Cleveland Indians v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Tired of standing still, Angels take step backwards

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Having struck out all winter, the Angels finally did something to shake up their lineup Friday, only the move was to get rid of one of their best hitters. 

Opinions on Mike Napoli’s defense are certainly mixed, but there aren’t many better offensive catchers.   Since he entered the league in 2006, Napoli has hit .251/.346/.455 with 92 homers in 1,549 at-bats.   Over the last three years, he’s come in at .258/.341/.502.  Only two catchers with at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2008 stack up better when it comes to OPS+:

1. Joe Mauer – 147
2. Brian McCann – 126
3. Napoli – 123
4. Victor Martinez – 117
5. Jorge Posada – 117

And it’s not like the Angels have a whole bunch of expendable offense. They ranked ninth in the AL in runs scored last season. They had five above average hitters last season, counting the 51 games they got from Kendry Morales. They’ll likely have a full season from Morales this year, but now Napoli and Hideki Matsui are gone and the other two productive players, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, are turning 35 and 37, respectively.

Napoli’s departure means one of baseball’s worst hitters — arguably the worst — will move into the starting lineup on a regular basis. It might be merely a temporary promotion for Jeff Mathis, as the team has a decent alternative in Bobby Wilson and a top prospect on the way in Hank Conger, but Mike Scioscia loves his defense and won’t need much convincing to give him 400 at-bats for the first time.

And that’s just not something the Angels can afford at the moment. Morales and Hunter should be good, but probably not great. Abreu is drifting back towards average, and Juan Rivera and Alberto Callaspo aren’t anything more than that. The Angels will go get themselves a DH before Opening Day, and they might yet pull off an upgrade at third base, though there’s no help in free agency there.

Scioscia definitely seems to have his work cut out for him now. Yet this is what he wanted: he may have had nothing to do with the trade itself, but in choosing to put so much faith in Mathis, he steered Napoli out of town just the same.

Red Sox set a new major league record with 11 strikeouts in a row

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox works the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 20, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.

The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.

For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.

Dodgers clinch NL West on Charlie Culberson’s walk-off home run

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20: Charlie Culberson #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs to first base after hitting a single RBI in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
Matt Hazlett/Getty Images
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Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.

The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.

Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.

It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.