Angels, Scioscia should be embarrassed

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The Yankees didn’t overpower them. Just once in the series did the Bombers really come out to play and turn a game into a rout. No, the Yankees were the better team going in and should have won this series anyway, but the Angels served it up on a platter.
Most notable were the eight errors, all of them legitimate and several of them costly. Even uglier were the mistakes on the basepaths, none more hideous than Vladimir Guerrero getting doubled on a routine fly to shallow right on Sunday. The hitters got less and less patient as the series went on. Only the pitching remained solid, but it was given so little to work with.
And while the players lost the series, Mike Scioscia’s star definitely lost some luster. Given the chance, he practically always went against the percentages and he had several decisions come back to bite him. And while Scioscia can’t control what happens on the field, the fact is that the team that he had a huge hand in assembling went out and choked. The Angels play the kind of baseball that old vets and writers lap up, but the fundamentals went right out the window against the Yankees.
Oddly enough, it turned out that the player the Angels are all ready to phase out was the star of the series. Guerrero went 10-for-27 with a homer and five RBI against the Yankees. He previously delivered the series-clinching hit against the Red Sox, and he ended up collecting at least one hit in all nine of the Angels’ postseason games. Unfortunately, Sunday’s baserunning blunder might be remembered at least as much as anything else he did against the Yankees.
Many other Angels wilted. The team totaled just three homers in the series, and the running game was pretty much a non-factor, even if Erick Aybar did go 3-for-3 stealing bases (the rest of the team was 1-for-2). Scott Kazmir struggled mightily in his start and threw away the Angels’ chances of a comeback win in Game 6 with a careless toss in his relief appearance. Chone Figgins was the biggest goat on offense, but the Angels should have been prepared for that going in.
Because Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez shined in the ALCS, Figgins perhaps now stands alone when it comes to active postseason futility. He did score one of the team’s runs Sunday after a flare to left off Mariano Rivera that barely eluded Derek Jeter’s glove. That’s about as close to hitting with authority as he came all month. He hit .130 against the Yankees, and he’s at .172/.223/.246 in 122 career postseason at-bats. Scioscia refusal to move him down after so many awful plate appearances hurt the team.
But if standing by Figgins was Scioscia’s worst sin, he would have had a fine series. Scioscia was handed what was essentially a lifetime contract from the Angels prior to this year, and he’s certainly not going to lose his job over a poor series. However, the regular-season success will only go so far.
Scioscia loves ignoring the numbers and playing favorites, and because his clubs keep winning, he gets the benefit of the doubt. It’s something that could begin to change if the October results don’t turn around. Scioscia’s teams have averaged 95 wins the last six years, yet are 2-5 in postseason series. The Angels should have more than the steroid-fueled 2002 championship to show for all of their recent success.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.