who scream “Win NOW!!!” without thinking about what happens next year and beyond.

Teixeira, 28, is a free agent at season’s end. His agent is Scott Boras. Teixeira didn’t sign an extension with the Braves, his hometown team, so why should we think he’ll sign an extension with the Angels?

If the Angels had been patient, in another few months they could have signed him on the open market. If successful, they could have then traded Kotchman for whatever they could get.

Does Teixeira guarantee a world championship? Of course not. He never won one with the Rangers, and he didn’t win one with the Braves. Again, not his fault, but one player does not make a champion.

Even if the Angels do manage to sign Teixeira to an extension, all they did was acquire him for two months and the post-season. Was it worth Kotchman and Marek? Did swapping Kotchman for Teixeira somehow significantly increase the statistical probability of winning the World Series? Of course not.

The post-season is pretty much a crap shoot. Some among fandom and the press have insisted the Angels could not win the World Series without a second “big bat” to complement Vlad Guerrero, our own version of Boston’s David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Yet the Angels won their seventh in a row tonight against Boston, which is slumping in the A.L. East, and all seven were achieved without that “big bat.” In fact, Boston might not even reach the post-season.

Casey Kotchman was about as “Angel” as they come. I can’t imagine him leaving for free agency. His dad, Tom Kotchman, is the most successful manager active in the minor leagues and is revered throughout the Angels system. Casey was raised in the organization from birth. He hung out with his dad during summers in Edmonton and Boise. If anyone was raised to be an Angel, it was Casey. And he’ll be far more affordable than Teixeira for at least the next five years, maybe longer.

Should Teixeira leave, the Angels will have to acquire another 1B on the free agent market, trade for one, or hand over the position to Kendry Morales. They will have lost Kotchman for three months of Teixeira.

The Angels already had the best record in baseball. Their divisional lead was already over ten games. This trade was wholly unnecessary to reach the post-season. Does having Teixeira instead of Kotchman at first base during the playoffs make that big of a difference to justify renting him?

Color me skeptical.

But the instant gratification crowd finally got their wish. After all those years of patience and wisdom under Bill Stoneman, the Angels finally gave in and made a knee-jerk trade sacrificing the future for the present.

I wonder what they’ll say if the Angels don’t win the World Series and Teixeira leaves.

Orem Owlz Win South Division First Half Title

The Orem Owlz rallied today to win last night’s suspended contest 7-4 over Idaho Falls, then beat the Chukars 4-3 in the nightcap to clinch the Pioneer League South Division’s first half title. The Casper Ghosts were eliminated after losing 13-6 at Ogden.

I’ve no doubt that Tom Kotchman reminded them tonight not to rest on their laurels in the second half. The first half winner gets home field advantage in the best two-of-three series for the South Division title in September; if the same team wins both halves, they get a bye.

We saw that Casper had their number in the first half, winning head-to-head six games to two, so we really don’t want Casper to take the second half title.

By taking both halves, the Owlz not only get a bye but Kotch also gets to arrange his pitching rotation. In even years, the South Division team gets the home field advantage, so in this year’s championship series the South Division winner hosts Games #2 and 3.

The team with the home field advantage in the title series is usually tough to beat, especially if they win Game #1 on the road. In 2007, the Owlz won Game #1 on the road, then went to Great Falls and won Game #2 to take the title. In 2004, the last year for the Provo Angels, Provo won Game #1 on the road at Billings then won Game #2 and the title in Provo.

So boys, win the second half title and you give yourself a huge edge going into the post-season.

In the last blog, I mentioned the other affiliates doing well. I forget to mention Arkansas, which won their division’s first-half title and is already qualified for the post-season. I remembered this morning when I heard Angels broadcaster Steve Physioc interviewing farm director Abe Flores on the radio post-game show. The conversation was pretty much the same as my last blog — most of the affiliates doing so well. Phys mentioned the Travs were already qualified, and I thought, “Oh darn, I forgot.” Sorry about that …


UPDATE July 28, 2008 5:30 AM PDT — The Owlz’ front office e-mailed to correct the above on playoff scenarios. No bye if the Owlz win the second half. They’d have to play the team with the second-best overall record. So there’s no escaping Casper if they have the second-best record.

Tempe Angels Clinch First-Half Title

The Tempe Angels have clinched the Arizona League’s first-half title, which means they’ll play in the title game August 31. Tempe is currently 20-7 (.741) with a three-game lead over the Mesa Cubs and Surprise (a town, not an exclamation) Rangers. The Angels knocked off the Rangers yesterday 11-5, clinching the first half.

Tempe isn’t a team loaded with “name” top prospects. Their best hitter is first baseman Chris Garcia, who’s repeating the league after splitting 2007 between Tempe and Orem. Garcia was selected in the 15th round of the June 2007 draft out of St. Petersburg College — which means he was yet another Tom Kotchman signing.

Garcia’s current AVG/OBP/SLG are .418/.519/.537. Out of 28 hits, five are doubles and one is a homer. Yet he walks more than he strikes out — a SO:BB ratio of 12:13 in 67 AB — which fits in nicely with the Angels’ “Contactball” style of play.

Third baseman-center fielder Terrell Alliman is a Canadian selected in the 43rd round of the June 2007 draft. Milwaukee drafted him in 2006 out of high school, but he went on to community college. Alliman’s numbers are .368/.419/.487, but again there’s not much power so far. Alliman has five doubles and two triples in 76 AB but no homers.

Infielder Kevin Ramos is 10th in the AZL in slugging percentage at .542, the only Tempe Angel in the league’s Top 10. Ramos, a Panamanian, turned 22 on June 6 which is pretty old for this league; he’s 15 months younger than Brandon Wood, to give you a contrast. But Ramos also plays Contactball — in 72 AB, he has a 6:4 SO:BB ratio. He also seemed a pretty savvy ballplayer to me. When I was in Tempe, he was standing on second when the Peoria Padres pitcher went into a stretch. The pitcher was ignoring him, so Ramos just took off for third and made it standing up. You can see Kevin steal third in the July 22 Game #1 video link.

The Mesa Cubs lead the AZL in homers with 30. The Angels have 7. Yet the Angels are second in runs scored, 186 to the Cubs’ 212. Tempe generated runs by doing what we always do — play Contactball. The Angels have the fewest strikeouts in the league, tied with the Cubs. The Angels’ SO:BB ratio is 182:125, the Cubs’ is 182:115. But as you might suspect, the Angels are far more aggressive on the basepaths. The Angels’ SB:CS ratio is 50:14, while the Cubs’ is 28:15.

The Angels’ pitching staff is one of the best in the league. The team ERA is 3.64, second only to the Rangers at 3.37. We lead the league in strikeouts at 234 and our 1.29 WHIP — (Walks + Hits) / (Innings Pitched) — is the league’s best.

19-year old right-handed starter Manaurys Correa leads the AZL with a 1.59 ERA, in strikeouts with 50, and in innings pitched at 39 2/3. He’s walked only six.

Before he was sent to Rancho, 20-year old Alexander Torres had a 1.54 ERA in four starts and a 24:10 SO:BB ratio in 23.1 IP.

Tyler Chatwood, the Angels’ first 2008 pick in the 2nd round of the June draft, is still rounding into pitching shape but should be dominant as the second half comes to a close.

When I was with the team earlier in the week, it was so exciting to see them buy into Contactball at such an early stage in their careers.

Upstream, the Orem Owlz (23-13) finish their first half today with a 1/2 game lead over Casper. Orem’s game last night was suspended due to rain, and will be completed before today’s regularly scheduled game. If Orem wins both games today against Idaho Falls, they clinch the division. The Owlz were trailing 4-3 last night after four innings when the game was suspended. If the Owlz lose one of the games, it gets murkier unless Casper loses to Ogden. Should the Owlz and Ghosts finish tied, Casper gets the post-season nod because of their superior record head-to-head.

The Salt Lake Bees remain comfortably in first place in the PCL’s Pacific North with a 63-44 record and a seven-game lead over Portland. Down in the Cal League, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes seem to be finally kicking into gear, with a 20-15 record and a one-game lead over Lancaster in the South Division.

And the parent club has the best record in baseball at 64-39. Their .621 pace projects to 100 wins, one better than the 2002 championship year.

For all the crap he took from fickle fans, press pundits and the statheads who blindly believed in Billy Beane, recently retired Angels GM Bill Stoneman deserves a lot more recognition and gratitude than he’s received. The Angels should be the early favorite for the Organization of the Year award. While other teams are out flushing prospects for a quick-fix, the Angels just sail along in first place, protecting their prospects for the future. They’re able to do that because Bill Stoneman was smart and patient, while his critics were neither.  Beane, meanwhile, is dismantling his roster to replenish a farm system depleted by his failed Moneyball theories. The A’s should sink below the .500 mark any day now.

From top to bottom, the Angels are a finely-tuned organization, a business model left behind by Stoneman.

Tempe Angels Videos Now On-Line

Video highlights from the Tempe Angels games I worked earlier this week are now on-line. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

July 21 vs. Phoenix A’s
July 22 vs. Peoria Padres Game #1
July 22 vs. Peoria Padres Game #2

Tyler Chatwood, the Angels’ top 2008 draft pick, is the starting pitcher in Game #2 of the July 22 doubleheader. His “plus” curve is on display in the video.

I also shot some video clips around the backstop so you can see what goes on during a game. Pitchers from both sides usually sit on the aluminum bleachers, charting or working radar or just hanging out. So this will give you an idea of the informal environment with camp teams.

All three clips have video of post-game celebrations on the field.

More Photos from Tempe

Back from Tempe, and I’m quite well toasted, thank you for asking.

I’ll work on videos today. Meanwhile, enjoy some photos from yesterday’s twinbill.

If you don’t see a loved one — or if you’re a player, photos of yourself — please be patient. I have a lot more than what you see here. They’ll be on FutureAngels.com eventually in the Digital Photo Gallery.

 


Alexi Amarista is listed at 5’6″ 150 lbs. on the roster. He played right field in the first game and second base in the second game.

 

 


Nick Farnsworth was the Angels’ 9th round draft pick in June.

 

 


Manuel Flores started Game #1 and struck out seven in 5 1/3 innings.

 

 


Josh Davies began his career as an Angel, signed out of Australia as an infielder. After he was released, the Padres signed him and converted him into a pitcher. Click Here to watch video I filmed in August 2004 of his first pro homer.

 

 


Outfielder Chris Fox might have the nickname “Pigpen” after this game. He ended the day with a .326 batting average.

 

 


Tyler Chatwood started Game #2. He was the Angels’ top draft pick in June; his “plus” curve was as advertised. (Video to follow.)

 

 


Lefty Kevin Ferguson relieved in the 6th inning of Game #2. This is one of my favorite “trick” shots, through the chain-link backstop. The 400mm lens pretty much washes out the chain link, and in glare like the batter’s helmet it will create a diamond effect. The trick is to get just the right angle to capture pitcher, batter, ball and umpire.

 

 


Catcher David Golliner is about to throw the ball after the umpire called a third strike.

 

 


Nolan Brannon is listed on the roster as a catcher, but he played third base in Game #2. He’s taking an aggressive lead off second base in this photo.

 

First Photos from Tempe

I don’t care if it’s a dry heat or not, it was damn hot today and scheduled to be hotter.

In the end, it was too hot for the Phoenix A’s, who lost 5-4 to the Tempe Angels in 11 innings.

I always enjoy watching A’s – Angels matchups in the summer league, because this is where the youngsters start to learn their organizations’ styles of play. The A’s batters almost always take the first pitch, while Angels players are always aggressive on the basepaths.

The A’s Moneyball style seems to be going the way of the dodo, though, because I actually saw A’s batters swing at first pitches today. Normally they never swing at a first pitch, so we might as well throw it down the middle for a strike and put the batter behind in the count. The A’s also stole five bases; leadoff hitter Jose Crisotomo swiped two bags and repeatedly drew pickoff attempts to keep him close. In 14 games, Cristotomo has 7 SB in eight attempts.

We played our style of play, running the bases aggressively to force the defense to make perfect plays. We’re certainly in their heads, if today’s A’s managerial strategy is any indication. In the bottom of the 9th, we had the winning run on 3rd with two outs; A’s manager Ruben Escalera actually pitched out, thinking Kevin Ramos might try to steal home.

In the bottom of the 11th, leadoff batter Aaron Peel’s speed caused A’s shortstop Wilfredo Pena to commit a throwing error. Chris Garcia’s single sent Peel to third. With runners on first and third and nobody out, Escalera intentionally walked Raddy Sierra to load the bases. Sure, Garcia’s run is as meaningless at second as it is at first, except now Escalera has put reliever Juston Street in the position of having to throw strikes with no margin for error. Ramos hit a sacrifice fly to score Peel, and the Angels won.

I shot plenty of video, but won’t have the time to post it for a couple days. Tomorrow we have a makeup doubleheader against the Peoria Padres starting at 9 AM. Each game is seven innings, as are all minor league twinbills. Gametime temperature is predicted to be 89 degrees but the humidity will make it feel like 94. By the time we’re done somewhere around 2 PM, it’ll be 101 but feel like 104. 2008 top draft pick Tyler Chatwood is scheduled to start Game #2.

My wife and I hit the road at 2 PM to drive home to California, so expect video to start showing up on FutureAngels.com sometime on Wednesday.


Tempe Angels manager Ty Boykin.

 


Today’s starting pitcher Manaurys Correa.

 


Pitching coach Trevor Wilson consults with pitcher Manaurys Correa. John Rickard is the catcher.

 


Center fielder Matt Crawford chases down a fly ball to end the first inning.

 


Third baseman Ludwig Glaser is from Germany. He tripled and singled in the game.

 


Reliever Abe Gonzalez struck out two in his one inning of work.

 


Sidearmer Nick Pugliese’s scoreless inning lowered his ERA to 1.32.

 


Adam Younger replaced the injured Alexi Amarista in the lineup and had two singles in three at-bats.

 


Catcher Ikko Sumi is from Yokohama, Japan.

First to 60

ESPN SportsCenter tonight noted that the Angels are the first team to reach 60 wins, and that in the last four seasons all the teams that were first to 60 went to the World Series. Three of the four won the World Series.

Having completed their sweep of the Red Sox, the Angels are now 9 games ahead of Oakland, 9 1/2 of Texas, and 22 games ahead of Seattle. Many of the “experts” picked Seattle to win the division, and of course the stathead crowd blindly predicted Oakland.

Here we are approaching August, Mariners management has been sacked and stathead hero Billy Beane is dismantling his team, trading off his veterans to replenish a depleted farm system. I said it many times over the years — Moneyball was bupkis — and took a lot of crap from stathead posts on fan boards.

History has vindicated Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia. ‘Nuff said.

They Don’t Play in Peoria

I showed up at the Peoria Sports Complex this morning to cover today’s Tempe Angels game against the Peoria Mariners, only to find the game was called due to wet grounds.  I heard thunder in the middle of the night but wasn’t aware it had rained enough to bang the game.  These fields don’t have tarps, so any significant rainfall means a game will be cancelled.

I was once again reminded that the Mariners’ complex is adjacent to a local tributary called Skunk Creek.  Fill in your own punch line.

On Deck for Tempe

With six hours to go until I find out how much gas costs in the middle of the desert …

Kernels beat writer Jeff Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Gazette notes in his blog that the Angels have still taken no action to help the flood victims in Cedar Rapids:

Still waiting for the Los Angeles Angels to even acknowledge there has been a flood in Cedar Rapids. The word is the Angels are waiting for the Cedar Rapids Kernels to tell them where it’s best to donate some money. Why are you waiting, Angels? It’s not hard to figure out: try the Red Cross, try the Kernels Foundation, try something! Despite what certain members of the Kernels front office and board of directors believe, there is absolutely NO loyalty in professional sports. The quicker you learn that, the better off you’ll be. You are running a business, and it’s very apparent you are not giving your business its best chance of success by continuing to partner with a Major League organization that NO ONE around here cares about. Or apparently doesn’t care much about you.

Since some fan sites tend to see one line on a Transactions page and misinterpret it because they lack context, this appears in today’s Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:

The Quakes made three moves after Thursday’s game.

Catcher Alberto Rosario (.202) was sent to Triple-A Salt Lake City to fill in for Tim Duff, whose wife just gave birth.

Right-handed pitcher Marco Albano (2-3, 7.11) went to Double-A Arkansas and catcher Ikko Sumi came from rookie ball to fill in for Rosario.

Is it too early to talk about magic numbers?

Yes, if you’re talking about the American League, although the Oakland A’s seem to have run up the white flag by trading away Rich Harden and Joe Blanton, the latest victims of Billy Beane’s mad scientist experiment. If he’d run scouting and player development properly instead of implementing the failed “Moneyball” mumbo-jumbo spawned from sabermetrics, his farm system wouldn’t have been so barren that he had to hock his veteran players to replenish it.

But it’s not too early if you’re talking the Orem Owlz and Tempe Angels.

The Pioneer League has a 76-game schedule divided into two 38-game halves. Owlz manager Tom Kotchman is a master at manipulating these split-season sprints to get his teams into the playoffs. The Owlz are currently 21-9 — best record in the league — with eight games to go and a 1 1/2 game lead over Casper. Orem’s magic number is eight. I don’t know what the league rule is should they tie; head-to-head, Casper leads 4-2, so Orem should plan on taking the division outright. They can put it way by winning two home games hosting Casper on Thursday and Friday.

The Arizona League has a 56-game schedule split up into two 28-game halves. No divisions, all nine teams are together. (When the Dodgers arrive next year, they’ll have ten and the schedule will change.) Tempe is 15-6, three games ahead of the Mesa Cubs and Surprise Rangers. (Surprise is a town, not an exclamation.) So the Angels’ magic number is five to win the first half. The first half winner plays the second half winner in a one-game championship.

A shout out to Owlz pitch Will Smith, who totally dominated Great Falls last night in the Owlz’ 10-0 romp over the Voyagers. Smith pitched six shutout innings, struck out nine, walked none, and gave up only two hits. For the season, in 29.1 IP he has a 34:3 SO:BB ratio and a 2.15 ERA. It should come as no surprise that he was a Tom Kotchman find in the 7th round, a 19-year old 6’6″ left-hander who might start drawing comparisons to Randy Johnson in a few years if his velocity develops.

Kotch could add another signing of his, 3rd rounder Ryan Chaffee, when he’s healthy. Chaffee was supposed to be ready about now, recovering in Tempe from a broken foot, but I haven’t seen his name in any Tempe box scores yet. I’ll determine his status in the next couple days.

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