The Angels win a football game, Bryan Holaday throws a knuckleball, and the Indians fall just short of history.
The Weekend Takeaway
Which sport epitomizes the red-blooded American best: football or baseball? Do we see more of ourselves in Tom Brady’s perfect touchdown spiral or the graceful swing of a Mike Trout home run?
Five years ago this summer, Jered Weaver signed a deal that would keep him in Anaheim through the rest of his prime.
Throwing hard has never been part of Jered Weaver’s success. His fastball topped out in the low 90s when he debuted with the Angels as a 23-year-old in 2006, and from 2007-2011 he consistently averaged 90. During that five-year stretch Weaver logged more than 1,000 innings with a 3.40 ERA, held opponents to a .240 batting average and .678 OPS, and finished runner-up for a Cy Young award. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball and did a lot of things very well—deception, command, movement—but he never threw hard.
And then his fastball started shedding velocity. Initially it didn’t seem like a big deal because most pitchers threw harder at 23 than they do at 28 and, really, who cares about dropping from 90.1 mph to 88.7 mph when Weaver was also winning 20 games with a 2.81 ERA and finishing third in the Cy Young balloting? That was 2012. Then his velocity kept vanishing and his results began deteriorating as well. Weaver was still having some success, but beginning with 2011 his average fastball basically lost 1-2 mph each year and his secondary numbers got progressively worse.
Why our changing expectations are driving us all insane.
Pace of game (or time of game? It’s so unclear which problem the various hand-wringers want to solve, and there’s imperfect overlap when it comes to the solutions to each) is in the news again. The average length of an MLB game this season is three hours, some seven minutes longer than at the same point last season. This, everyone seems to agree, is a problem.
On Monday night, before I saw the Rob Manfred quotes that made it clear this would be a major topic of discussion this week, I sat on my couch, sorting socks and watching the Dodgers play the Angels. It was already past 11:30 Central time when I turned on the game, so I was mildly surprised to find that the top of the seventh inning was just beginning. Apparently, though, I had missed the quick part of the game. Pedro Baez was on the mound for the Dodgers, and pretty quickly, he began laboring. That’s not new. Of the 355 pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings this season, Baez takes longer between pitches (an even 30 seconds) than all but two. The issue was particularly pronounced on Monday, though, because Baez was really up against it.
Or: The Mariners fan's guide to watching the Angels.
The thing is, you’re a jerk. Let me back up. I’m a jerk, too. I’m a jerk, and you’re a jerk, and our folks are jerks. Probably not really bad jerks, or scary jerks, or even particularly vocal jerks, but jerks of a sort. You’re not a jerk because you weren’t raised right (although with the influences of those other jerks, who’s to say?). You’re a sort of jerk because being a fan of one team rather than all the other teams means you are quietly rooting for the failure of other human beings. Not exclusively, and not all the time, and maybe not in ways that are really bad, or scary, or particularly vocal, but sometimes, at least a little.
The Cubs hold their breath to see how Kyle Schwarber is, while Al Pujols adds a walk-off to his career and the Phillies' bullpen has already blown two late, and it's still early.
The Thursday Takeaway
Last night’s game between the Cubs and Diamondbacks can be described in many ways. It was a slugfest; a night in which neither starter (John Lackey and Rubby De La Rosa) had excellent stuff by any stretch of the imagination. Lackey was wild and missing his spots. De La Rosa was De La Rosa.
The challenge of upgrading on Daniel Nava in Anaheim, the Braves' surprising semi-bid on Justin Upton, and the closer who wants to be a starter.
The Los Angeles Angels are trying to acquire an everyday left fielder
The Angels are currently set to go into this season with 33-year-old Daniel Nava as their starting left fielder, joining the 2014 Red Sox, the 2011 Pawtucket Red Sox and the 2007 Chico Outlaws as the only teams who can say that. Although Nava is smashing in spring training, his PECOTA projection (1.5 WARP) and his 2015 output (Zero.Zip WARP) have a little more authority than his .500/.619/.719 Cactus League line. As a result, the Angels are reportedly looking for an everyday left fielder to replace him.
We are now on the eve of the seventh baseball season of this, the second decade of baseball’s third century. If baseball were a trashy fantasy novel, this would be the year in which the miller’s/weaver’s/craftsman’s son, after seven years of blissful ignorance about his true identity as the Emperor of the Dwarves/King of the Mystic Realm/Grand Poobah of the Pyrenees, would be awoken to his fateful quest by some wizened old man hobbling up the hill to his house.