Baseball never stops. It would be easy to fill your day with everything baseball; the games, injuries, trade rumors, player transactions. The amount of information coming out of baseball every day is difficult to fully ingest. Returning from a three week vacation with no internet or cell reception requires you to play catch up. I am not complaining about venturing into the woods and mountains of the western United States and Canada, only it makes keeping track of baseball impossible.
Living off the informational grid for a few weeks is refreshing. As much as I wanted to know the daily scores, it was nice not hearing my phone pinging with emails and notifications about things that ultimately do not matter. Baseball also fades into the background, after all it is just a game.
Upon returning to the world of internet access and cell service I bombarded myself with the news I missed. The All Star Game and the Home Run Derby. I wanted to know who won the Derby. I missed the “controversy” surrounding Bryce Harper hitting too quickly; I was not sorry to miss that part of the Derby.
Hiking a trail up a mountain to get away from the tourists gives you these types of views of Peyto Lake in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
Injuries were another thing I missed while in the woods. The first text I received after asking my friends what I missed was the Mets were in first…for the draft. The obvious next question regarding the Amazin’s was had they called up Tim Tebow, because the Mets do weird things. Nope, broke his hand. I also found out about Aaron Judge’s broken wrist. The most surprising news was Noah Syndergaard contracting Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Easily the most Mets reason ever for a trip to the disabled list. There were other injuries I missed but these were the primary ones I heard about upon my return to the world of information; sorrow from my friends who are Yankee fans and collective laughter about the Mets.
The major news I missed was the run up to the trade deadline. Plenty of trade rumors but coming home, turning on a game and seeing Mike Moustakas in a Brewers uniform was strange, especially as this was how I learned he was traded. The big news of Manny Machado going to the Dodgers was everywhere, but Jeurys Familia to the Athletics? Interesting. The Mets trading Asdrubal Cabrera to Phillies or the Rangers trading Cole Hamels to Cubs. Sure. Even Brad Hand going from the Padres to the Indians and Zach Britton from the Orioles to the Yankees were strange. Adjusting to players in new uniforms takes time. It is even more jarring when you learn they change teams by seeing them in a new uniform.
Baseball never stops, it keeps moving regardless of what is happening in your world. It is difficult to keep up with the daily transactions, games, and news. It is impossible when you miss three weeks. Playing catch up with baseball is a Sisyphean task. The more you know about the game, the less you know. A midseason break makes it difficult to stay up to date on the major stories in the game. My vacation was a reminder that getting away from the chaos of daily life does not mean the rest of the world stops. You can only hope you have people willing to fill you in on what you missed when you return to the real world.
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:31 KJV
May the Lord have mercy on the pitchers of the American League. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have now assembled the scariest lineup since the New York Yankees had Murderers’ Row in the late 1920s. The signing of Josh Hamilton creates potentially the most dangerous 1 through 5 batting order most people have ever seen, arguably the most lethal since the 1940s. The Murderers’’ Row lineups had four future Hall of Famers (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, and Tony Lazzeri). The Angels now have two future Hall of Famers, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, in their lineup, Hamilton needs a few more years to be a lock but his production in only six seasons makes him a candidate already. The other two members, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, are still young, but look like super stars in the making.
Every baseball fan knows the danger of Pujols and Hamilton, but Trout and Trumbo are equally dangerous. Statistically if these four players have their average season in 2013, the Angels can expect to amass a combined .298 batting average, hit 141 homeruns, 436 RBI, 139 doubles, 727 hits, walk 145 times, 72 stolen bases, .307 OBP, .542 SLG, .849 OPS. This assumes that all four players play in every game, which is unlikely, but numbers anywhere close to these would be devastating for the rest of the American League.
This is how the numbers break down over an average 162 game schedule:
Albert Pujols has a .325 batting average, hits 41 homeruns, 125 RBI, 44 doubles, 196 hits, walk 89 times, 8 stolen bases, .414 OBP, .608 SLG, and 1.022 OPS.
Josh Hamilton has a .304 batting average, hits 35 homeruns, 122 RBI, 38 doubles, 189 hits, walk 58 times, 9 stolen bases, .363 OBP, .549 SLG, and .913 OPS.
Mike Trout has a .306 batting average, hits 32 homeruns, 90 RBI, 30 doubles, 189 hits, walk 69 times, 48 stolen bases, .379 OBP, .532 SLG, and .911 OPS
Mark Trumbo has a .259 batting average, hits 33 homeruns, 99 RBI, 27 doubles, 153 hits, walk 33 times 7 stolen bases, .302 OBP, .478 SLG, and .780 OPS.
Impressive numbers for an average combined season. Trout and Trumbo still need several years of consistency before they can cement their places among the elite players in baseball, but Pujols and Hamilton are without a doubt in that elite club. Trout has drawn comparisons to Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle during his young career, both on offense and defense. Trumbo raised his batting average by .014 between 2011 and 2012; he is a slugger who is becoming a hitter. Trumbo is comparable to Cecil Fielder and George Bell at this point in their respective careers, as he hits for average like Cecil Fielder and hits for power like George Bell. As is, Trumbo can hit a baseball into the next county when he makes contact, as evident during the Home Run Derby last season in Kansas City.
The problems will be numerous for opposing pitchers next season. If Trout gets on, then the pitcher has a choice to make. If he pays attention to Trout and his speed, the pitches to Hamilton, Pujols, or Trumbo could land in the parking lot. If the pitchers pay attention to the hitters with Trout on base, then a single or walk could easily lead to Trout standing on second or third after a stolen base or two. The sluggers behind Trout are excellent hitters and can be used for a hit and run, which prevents the Angels from relying on the homerun, as they can manufacture runs. If you want to pitch around Trout, which is a mistake, you would get to face only one batter before you had to face the triple threat of Hamilton, Pujols, and Trumbo.
If Trout is kept in check then you have three more dangerous hitters to deal with. Hamilton and Pujols can both bat third, so if you want to pitch around one of them then you get face the other one. You want to get around both of them, go ahead now you get to face Trumbo with at least two runners on. One bad pitch and it could mean at least three runs. The other option is to pitch around all three of them, and then you have to face Howie Kendrick and his .428 SLG or Erick Aybar and his .706 OPS as a Shortstop. Good luck to every pitcher who has to face the Angels in 2013.
The Angels new foursome of offense should more than make up for any mistakes they make on defense. However, their defense is not a liability as is often the case for great hitters. Pujols won two Gold Gloves during his time with the St. Louis Cardinals (2006 and 2010). Hamilton has proved to be an average or better fielder during his career, playing all three outfield positions. The move to the Angels should move Hamilton to leftfield where he should settle in quite nicely. Trout’s comparison to Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle during his young career was not made by casual fans, but by two men who know and understand baseball, Tim Kurkjian and Hall of Famer Al Kaline. Trumbo led the American League in putouts and was third among American League first basemen in assists during 2011. Solid defense by all four of these players makes the Angels that much more dangerous.
Statistically the Angels should be the team to beat in the American League in 2013 and for several years to come. However, the one thing the Angels cannot buy is chemistry. Regardless of the players on their roster in 2013, the Angels and Manager Mike Scioscia have to make all these impressive parts work together. Across town, the Dodgers have shown the Angels that big names and accusations do not necessarily mean wins and a trip to the playoffs. The foundation is there for the Angels, not it is up to them to do what they are capable of on the field.