Did not calling up Mike Trout earlier cost the Angels a playoff spot?

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Lost in Mike Trout’s historic rookie season and the heated AL MVP debate is that the Angels didn’t call him up from Triple-A until April 28 and will likely end up missing the playoffs by 2-3 games.

Obviously there’s no guarantee that having Trout from Opening Day on would have equaled 2-3 more wins for the Angels, but considering they got off to a 6-14 start while playing Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos before his arrival … well, it does make me wonder how differently things may have gone.

Trout dealt with the flu and a minor shoulder injury during spring training, but hit .403 in 20 games at Triple-A before his call-up and hit .355 in his first 20 games for the Angels. With him in the lineup the Angels are 80-56 and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) pegs Trout as being worth about 10 wins more than a hypothetical “replacement-level” outfielder, which basically describes Wells at this point.

At the very least taking 80-100 plate appearances and 150-175 innings defensively from Wells (and/or Bourjos) and giving them to Trout would almost surely mean that the Angels were still alive in the playoff race right now. Hindsight is 20/20, especially considering his spring training ailments, but when talking about one of the greatest rookies in the history of baseball and a narrow playoff miss it’s not such a stretch.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.