Brian Matusz and Jerome Williams both shined on the mound on Tuesday night.
The Tuesday Takeaway
When Jerome Williams threw his first complete-game shutout on June 27, 2003 against the Athletics, he was a hotshot 21-year-old seven starts into a promising career. When Brian Matusz last won a game on October 2, 2010, he was a 23-year-old blue-chipper capping off a stellar second half.
Coming into their outings on Monday, no one could have predicted that both of those runs would end on the same night. Williams had worked into the eighth inning of a start just once since returning to the majors last summer. Matusz had lost 12 straight decisions and had to do battle with a Yankees lineup ready to feast after a frustrating two-run effort the previous night. But they did.
Albert Pujols may be struggling, but there are major-league regulars doing even worse.
Albert Pujols you know about. The $240 million man has yet to get untracked for the Angels and ended the month of April hitting a paltry .217/.265/.304 without a homer. He's hardly the only hitter who has begun 2012 in a funk, though. In fact, 41 other hitters came into Tuesday with True Averages lower than or equal to that of Pujols' .225 in at least 65 plate appearances, i.e., enough to qualify for the batting title. Sure, those are small samples sizes, but we're 14 percent of the way through the season, with one page of the calendar wadded up into a ball, so it's not like we can't at least gawk at the outliers. What follows is a look at a half-dozen AL hitters—none of them as good as Pujols to begin with, admittedly—who are struggling to an even greater degree than the Angels slugger, and where they and their teams might go from here.
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Torii Hunter's suggestion that Mike Scioscia should have had the Angels bunt does not make sense.
After the Angels lost at Tampa Bay last Wednesday, right fielder Torii Hunter suggested that his manager, Mike Scioscia, had not done everything possible to put the team in a position to win. This is the sort of problem that arises when you enter a season with astronomical expectations and then stumble badly out of the gate.
After losing on a walk-off homer by Oakland castoff Brandon Allen the following afternoon and on a walk-off single by Asdrubal Cabrera in Cleveland the next night, the Angels found themselves nine games behind AL West-leading Texas, the largest deficit of any team in baseball. The off-season signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson were supposed to take last year's 86-win team to the proverbial next level. Instead, the Angels have skidded in the opposite direction, leading some folks to panic.
Have the Angels dug themselves too deep of a hole in the AL West?
The Wednesday Takeaway
When the Angels added Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson this offseason, general manager Jerry DiPoto and owner Arte Moreno were hoping to change the landscape of the AL West, to instantly turn a team that finished 10 games behind the Rangers in the division last year into a contender.
After a 3-2 loss to the Rays yesterday—coupled with a 7-3 Rangers win over the Yankees—the Angels are already 8 ½ games back, and their 6-12 record is the third-worst mark in the American League. Mike Scioscia’s team has lost its last three games, seven of its last 10, and 10 of its last 14. Right fielder Torii Hunter, who has yet to hit a homer in 65 at-bats, called on everyone in the clubhouse, teammates and coaches alike, to “dig deep.”
This is something called an Annotated Box Score. It's a bunch of items that come out of one game. This game was between the Angels and Royals on Friday night, though it applies to the entire weekend. Four items today: Jeff Francoeur and a fantastically inside pitch; the Angels' depth and the problems it creates; Kendrys Morales' left-foot toe tap; and Mike Sweeney eating a banana. Scroll on down, now.
What are some of the nagging questions up and down the West Coast?
Continuing the saga I started last week, I've identified one nagging question about each team coming out of spring training, one loose thread that I can't resist tugging upon. Last Friday began with some East Coast bias, on Monday we got Centralized, and today we run out of real estate on the Western shore.
The Royals' bullpen suffers a couple of blows, and the pain around the rest of the league is plentiful.
Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres (Right Knee Surgery)
Quentin has had a difficult time staying healthy, and he’s starting his injury train early this year. The outfielder will undergo arthroscopic surgery today to fix a torn meniscus and remove loose bodies from his right knee. Meniscal injuries can cause pain, swelling, or a clicking sensation depending on the type, size, and location of the tear. If left untreated, meniscal tears can lead to arthritis. Loose bodies can also act as irritants and lead to arthritis.
The procedure is straightforward. The surgeon will remove the loose bodies and try to stitch the torn meniscus back together but will most likely have to trim the torn portion because the tissue is degenerated beyond repair. Standard recovery is four to six weeks, but it could vary if there are additional injuries not seen on the MRI. With the recovery expected to be four to six weeks, we should see Quentin back in mid- to late April. When Quentin returns to the outfield, his knee might flare up or swell.
How do the junior circuit's rotations shake out when offseason additions are tallied?
Two years ago, the Rangers made a bold gambit that helped end nearly a decade of rotation-driven futility, shifting reliever C.J. Wilson to the starting five and bringing former supplemental first-round draft pick Colby Lewis back from Japan. Both pitchers did what Ranger hurlers of recent vintage had not: miss bats. In 2010, the two pitchers combined for 366 K's in 405 innings, helping the Rangers jump from 12th in the league in strikeouts to fourth. Helped by other upgrades—shortstop Elvis Andrus keyed a defensive turnaround—they won the AL pennant, and last year they repeated the feat.
Did Bruce Bochy step over the line in having an opponent's scout removed from a team practice?
There was not a whole lot of bad blood between the Giants and Angels coming out of the 2002 World Series, and a decade later, the wounds inflicted on this then-12-year-old fan have mostly healed. The sight of a rally monkey still makes me cringe, but there is no longer any internal debate as to which Los Angeles-area franchise I find less tolerable.
Which teams are likely to see significantly more production from their new players at positions in need of improvement?
Teams don’t always have to make a major move in order to improve over the winter. Sometimes merely subtracting someone who played poorly can affect our expectations for a club. Occasionally, a series of seemingly minor moves can make a major cumulative impact. And at other times, there’s an obvious in-house fix for a roster’s flaws in the form of a player returning from an injury, being promoted from the minors, or switching to a position where he’ll be of more use. The Rays went from last place in 2007 to first place in 2008 without acquiring an outside player more accomplished than Troy Percival. Some off-season overhauls don’t start making headlines until the regular season is well under way.
Still, the moves that make us dream about how good a given team can be when players report to spring training tend to be the ones involving established talents. When we’ve already seen what a player can do, it’s easy to picture him doing it again in a different uniform. Naturally, the more a team struggled at the new player’s position last year, the more exciting the upgrade. But it’s easy to get carried away and overstate the improvement. Assessing the impact of a high-profile player addition requires more than a little imagination and mental arithmetic.