Jered Weaver, Jeff Mathis

Tackling the trade deadline: Los Angeles Angels

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
First-half record: 50-42
Standings: Trailing Rangers by 1 in AL West, Yankees by 5 in wild card

Needs

Catcher: Well, any reasonable person would think so.  Jeff Mathis is hitting .195/.241/.286, and while Mike Scioscia deserves credit for working Hank Conger into the mix, Conger hasn’t quite shined while batting .221/.305/.369.  The Angels should bring in a half-season stopgap and kick Mathis to the curb.

Bench: The Angels don’t really have any holes besides the catcher spot: the problem is that they’re not that good anyway.  They had the financial power to add a superstar last winter, but they took on Vernon Wells’ salary instead.  Now all they can do is fill in around the margins.  With just 18 homers from left-handed hitters this year, the Angels could really use a left-handed bat for the bench.  Russell Branyan was nice in theory, but he’s useless when he’s not playing fairly regularly.

Closer: With Rich Thompson looking good and Hisanori Takahashi having improved as the season has progressed, the Angels don’t need any sixth- and seventh-inning help.  So, there’s no point to upgrading the pen unless it’s to replace Jordan Walden in the closer’s role.  Heath Bell, though, wouldn’t be nearly as much of an upgrade here as he would be in some cases.

Target

Ramon Hernandez (C Reds): Stumbling along at 45-47, Cincinnati is a team in need of a bit of a shakeup, and a Hernandez deal, with top prospect Devin Mesoraco stepping into his place, would definitely create some upheaval.

Proposed deal

Hernandez for RHP Garrett Richards

Richards, a 2009 supplemental first-round pick, is 10-1 with a 3.14 ERA and a 79/31 K/BB ratio in 106 innings for Double-A Arkansas this season.  It’d be a high price to pay for a half-season rental, but the Reds aren’t simply going to make a change for change’s sake.  All Hernandez has done this year is hit .322/.377/.539 with 10 homers in 180 at-bats.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: