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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pickoff Moves

The Win That Feels Like A Loss: Angels 4, Rays 3

Both the Rays and Angels are scuffling, sticking around .500, though for opposite reasons; the Angels are an aging club that's on the last gasp of the 2004+ success cycle as the core steadily turns into a group more likely to be found on the golf course than the baseball diamond. This applies specifically to Vlad, but no less to Kelvim Escobar, the latter not found with the Angels at all last year.

The good news last night was Jered Weaver, who struggled with a bad case of poor command, unusually for him this year; he walked four, the first time this year he's had that many, and tying a career mark. His offense gave him an early 2-0 lead in the first by jumping on James Shields, including an RBI single by Vlad (who later erased himself on the basepaths). Weaver made that lead hold up through five, and after Chone Figgins drove Howie Kendrick home on a sac fly in the sixth, the two runs Weaver gave up still didn't get the Rays the lead. It was only the fifth time this year that Weaver had given up two or more runs, which should tell you something about how exceptionally good he's been.

The Angels suffered a scare in the seventh when Darren Oliver hit Rays leadoff man, pinch hitter Joe Dillon, the first of two he plunked (the other being Carl Crawford); he loaded the bases with one out but escaped when he got Carlos Pena to bounce into a lineout double play to Kendry Morales, a tightrope nobody in the Angels dugout wanted to see him walk.

Despite Kendrick blowing it on the basepaths in the top of the frame (he erased himself by going first-to-third on a Chone Figgins single) the Angels managed to push across the winning run on Bobby Abreu's RBI double. That set up Brian Fuentes' nervous save in the ninth, walking the first batter he faced (Joe Dillon, who got aboard in both appearances) but otherwise escaping damage — improbably, getting out of the jam by getting the speedy Carl Crawford to GIDP. Fuentes leads the AL in saves, but it seems like the Angels fanbase is leading the AL in heart attacks, too.

Yahoo boxAngels recap

Dodgers Beat Pads With The Longball: Dodgers 6, Padres 4

Uncharacteristic of the Dodgers — who, believe it or not, actually trail the Padres in home runs — they bashed four longballs, two by Andre Ethier (both off starter Chris Young), and one each by Matt Kemp and Orlando Hudson.

The Pads got to Chad Billingsley in the first with an early 2-0 lead, and he wobbled through much of the rest of the game, recording only one 1-2-3 frame. Fortunately for him, his offense gave him a lead the Pads couldn't match and that was largely that, though Jonathan Broxton gave up a single run in the ninth in a fairly improbably fashion: an RBI single to David Eckstein? Huh.

Helen says I should be a Dodgers fan this season; I'm not down with that on general principle, but it's certainly easier to watch them in late innings.

Footnote: Jon observes this is win 10,000 in franchise history, including the old American Association Brooklyn teams.

Yahoo boxDodgers recap

More On Yesterday's Drafts

Picks I missed and other sundries:

More on Angels' pick Garret Richards at #42:

The state of Oklahoma is loaded with pitching prospects this year, and no one has stuff as unhittable or a performance as mystifying as Richards. He routinely sits at 93-95 mph with life on his fastball and touched 98 in a relief outing against Wichita State. He has a mid-80s slider with bite that peaked at 89 mph against the Shockers. And if that's not enough, he has a power curveball and flashes an effective changeup. He has a quick arm, a strong 6-foot-2, 217-pound build and throws on a downhill plane with little effort. Yet Richards never has posted an ERA lower than 6.30 in three college seasons, and opponents had batted .281 with 10 homers against him entering NCAA regional play. "It's unbelievable that he gets hit," one scout said. Outside of a stint in the Alaska League last summer, Richards never has harnessed his wicked stuff on anything approaching a consistent basis. He has trouble throwing strikes and flies open in his delivery, allowing hitters a good look at what's coming. He has the raw ingredients to become a frontline starter, and on the rare occasions when he has command, he looks like an easy first-round pick. Where he'll actually go in the draft and whether he'll ever put everything together remain to be seen.
On the Dodgers' first pick Aaron Miller:
Miller is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and a two-way prospect, but the Dodgers drafted him as a pitcher. He went 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA in 13 games, with 65 strikeouts in 51 innings. As a hitter, he batted .310 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs in 186 at-bats.

"Aaron is a physical athlete who has had a limited amount of time on the mound," said Logan White, assistant general manager of scouting. "With the help of our player development staff, we see a bright future for him as a left-handed pitcher in the Erik Bedard mold. He is a terrific competitor and a first-class person with great makeup. ... He's definitely a prospect as a position player, but we like him better as a pitcher."

Miller is friends with Clayton Kershaw from their high school days.

MLB.com has more on yesterday's signings by the Angels; Mike Trout is apparently unaware of the Angels' history:

"I love the Angels and their winning history," said Trout, who played football as a freshman and basketball all four years in high school. "I played center field all season, and it's a good fit. I love to track some balls down."
Here's some video on Tyler Skaggs (h/t Mark Saxon).

#48: Angels pick LHP Tyler Kehrer out of Eastern Illinois.

#56: Dodgers pick OF Blake Smith from Cal, a two-way player whose pitching problems begin with a serious inability to find the plate; his stuff is excellent.

#80: Angels pick LHP Pat Corbin from Chipola (Fla.) JC, where he was the top JC prospect in the state.

#96: Dodgers pick RHP Garret Gould from Maize (Kan.) HS. "Gould just keeps getting better and was quickly pitching his way into the first round."

#110 (3rd round): Angels pick ASU LHP Josh Spence.

Arizona State lefthander Josh Spence is hard for hitters--and scouts--to figure out. The Australian won 27 games in two years for Central Arizona JC and was a 25th-round draft pick of the Diamondbacks last year. He came to ASU instead, and few pitchers put up better numbers, as he was 8-1, 2.37, with 99 strikeouts against 24 walks in 80 innings. His fastball peaks at 87 mph, and he uses it well to set up his four offspeed pitches: a changeup, curveball, slider and cutter. He'll throw any of the pitches in any count and any sequence. He throws from a lower three-quarters arm slot and will even throw some of his breaking balls sidearm. Hitters never have comfortable at-bats against him, often walking back to the dugout shaking their heads. But it's not just smoke and mirrors with Spence. His changeup and slider are legitimate plus pitches, and scouts say he shows the hand speed with his slider to indicate that his fastball velocity could improve. Spence pitches with a lot of confidence and never gives in to hitters. Scouts love his makeup; they're just not certain how his repertoire will play in pro ball. He missed a couple of weeks late in the season with a strained ligament in the middle finger of his left hand, but returned by the postseason. He'll likely be drafted by a more statistically inclined team or one with extra picks.
The draft will resume at 8:30 AM PDT (i.e. a couple minutes from now).

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If you're 18 years old, the Angels have a winning history.
Everyone should get a good view of Spence the coming week in Omaha - let's hope for a West Coast showndown in the finals between CSUF and ASU. He pitched the CWS clinching game Sunday.

Go Sun Devils!

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