August 2010

The Playoff Picture (as of August 31)

Statistics are as of the morning of August 31.

Here’s an update on the playoff status for each of the Angels affiliates.

SALT LAKE — The Pacific Coast League plays a 144-game schedule. Unlike lower levels, it’s all one season, not divided into two halves. The Bees are 68-69, 3½ games behind Tacoma in the Pacific North division. Salt Lake has seven games left, none of them against Tacoma. They’re at home for the rest of the season, with three games against Fresno (73-64) and four against Reno (65-71). It’ll take a collapse by Tacoma to give the Bees a shot at the post-season.

ARKANSAS — The Texas League plays a 140-game schedule divided into two 70-game halves. The Travelers finished 26-44 in the first half, 16 games behind Northwest Arkansas in the North division. They’ve clinched last place with a current second-half record of 27-36, nine games behind third-place Tulsa, with seven games to play.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The California League also plays a 140-game schedule divided into two 70-game halves. The Quakes finished 39-31 in the first half, good but not good enough to win the Cal League South, falling seven games behind Lake Elsinore (46-24). The Storm have been more like a squall in the second half, currently at 31-31, three games behind the Quakes and High Desert who are tied for first at 34-29. Rancho has seven games left to play — three at home starting tonight against High Desert, then four on the road at Lancaster. The Mavericks would seem to have the tougher schedule — three at Rancho, and finally four at Lake Elsinore.

The Cal League has a rather convoluted playoff procedure, in part because they add an extra tier of playoffs. Click here to read the playoff procedures. Basically, the first-half team (Lake Elsinore) gets a bye while the second-half winner plays the team with the next best overall record in a best-of-three playoff. Should the Storm win the second half too, then the teams with the second-best and third-best records would play. If you look at the overall records, Lake Elsinore is in first at 77-56, four games ahead of Rancho Cucamonga at 73-60 and six ahead of High Desert at 71-62. The next best team is Lancaster, 24 games behind Lake Elsinore, so it would seem that the Storm, the Quakes and the Mavericks are all a lock for the post-season. All that appears to be at stake right now is home field advantage for the first-round mini-series; the team with the better finish is the home team for Games #2 and #3.

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Midwest League also plays a 140-game schedule split into two halves. The Kernels won the Western Division first half with a 43-25 record, so they’re automatically seeded into the post-season. They’re currently 33-30 with seven games to go. The current roster bears little resemblance to the first-half powerhouse. Tyler Skaggs and Pat Corbin were traded to Arizona. Garrett Richards and Orangel Arenas were promoted to Rancho Cucamonga. Fabio Martinez Mesa has been on the disabled list since August 1 with right shoulder tendonitis and it’s unclear whether he’ll be available for the playoffs. League MVP Mike Trout was also promoted to Rancho along with third baseman Luis Jimenez. Randal Grichuk has returned from the disabled list, which will help, and Carlos Ramirez has an OPS (OBP + SLG) of .845 in the second half after a putrid .596 first half.

OREM — The short-season Pioneer League plays a 76-game schedule divided into two halves of 38 games each. The Owlz finished 19-19 in the first half, four games behind Ogden (23-15). A week ago, Orem appeared poised to go off on another one of those famous Tom Kotchman runs as they won eight of ten between August 13 and 22 to move into first place for the second-half title, but then lost five in a row before winning on August 29. That left them 15-12, but only a half-game behind the Raptors (16-12) who went into their own tailspin.

Should Ogden win both halves, they’ll face the team with the second-best overall record. Right now, that would be the Owlz at 34-31, 2½ games ahead of Casper (32-34). Orem has ten games left, including three at home against Casper on September 1-2, including a makeup doubleheader. They finish with four games against the Raptors, two at home and then two at Ogden. The Owlz are fairly well-positioned to qualify for the playoffs, but they’ll have to play better during their remaining ten games to outrun Casper.

TEMPE — The Arizona League plays a 56-game schedule which ended Sunday August 29. The Angels finished 24-31, last in the AZL East, so no playoff this year for the rookie league team.

The Playoff Picture

Statistics are as of the morning of August 28.

The minor league seasons are coming down to the last days, so let’s take a look at each Angels affiliate and see where they are in their respective title chases.

SALT LAKE — The Pacific Coast League plays a 144-game schedule. Unlike lower levels, it’s all one season, not divided into two halves. The Bees are 67-67, 2½ games behind Tacoma in the Pacific North division. Salt Lake has ten games left, none of them against Tacoma. After two more games in Colorado Springs (59-74), they’ll be at home for the rest of the season, with four games against Fresno (73-61) and four against Reno (64-69).

ARKANSAS — The Texas League plays a 140-game schedule divided into two 70-game halves. The Travelers finished 26-44 in the first half, 16 games behind Northwest Arkansas in the North division.They seem doomed for a similar demise in the second half, with a 27-33 record. The Travs have ten games left, including six against the Springfield Cardinals who are 33-27, in third place six games ahead. It’s unlikely they’ll even catch Springfield, so it looks like the Travs will wind up in last place for both halves.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The California League also plays a 140-game schedule divided into two 70-game halves. The Quakes finished 39-31 in the first half, good but not good enough to win the Cal League South, falling seven games behind Lake Elsinore (46-24). The Storm have been more like a squall in the second half, currently at 30-30, two games behind the Quakes and High Desert who are tied for first at 32-28. Rancho has ten games left to play — three at home against Lancaster (23-47), three at home against High Desert, then four on the road at Lancaster. The Mavericks would seem to have the tougher schedule — only three more at home against Lake Elsinore, then three at Rancho, and finally four at Lake Elsinore.

The Cal League has a rather convoluted playoff procedure, in part because they add an extra tier of playoffs. Click here to read the playoff procedures. Basically, the first-half team (Lake Elsinore) gets a bye while the second-half winner plays the team with the next best overall record in a best-of-three playoff. Should the Storm win the second half too, then the teams with the second-best and third-best records would play. If you look at the overall records, Lake Elsinore is in first at 76-54, five games ahead of Rancho Cucamonga at 71-59 and seven ahead of High Desert at 69-61. The next best team is Lancaster, 24 games behind Lake Elsinore, so it would seem that the Storm, the Quakes and the Mavericks are all a lock for the post-season. All that appears to be at stake right now is home field advantage for the first-round mini-series; the team with the better finish is the home team for Games #2 and #3.

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Midwest League also plays a 140-game schedule split into two halves. The Kernels won the Western Division first half with a 43-25 record, so they’re automatically seeded into the post-season. They’re currently 32-28 with ten games to go. The current roster bears little resemblance to the first-half powerhouse. Tyler Skaggs and Pat Corbin were traded to Arizona. Garrett Richards and Orangel Arenas were promoted to Rancho Cucamonga. Fabio Martinez Mesa has been on the disabled list since August 1 with right shoulder tendonitis and it’s unclear whether he’ll be available for the playoffs. League MVP Mike Trout was also promoted to Rancho along with third baseman Luis Jimenez. Randal Grichuk has returned from the disabled list, which will help, and Carlos Ramirez has an OPS (OBP + SLG) of .878 in the second half after a putrid .596 first half.

OREM — The short-season Pioneer League plays a 76-game schedule divided into two halves of 38 games each. The Owlz finished 19-19 in the first half, four games behind Ogden (23-15). A week ago, Orem appeared poised to go off on another one of those famous Tom Kotchman runs as they won eight of ten between August 13 and 22 to move into first place for the second-half title, but since then they’ve lost four in a row to fall to 14-11, 1½ games behind the Raptors. Should Ogden win both halves, they’ll face the team with the second-best overall record. Right now, that would be the Owlz at 33-30, four games ahead of Casper (29-34). Orem has 12 games left, including two at home against Casper on September 1-2. They finish with four games against the Raptors, two at home and then two at Ogden. Barring a total collapse, it looks like the Owlz will reach the playoffs for the tenth straight year the franchise has been in Utah County, but they’ll need to play better to get past Ogden in the first round.

TEMPE — The Arizona League plays a 56-game schedule which ends Sunday August 29. The Angels are 23-30, last in the AZL East, so no playoff this year for the rookie league team.

Will He Do It Again?


Owlz manager Tom Kotchman

 

For years, it’s been as guaranteed as Christmas arriving on December 25, Halloween on October 31 and your taxes due on April 15.

Angels minor league manager Tom Kotchman has gone to the post-season every year since arriving in Utah to manage the Rookie-A Provo Angels in 2001. The franchise moved six miles west to Orem for the 2005 season. In nine years, he’s gone to the championship round seven times, and won the pennant four times.

Each team’s personality was different, of course. Some teams started hot out the gate and clinched a post-season appearance by winning their division’s first-half title. The Pioneer League has a 76-game schedule, divided into two 38-game halves, so each title race is more of a sprint than a marathon. Other teams played poorly in the first half, then roared to life down the stretch in the second half.

Regardless of how they got to the post-season, Kotchman’s teams inevitably are an unstoppable force by season’s end. He evaluates the individual talents he receives in late June, breaks down their individuality and remolds them into a team that understands it can win only if everyone plays for the shared goal of a title. It doesn’t matter if it’s a prospect-laden team, or one whose names will be lost to the obscurity of minor league history. Kotch figures out who can do what, and puts them into a role where they have the best opportunity to succeed and contribute to the common goal of winning.

This year’s edition looked like it might break Kotchman’s post-season streak. They finished the first half at 19-19, four games behind rival Ogden in the South Division.

They started the second half by losing four of six, capped by a disheartening 8-6 loss in 12 innings at home to Idaho Falls after rallying from an early 5-0 deficit.

But after that, they won four in a row, and have now won seven of nine, to move within 1 1/2 games of Ogden for first place.

Should the Raptors win the second-half title too, the South Division team with the second-best overall record would go to the post-season. At 28-25, the Owlz have a four-game lead over Casper for that wild card.

The Owlz have 22 games left on the schedule, plus a rainout against Casper on August 4 that will probably be made up when the Ghosts return to Orem September 1-2.

Tom Kotchman doesn’t have his team at full-speed just yet, but given their recent performances it looks like they’re about to shift into high gear. Just as they always do.

Moore for the Money


Jeremy Moore with the Orem Owlz in July 2007.

 

Note: statistics in this article are through August 8.

Jeremy Moore has always been one of those “raw” and “toolsy” players that coaches and analysts could project as a potential major leaguer — if he could harness his potential.

Potential, until this year, was about all we could say about J-Mo. But he may have finally figured it out with Double-A Arkansas.

Moore’s most recent statistical low with the Travelers was an AVG/OBP/SLG of .196/.278/247 on May 13 (97 AB). Since then, his numbers are .336/.382/.528 (271 AB).

Unlike Salt Lake numbers, which are skewed super-hitter friendly by the many high-altitude ballparks in the league, Arkansas numbers are more easily analyzed. Dickey-Stephens Park is perhaps the most pitcher-friendly park in the league.

Since May 13, Jeremy’s home AVG/OBP/SLG are .382/.437/.472. On the road, they’re .297/.335/.574.

Moore turned 23 on June 29. He signed on June 10, 2005, 19 days short of his 18th birthday after being selected by the Angels in the sixth round of the June 2005 draft. Here’s what Baseball America‘s 2005 draft database had to say about him:

OF Jeremy Moore is a four-sport standout. In addition to baseball, he has starred as a running back in football, a guard in basketball and a sprinter in track. He’s a toolsy center fielder whose speed stands out the most.

I asked scouting director Eddie Bane on Monday what attracted the Angels to select Moore.

“J-Mo was a very good athlete in high school and he also had a few of the baseball-specific tools of hit, arm, run, power, and field,” he said. “He would show glimpses of all of them.”

Moore began his pro career at the Angels’ rookie league camp in Mesa, the last year before they moved the complex over to Tempe. His AVG/OBP/SLG were .227/.303/.273 (110 AB). He struck out in 46 of 110 at-bats. But he stole 12 bases in 34 games.

Click here to watch Jeremy Moore double in a July 18, 2005 game against the Mesa Cubs. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

He repeated the level in 2006, posting an AVG/OBP/SLG of .254/.348/.394 in 142 AB, then moved up to Rookie-A Orem in 2007 where his numbers were .272/.329/.535 (254 AB) in a hitter-friendly league.

After three years in Rookie-A, J-Mo moved up to his first full season league, the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. With the Cedar Rapids Kernels, he hit .240/.284/.478. He struck out 125 times in 362 AB, but he stole 28 bases and he hit 17 homers. More glimpses, as Eddie Bane called them. I saw Jeremy in the fall instructional league, and filmed him triple at Fitch Park against the Cubs. Click here to watch Moore’s triple on September 27, 2008 at the Mesa Cubs.

In 2009, Moore moved up to Rancho Cucamonga in the hitter-friendly California League. He still struck out a lot — 144 whiffs in 470 at-bats — and posted an AVG/OBP/SLG of .279/.330/.443. On May 4, I filmed his violent collision at home plate with High Desert catcher Travis Scott, the football running back taking over. Click here to watch Moore’s collision with Travis Scott. Another glimpse.

And then this year he joined the Travs. As of mid-May, there was little reason to think that J-Mo had figured it out. But here we are three months later, and he’s made significant progress towards becoming a major prospect in the Angels’ system.

I asked farm director Abe Flores what’s changed.

“He has improved his strike zone discipline,” Flores said. “I can’t credit our staff enough for helping him. I think a lot of the credit has to go to Jeremy, because we’ve had him for a quite a few years, and he’s definitely put in the work. You’re talking a very raw, sometimes crude player who had tools, but his skill level was very low. It took a long time for his skill level to get up to match his tools. He’s kept coming on. He’s become a really solid good worker and it’s starting to pay dividends.”

But J-Mo still needs more refinement. Flores said that the next step in his strike zone discipline is being able to “do things with different balls in different parts of the strike zone. What I mean by that is being able to put a pretty good swing on it, especially using the opposite field a little bit better.”

Moore has seen time in all three outfield slots, but mostly in left and center fields. “He’s become a very good outfielder,” Flores said. “He can play all three spots. He can play center field.”

Flores also cited the need for Moore to add the “short game,” as he called it, the ability to bunt and further exploit his speed on the basepaths.

Jeremy still strikes out a lot — 97 in 368 at-bats — and has drawn only 30 walks. But his improvement the last three months gives hope that the strikeouts might be reduced one day and the walks improved. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets an invitation to represent the Angels this October in the Arizona Fall League.

“With the Angels, you’re in one of the most talented systems in the game,” Bane said. “When a Tim Salmon, Garrett Anderson or Vlad Guerrero moves on you better have somebody with big ability and big tools if you can ever replace those kinds of guys.

“J-Mo just might be one of those kinds.”

Splitting Salt Lake


Peter Bourjos at fall instructional league in Mesa, Arizona, October 15, 2005.

 

Back on May 28, we took a look at split numbers for four Salt Lake Bees hitters — Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger, Terry Evans and Mark Trumbo.

Two months have passed by, and if you believe media rumors Bourjos is about to join the Angels in Baltimore for his major league debut. So it would seem a good time to revisit these four players to see how they’re doing.

The Salt Lake splits I do are different from the normal home/away splits used to neutrally evaluate a player’s performance. The Pacific Coast League has five super-hitter friendly ballparks — Salt Lake, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas and Reno. I lump those five together and calculate AVG/OBP/SLG against the rest of the league. It’s been a fairly handy measurement over the years.

Peter Bourjos AVG/OBP/SLG
OVERALL: .314/.364/.498 (414 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .350/.393/.557 (280 AB)
NEUTRAL: .239/.301/.373 (134 AB)

Hank Conger AVG/OBP/SLG
OVERALL: .266/.364/.399 (263 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .237/.348/.355 (169 AB)
NEUTRAL: .319/.393/.479 (94 AB)

Terry Evans AVG/OBP/SLG
OVERALL: .254/.300/.423 (338 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .258/.303/.423 (213 AB)
NEUTRAL: .248/.296/.424 (125 AB)

Mark Trumbo AVG/OBP/SLG
OVERALL: .295/.351/.568 (403 AB)
HITTER-FRIENDLY: .329/.391/.589 (258 AB)
NEUTRAL: .234/.277/.531 (145 AB)

The split numbers for Bourjos and Trumbo are radically different, waving two red flags not to rush these young prospects — although reportedly Bourjos will join the Angels shortly.

Conger’s numbers, oddly, are much better in the neutral/pitcher-friendly parks. Note, in particular, that his slugging percentage is much higher in neutral parks (.479) than in the hitter-friendly parks (.355). Go figure.

Evans’ numbers are consistent regardless of park.

Half of those hitter-friendly games are played at home in Salt Lake, so our population sample will always be higher for hitter-friendly than for neutral/pitcher-friendly. Each has roughly 100 at-bats, more or less, in the neutral parks. We’d like a larger sample, which we’ll have at season’s end, but at least it shows us how radically the numbers of Bourjos and Trumbo are being skewed by playing in hitter-friendly parks.

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