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Series Preview #22: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim

Jerry Dipoto is not a subtle man. Okay, that’s probably a bit unfair, considering I don’t know anything about him as a person. He might be a wine connoisseur in his spare time, or a big fan of "Doonesbury" and British sitcoms. But based on his moves, he is pretty clearly not a subtle general manager.

After Josh Byrnes was fired in 2010, Dipoto was left in charge of the team and (presumably) told not to screw anything up. As you’ll recall, less than a month into his tenure, Dipoto traded two of his starting pitchers (one of whom was a popular, team-controlled ace) for prospects, payroll flexibility and Joe Saunders for some reason. Even though the Haren trade was almost universally panned at the time, the Angels must have thought they’d been had, because they hired Dipoto as soon as they had an opening. And all he did there was execute the biggest single day of spending in MLB history, signing Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson in a single masterstroke to reclaim the division.

The problem with adding the best player in baseball and the best pitcher in free agency to a team that already won 86 games the year before, is that you will be expected to win, and win big. That didn’t happen right away for the 2012 Angels, and even though they’ve come around somewhat of late, they’re still looking up at the Rangers in the AL West.

What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):


Los Angeles

Hitting (wRC+): 91 98
Los Angeles
Pitching (FIP-):
94 97
Fielding (UZR):
14.5 17.3 Los Angeles

Yeah, all that hand wringing about the Angels might have been a bit of an overreaction. Their offense isn’t elite, but it’s in a clump of teams like the Brewers, Blue Jays and Braves, so it’s hard to get too bent out of shape about. As someone who thought the Angels had the best pitching staff in baseball before the season began, I can’t help but be surprised that they’ve looked pretty average in that department so far. They’ve noticeably outperformed their FIP, with an ERA (3.55) that’s almost 40 points lower, but I expect a large part of that has to do with their superlative fielding so far this year.

Starting Lineups

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Gerardo Parra, LF
2. Willie Bloomquist, SS
3. Justin Upton, RF
4. Jason Kubel, DH
5. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Chris Young, CF
8. Aaron Hill, 2B
9. Ryan Roberts, 3B

Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim

1. Mike Trout, CF
2. Torii Hunter, RF
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Kendrys Morales, DH
5. Mark Trumbo, LF
6. Howie Kendrick, 2B
7. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
8. Hank Conger, C
9. Erick Aybar, SS

Bullet points! Because it's one in the morning and I'm exhausted.

  • I'm the wrong person to talk about Mike Trout. I mean, it's not that I don't know anything about him. I know that he has a .946 OPS while playing an important defensive position very well. I also know that he's 20 and has done all this despite having under 300 at-bats in the majors. Even that probably doesn't capture it, though. The best I can do is to get you to imagine the promise of Trevor Bauer, combined with the awe-inspiring production of 2011 Justin Upton, and you'll probably have something close to how Angel fans feel about Mike Trout right now.
  • The numbers say that Albert Pujols has an 111 OPS+, which is good for a baseball player in general, mediocre for a first baseman, and heinous for the best hitter since Barry Bonds. But since his second home run of the season on May 16th, Pujols has hit .337/.407/.654, which looks a lot more like the Pujols we were expecting.
  • The obvious problem that the Angels had heading into this season was that they had too many first basemen. Pujols was Pujols, Kendrys Morales was one of the best hitters on the team before missing time with an injury last season, and Mark Trumbo looked fairly impressive as a rookie. The smart money was on Trumbo to get the shortest end of the stick. But jokes on the smart money, because Trumbo has been the best hitter on the team so far, hitting .328/.385/.622 in 2012.
  • Torii Hunter is 36. That's weird to people other than me, right? Anyway, he's having another solid year, with an OPS of 125 and all those gritty old man intangibles that people like you and me can't possibly understand.
  • Declarative Statement: Howie Kendrick's nickname is "HK47."

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Trevor Cahill (4-5, 3.36) vs. Dan Haren (4-6, 3.73)

Insightful Commentary: Wade Miley has been the MVP of the Diamondbacks' rotation this year, there's not much question about that. But I would humbly submit Cahill as the second-best starter on the team so far this year. He's second behind Miley in ERA, FIP and fWAR on the year as a whole, which is not bad for a guy who everyone wanted to give up on about two starts ago.

Dan Haren's average fastball is just a tick under 89 mph on the year. That's not a huge departure from where he was at while he was with the Diamondbacks, but it feels significant. He always felt like a power pitcher, getting ahead of guys and bombarding them with cut fastball after cut fastball until they relented. This doesn't jive with my image of Haren, and maybe it's appropriate that he's struggling more this year than he ever did with the Diamondbacks.

Saturday: Joe Saunders (4-4, 3.48) vs. Ervin Santana (3-7, 5.74)

Insightful Commentary: Joe returns to face his former team! Saunders is never going to be a great pitcher, but he's been more than okay for the Diamondbacks since he arrived in July 2010, with a 3.77 ERA during that time. It's more than I expected from him after the trade, so I don't have any room to complain no matter how he does. Still, it sure would feel nice to see him out-play Dan Haren.

As for Santana...yikes. After looking ready to take then next step toward being a front-line starter last year, Santana has just looked terrible in 2012. His strikeouts have dropped, his walks have risen, and his home runs have shot up into Yusmeiro Petit territory. Amazingly, he's actually out-performing his FIP, which is 6.05 on the year.

Sunday: Ian Kennedy (5-6, 4.32) vs. Garrett Richards (1-0, 1.38)

Insightful Commentary: If Kennedy had just gotten one more out in the sixth inning of the Rangers game, we'd still be celebrating how he has turned the corner on the season, shutting down the best offense in baseball for one run in six innings. But he didn't, and got BABIP'd to death in the sixth inning instead. As a result, his ERA's back over four, but I'm inclined to chalk it up to a rough inning against a very good baseball team.

Garrett Richards was one of the Angels' top pitching prospects before the season started. A righty with a fastball that can touch the mid-90s, he's filling in while Weaver is on the disabled list. Richards has only pitched 13 innings in the majors, but he's flashed some control problems so far, with a BB/9 of almost 5.

Final Team: I think the Diamondbacks will win two of three in Los Angeles, but get swept in Anaheim.

What, wait? What do you mean it's the same team? Well, that's aggravating. Fine, Diamondbacks will take two of three against the Angels.

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(Stats via Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference)